Conservation Practice (MSc)
- Duration: 2 years
- Mode: Full time
Why study this course
This hands-on conversion programme is dedicated to teaching the next generation of conservators through problem-based learning on real heritage objects.
Designed for graduates regardless of background who want a career in the discipline.
Theory and problem solving focus
Develop a sophisticated understanding of principles plus practical application.
Our MSc Conservation Practice programme takes a theory into practice approach to bench conservation, led by accredited conservators and taught through lectures, seminars and laboratory practice.
Designed as a conversion programme for humanities and science graduates seeking a career in Conservation, this two-year programme offers significant experience working on archaeological and historical objects in the lab, plus real-world conservation placements.
Gaining a sophisticated understanding of theoretical principles and practical applications under expert tuition, you will become adept in the care and protection of cultural heritage artefacts through laboratory experience. Developing your skills in the practice of both new and traditional conservation techniques, you will amass considerable experience of working on cultural heritage objects from the UK and across the globe. More than this, you will demonstrate valuable transferable skills in project and resource management, problem solving and communication.
Taught by leading practitioners respected worldwide, our programme combines the knowledge and expertise to operate at professional conservation levels in the heritage sector, with a solid platform for pursuing future research.
Your strong interest in the subject is a given, but our internationally-respected entry-level programme does not require a fixed prerequisite volunteer or intern hours. The degree has been established as a conversion course making it ideal for those from humanities and science backgrounds. Within your application please share with us the evidence you have for your interest in the sector and your highest level of scientific qualification.
Celebrating the centenary of Archaeology and Conservation in 2020, we’re ranked in the world top 150 (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020) while our research ranked 12th among archaeology departments in the UK (Research Excellence Framework 2014).
Where you'll study
Curious about the human experience across millennia and cultures, we are seeking to better understand our past, to illuminate our present and improve our future.
This is a conversion course. Conversion courses allow you to study a subject unrelated to your undergraduate degree or current career, and support you with a change of career path. No prior knowledge or degree in the subject is required.
Applicants should normally possess a higher education degree with a first or good upper second class Honours (UK), or a qualification recognised by the University as equivalent to this.
This programme is suitable for graduates in Archaeology, History, Ancient History, Conservation and Heritage and the Sciences.
If you have an arts-based degree you must supply evidence of your highest level of education within science. Evidence of an interest in or commitment to the cultural heritage sector will strengthen an application.
Applicants with a first language other than English:You must demonstrate a IELTS test with a minimum score of 6.5 (with at least 6.0 in any sub-score) or equivalent.
We welcome applications year-round but to commence your studies in any given year (starting September), you must submit your application by 1st August.
Find out more about English language requirements.
Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements.
You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.
If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:
- access to computers or devices that can store images
- use of internet and communication tools/devices
- freedom of movement, including the ability to travel to outside of the UK or to undertake a placement/studies outside of Cardiff University
- contact with people related to Cardiff University.
You study modules with a total of 300 credits over two years, combining core modules in Conservation training (120 credits), postgraduate core skills (80 credits), optional modules (40 credits) and, upon successful completion of the taught stage of the programme, a dissertation (60 credits).
The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2021/22 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2021.
In your first year you will gain the underpinning skills, knowledge and theory required to study and deliver conservation practice.
In the summer you engage in an eight-week placement working in conservation.
Year two incorporates a taught element which lasts for the first two semesters of study and is assessed at the end of this period.
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.
Learning and assessment
How will I be taught?
We teach via laboratory practice, seminars, lectures and assessed work using multiple formats to combine theoretical knowledge with realistic practical applications, including placements in partner museums and related heritage organisations.
Importantly, this programme integrates theory and practice throughout via practical work on archaeological and historical objects, where you are supported by one to one tuition. The focus is on developing problem solving and decision-making skills using problem-based learning assignments. Verbal interaction with staff forms a large part of the learning process that leads the student towards being a stand-alone decision maker.
Learning outcomes for the module are correlated to the novice to expert scale utilised by The Institute for Conservation (ICON) for competence assessment.
More advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by independent study, guided reflective laboratory practice, self-directed learning and individual supervision of dissertations.
How will I be assessed?
There is a diverse range of assessment methods including reflective learning logs, essays, exams, oral presentations, portfolio, reports and viva.
This range of assessment ensures that you have developed a broad range of practical and theoretical skills, knowledge and communication methods by the completion of the course.
On successful completion of the taught elements of the programme you progress to a dissertation of up to 20,000 words. This self-regulated year of study is ideal preparation for progression to PhD.
How will I be supported?
On enrolment, you are assigned your own Personal Tutor and provided with teaching and learning resources, including Postgraduate Handbook. Additional specific module resources are made available during the programme.
We offer one-to-one time in set office hours during teaching weeks, and also welcome email contact. Additionally, you can make appointments to see your personal tutor on a one-to-one basis about any issue. Our Professional Services team is also available for advice and support.
Your personal tutor is your contact point to discuss any problems arising from the course. Further queries should be addressed to the School’s Director of Postgraduate Taught.
A suite of object conservation and analytical research laboratories are available to you. Treatment facilities and analytical equipment include:
- Analytical SEM
- Portable XRF
- FTIR with microscope attached
- Portable Raman Spectroscopy
- Climatic chambers
- Digital microscopy
- NdYag laser
- Freeze-drying system (for treating waterlogged materials such as wood and leather)
- Abrasive suite (for the investigation of metal surfaces and removal of corrosion)
- Three conservation laboratories (including flexible space for the treatment of large objects)
- Digital photography suite
- Computer suite
Feedback on coursework may be provided via written comments on work submitted and through discussion in contact sessions.
Formative feedback is provided individually through essay returns, feedback during practical classes, comments upon documents and via formal and informal review meetings.
What skills will I practise and develop?
You will acquire a broad range of skills including the ability to:
• evaluate the condition of archaeological and historical objects and formulate evidence-based procedures to preserve them
• execute a wide range of practical processes required to apply conservation treatments
• operate a range of instrumental and investigative analysis tools and interpret the data they produce
• liaise with stakeholders
• offer rationalised solutions to problems
• carry out independent research on specialist subjects
• exercise initiative and personal responsibility, decision-making in complex situations and offer pragmatic evidence based solutions
• present information in appropriate formats within professional contexts
• acquire the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.
Additionally, you will develop communication, time management, decision making, presentation and good record keeping skills.
Students from the UK
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Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland
EU, EEA and Swiss nationals starting in 2020/21 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course.
If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national, unless you qualify for UK fee status, tuition fees for 2021/22 will be in line with the fees charged for international students. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.
Students from the rest of the world (international)
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More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.
Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.
We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.
Careers and placements
Many graduates of this programme have embarked on careers in conservation within the heritage sector, while others choose to continue studies at PhD level.
Recent graduate destinations include UK organisations such as The National Trust, The National Archives, Imperial War Museum, Bath Record Office, MSDS Marine and international destinations including Yale Peabody Museum, Penn Museum, St Mary’s City Maryland, UCLA Library, Colonial Williamsburg and the Library of Congress.
91% of postgraduates from the School of History, Archaeology and Religion were in employment or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2016/17).
Benefitting from our sector connections, you will develop your skills on an eight week conservation placement, normally in the summer between years one and two.
Among recent partner organisations are the Imperial War Museum, Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales, Staffordshire Hoard project, Bristol Museum and the Royal Armouries.