- Develop both intellectual and professional skills for leadership roles in the public history, heritage and cultural industries
- Study in a historic city and county, surrounded by visitor attractions including country houses, museums and industrial archaeology
- Gain practical experience of the heritage industry, with work-based consultancies to enhance your employability
- Build your networks and undertake fascinating real-world projects, drawing on our links with local, national and international heritage organisations
- Explore public history and heritage at a global level, underpinned by our partnerships with universities overseas
- Be inspired by our dedicated, enthusiastic teaching team, including historians who are published experts in their field and heritage professionals with vast industry experience
With a dynamic and innovative curriculum, our new MA programme enables you to focus on the role of history in the public sphere and equips you for careers ranging from museum curation to heritage education.
Join a thriving industry
The evidence of the past surrounds us and is constantly called upon, reshaped and reimagined in the present.
Research conducted by Historic England in 2015 revealed how heritage now plays a key role in the broader economy of the UK, driving international tourism and generating income for local communities.
The strong growth in visitor numbers at historic properties since 2001 also underlines how the heritage industry is not only a major source of employment but also one of the most frequent ways that members of the public engage with the past.
Our MA Public History and Heritage has been launched to help you make the most of the many career opportunities emerging in this burgeoning industry. It offers a relatively rare opportunity to undertake masters level academic research while gaining practical experience and advanced training in heritage sector roles.
Immerse yourself in Derbyshire’s history
Where better to study public history and heritage than Derbyshire? From fine aristocratic estates to the archaeology of the Industrial Revolution, our county encapsulates many aspects of England’s historical experience.
Heritage attractions such as museums, galleries and country houses are key to our city and county’s appeal, with annual visitor numbers reaching almost 40 million.
As part of your studies, you will explore a range of heritage sites with global significance. These include the UNESCO-recognised Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site which lies only minutes away from our Derby campus, and various National Trust and English Heritage properties.
Strong industry partnerships
Our flourishing links with the heritage, creative and cultural industries will open doors for you. The course gives 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 sector today.
Our partnerships span organisations with international profiles. As well as Derwent Valley Mills, they include Derby Museums Trust, which incorporates the Derby Silk Mill, site of the world’s first factory now being redeveloped as a ‘Museum of Making’. The Trust also holds landmark works by Joseph Wright of Derby, designated by Arts Council England as a collection of national importance.
Real-world learning in action
You’ll undertake a work-based consultancies in a public history or heritage-related organisation, go on frequent field trips and undertake employer-led projects.
Employability skills are embedded in every aspect of the course, so you will benefit from practical training in areas such as heritage management, audience research, policy writing, fundraising, curation – including digital curation – marketing and communication.
At the same time, you will explore advanced academic and conceptual debates around public history and heritage. The MA culminates in a research-based dissertation on a relevant theme of your choice.
Projects to bring the past to life
There is the chance for you to undertake wide-ranging projects on behalf of arts and heritage organisations. You will work to ‘live briefs’ set by employers which reflect current opportunities and pressures within the sector.
Among latest initiatives, our students have been designing exhibits charting the history of Derbyshire County Cricket Club and transforming the visitor experience at Derby Silk Mill as part of the international ‘Museomix’ event.
In other enterprising collaborations, students are working in partnership with Derbyshire County Record Office to encourage young people to take a greater interest in archives and with the National Brewery Centre in Burton to chronicle the history of brewing.
Learn from the experts
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.
The MA opens up wide-ranging opportunities for you to network with heritage professionals inside and outside the classroom – not only on work placements but also through our exciting programme of field visits, guest speakers, conferences and public events.
Alongside a dissertation and a work placement, you will study modules such as:
The Politics of History
This module examines how history is used, contested and represented in contemporary society. Using local, national and international case studies, students will consider the philosophical, ethical and methodological issues that arise when historians intervene in public debate.
Current Debates in Global Heritage
You will explore recent growth in the heritage industries, putting regional and national development into a global context. This module will identify current issues and developments in heritage practice and consider what impact this has had on popular understandings of the past.
Curation and Conservation in the Digital Age
This module will consider what skills are needed to conserve, manage and display collections and built heritage. It will explore how the role of curator has changed in the recent past and will equip students with practical skills (both analogue and digital) for a job as a modern curator.
Understanding Audiences and Audience Development
You will examine what audience research, audience development and evaluation mean in the heritage and cultural industries and why these are important. This module will also explore how working more closely with audiences has redefined the role of heritage organisations through the concept of ‘co-production’.
