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MA Heritage Studies at The University of Manchester
MA/PGDip Heritage Studies

Our taught postgraduate course is aimed at both graduates and heritage professionals who want to develop their skills in this area.

MA/PGDip Heritage Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2019

Course description

Our MA Heritage Studies master's course is aimed at students who want to develop their knowledge and practical skills to pursue or develop careers in heritage policy, management, conservation, learning, engagement and enterprise.

Heritage Studies examines the theory and practice of heritage making, management and use in local, national and international contexts. It includes both the practical aspects of conservation and management and a study of social, political and economic dynamics in cultural, archaeological, built and natural heritage.

You will study comprehensive core units on critical heritage studies and key issues and approaches to heritage policy and management, as well as routes into specialisation and professional practice through a wide range of options units covering distinctive topic areas such as:

  • digital heritage;
  • curating and engagement;
  • natural heritage landscapes;
  • historic houses;
  • heritage and sustainable development;
  • global heritage policy;
  • heritage and learning;
  • intangible cultural heritage;
  • strategic planning and management of heritage projects and enterprises.

You will be able to gain intensive work experience and undertake critical reflective practice within a range of heritage organisations across the region and further afield through our long-standing placement scheme.

This scheme is shared with our sister master's courses in Arts Management, Policy and Practice and Art Gallery and Museum Studies. You can also undertake live project work with students on these sister courses by choosing practice-based course units.

You will benefit from the expertise of the Institute for Cultural Practices and other specialists in archaeology, art history and history at the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures.

You will also have access to the University's cultural heritage assets such as Manchester Museum, the John Rylands Library and Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.

You can choose from full-time and part-time study options for an MA or PGDip award, as well as standalone course units to support continuing professional development.


We aim to:

  • introduce, explore and critically evaluate emerging  approaches, issues and trends in the theories and practices of world-wide heritage policy, management, conservation, learning, engagement and enterprise;
  • prepare you for advanced critical research through skills training and reflective practice;
  • promote and advance specialist knowledge of theoretical perspectives and frameworks for understanding of heritage in a global context and related issues of policy and practice;
  • give you the opportunity to undertake expert practical training in core and specialist areas relevant to professional and sector development;
  • help you access and engage with industry professionals and opportunities for work experience in a range of heritage settings, through guest lectures, fieldtrips and placements.

Special features

MA Heritage Studies

"Everything that seemed abstract and less meaningful in lectures suddenly proved to be everyday matters to deal with in the art gallery.

"The content of those past lectures become more and more clear throughout the work, and I felt confident in my professional knowledge, which I never felt before taking the course."

Yung Wan / MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies student (placement at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art)

Work placements

You will be able to gain experience in practice through a work placement that you undertake in a heritage site and/or organisation.

Each placement involves a minimum of 20 days' work on a specific project, such as community learning and engagement, visitor management, volunteer coordination, research and evaluation, conservation and business development projects.

Many students find this to be such a positive experience that they carry on working in their organisation when the work placement has finished, and a few students are offered jobs by their placement hosts each year.

Read blog posts from our students about the work placements they have undertaken on our master's courses.

Project experience

During the MA, students have opportunities to design and participate in live projects with heritage organisations and contexts in Manchester.

These include researching heritage audiences, developing exhibitions, producing heritage events, and working on community engagement and creative collaborative projects.

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning on this course goes beyond the classroom. You will learn through fieldwork trips, site visits, masterclasses and workshops, with networking and specialist training provided through our engagement with visitor speakers, including professionals and academics in the field.

Most teaching takes place in small interactive seminar groups, involving, as appropriate, directed-reading, fieldwork in museums and heritage sites and contexts, staff and student presentations, discussion, debate, problem-solving and group work.

Most units run for a day or week over 12 weeks, and there are variations in the number of class hours per teaching day depending on the course/week (ie 2-5 hours).

As a general rule, a 30-credit unit includes 300 learning hours, which can be roughly divided as follows:

  • a third in classes or class-related work;
  • a third in independent study;
  • a third in preparation of assignments.

You can also undertake an exhibition group project (as part of the Professional Practice Project unit) in collaboration with a museum, heritage or related cultural organisation in Manchester or the north-west of England.

Supervision for dissertation research is supported by staff with a wide range of interests, and by research skills training.

Full-time or part-time study?

The MA is available as a one-year full-time or a two-year part-time course. The PGDip is available as a nine-month full-time or 18-month part-time course.

We particularly welcome part-time students, as there are many advantages in combining study with work practice, whether you already have a post in a heritage organisation or are just setting out on your career.

Each year, a number of mid-career professionals take the MA degree on a part-time basis and find that the University provides a valuable space for reflection, as well as for further learning.

