MA Library and Archive Studies

Year of entry: 2024


Degree awarded
Master of Arts
1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
Entry requirements

We normally expect students to have a First or Upper Second class honours degree (or its overseas equivalent) or at least one years’ experience in a research focused archive or library setting.

Full entry requirements

How to apply
Apply online

Course options

Full-time Part-time Full-time distance learning Part-time distance learning

Course overview

  • Explore emerging critical approaches in librarianship and archival practice.
  • Undertake a work placement at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library or related cultural organisation in or around Manchester.
  • Develop a career in the library or archiving sector.
  • Gain hands-on experience with archives and special collections material in coursework.
  • Build relevant computer programming skills to prepare for the role of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the contemporary libraries and archives.
Study MA Library and Archive Studies

Open days

We are pleased to be able to offer individual virtual drop-in sessions with course director Dr Benjamin Wiggins. This will be your chance to talk about the course content, teaching methods, facilities and collections, and application process. These sessions will be trialled for April 2023 -  May 2023 and you can see the available times and reserve a space here: MA Library and Archive Studies Drop-In Sessions.

Find out what it's like to study at Manchester by visiting us on one of our open days .


For entry in the academic year beginning September 2024, the tuition fees are as follows:

  • MA (full-time)
    UK students (per annum): £13,500
    International, including EU, students (per annum): £27,000
  • MA (part-time)
    UK students (per annum): £6,750

Further information for EU students can be found on our dedicated EU page.

The fees quoted above will be fully inclusive for the course tuition, administration and computational costs during your studies.

All fees for entry will be subject to yearly review and incremental rises per annum are also likely over the duration of courses lasting more than a year for UK/EU students (fees are typically fixed for International students, for the course duration at the year of entry). For general fees information please visit: postgraduate fees . Always contact the department if you are unsure which fee applies to your qualification award and method of attendance.

Self-funded international applicants for this course will be required to pay a deposit of £1000 towards their tuition fees before a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) is issued. This deposit will only be refunded if immigration permission is refused. We will notify you about how and when to make this payment.

Policy on additional costs

All students should normally be able to complete their programme of study without incurring additional study costs over and above the tuition fee for that programme. Any unavoidable additional compulsory costs totalling more than 1% of the annual home undergraduate fee per annum, regardless of whether the programme in question is undergraduate or postgraduate taught, will be made clear to you at the point of application. Further information can be found in the University's Policy on additional costs incurred by students on undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes (PDF document, 91KB).


Each year the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures offer a number of School awards and Subject-specific bursaries (the values of which are usually set at Home/EU fees level), open to both Home/EU and international students. The deadline for these is early February each year. Details of all funding opportunities, including deadlines, eligibility and how to apply, can be found on the School's funding page where you can also find details of the Government Postgraduate Loan Scheme.

See also the University's postgraduate funding database to see if you are eligible for any other funding opportunities.

For University of Manchester graduates, the Manchester Alumni Bursary offers a £3,000 reduction in tuition fees to University of Manchester alumni who achieved a 1st within the last three years and are progressing to a postgraduate taught masters course.

The Manchester Master's Bursary is a University-wide scheme that offers 100 bursaries worth £3,000 in funding for students from underrepresented groups.

Postgraduate 1+3 funding is available from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for students to pursue postgraduate study through a master's (one year) leading into a PhD (3 years). It requires a project proposal as part of the application. Information is available here:

Applying to 1+3 with NWSSDTP

Contact details

School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Dr Benjamin Wiggins is Senior Lecturer of History and Library & Archive Studies.

He is the author of Calculating Race: Racial Discrimination in Risk Assessment (2020) and History and Technology: Twenty-First Century Methods for Researching the Past (2023)—both published by Oxford University Press.

Dr Benjamin Wiggins / Course Director

See: About us

Courses in related subject areas

Use the links below to view lists of courses in related subject areas.

Entry requirements

Academic entry qualification overview

We normally expect students to have a First or Upper Second class honours degree (or its overseas equivalent) or at least one years’ experience in a research focused archive or library setting.

English language

An overall grade of IELTS 7.0 with 7.0 in writing and no skill below 6.5 is required or 100+ in the TOEFL iBT with a minimum writing score of 25 and no skill below 22.