Funding, Marketing and Heritage Management
We will look at the financial, legal and commercial context in which heritage practitioners work and how they manage challenges and constraints. This module will cover the varied management structures of producers of public history and heritage - local authorities, charitable trusts, businesses and private individuals – and help you develop the skills to navigate these as a heritage professional.
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.
You will learn through seminars, self-directed study, tutorials, field visits, practical workshops, conferences/guest lectures, and work-based learning.
This course is also available Online. For more information please see Public History and Heritage MA
How you'll be assessed
Assessments will help you develop a wide range of research, critical thinking and presentational skills which are flexible and adaptable for a varied global market.
For instance, in the Politics of History module, you will produce a ‘policy paper’ to present historical research in a format suitable to inform policy makers. Meanwhile, the Understanding Audiences and Audience Development module involves conducting audience research and evaluating actual data, working within a real heritage setting.
Who you'll meet
This course is taught by a team of enthusiastic and expert historians who are active researchers in the field of public history and heritage. They include:
Dr Cath Feely, an expert in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British history. Cath is particularly interested in the political use of history and heritage, and is currently writing articles on Marxist historians and Communist concepts of radical heritage in the mid twentieth century. She was involved in research for the restoration of Elizabeth Gaskell’s house which opened to the public in Manchester in 2014 and is currently working with the Derbyshire Record Office on a series of events to promote the treasures of the archive to a wider public audience.
Professor Paul Elliott, whose research interests and publications span history, cultural and historical geography, the history of education and the history of science. Paul has forged close working relationships with local government, heritage, professional, community and media organisations. He has also played a key role in collaborative Arts and Humanities Research Council funded projects on ‘Nottingham’s Green Spaces’ and ‘Hidden Histories of the First World War’. He is on the editorial board of History: West Midlands magazine. His books include The Derby Philosophers: Science and Culture in British Urban Society, 1700-1850 (2009); Enlightenment, Modernity and Science (2010); and The British Arboretum (2011).
Professor Robert Hudson, who specialises in the history of Russia and Eastern Europe, but is also interested in twentieth-century French history and in the role of history and culture in conflict resolution, particularly in the former Yugoslavian states.
Dr Ruth Larsen, who researches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British history and is an expert on country houses, including their archaeology, heritage and interpretation. She was one of the researchers for Maids and Mistresses, a series of exhibitions produced by seven Yorkshire country houses in partnership with the University of York. Ruth was also the editor of the book that accompanied the exhibitions and remains an active associate member of the Yorkshire Country House Partnership. Ruth serves on the editorial board of Midlands History.
Dr Tom Neuhaus, who teaches international history, focusing on relations between Europe and Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has published a book on Tibet in the Western imagination and has worked with the German Alpine Museum on an exhibition about expeditions to the Himalayas. He is particularly interested in uses of heritage in China and South East Asia.
Dr Ian Whitehead, our Deputy Head of Humanities and an expert on twentieth-century British history, with a particular focus on the First World War. He has published a book on the role of doctors in the First World War and edited an important collection of essays about the two world wars. He is Vice-Chair of the Steering Committee of the UNESCO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
Our entry requirements are a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant subject or relevant professional experience in the heritage sector.
2020/21 Fees (August 2020 - July 2021)
£730 per 20 credits*
£730 per 20 credits*
£14,700 for the full programme
*Note – at postgraduate level, you’ll need to gain the following number of credits in total to obtain the awards below.
|Postgraduate Certificate||60 Credits|
|Postgraduate Diploma||120 Credits|
|MA or MSc||180 Credits|
This means you will gain 180 credits in total to complete the full MA or MSc. If you are studying part time you will normally complete your studies over two or three years, depending on the course structure.
Please note that all fees may be subject to annual increase.
Additional costs and optional extras
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.
Ongoing careers support
Our Careers and Employment Service will provide you with help, guidance and support from day one of your course – and for up to three years after you’ve completed your studies.
If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.Contact us
Additional information about your studies
Download programme specification
Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.
Additional costs and optional extras
We’re committed to providing you with an outstanding learning experience. Our expert teaching, excellent facilities and great employability prepare you for your future career. As part of our commitment to you we aim to keep any additional study costs to a minimum. However, there are occasions where students may incur some additional costs.
Included in your fees
- All compulsory reading materials available in digital format. Additonal reading based on library and/or digital resourses
- All compulsory study trips attached to modules (approximately 5/6 over the course) - museums, heritage sites
Mandatory costs not included in your fees
- Printing and binding of one copy of dissertation - approx. £6
- Expenses incurred travelling to external partner organisation for Public History Consultancy module
Optional costs not included in your fees
- Purchase of reading materials - approx. £30 per text but cost varies depending on source
- There may be costs associated with non-compulsory fieldtrips
Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.