MA Library and Archive Studies / Course details

Please note that this course is subject to approval.

Year of entry: 2023

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.



Successful graduates of this programme will:

  • demonstrate, through coursework and the dissertation, deep awareness and understanding of current practices in Library and Archive Studies, including collection management and curation, preservation, and analysis.
  • understand and be able to critically evaluate and contextualise current and historical issues and debates in Library and Archive Studies.
  • be able to reflect critically on placements in specific specialist areas linked to Library and Archival Studies.
  • produce original research and analysis of specific areas in collections and archives that match to selected specialist topics.
  • have acquired critical, analytical, practical and transferrable skills related to specific areas of Library and Archive Studies.
  • have established research skills using primary and secondary sources relevant to Library and Archive Studies.
  • have acquired transferrable professional skills such as knowledge of relevant policy areas, issues around archives and collection management.

Special features

Screengrab of special collections website
The range of our special collections can be explored online.

Placement Experience

Manchester and the wider region have an extraordinary diversity of libraries and archives, from The University of Manchester Library itself to small, specialist libraries and archive repositories. All students will be offered a placement in the John Rylands Research Institute and Library. Through our Institute for Cultural Practices, students may elect to find a placement from one of its 100 regional and national partners who provide project-based placements in arts, cultural heritage, community and third sector organisations. Placements occupy a minimum of 20 days, spread over Semester 1 and Semester 2, between November and May, and are supported by Academic Mentoring and Supervision. Part-time students can choose to undertake their placement in either their first or second year. Students 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 organisation, supported by the host supervisor and an academic supervisor. There is also the potential for students to develop their own placement, subject to approval.

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

Teaching for the core courses will be delivered 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). Following the science of teaching and learning research of Paulo Blikstein and others, 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 formative assessments will include Blackboard-managed reflections that synthesize each session's activities, discussions, and reading. Every-other-week summative assessments will require students to write authentic documents commonly produced in libraries and archives, including:

• equality and equity impact assessment

• conference paper proposal

• workshop lesson plan

• community engagement campaign

• institutional strategic plan

• 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. Elective 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

Compulsory Modules

Strategic Practice in Libraries (30 credits). This module will include:

  • 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 (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion); creating a dynamic organisation;
  • libraries in Society: open libraries and the future of publishing; the socially engaged librarian, open knowledge in Higher Education;
  • 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 partnerships; advocacy and influencing.

Managing Archives and Special Collections (30 credits). This module will include:

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

Dissertation (60 credits)

Optional Modules

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

Indicative list of additional optional modules:

  • Open Knowledge in Higher Education
  • Business Strategies for Arts, Culture, and Heritage
  • Creative Producing
  • Creative Learning
  • Reading the Middle Ages
  • Curating Art
  • From Papyrus to Print
  • 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 Programme Director. You can take no more than 30 language credits.


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.