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Online course details

Study options

Part-time: 3 years

UK/EU fee

£9,090 (2020/21)

International fee

£9,090 (2020/21)

Course level




Start dates

January, September, May



Online course description

The evidence of the past constantly surrounds us and is called upon, reshaped and reimagined in the present. This exciting Public History and Heritage Masters programme combines critical academic study of the role of history in the public sphere with practical experience and advanced training designed to prepare you for leadership roles in the heritage sector.

Heritage plays a key role in the global economy, driving international tourism and generating income for local communities. The heritage industry is now not only a major source of employment, but one of the most frequent ways that members of the public come into contact with the past. Our online Public History and Heritage programme has been launched to help you make the most of the many career opportunities emerging in this ever growing and developing industry and gain practical experience and advanced training for heritage sector roles.

Goldstandard teaching**Teaching Excellence Framework

Strengthen your contacts in heritage and widen your industry knowledge

You will have the opportunity to work in industry in an organisation of your choice. This can be local and relevant to you with your passions and interests in mind. Our flourishing links with the heritage, creative and cultural industries on a global scale will give you access to producers of public history and heritage, such as local authorities, charitable trusts, businesses, community groups and private individuals. You will therefore gain unrivalled experience of the different practical, legal, commercial and management challenges facing the heritage sector today.

Bring heritage to life through the latest technology

In a world where technology is paramount, it is important for the heritage industry to develop and embrace new technologies to continue to engage visitors and attract new customers. Throughout the programme's modules we prepare you for changes in the industry using exciting new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality to create your own virtual museum environment.

Learn from historians and heritage experts

This programme opens up a wide range of opportunities for you to network with heritage professionals inside and outside the classroom. You will be taught by a team of academic historians and heritage industry experts who can share cutting-edge practice in their fields. They include renowned researchers and authors, who work regularly as consultants on restoration projects and major exhibitions.

What you will study

The online MA Public History and Heritage programme comprises three progressive stages; Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert), Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip) and Master of Arts (MA).

You will be required to achieve 60 credits to complete each award within the programme, totalling 180 credits to achieve the Masters:

A Postgraduate Certificate in Public History and Heritage can be obtained upon passing 3 modules (60 Credits).

A Postgraduate Diploma in Public History and Heritage can be obtained upon passing 6 modules (140 credits).

Master of Arts in Public History and Heritage can be obtained upon passing 6 modules and the Independent Study (180 credits).

We would encourage you to complete the full MA, but if you prefer, you can still gain an exit award at each stage: a PG Cert or a PG Dip.

You can also study the  full-time or part-time course on campus.

We will advise you of your study plan - the running order and availability of the modules - when you are invited to enrol.

If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered. In addition, where demand is high, some modules may be subject to a cap.

Postgraduate CertificatePostgraduate CertificatePostgraduate DiplomaPostgraduate DiplomaMastersMasters

Code: 7HY504

The Politics of History: Using the Past in the Present

This module examines how history is used, contested and represented in contemporary society. Using local, national and international case studies you will consider the philosophical, ethical and methodological issues that arise when historians intervene in public debate. You will explore the relationship between history and popular memory, and consider the ways in which public understandings of the past have been shaped and commodified by politicians, the media and the heritage industry. You will examine the extent to which academic history can influence popular perceptions of history and debate whether the historian has a duty to engage with wider audiences.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the political and social contexts in which various forms of history are both produced and consumed
  • Critically evaluate theoretical and conceptual debates about public history, popular memory and heritage
  • Understand the ethical and methodological issues surrounding the instrumentalisation of historical research
  • Use effective communication skills to convey complex ideas to non-academic audiences

Module content

The module is structured under two main related themes. The first main theme focuses on history, policy and politics. You will explore both how political context shapes the production of history and how understandings of the past impact on the policy-making process. Using specific case studies, such as the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, you will examine the relationship between history and the state, including the constraints placed upon historians in terms of access to archives and the ability to research controversial topics. The module will explore the role of history in conflict resolution, critically examining how historians have contributed to legal, political and moral debates surrounding genocide and restorative justice. You will learn about how historians advise politicians on policy and critically assess the impact of historical advisors on issues such as foreign policy and the environment. The module will also look at how non-governmental organisations and other groups use history as a campaign tool. You will engage with controversies about the teaching of history, such as debates about the content of textbooks and curricula.

The second main theme is the consumption and representation of the past in contemporary society. You will examine the tensions between the needs of the present and preservation of the past, exploring the politics surrounding heritage and protection of historic buildings and landscapes. The growth of community history and heritage will also be considered. You will critically analyse the commodification of history and its importance as a leisure activity. As well as exploring representations and reconstructions of the past in the media, museums and popular culture, you will assess whether interactive and participatory approaches to the past are making history more accessible and ‘democratic’. Throughout the module, we will debate the role of academic historians in public history and the difficulties of making history relevant to wider audiences while maintaining academic rigour and credibility.