Part-time students have classes one day per week (usually Tuesday or Thursday, although in Semester 2 it might be a different day depending on the option course you choose). This will be in addition to weekly twilight research, professional practice and academic skills workshops.

You should also count time for library work/fieldwork that may require you to come to Manchester and, although this can be sometimes done on the day of teaching, there may be the need to come in for further directed learning or training.

When the work placements begin (about November/December in Year 1 or Year 2) you should also count one more day/week (on average) at the work placement institution, which, if appropriate or relevant, can be the organisation where you currently work (but undertaking a project different to your day-to-day work).

Coursework and assessment

Introduction to Critical Heritage Studies (Semester 1 core unit, 30 credits)

This unit is assessed by:

  • a 5,000-word essay (80% of the overall course mark)
  • a key concepts presentation and associated blog (20% of the overall course mark).

Heritage Policy and Management (Semester 1 core unit, 30 credits)

This unit is assessed by:

  • a 4,000-word individual Fieldwork Portfolio based on a heritage site and context assessment (70% of the overall course mark);
  • a Group Fieldwork Portfolio (30% of the overall course mark).

Option units (Semester 2, 15 or 30 credits)

Option units are assessed by a combination of essays and project portfolios. For details, please see the individual unit page.

Dissertation (Semester 2 and Summer)

This can be either a 12,000 to 15,000-word standard dissertation or a practice-based dissertation (8,000-10,000 words and appropriate evidence/outputs of the practice).

Course unit details

Semester 1

All students take the following 30-credit compulsory core units to gain a critical overview of topics and issues relevant to the learning outcomes and aims of this course.

  • Introduction to Critical Heritage Studies (30 credits) - This unit provides a comprehensive interdisciplinary survey of key theories and concepts of heritage studies through weekly lectures, seminars and study visits, as well as study and practical skills training in literature review and heritage interpretation.
  • Heritage Policy and Management (30 credits) - This unit presents the processes and practices of policy making and heritage management, introducing you to a range of contexts through group fieldwork, critical enquiry, case studies and visiting lectures.

Semester 2

Optional units will build on the knowledge and understanding you have gained in Semester 1, and enable you to develop expertise in a particular disciplinary area. You can choose 60 credits of options course units.

The work placement option begins during Semester 1 with 15 and 30-credit versions to support student choice from a range of practical and specialist interests.

Options courses include (subject to availability):

  • Intangible Cultural Heritage (15 credits)
  • Historic Houses (15 credits)
  • Natural Heritage (15 credits)
  • Heritage and Sustainable Development (15 credits)
  • Work Placement (15 or 30 credits)

You can also choose one from the following course units delivered as part of our MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice and MA Art Gallery and Museums Studies courses:

  • Business Strategies in the Arts, Culture and Heritage (15 or 30 credits)
  • Digital Heritage (15 credits)
  • Curating Ethnography (15 credits)
  • Creative Learning (15 or 30 credits)
  • Professional Practice Project (30 credits)

There is also the potential to take an additional course unit (maximum 15 credits) delivered in partnership with other relevant subject areas, subject to availability and approval. For example:

  • Producing and Consuming Heritage (15 credits)
  • From Cottonopolis to Metropolis: Manchester Communities and Institutions (15 credits)
  • Public History: Historians and the Public Sphere (15 credits)
  • Filming History: Making Documentary Films for Research (15 credits)


MA students only will undertake a 60-credit dissertation of 15,000 words. Those undertaking a practice-based dissertation will submit 8,000-10,000 words plus project documentation.

Part-time and PGDip study

Part-time MA and PGDip students take 60 credits per year, and can undertake work placements in either year.

Dissertation research for part-time MA students can be submitted up to 27 months after beginning the course.

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Dissertation SALC60090 60 Mandatory
Introduction to Critical Heritage Studies SALC60281 30 Mandatory
Heritage Policy and Management SALC60291 30 Mandatory
Heritage, Museums & Conflict CAHE60462 15 Optional
Creative Learning SALC60052 30 Optional
Business Strategies for the Arts SALC60072 30 Optional
Curating Ethnography SALC60242 15 Optional
Intangible Cultural Heritage SALC60302 15 Optional
Natural Heritage SALC60402 15 Optional
Creative Learning SALC60502 15 Optional
Business Strategies for the Arts SALC60702 15 Optional
Digital Heritage SALC60902 15 Optional
Digital Heritage SALC60992 30 Optional
Placement SALC70150 15 Optional
Placement SALC70300 30 Optional
Displaying 10 of 15 course units

Course collaborators

This course has been designed in close consultation with heritage professionals and external partners working in the field of heritage management and policy.


You will have access to the Graduate School at the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, as well as to library resources and training facilities across the University.

You will also be able to access the Institute for Cultural Practices' resources room and study suite.

Visit the Facilities page for more information.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: