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

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 all aspects of cultural heritage, heritage management and related areas and welcome ideas for research which are innovative, challenging and which push at the boundaries of the cultural heritage field.

Dr John Carman

Dr John Carman

“Cultural heritage is a global social fact – everyone in the world can claim at least one heritage as theirs – but we understand the nature of heritage very poorly. Anything can become heritage, but not everything is: the processes of heritage creation and maintenance are at once evident but also opaque. Our researchers are at the cutting edge of the developing discipline of global Cultural Heritage Studies and provide essential insights into an aspect of our contemporary world”

Our research degrees require you to prepare a dissertation on a topic of your choice of up to 40,000 words for the MA or 80,000 words for the PhD, under expert supervision. 

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.

Researchers are normally supervised by teams of two academic staff of 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. In addition, a full programme of research training is provided through our College Graduate School.

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.

Why study this course

  • The field of cultural heritage is an important and growing field of interest. It is multi-disciplinary in its approach, global in scope and covers a diverse range of issues. Studying for a research degree with us allows you to examine a subject in depth while gaining necessary research skills and becoming an active member of the IIICH.
  • Our research students come from all over the world and play an important role in developing our collective understanding of the field of cultural heritage. We also have excellent facilities to support our 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 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 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. You will have the opportunity to take part in – and assist in organising – international conferences hosted by IIICH and its staff, and to participate in producing our in-house online journal Furnace which is managed and edited by our graduate researchers. Such activities are guaranteed to assist you in developing relevant skills and also open up opportunities for future employment.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home / EU £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £13,680 full-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.

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2016.

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

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.

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

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 research 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

For details of potential supervisors, please browse our staff page HERE

Unique aspects of research with the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage include:

  • Expertise in all aspects of cultural heritage
  • Interdisciplinary perspectives
  • Direct association with the Ironbridge World Heritage site and its ten museums
  • Close collaboration with heritage research institutes in four continents
  • Extensive links with the heritage sector, nationally and internationally
  • Internationally renowned tutors
  • Free language tuition available
  • Cultural heritage a field of growing importance globally
  • Engagement with international visitors
  • Opportunity for involvement  in conferences and publications
  • Excellent career prospects

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

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. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

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.  

Over the past five years, over 93% of our postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include in the UK, Arts Council Wales; BBC; National Trust; National History Museum; and Tower of London. Overseas our students have been employed by Ministry of Culture, Indonesia; Institute for Protection of Cultural Heritage, Slovenia; Office of Heritage Council of Western Australia; Ben Tre Museum, Vietnam; Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; and Skansen Museum, Sweden

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.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.