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20 Credits

Code: 7HY506

Heritage Management, Funding and Marketing

This module explores the financial, legal and commercial context in which heritage practitioners work and how to create opportunities while managing challenges and constraints. Covering the varied management and governance structures of producers of public history and heritage - local authorities, charitable trusts, businesses, private individuals – the module will develop your skills in how to navigate these as a heritage professional. You will then apply these skills in the planning and development of your own heritage project, for which you will produce a funding strategy, a funding application and a marketing portfolio and plan.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate strategic understanding of the legal, financial and commercial context in which heritage professionals work
  • Apply this understanding in a practical context
  • Critically reflect on the professional skills needed to manage complex projects in the heritage sector
  • Demonstrate advanced understanding of tools used in marketing heritage projects

Module content

In recent years, heritage has become a changing and demanding sector and, across the globe, modern heritage professionals now need to develop an understanding of leadership, planning and marketing alongside specialist heritage skills. As heritage organisations diversify in terms of funding sources, it is important that heritage professionals are entrepreneurial in finding and making the most of relevant opportunities. To do this effectively, they must gain excellent knowledge of the heritage sector – its political, statutory and commercial context – while also gaining generic but crucial skills in strategic planning, writing effective funding bids, managing budgets, managing people (paid employees and volunteers), balancing different stakeholders, running events and marketing.

Built on insights into organisations with varied missions and governance structures, and including input from a range of heritage professionals, this module will introduce you to tools to help you plan, fund, run and promote a public history or heritage-related project. You will identify and prepare applications for funding which will require you to produce effective plans and budgets while using your creative skills to make the most of the resources available to promote your project. Finally, the module will require you to reflect on how you can use the experience gained to enhance your own career planning.

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20 Credits

Code: 7HY507

Curation and Conservation in the Digital Age

This module introduces you to the opportunities and challenges presented by different ways of conserving and curating heritage. Looking at several different contexts, from archives and museums to online platforms, you explore what issues professionals need to bear in mind when determining how to present heritage to a public audience. From thinking about the physical state of an object, to copyright, accessibility and the viability of different digital tools, you will explore some practical considerations. However, you will also discuss how curators engage with wider cultural policy and audience development.

You will explore how all these issues have evolved in a world where engagement with culture and heritage takes place not only through interaction with physical artefacts but also digitally. This will culminate in the design of a ‘virtual museum’, which will give you the opportunity to put your knowledge into practice. Throughout the module, you will be encouraged to work with external organisations in order to analyse examples and develop your understanding in a real-world setting.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the challenges associated with curation and conservation of heritage
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the tools used in the digital curation of heritage
  • Apply this understanding in a practical context
  • Reflect critically on the skills needed by heritage professionals in a digital world

Module content

The British Museum currently exhibits only around 1% of all the objects it holds to the public. Museums and other heritage organisations face a number of conflicting demands when making decisions on curation and conservation: from assessing how fragile an object may be, determining its place within a wider historical-cultural narrative, and understanding its appeal to public audiences, to practical and legislative constraints. On this module, you will gain an understanding of how heritage organisations are addressing these challenges, with a particular emphasis on the opportunities provided by digital media and a chance to put this knowledge into practice. 

The module will also explore the opportunities provided by digital media for conserving non-tangible heritage and environmental heritage. Does digital curation provide opportunities for conserving heritage that is under threat, transient or difficult to pin down? Finally, the module will consider how we can conserve heritage in an age in which cultural outputs are increasingly produced and disseminated in a digital format. How can we ensure that future generations continue to have access to this digital heritage even when technology and media change?

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20 Credits

Code: 7HY508

Current Debates in Global Heritage

This module will introduce you to the key issues in the study of global heritage and will allow you the opportunity to discuss these issues with heritage professionals in a symposium you will help to promote. You will be introduced to different definitions of heritage, encouraging you to think about both tangible and intangible forms of heritage. This will lead to a discussion regarding ownership of heritage, which will inform debates regarding the nature of so-called ‘authorised heritage discourses’. You will examine the growth of global networks in conservation, evaluating the impact of UNESCO on the development of internationalised concepts of heritage.