If you have obtained a different qualification, please check our English language requirements to ensure that it is accepted and equivalent to the above requirements.

English language test validity

Some English Language test results are only valid for two years. Your English Language test report must be valid on the start date of the course.

Application and selection

How to apply

How your application is considered

Applications are mainly considered on the basis of an assessment of past and predicted academic achievements, the academic reference(s) and any other supplementary evidence that supports the application. Once we have an application that is ready for a decision, the admissions tutor (often the Programme Director) will relay the decision to the admissions team, who will send you this decision.

Please note that your application is usually received by the School 24 to 48 hours after the time you submit it. If you have not provided documentation that allows the admissions tutor to make a decision, we will contact you.


Applicants may defer entry for 12 months provided they contact before September 1st. Please note that applicants are subject to the fees for the entry year they will start the course.


If you applied in the previous year and your application was not successful you may apply again. Your application will be considered against the standard course entry criteria for that year of entry. In your new application you should demonstrate how your application has improved. We may draw upon all information from your previous applications or any previous registrations at the University as a student when assessing your suitability for your chosen course.

Course details

Course description

The MA in Library and Archive Studies is taught in collaboration with The University of Manchester Library (UML). This is major multi-site research library with National Research Library status. It includes the stunning John Rylands Research Institute and Library with its world-leading collections of archives and rare books and cutting-edge digital practices. The Library has close links to research and teaching through the John Rylands Research Institute and Library and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. These relationships give students on the MA in Library and Archive Studies the opportunity to engage with a wealth of academic specialisms closely linked to Library and Archive Studies, in addition to benefitting from broad-ranging core courses centred on working with special collections.

This MA focuses on contemporary practices in collection-led librarianship and archival studies. It provides unique curriculum-based access to world-leading special collections and comparative cultural institutions alongside a strong professional practice element in collaboration with UML staff. Course delivery includes core courses in librarianship and archive studies, optional work placements in a variety of library and collections-based fields and linked dissertations. In addition, students are offered a choice of optional courses in a variety of specialist topics linked to digital practices, archives management, rare books curation, conservation, exhibition design and the social and inter-community impact of research libraries, as well as units linked to a variety of research specialisms within the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures in art gallery and museum studies, arts management and policy, creative and cultural industries, digital media and culture, and heritage studies.



The aim of the MA in Library and Archive Studies is to introduce students to the theory, practice, and collections that will enable you to:

  • acquire a deep and nuanced understanding of current practices in libraries and archives, including all aspects of their work around collections, curation, preservation, and analysis;
  • produce original research that reflects an understanding of specific areas in collections and archives, including opportunities to engage with placements in specific specialist areas;
  • gain experience and expertise necessary to progress in careers encompassed by, or relating to libraries, archives, cultural institutions, and information-centred organisations.


After finishing this programme of study, students receiving the MA in Library and Archive Studies will be able to:  

  • demonstrate, through both written and oral communications, their personal understanding of historical and current issues and debates in the library and archive field;
  • apply critical skills to assess, reflect on, and challenge structures, issues, and initiatives in libraries and archives;
  • use established research skills to critically analyse and contextualize primary and secondary sources relevant to the field of library and archive studies;
  • apply key transferable capabilities such as information and data literacy, collaboration communication skills, and physical and digital collection management protocols to future careers in libraries, archives, cultural institutions, and information-centred organisations.

Special features

Placement Experience

Work placements within the standard duration of study offered as an optional module.

The course will draw on the existing successful placement course unit SALC70300/SALC070150 which is offered by Institute of Cultural Practices to all current ICP Master's students as an optional unit. This scheme has over 100 regional and national partners who provide project-based placement in arts, cultural heritage, community and third sector organisations for a minimum of 20 days, spread over Semester 1 and Semester 2. Placements take place between November and May, and are supported by Academic Mentoring and Supervision, Placement Mentors, professional support staff coordination and support. Placements form part of the elective course options and are assessed in Semester 2 via placement reports, reflective accounts, and blogposts. Part-time students can choose to undertake their placement in Year 1 or Year 2. Students will therefore benefit from at least 20 days library/archive/industry experience on a relevant project or programme, hosted on site and remotely by a relevant sector business or organisation, supported by the host supervisor and an academic supervisor. There is also the potential for students to develop their own placement, subject to the approval of the course unit convenor and course director.

