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British Cultural Heritage

3 weeks
Course Type
Summer School, Undergraduate

The British Cultural Heritage programme covers the best of British heritage. You will be able to explore the art, architecture, literature, music, design and popular culture that form the basis of Britain’s culture and heritage and continue to shape its identity. You will also have the opportunity to earn credits for your study. 

The programme seeks to introduce students to the study of heritage sites. You will explore premier examples of Britain’s heritage, examine the ways these sites are managed, how they attract tourists from around the world and discover the art, architecture, literature, design and popular culture that form the basis of Britain’s identity. The programme involves a mixture of field trips, self-guided study and expert led tours, underpinned by associated lectures that provide an academic context to help you get the most out of the visits.

Highlights from the programme include:

Field Trips

  • Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site

In 1986 the Ironbridge Gorge was one of the first locations to be designated as a World Heritage Site within the U.K.  This designation recognised the area’s unique and unrivalled contribution to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century; the impact of which is still felt across the world today. During our trip, we will visit some of the 10 museums that tell the story of the Ironbridge Gorge, including Blists Hill Victorian Town, an open-air museum that recreates the sights, sounds and smells of a 19th century Victorian town. We will also visit the iconic Ironbridge, the world’s first bridge to be made of cast iron and the namesake of the picturesque Shropshire town that surrounds it.

  • Liverpool World Heritage Site

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the port city of Liverpool was one of the world’s largest trading centres. Pioneers in port technology and transport systems, the city played a key role in the growth of the British Empire. From the mid-20th century, the city became internationally renowned for its culture particularly as the centre of the "Merseybeat" sound, which became synonymous with The Beatles. Today, substantial investment in regeneration schemes - including regeneration of the historic dockyard - has established Liverpool as an excellent place to explore how British cultural heritage has evolved and developed.

  • Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare Institute/ Shakespeare Birthplace Trust)

Stratford-upon-Avon is a picturesque market town in the West Midlands of England with more than 800 years of history to discover. The town is a popular tourist destination owing to its status as birthplace of the playwright and poet William Shakespeare. The town is now home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, one of Britain’s most important cultural venues. A visit to Stratford will include a trip to the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, which has enjoyed an illustrious past as a beacon for international Shakespeare scholarship, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, a charity that cares for Shakespeare’s family homes, celebrating his life and works through collections and educational programmes.

  • Oxford

Known as the ‘city of dreaming spires’, Oxford is known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Buildings in Oxford demonstrate notable examples of every English architectural period since the late Saxon period. The historic buildings, colleges, libraries, museums, and winding medieval streets make the city excellent place to explore. Our visit to Oxford includes a walking tour to take in the major sites of the city, including those seen in major films such as Harry Potter. We also take a trip to the Pitt Rivers Museum, the University of Oxford's museum of anthropology and world archaeology, famous for its wooden display cases full of curious artefacts from around the world.

Programme Outcomes

On completion of the programme, in addition to receiving 20 credits, you will have been given the opportunity to:

  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the role of cultural heritage in the West Midlands region.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the UK’s heritage sector and some of the important organisations that manage heritage in the UK.
  • Communicate research on an aspect of heritage and its value to society.

This is a three week programme and is equivalent to an accredited undergraduate course (20 UK credits, 5 US credits, or 10 ECTS). All students will receive a certificate of attendance.

Please note that the programme plan is subject to confirmation for BISS 2022.

Every day's course was fulfilling and expanded my knowledge of cultural heritage.

Xu, British Cultural Heritage programme

To be accepted onto the British Cultural Heritage programme you must:


Our programme of lectures are designed to underpin the field trips that you will be taking to important towns, cities, heritage sites and museums in the UK. The lectures will provide background information about many of the field trip locations and their significance to British cultural heritage.

Lectures are delivered by academic staff from the University of Birmingham. Lectures differ from year to year, and previous years’ lectures have included:

  • Introduction to Heritage: An opportunity to explore what is meant by ‘cultural heritage’, why it is significant, and how it is protected and managed in the UK.
  • Museums and Collecting: Understanding museums and their collections - This lecture engages with the questions: what is a museum, what happens to objects when they enter a collection, and why do we collect?
  • The Historical City of Liverpool: An introduction to the history and heritage of Liverpool, and the important sites that form the City’s UNESCO World Heritage listing.
  • A Song of Stone, Visiting English Castles: An introduction to the history of castles of England, and a fun and practical guide to visiting a castle.
  • All about Shakespeare: Explore history of Shakespeare, and the role that the Shakespeare Institute and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust play in engaging the world with his life and works.

Self-directed study and ‘out-of-classroom’ learning

Self-directed study is an essential aspect of the British Cultural Heritage programme, and all students are encouraged to take this initiative when participating in the programme. Whilst the lectures will provide an introduction to many of the sites that we visit, the majority of learning will take place out of the classroom and on field trips.

 During some field trips you will have the opportunity to take part in guided tours where you will be introduced to the sites by guides that are experts in their field. During other visits, you will have the opportunity to explore the sites on your own or in a group, with members of staff available to answer questions if needed. In both cases, these are great opportunities to get first-hand experience of a heritage site, museum or historic town, and gain more in-depth knowledge about their contribution to British Cultural Heritage.

Assessment Methods

At the end of your three-week stay with us you will be asked to present, as part of a group, your impressions of the UK’s cultural heritage based upon your observations and experiences. As such, during field trips, lectures and self-directed study, we encourage you to critically evaluate the cultural heritage that you experience. Each group will present their findings to the rest of the group and the teaching staff.