The module will explore different threats to heritage, from political threats, such as the deliberate destruction of heritage during conflict situations, to environmental threats and issues of accessibility. It will culminate in a symposium in which you will present – either in person for on campus students or virtually for online students - a specific case study relating to the issues discussed on the module to a wider audience including heritage professionals.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Critically reflect on how heritage has been defined and contested both in the UK and globally
  • Present advanced arguments based on independent scholarly research
  • Engage professionally with a range of stakeholders in the heritage industries
  • Critically assess the development of your professional and transferable skills

Module content

This module will provide a broad introduction to a range of different issues in the study of heritage and in the practice of heritage conservation. You will explore how the definition of heritage has developed to include both tangible heritage (that is objects, archaeological sites and buildings) and intangible heritage (that is cultural practices, stories and traditions), as well as environments and landscapes. You will explore how this heritage has been defined and to what extent different actors, from states to community groups, can claim ownership of heritage. In this context, you will also explore the different international and national organisations that exist for championing heritage, and the varied challenges they face. From discussing existing legal frameworks, to exploring the environmental and political threats that can lead to destruction of heritage, you will gain an appreciation of how complex the conservation and preservation of heritage in the twenty-first century can be and how many conflicting interests often need to be balanced. You will also explore the notion of an ‘authorised heritage discourse’ and the way in which some actors may utilize fixed, ‘authorised’ narratives about heritage in order to advance their own political or social agendas. Case studies of debates over heritage will come from all over the world. Topics for discussion may include such examples as the fate of the Elgin marbles, the destruction and looting of heritage sites in recent international conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East, the intangible heritage of indigenous communities in the USA or Australia, and the connection between heritage and the tourism industry in Western Europe. 

The module will end with a public symposium which will bring together heritage professionals and interested members of the public to discuss a range of issues. You will play a major part in organising this symposium, inviting speakers, promoting the conference and drawing up a schedule, and you will also deliver a paper (either in person or virtually) at the symposium itself. This will not only give you the opportunity to carry out advanced research, but also to develop professional networks in the heritage industry.

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20 Credits

Code: 7HY509

Audiences and Audience Development

This module will consider the ways in which heritage sites attract, diversify and retain their audiences. After an exploration of the history of heritage tourism you will consider the wide range of factors that mean individuals visit some particular sites more than others. The module will then consider the different ways that organisations can diversify their audiences including strategies used to attract non-visitors. In order to understand audiences you will develop qualitative and quantitative research skills. These will allow you to interrogate visitor data, critically analyse material created for audiences and respond to a range of feedback from visitors.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the issues affecting audience development in the cultural and heritage industries
  • undertake systematic and critical evaluations of strategies employed by heritage organisations in order to gain and maintain visitors
  • analyse and interpret qualitative and quantitative audience data
  • develop solutions to complex problems associated with audience development

Module content

Throughout this module you will consider why people visit heritage sites, their responses to those sites and the challenges heritage organisations face in broadening their audiences. You will explore the scholarship of audience research, both general methodologies and those used specifically within heritage studies. This will include considering the different forms of research design (including positivist, interpretivist and humanist) and methodologies (including those based on behaviour, questionnaires, focus groups and/or interviews) used. Drawing on historical and sociological research the module will consider the external factors which mean that some groups and individuals do not visit museums, art galleries and other heritage sites and the different approaches used by some organisations to try to attract them as visitors. This will include exploring practices such as co-production, community empowerment projects, and education outreach activities.

The module will also develop your analytical skills so that you are able to use qualitative and quantitative data in order to understand visitor patterns and to develop strategies to retain existing audiences as well as expanding numbers. This will include interrogating visitor numbers as well as undertaking systematic analysis of written feedback from visitors, including from surveys, visitor books and comment cards. You will also learn how to design surveys and other mechanisms for gathering data. The ethical implications of audience research will also be considered along with the problems of dealing with data from visitors who know they are being surveyed. Throughout, you will apply your theoretical knowledge and transferable skills to real-world issues facing heritage organisations today.

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20 Credits

Code: 7HY510

Public History Consultancy

This module provides you with an opportunity to apply your passion for history in the context of a consultancy for cultural, creative, arts, heritage, or related organisation and to develop advanced academic and transferable skills. The main focus is to negotiate and conduct a substantial project that will allow you to develop the expertise you can offer to an employer or other outside body and to acquire advanced project management skills. This might involve working with a museum or gallery, a cinema or theatre, a radio or TV station, or an educational establishment, for example. It allows you to bring your academic and professional skills to an organisation, to complete a project that is useful to them and, in many cases, the wider community, and gives you the opportunity to show initiative and leadership in an area relevant to your chosen career path. It will also encourage you to think creatively about how the past is being presented to different audiences.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of issues affecting policy and practices in a specific industry or organisation
  • Negotiate advanced project work with an organisation, and display leadership in managing this work independently
  • Evidence an advanced understanding of how historical research can be presented to specialist and non-specialist audiences within the context of a specific organisation
  • Systematically evaluate your experience in relation to a range of academic and policy issues and in relation to your own personal and career development

Module content

This module provides an opportunity for you to negotiate a consultancy with an organisation or industry related to the arts, education, or the creative, heritage and cultural industries. You will negotiate your own project with the appropriate tutor, module leader, and organisation. This negotiation will lead to the development of a memorandum of work which will shape the nature of the project that you undertake. The project needs to demonstrate the practical application of advanced academic skills as well as the development of transferable professional skills.