World-class Libraries

The University of Manchester Library is the third largest academic Library system in the UK and one of only five designated National Research Libraries. Consisting of more than ten million items and operating across almost twenty sites, including the world-renowned John Rylands Library, Manchester offers its MA students an unparalleled research collections environment.

Teaching and learning

Sessions for the core courses will be delivered entirely in-person at the John Rylands Research Institute & Library. In each core course session, students will interact with practicing librarians and archivists mostly drawn from the Rylands and the Main Library. Occasionally, practitioners from other local cultural institutions may visit and teach. In these sessions, students will engage directly with rare and unique material from the collections of the Rylands (e.g., items of world-historical cultural significance in media ranging from cuneiform to parchment to photographs) and/or with technologies utilized by library staff (e.g., the proprietary preservation software Preservica, the open-source programming language Python, a suite of digital imaging software and hardware used for remote visits and digitization projects).

Each course session will begin with hands-on activities that introduce core concepts through physical action and social interaction (though, always accommodating any accessibility needs of neurodiverse students or students with mobility limitations). After each session's activities students will participate in small-group or full-seminar discussions during the second half of each course. Students will then be expected to read scholarship about that session's activities and discussions following the meeting. Weekly summative assessments will include reflections that synthesize each session's activities, discussions, and reading by asking students to reflection on the session and make that reflection visible to their peers using the Blackboard discussion board tool. Every other week summative assessments will require students to write authentic documents commonly produced in libraries and archives, including:

  • equality and equity impact assessment
  • finding aid
  • operational selection policy
  • institutional strategic plan
  • community engagement campaign
  • wireframe of a data dashboard
  • small grant proposal
  • exhibition brochure
  • access policy
  • repatriation agreement
  • collection development policy
  • set of metadata standards

Students will be required to annotate these documents and to include citations of the scholarship that inspired the shape and aims of their plans. Optional units are available from a range of areas within the School and Faculty and allow students on the MA to focus on a particular area of interest, such as early collections, decolonisation, cultural relations. Students will also receive group and individual tutorials including placement and dissertation supervision. Guidelines and schedules for placements and dissertations are set out transparently and in full in the joint ICP MA programme handbook. Individual and group tutorials are also offered on each taught core and elective course to support formative feedback on interim assessment plans such as essay plans or dissertation proposals. Each student will have access to academic advisement (two meetings per semester) and the office hours of all course tutors and lecturers Additionally, students will have access to research-and-practice-based skills training from the ICP Research and Training Programme as well as from Library workshops. These extracurricular experiences offer guidance on work placement, professional practice, digital literacy, and research skills.

Course unit details

You will undertake units totalling 180 credits.

Compulsory Modules

  • Strategic Practice in Libraries (30 credits)
  • Managing Archives and Special Collections (30 credits)
  • Dissertation (60 credits)

Optional Modules

  • Library and Archive Studies Work Placement Module (30 credits).

Indicative list of additional optional modules (15 credits):

  • Open Knowledge in Higher Education
  • Business Strategies for Arts, Culture, and Heritage
  • Creative Producing
  • Creative Learning
  • Producing Digital Projects
  • Reading the Middle Ages: Palaeography, Codicology, Sources
  • Curating Art
  • Decolonise the Museum
  • The Art of Medieval Manuscripts
  • Intangible Cultural Heritage
  • Arts and International Cultural Relations
  • Up to 30 credits of a language (Options to take other languages, such as Hebrew, Arabic, or Greek can be considered, in consultation with the Course Director. You can take no more than 30 language credits. Course units are also available that are not on the above list; students may take up to 30 credits from LEAP Language units subject to the approval of the Course Director. Students should research the available LEAP language courses here . Credited language courses run through both semesters, and you must join at the start of semester 1. Places are limited and you are encouraged to register your interest early via your Course Director. You will then need to apply to take the language course online. For specific queries related to LEAP language units, please contact

Compulsory Modules :

Strategic Practice in Libraries (30 credits)

