Cultural Heritage MA by Research/PhD/PhD by Distance Learning

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The Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage (IIICH), based at the University of Birmingham, takes a cross-disciplinary approach to the study of heritage. The IIICH draws on a global network of researchers and practitioners, as well as its long established links with the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and one of the World’s largest independent museums run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. We offer promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in cultural heritage, heritage management and related areas.

For 2014-15, we are pleased to be able to offer four fully-funded AHRC studentships, in collaboration with Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. For more information on how to apply before the 1st May 2014 deadline, please click here.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Distance learning, doctoral research

Study Options: Distance learning, full time, part time

Duration: PhD – 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time; MA by Research – 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

Start date: January or September


The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a dissertation of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice, for which an academic staff member will provide expert supervision.

The PhD – the most advanced research degree – leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of our academic staff. 

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - please see our frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

PhD researchers are normally supervised by teams of two academic staff attached to the Institute but we are able to call upon a wide-range of University staff expertise and external advisors in order to provide the best possible support.

A programme of research training is provided through our College Graduate School, which involves an induction course, introduction to information technologies and the use of library and bibliographic resources, basic training in qualitative and quantitative research methods, and sessions on research planning, presentation skills and ethics.

Our PhD researchers are able to participate in our guest lecture programmes, seminars and events and are encouraged to participate in national and international conferences.

PhD Study as a Visiting Scholar

Researchers undertaking PhDs from Universities elsewhere in the world are able to spend short periods of time at the IIICH through our Visiting Scholar’s Programme.

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

The field of cultural heritage is an important and growing field of interest. It is multi-disciplinary in its approach and international in scope and covers a diverse range of issues. Studying for a PhD with us allows you to examine a subject in depth while gaining necessary research skills and becoming an active member of the IIICH.

Our PhD researchers come from all over the world and play an important role in developing our collective understanding of the field of cultural heritage. Career opportunities in the cultural heritage field are varied and destinations for researchers include museums, galleries, government heritage departments, heritage NGOs, site management, tourism and the wider cultural sector and post-doctoral research and academia.

We have excellent facilities to support our PhD researchers. The University of Birmingham library is one of the UK’s foremost libraries and is an incredible resource offering links with many more international libraries. An ever growing electronic collection of resources – books, periodicals, databases - is available via the campus network and externally through the internet. Because we have been active in the study of cultural heritage for many years now, we offer an excellent specialist collection.

For PhD researchers undertaking archive work, the IIICH through its partners, has access to specialist archives through the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust Library, with its international collections relating to industrial heritage and the decorative arts, the University’s Special Collections and Archives which consist of approximately 120,000 pre-1850 books dating from 1471 and some 3 million manuscripts. Through our networks we also have links with many museums and archives around the world.

As PhD researchers of the IIICH you are also encouraged to get involved in the organisation of research related events and to benefit from our global networks of academics, policy makers and practitioners. Not only does such an approach assist you in developing relevant skills it also opens up opportunities for future employment.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are currently as follows:

  • Home / EU £4,052 full-time; £2,026 part-time
  • Overseas: £13,195 full-time; £6,597.50 part-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To be eligible for these awards, candidates must hold either an offer of a place to study or have submitted an application to study at the University. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

Additional information:

Typically, applicants for these research programmes will already have undertaken postgraduate study.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Research interests of staff

Our research themes, in which we are able to offer expertise, are not intended to be rigid as we recognise the wide spectrum of interpretations of cultural heritage, its cross-disciplinary nature and its international relevance. We welcome ideas for PhD which are innovative, challenging and which push at the boundaries of the many dimensions of cultural heritage. We will work with you to ensure that your research topic is ‘do-able’ and will provide maximum interest and impact for you, in line with your future career aspirations.

Our research themes of interest are broad in scope and allow for your interests to be developed. They are:

Related research


The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

Career opportunities in the cultural heritage field are varied and destinations for researchers include museums, galleries, government heritage departments, heritage NGOs, site management, tourism and education. Others work in the wider cultural sector, undertake post-doctoral research and ultimately academia.  

Graduates from the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage can boast a wide combination of skills that can be applied to a number of careers, including museums work, conservation and regeneration, the management of historic buildings and landscapes, and cultural tourism.

Over the past five years, over 93% of our postgraduates were work and/or further study six months after graduation. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: Arts Council Wales; BBC; Birmingham Museums Trust; National Trust; National History Museum; and Tower of London.