As part of the module you will also consider the issues that affect the practices of those working in such establishments and organisations. You will also critically evaluate the outcomes of the project and reflect on the skills you have developed.

The module is taught across the Spring and Summer trimesters. Tutorials, with an appropriate supervisor, will support a programme of independent work on the project. You will also work with an organisation in order to gain access to the appropriate materials, information and experience in order to enable you to undertake the research required by the organisation. Online students will be supported to work virtually with an organisation if appropriate. There will also be some group tutorials in order to allow you to share your experiences and learn from one another and also to gain advice with regards to the assessments. There will also be careers information and support including advice from careers advisors professionals and recent graduates. There will also be opportunities to access information on applying for further postgraduate including doctoral study.

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40 Credits

Code: 7HY998

Independent Study

This module enables you to undertake a substantial piece of research on an aspect of public history and heritage. You will need to show an advanced, critical engagement with debates within academic literature and to undertake critical analysis of relevant sources. The writing of the dissertation will enable you to develop your ability to construct sustained and coherent arguments, and to show a systematic and up-to-date understanding of relevant theoretical and methodological issues. The skills developed in this module are essential to your future employability and personal development, as well as providing a basis for doctoral study.

Module learning outcomes:

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to: 

  • Formulate a complex, nuanced hypothesis and prove this in the context of critical examination of relevant sources and debates
  • Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of both established and recent literature in your chosen field of study
  • Write a coherent and sustained piece of advanced academic analysis
  • Show a capacity for initiative, independent working, and effective time management
More information
40 Credits

Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.

How you will learn

Pace of study

We recommend about 20 hours of study per week to complete one 20-credit module over a 10-week trimester.

Assessment method

This course is assessed through 100% coursework with a range of methods, such as essays, research reports, presentations, group work and practical reports.

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Discovering Online Learning Webinar

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 16.00 - 17.00

During this hour-long webinar, we’ll take you through the basic principles of how online learning works and what you can expect as an online learner with the University of Derby Online Learning.

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Entry requirements

You will require:

English language qualifications

If English is not your first language, or you have not successfully completed your highest level of qualification in English, you will need an English language qualification. For this course you will need to have passed the International English Language Teaching System (IELTS) at the overall level IELTS 7.0, including a minimum score of 6.5 in each test category - also accepting IELTS Indicator (where available). Where appropriate, our International Admissions office can give further details, including information regarding approved IELTS test centres. The English language qualification required by this programme is at a higher level than that required for other university programmes: the reason for this is that throughout the MA programme you will have to work with the English language at an advanced level.

Fees and funding

2020/21 Fees for new entrants

Starting between September 2020 and August 2021.

 Per 20 creditsModulesCost
UK/EU/International £1,010 7 (five 20 credit modules and two 40 credit modules) £9,090

About your fees

This figure would be the total cost of this course in the current academic year. However, please note that fees normally increase in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees, which is reviewed on an annual basis. The total fee you pay may therefore increase if your course lasts longer than one year.

However, please also note that you can receive a 5% discount if you either:

Flexible payment plans available

Choose from three payment plan options:

Masters funding options

Depending on where you are from in the UK or EU, and on your pace of study, you may be eligible for a postgraduate student loan. Accessible through Student Finance, this is a non-income based loan to help with living costs and tuition fees whilst studying your masters programme.

How to apply

Students should apply directly to the University.

Apply now

Documents to support your application

You'll need to provide:

*Documents not in English or Welsh must be accompanied by a certified translation by a professional translator/translation company. Each translation must contain:

A list of approved translators can be found on the UK Government website.

Application deadlines

All of our online courses have set start dates throughout the year. We require time to review your application and get back to you with a response before your course starts. Take a look at information regarding applying for an online course to see full details of deadlines and term dates.


MA Public History and Heritage graduates typically go on to pursue a wide range of careers in roles such as Museum Curator, Archive Professional, Heritage Educator and Academic Researcher. Because the MA combines practical work experience with a Masters level dissertation based on thorough academic research, you will have a broad and flexible portfolio of skills to impress potential employers.

This course could also be the springboard for taking your studies to PhD level. The abilities you gain in independent learning, research and communication on the MA will prepare you well for the challenge.

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Contact the University of Derby Online Learning:

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