Students will engage with contemporary debates in and best practices for working within and leading libraries in the UK and internationally. Students will practice their leadership skills through the production of authentic documents related to strategies for and management of contemporary libraries such as:

  • collection policies, equity and diversity plans, and engagement campaigns for community cocreation;
  • strategic library management: resource management in research libraries; managing risk and reputation; the future of library spaces and technology design; building a culture of collecting;
  • leadership: leading with authenticity and managing in the workplace; designing vision and values; promoting EDI; creating a dynamic organisation;
  • libraries in society: open libraries and the future of publishing; the socially engaged librarian, open knowledge in HE;
  • developing effective services: user-focussed service design; measuring and improving; user engagement and collaborative working;
  • managing information: ethics and the law in libraries; information literacy and critical thinking;
  • leading in the sector: consortia and partnerships; advocacy and influencing.

Archives and Special Collections (30 credits)

The core Archives and Special Collections unit will offer students first-hand practice with rare and unique materials and an overview of the many systems that archivists and other records managers use to ensure these materials are selected, curated, described, made accessible, and preserved ethically. Students will practice the many facets of managing archival material, rare documents and artifacts, and records by producing authentic resources such as access policies for reading rooms, repatriation agreements, and finding aids. This will include:

  • understanding rare and unique material: collections and records management and development; collections formatting; internal policies and international frameworks; archives, special collections, and the law;
  • structuring collections and records: standards and descriptions; enabling discovery; versioning the record; international interoperability; preservation and collection care;
  • engagement and advocacy: teaching and learning with archives and special collections; exhibitions and public engagement; community archives;
  • digital infrastructures: digital preservation; digitisation; digital platforms and formats;
  • digital practices and approaches: collecting born digital; visual and sound records and collections; collection-and-record-centred practices; research-led technical development;
  • special collections laboratory: scholarship in archives and special collections; academic partnerships and community collaborations.

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
Strategic Practice in Libraries SALC63321 30 Mandatory
Archives and Special Collections SALC63391 30 Mandatory
Art of Medieval Manuscripts AHCP61642 30 Optional
Wondrous Transformations: Translating the Medieval Past ENGL60872 15 Optional
Decolonise the Museum! SALC60242 15 Optional
Intangible Cultural Heritage SALC60302 15 Optional
The Arts & International Cultural Relations SALC60312 15 Optional
Creative Learning SALC60502 15 Optional
Business Strategies for Arts, Culture and Creative Industries SALC60702 15 Optional
Curating Art SALC60802 15 Optional
Publishing: History, Theory, Practice SALC63112 15 Optional
Publishing: History, Theory, Practice SALC63312 30 Optional
Creative Producing SALC68812 15 Optional
Producing Digital Projects SALC68922 15 Optional
Reading the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Palaeography, Codicology, and Sources SALC70040 15 Optional
Placement SALC70300 30 Optional
From Papyrus to Print: The History of the Book SALC72110 15 Optional
Displaying 10 of 18 course units


The University of Manchester has world-class facilities.

We have the third largest academic library system in the UK along with a £24 million learning facility.

As a student of the Graduate School, you'll have access to excellent training within a dedicated postgraduate space where you can meet with each other, access resources, organise events and participate in a thriving academic community.

Find out more on the Facilities page.

Disability support

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

CPD opportunities

Mid-career professionals are encouraged to take the MA degree on a part-time basis, to develop their managerial and leadership abilities, and to use the opportunities that the University provides for reflection on professional practices and leadership styles, as well as for wider learning about the sector.


Career opportunities

Progression opportunities include work in policy and management roles for national libraries, major special collections libraries and archives. Find out more on the ICP Careers and employability page . The University has its own Careers Service, to which you will have full access as a student and for two years after you graduate. At Manchester you will have access to a number of opportunities to help boost your employability.

Accrediting organisations

The Library and Archive Studies MA is seeking accreditation from both the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the Archives and Records Association. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals will finalize their decision about accreditation for the first and subsequent degree cohorts in 2024. The Archives and Records Association is currently reviewing their accreditation process and will continue discussions with the Library and Archive Studies MA. While the University is hopeful that the MA will succeed in its applications for accreditation with CILIP and ARA, accreditation is not guaranteed in respect of any cohort.