Historic Conservation - September 2016
MSc/ PGDip/ PGCert
This course is accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), and recognised by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).
This course is run by the School of the Built Environment
The Brookes MSc offers a comprehensive grounding in the conservation of historic buildings and sites. Focusing on the UK, but also drawing on other national and international paradigms, it introduces you to a range of theoretical and practical disciplines, including the relevant aspects of architectural history, historical geography, spatial planning, urban design, construction, surveying, economics and finance, and research methodology. This course follows the International Commission on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) guidelines on education and training, and covers the knowledge, skills and professional capabilities identified by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) as the foundation for professional practice. Our programme draws students from a wide range of backgrounds, and provides an ideal training for those wishing to pursue a career in this fascinating but competitive field. For information on recent field trips, please visit our Planning and Urban Design blog.
Why choose this course?
- Established in 1990, the Brookes Historic Conservation MSc is one of the longest-running and most highly-regarded courses of its type, and our graduates have gone on to work in senior roles across the sector, both in the UK and internationally.
- Our programme draws on the expertise of built environment teaching staff at Brookes and from the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education.
- The Historic Conservation team has an excellent record of research for organisations such as the EU, English Heritage and the UK government Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
- Visiting speakers from central and local government, conservation agencies, business and industry, consultancies, research bodies and other university departments provide further input, bringing real-world experience to the course.
- The Department of Planning - now part of the School of the Built Environment - is renowned internationally for its research. In REF 2014, 69% of our research was rated as either world leading or internationally excellent.
- Oxford is internationally renowned for its cultural heritage and for the beauty and variety of its architecture, presenting valuable learning opportunities for Historic Conservation students.
This course in detail
This course is offered at three levels: a Master of Science (MSc) degree, a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) and a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert). The MSc and PGDip can be studied on either a full-time (1-year) or a part-time (2-year) basis. The introductory PGCert is a 9-month part-time course.
With the exception of certain field trips, all core teaching is on Mondays and Tuesdays, allowing you to fit your studies around other commitments. Part-time students take the Monday modules in their first year and the Tuesday modules in their second.
The course comprises a series of modules, each addressing a different set of questions in the theory and/or practice of historic conservation. (As courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you take may vary from those shown here.)
The following modules are compulsory for the MSc and PGDip:
- Conservation and Regeneration: Theory, Law and Practice asks: what is historic conservation? how, when and where did it originate? why do we do it, and how might we do it differently? The module examines the structure of concepts, values, principles, narratives, institutions and procedures upon which our current practice rests. Beginning with a historical overview that relates the emergence of the conservation agenda to developments in other fields of culture, it proceeds to analyse the dominant legal and institutional frameworks through which that agenda is pursued, both in the UK and further afield.
- Historical Studies I and II, two linked modules taught in consecutive semesters, ask: how did our present stock of historic buildings and sites come into existence? what social, political, economic and artistic factors influenced their initial construction and subsequent alteration? The first module concentrates on the medieval period and provides an introduction to the evolution of the landscape and the major elements of architectural history in England up to the sixteenth century. The second module continues the narrative from the sixteenth century up to the present day.
- Design for Conservation asks: how far, and in what ways, should an understanding of the historic environment inform current design decisions? This module enables you to analyse historic townscapes, to understand basic principles of urban design and to formulate design guidance and codes for sensitive historic areas. You will acquire skills in the critical appraisal of existing or proposed buildings, preparing design briefs for sites in historic areas and presenting design concepts.
- Building Construction and Repair asks: what are historic buildings made of, what keeps them standing, and how can their physical substance be preserved and/or renewed? This module examines the properties, decay and repair of traditional and modern materials, as well as structural principles, environmental factors and the introduction of new fabric and services into historic structures.
- Historic Building Analysis and Recording asks: how can we 'read' the history of a building, and how can we best communicate our understanding by visual and written means? This is a skill-based module that helps you to analyse the special architectural and historical characteristics of a particular site, building, or group of buildings, and to develop techniques for the representation of these characteristics through archival research, measurement, drawing and recording.
- Conservation Economics and Finance asks: who pays for the conservation of the historic environment, and how and why do they do it? An initial overview, setting the built heritage in the context of cultural economics more generally, is followed by a series of classes given by outside speakers, each an expert on some aspect of conservation finance. Topics covered include project costing, development appraisal, third-party funding and the relevant aspects of the property market.
The MSc also requires you undertake the following:
- Research Methods in Design, which provides a critical overview of research methods and skills relevant to investigative work in conservation and design.
- MSc Dissertation, an individual research study of 15,000-20,000 words, on a conservation-related topic to be agreed between you and your supervisor.
The PGCert comprises Conservation and Regeneration: Theory, Law and Practice; Building Construction and Repair; and Historic Building Analysis and Recording (details as above).
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning methods reflect the variety of topics and techniques associated with historic conservation. These include lectures, directed reading, workshops, seminars, and practical and project work.
Most modules also include site visits and/or fieldwork, which provide you with direct experience of the practical application of conservation principles.
Watch a video about the MSc Historic Conservation filmed at our virtual open day.
Approach to assessment
Assessment is 100% coursework based.
Our course includes a number of field trips and other activities, mostly run outside of normal teaching hours. These are optional for part-time students, but those attending will need to pay additional fees to cover costs - in the region of £80-100 for each of the two residential field trips, plus a block payment of approximately £200 for the programme of technical training days.
Historic Conservation attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. Applications are welcome from any relevant academic discipline, as well as those in work and seeking continuing professional development. Admission is normally open to those with a good undergraduate honours degree (2.1 or equivalent) or other professional qualification relevant to historic conservation, or an appropriate professional background.
English language requirements
- At least 6.5 in IELTS, with a minimum of 6.0 across all four components of the test
English requirements for visas If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements.Find out more about English language requirements.
International applications Preparation courses for International and EU students We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.
- Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
- If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.
If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.
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Last updated August 28, 2016