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MA World Heritage Studies by distance learning

Start date
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Distance learning


Annual tuition fees for 2023 entry:
Full-time: £10,170
Part-time: £5,085
More detail.

Student Spotlight: Katy Karpfinger MA World Heritage Studies Distance Learning

Are you interested in developing your career in the heritage sector or at specific World Heritage Sites?

Delivered by the International Centre for Heritage, this unique programme is aimed at those who wish to acquire both a deeper understanding of the concepts and processes surrounding World Heritage in its cultural forms, its natural forms and as cultural landscapes.

World Heritage, both tangible and intangible, increasingly affects a significant proportion of the world’s population. It is now an essential concept for all engaged in the protection, development and management of heritage.

This course will provide you with necessary skills that will allow you to critically appraise and effectively manage World Heritage and its impacts in a sustainable manner. In addition it will allow you to take an informed position in policy debates regarding the implications of designation for local and national identities, community well-being and tourism and associated development.

The programme will draw upon international cases and practice and, through our many partnerships, it also draws upon over 30 years of heritage management expertise. You will benefit from access to an international network of researchers working with the key academic debates around the World Heritage designation. 

The skills and experience students develop are well-regarded by prospective employers in the heritage sector:

"Intangible Cultural Heritage is very much integrated in the discourse surrounding World Heritage and we very much welcome this programme of study which allow students the opportunity to explore the issues surrounding the management of intangible heritage, its inter-connectedness with notions of World Heritage and cultural landscapes, and how this can lead to a better appreciation of heritage as a whole."
Marilyn C Truscott, President, ICOMOS, International Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage

"World Heritage Sites such as Petra require careful management and an understanding of so many different issues. We are pleased to support the University of Birmingham’s MA programme which helps students appreciate the many different sides of World Heritage and the problems and opportunities they present."
Dr Emad Hijaazen, Commissioner for Petra Archaeological Park, Jordan

If you are unsure whether to study MA World Heritage studies or MA International Heritage Management, please view our handy course comparison guide.

Birmingham Masters Scholarships

We are offering over 400 awards of £2,000 to support the brightest and best applicants wishing to undertake Masters study at the University during 2023-24. The deadline for applications is 23:59 (UK Time) on Sunday 2 July 2023.

Find out more and apply now.


Why study this course?

  • Partnerships – you will have the opportunity to work with museum professionals and world-leading academics to enhance your learning experience. Our formal partnerships include Chatsworth House (UK), Biltmore Estate (US), National Trust, Nemours Estate (US), Historic England, Historic Houses, National Museum Institute (India) and various other museums and heritage organisations around the world
  • Career changing - a qualification from the University of Birmingham can be the springboard to promotion with your current employer, the platform from which to launch a new career or simply a way to become more effective in your current role.
  • Be a part of an active online community – – studying by distance learning is not a lonely experience here at the International Centre for Heritage. You will get to meet people from all over world - virtually – which will impact on your experience through learning about a variety of different contexts within which heritage is being operated globally.
  • Extensive resources – your study materials are produced by academic staff in the specialist areas and are available online through the University's 'virtual learning environment'. They contain aims and objectives, readings, activities and commentaries, discussion and reflection tasks, indexes and details of assignments required. 
  • Ongoing support – you will be assigned a personal tutor who will guide you through the programme.


Core modules

You will study five core modules:

Critical Approaches to Heritage

This module seeks to introduce the core issues relating to understanding heritage. It looks critically at heritage in all its forms: tangible and intangible, official and unofficial, and examines how heritage ‘works’ and happens. Throughout heritage is treated as a complex modern phenomenon that plays an important part in modern life across the world. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Issues in World Heritage Management

World Heritage is a fiercely contested area. The sheer diversity of site types, the cultural and political obstacles that are placed in the way of managers and the difficulties of reconciling local, national and international perspectives make these sites among the most challenging to work on. This module seeks to explore the common themes and issues that crop up in World Heritage management, and will use case studies and discussion groups to explore how these difficulties can be tackled. Among the more challenging areas to be tackled will be how intangible heritage can be managed and how to approach the issues of conserving natural heritage.
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Tourism Management at World Heritage Sites

The paradox at the heart of World Heritage is that it is a brand that makes heritage sites more attractive to visit, yet in increasing numbers of visitors, the very heritage itself can be threatened. This module seeks to explore and explain key concepts in tourism management, such as carrying capacity, de-marketing, local community involvement, stakeholder participation and other key elements. 

Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

World Heritage Case Study

You will be supported in acquiring the practical knowledge and skills that are necessary to effectively plan and manage a live work-based case study project and to establish useful contacts within World Heritage organisations in the UK or abroad.
Assessment: 4,000-word independent project

Research Skills and Methods

The module also considers ‘heritage’ as a contemporary lived phenomenon, one that is global in extent and yet local in its experience, essentially a ‘public’ resource that is inevitably contested and both uniting and divisive in its effects. Accordingly, students will be introduced to the techniques whereby these aspects of ‘heritage’ are studied, including approaches to its management and recording, the communities that make associations with particular heritages, and the attributes of heritage sites and landscapes.
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Optional modules

You will also choose one optional module. The list of available modules in any one year can vary, depending on staff specialisms and availability. Modules available typically include:

Heritage Interpretation

This module explores good practice in interpretation, the art of revealing to visitors the meaning and significance of objects and places. The philosophy of interpretation is considered and issues such as selectivity and bias are debated. Interpretation is considered in the contexts of recreation management, tourism, education and museums. Key concepts include communication theory, interpretative planning and programming, exhibition design and layout, visitor behaviour, interpretative media, language for interpretation, monitoring and evaluation.
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Heritage Conservation Management

Everyone responsible for a part of the heritage is working with a finite resource which must be managed appropriately to ensure its long term survival. Key concepts such as stewardship and sustainability are considered in this module. The premise that creative conservation can only be achieved through economic viability and accountability runs through the sessions. Core training is provided in conservation and planning legislation, visitor management, integrated management of historic properties, collections management and carrying capacity.
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Heritage Management Practices

This module aims to outline the range of practical and professional skills that are required in running a heritage site. It looks at the issues surrounding financial management and fundraising, the management of people, including staff and volunteers as well the wider national and international context of museum charging, arts sponsorship, and external funding. The module also covers the marketing of heritage sites, including the increasing importance of digital media and social networking. Assessment is through the creation of a feasibility study for a new heritage attraction. (Read more about this module)
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.

Study Week

The programme normally features a study visit to learn directly of the challenges of linking the interpretation, protection and conservation of sites with present and future environmental, social and economic needs. If opportunities for international travel are impacted by Covid-19, engagement with international World Heritage experts will instead be made via online seminars.


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2023/23 are as follows:

  • Full-time, all students: £10,170
  • Part-time, all students: £5,085

Please note: The part-time programme can be completed over up to three years, but fees are payable over two years; in each of years one and two, the fee payable will be half the full-time rate.

Paying your fees

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

How To Apply

Application deadlines

The deadline for all students applying to our distance learning courses is 31 August 2023.

Late applicants are encouraged to contact the Admissions Tutor for advice.

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 Standard Requirements

You will need an Honours degree in a relevant subject, normally of an upper second-class standard, or equivalent.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band.. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

Online resources

This is a web-based programme which is delivered using Canvas, a virtual learning environment which provides teaching and support materials. It is recommended that you have regular access to a computer with internet access (preferably broadband) so that you can get involved in online discussions. Contributing to discussions and reflecting on other students’ postings is considered a requirement of the course.

For those students who can only access a computer occasionally, and who do require supporting materials on CD, it may be possible for you to only use the Canvas site for online discussions. This might require internet access for about one hour a week.

Offline resources

You will need access to a university library close to where you live. As a student registered with us, you will have access to University of Birmingham libraries, but you will probably need to obtain books and journals more locally. In certain circumstances, subject to copyright legislation, we may be able to provide some additional printed materials. Home students can usually access other Universities’ libraries through the SCONUL system.

You are also expected to improve your learning by visiting heritage sites during the time you are on this course. 


Throughout the course, you will be supported by a personal tutor who will provide guidance on your assessed assignments. You will normally remain with the same tutor throughout the programme. They will be available by email and during UK office hours (Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 17:00) by phone or on Skype. We aim to reply to your email or, if we cannot speak on the phone when you ring, to return your call within 48 hours. 

Course delivery

The programme begins in late September or early October with an Induction event held via Zoom on the first Saturday of term which allows you to meet your tutors and fellow students and to familiarise yourself with the way the programme works, particularly the online materials which are used for all the taught modules. Semester dates can be found on our website.

Each module is taught online via Canvas and involves regular online tasks or discussions to facilitate your learning.

Teaching takes place between September and April in each academic year. Full-time students take three modules in each semester of the programme (the autumn and spring terms), while part-time students take three modules each year, as follows

Modules in semester / year one

  • Critical Approaches to Heritage
  • Issues in World Heritage Management
  • World Heritage Case Study 

Modules in semester / year two

  • Research Skills and Methods
  • Tourism Management at World Heritage Sites
  • Optional module

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

You will then complete your dissertation between May and September. For part time students this takes place in the second year of studies.

Further information on distance learning

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver local support.

In addition to a range of campus-based events and workshops, Careers Network provides extensive online resources, and comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.


Postgraduate employability: Cultural Heritage

Graduates from the International Centre for 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 5 years, 85% of our postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017). Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: The International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, South Korea; Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex World Heritage site, Russia; Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada; The Science Museum, UK; Hunan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, China; and Great Zimbabwe National Monument World Heritage site, Zimbabwe.

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities