MA World Heritage Studies by distance learning

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

Delivered by the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, this unique programme aims to provide you with a deeper understanding of the concept of World Heritage, how Sites are inscribed, managed and the implications of designation on issues relating to communities, tourism and identities.

The programme will draw upon international cases and practice and, being linked to the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, 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. 

This programme is also available to study full-time on campus at the University of Birmingham. For more information, see World Heritage Studies MA.

James Davies

James Davies

Teaching Fellow in Cultural Heritage

“Virtually every country in the world has World Heritage Sites, and this course offers the flexibility and support to enable anyone around the world to learn about World Heritage Site theory and practice within an international context.”

The MA World Heritage Studies draws upon international cases and practical experience and will provide you with an insight into the processes of World Heritage inscription and management.

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.

Core modules

You will study five core modules:

  • Critical Approaches to Heritage
  • Issues in World Heritage Management
  • World Heritage Case Study
  • Tourism Management at World Heritage Sites
  • Research Skills and Methods

Optional modules

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

  • Heritage Interpretation
  • Heritage Conservation Management
  • Heritage Management Practices
  • Heritage and Popular Culture
  • Postcolonial Heritage: Managing Imperial Legacies

You also have the option to attend a non-assessed Study Week in the second year of the programme. You can either join students on the full-time MA World Heritage Studies on their Study Week in Paris, or join distance learning MA International Heritage Management students on their UK World Heritage Site Study Week (which includes a visit to the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site).

Further module information is available below.


All modules are assessed by written assignment. You also complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

Why study this course

  • Career changing – this programme could prepare you to launch a new career, take the next step in your current career, or simply become more effective in your current role.
  • A unique partnership – Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage (IIICH) is a partnership formed over 30 years between the University of Birmingham and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. You will have the opportunity to learn from both museum professionals and world-leading academics.
  • Be a part of an active online community – studying by distance learning is not a lonely experience here at IIICH. 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 include aims and objectives, reading lists, summaries of readings, activities and commentaries, discussion and reflection tasks, indexes and details of assignments required. On joining you are provided with a course handbook that introduces you to the team, provides details of their roles and expertise and gives all the contact information you will need including email addresses so that if you have any difficulties or questions you will know who to contact for help and guidance.
  • Ongoing support – you will be assigned a personal tutor who will be available to answer questions give advice and provide clarification throughout your course.


Core modules

You will study five core modules:

Critical Approaches to Heritage

This module explores the core concepts of heritage: how they are generated, identified, valued and protected. It seeks to identify how heritage values are ascribed, and how these have implications for the recognition and protection of heritage. This process can be unofficial and informal and well as the more widely recognised controlling hierarchical framework of national and international systems of protection through law and international charters. You will be encouraged in to critically explore the variety and diversity of cultural heritage across the globe and the role of heritage in the formation of identities within communities and nations.
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

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

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. Content will focus on World Heritage Sites endorsed through the UNESCO UNITWIN Network for Tourism, Culture and Development.
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Research Skills and Methods

This module provides students with the core research skills to consider different aspects of heritage by understanding and applying a range of techniques of data collection in practical settings. 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. Students will be encouraged in this module to think critically of heritage not as a ‘given’ in any cultural context, but as something that is constantly being created and lived.
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.
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Postcolonial Heritage: Managing Imperial Legacies

Several centuries of colonial activity across the globe have left many legacies which still influence post-colonial states, from official languages to architecture through to state-management strategies. This module looks at the management of historical artefacts in non-European countries that used to be under Western rule, looking at case-studies in Africa, Latin America and Asia. It encompasses the former British, French, Spanish and Portuguese empires to encourage the development of comparative approaches across time and space. The module emphasises the various strategies implemented to eliminate, to re-appropriate or simply to valorise the architectural and cultural heritage of the colonial period, considering the political meaning of such decisions, but also their economic consequences (especially when they have potential as touristic attractions).
Assessment: 4,000-word report


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

You also have the option to attend a non-assessed Study Week in the second year of the programme. You can either join students on the full-time MA World Heritage Studies on their Study Week in Paris, or join distance learning MA International Heritage Management students on their UK World Heritage Site Study Week (which includes a visit to the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site).

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2019/20 are as follows: £4,625 part-time.

As this is a part-time programme, the above fee is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.

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.

Entry requirements

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

International students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - our country pages show you 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, or PTE with 59 in all four skills. 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.

Learn more about international entry requirements

How to apply

Application deadlines

Please apply by Friday 30 August 2019. However, we would encourage you to apply at the earliest opportunity, to allow adequate time to prepare for starting your studies once receiving a decision on your application.

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

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

Online resources

This is a web-based programme which covers all of the components of the Ironbridge Institute’s conventional MA programme. It 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 once registered with the IIICH.

You are also expected to improve your learning by visiting heritage sites during two years 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. You will also meet your tutor for a personal tutorial on the introductory day of the programme and at study periods in Ironbridge or Birmingham.

Course delivery

The programme begins in late September or early October with an Induction Day in Birmingham 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. Term 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. You will take three modules in each year of the programme:

First year

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

Second year

  • 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 of the second year.

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


Over the past five years, 97% 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: 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.

Postgraduate employability: Cultural Heritage

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, 97% 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: Birmingham Museums Trust; National Trust; Canal and River Trust; English Heritage; Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust; and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.