MA Cultural Heritage of Shakespeare's England

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This interdisciplinary programme is taught through an imaginative collaboration between the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies, the Shakespeare Institute and the Ironbridge Institute at the University of Birmingham, in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  For those interested in a career in the heritage industry, this programme offers skills training and work experience, which can act as a path into the museums and heritage sector.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Full time, part time

Duration: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

Start date: September


This interdisciplinary programme is taught through an imaginative collaboration between the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies, the Shakespeare Institute and the Ironbridge Institute at the University of Birmingham, in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. For those interested in a career in the heritage industry, this programme offers skills training and work experience, which can act as a path into the museums and heritage sector.

The programme consists of four elements:

Core taught modules

Visual and Material Culture of Shakespeare’s England; Visual and Material Culture; Principles and Ethics of Heritage Management; and Shakespeare’s Legacy

Research Skills module

This module will provide skills training and will introduce a range of research, library and generic skills as well as subject-specific training towards your work placement and final research project.

Work placement

This is a one-term placement with a heritage organisation to work on a specific project within the subject area of the cultural heritage of Shakespeare’s England. You will have opportunity to study material culture, and/or the built environment first-hand, developing your research skills as well as gaining practical training for historical research and professional work in the museums and heritage sector.

Research project

This is your chance to follow up topics that particularly interest you, with the opportunity to study original materials held in the Birthplace Trust Collections. The project can be delivered in the form of a 15,000 word dissertation, or you can explore opportunities to use different media, such as an audio-visual presentation supported by a written defence.

Why study this course

This unique programme offers opportunities to explore primary source material and themes in much more depth than is possible at undergraduate level, and if you’re interested in research, it provides research training, project and dissertation work, which can act as the stepping-stone to a PhD.

You’ll benefit from the expertise and resources of three centres of research excellence:

The Department of History

The Department of History at Birmingham is one of the country’s leading departments, with an excellent record of high-powered research of international standing. The department includes a group of leading experts in the field of early modern studies and the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies includes a thriving postgraduate community with dedicated research seminars and activities.

The Shakespeare Institute

The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon is a unique centre for postgraduate study, offering unrivalled research resources, including the field’s premiere library in Europe, a staff of internationally recognised and respected academics, and a thriving scholarly peer group with shared interests.

The Ironbridge Institute

The Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage is a partnership between the University of Birmingham and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and builds on both institutions’ experience to provide top-class taught postgraduate courses in Heritage studies.

Location and resources

Birmingham’s proximity to Stratford-upon-Avon makes it an ideal base for the study and research of Shakespeare’s England. Stratford-upon-Avon is, of course, rich in associations with Shakespeare. Several houses in which he and his family lived are still standing and furnished with objects from the period, as is the school room in which it is thought he studied, and the church in which he is buried.

The University’s Special Collections contain a wide range of early printed books and Early English Books are available on line. The University library, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the Shakespeare Institute’s research library in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections all offer excellent and accessible resources for this programme.


You will study four core modules:

Visual and Material Culture of Shakespeare’s England

This module examines the visual and material culture of Shakespeare’s England, with particular emphasis on the buildings, interiors and collections in Stratford-upon-Avon. It offers a broad introduction to the art, artefacts and buildings of early modern England and explores their practical and symbolic functions within the society that produced them. It also assesses the significance of the physical remnants of the period for the critical understanding, interpretation and presentation of the history and culture of Shakespeare’s England. This module includes study trips to buildings and collections in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Visual and Material Culture: Theories and Methods

This module provides an introduction to recent literature in the interdisciplinary fields of visual and material culture. It introduces a range of theories and research methodologies relating to the study of visual and material culture in all periods and across several disciplines, but with a particular focus on the early modern period. This provides a theoretical and methodological framework for further research and / or applied curatorial practice.

Principles and Ethics of Heritage Management

This module provides a grounding in the core values of the professional heritage industry. Topics covered include Museum ethics, Heritage organizations (international, national, regional, local), fundraising and diversification of revenue sources, marketing, heritage education and special events, interpretation and education in the museums environment, using objects / collections, oral history and live interpretation.

Shakespeare’s Legacy

This module considers the interpretation and cultural appropriation of Shakespeare's plays from the seventeenth century to the present day. Attention is given to changes and developments in theatrical practice and shifts in cultural attitudes towards Shakespeare and his work that informs an understanding of performance trends and the emergence of Shakespeare as cultural icon. Plays considered include some or all of King Lear, The Tempest, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, King John, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Measure for Measure.

Fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. 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

You will need an Honours degree in a relevant subject, such as History, English, Art History or Cultural Studies, normally at an upper second-class level or its equivalent for overseas applicants. Individuals without these qualifications (for example with a lower second-class degree, a degree in an unrelated subject or career experience in museums or heritage work) are very welcome to apply and will be considered on their individual merits. Applicants may be asked to submit written work and/or attend an interview.

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

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.

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

Learning and teaching

If you study full-time, you will study the four core modules and a research component from October to March then complete your dissertation. If you study part-time, you will take three of the core modules and a research skills component in your first year, and complete one core module, the placement and your dissertation in your second year. 

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

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.

Postgraduates at the Shakespeare Institute are able to develop a broad range of creative, research and theatre skills, as well as in-depth subject knowledge.

In 2013, 99% of our postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

In recent years, our postgraduates have successfully entered a variety of sectors from teaching in secondary and higher education to performing arts, publishing, museums and library and archive work. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Imperial College London; National Trust; Royal Shakespeare Company; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; The Grove Theatre; and University of Bristol.