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Sustainable Building Conservation (MSc)

  • Duration: 2 years
  • Mode: Part time

Course options See other modes of study
Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) accredited course aims to be unique amongst schools in Britain.


IHBC accredited

As an IHBC accredited course, the course enables suitably qualified candidates to achieve full IHBC accreditation in 2 as opposed to 5 years.


Aligned with ICOMOS

The course validation for the IHBC accreditation is based on its alignment with International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) education criteria. As such, international students should be able to claim similar professional acknowledgement in their home countries.


New career paths

Beyond offering an IHBC accredited Masters degree, the course creates new career paths by enabling students to develop expertise with regard to energy conservation and the sustainable use of materials in the context of historic buildings.


Access to leading expertise

The teaching includes contributions from many invited experts from practice, industry and academia, numerous field trips to live sites and a three-day intensive tour in the fourth module.


Become accredited in Building Conservation

The programme is designed to prepare students applying for conservation accreditation with UK bodies such as AABC, RIBA and RICS but also with professional organisations internationally whose schemes require case studies aligned to ICOMOS criteria.

Accredited by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), this distinctive masters’ qualification addresses current challenges recognised worldwide.

We place emphasis on the role of sustainability within the historic context at both technical and strategic levels. By using our established expertise as a research locus for sustainable design, the course addresses these concerns, which have been identified internationally by the International Council on Monuments and Sites UK (ICOMOS), as the critical future direction of conservation education.

The course is offered on both a full time and a part time basis and attracts students from a broad range of backgrounds who benefit from the opportunity to exchange and build their expertise.

Who is the programme for?

It is designed for graduates who want to pursue a career in this area and whose first degree was in a related area such as Engineering, Planning, Architecture, Archaeology, Surveying or Construction. It is also open to people who may have equivalent experience in the construction industry or in heritage management.

Former students have come from backgrounds including Architecture, Planning, Surveying, Engineering, Project Management, Construction, History, Archaeology and Fine Art Conservation. Many are employed in Local Authorities or Private Practice, some run their own businesses as conservation contractors, project managers or architects. We also have students who are recent graduates. The diversity of skills and experience amongst the students is key to the vitality of discussion, reflecting the complex nature of practice in this area.

In summary, the course aims to:

Broaden your career opportunities by enabling you to gain expertise in conservation leading towards professional accreditation.

Augment your current expertise by developing skills to assert detailed and strategic responses to complex issues regarding building conservation in the context of a sustainable agenda.

Ensure you possess the requisite knowledge but also to know where to refer for advice in order to take responsibility when making reasoned decisions in relation to multifaceted conservation issues.

Enable you to use project-based case studies in order to develop a clear understanding of relevant legislative frameworks.

Enable you to develop autonomous judgments of appropriateness regarding responses to the historic built environment.



Where you'll study

Welsh School of Architecture

We aim to make the world a better place through contextually sensitive, sustainable and beautiful architecture.

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  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4430
  • MarkerKing Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB

Admissions criteria

In order to be considered for an offer for this programme you will need to meet all of the entry requirements. Your application will not be progressed if the information and evidence listed is not provided.

With your online application you will need to provide:

  1. A copy of your degree certificate and transcripts which show you have achieved a 2:1 honours degree in a subject area related to the historic built environment such as archaeology, architecture, conservation, engineering, heritage, history, landscape architecture, planning, or surveying, or an equivalent international degree. If your degree certificate or result is pending, please upload any interim transcripts or provisional certificates.
  2. A copy of your IELTS certificate with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all subskills, or evidence of an accepted equivalent. Please include the date of your expected test if this qualification is pending. If you have alternative acceptable evidence, such as an undergraduate degree studied in the UK, please supply this in place of an IELTS.
  3. A reference from an individual who is familiar with your work, either on an academic or professional basis. The reference should include information regarding how the referee knows you and for how long as well as their assessment of your skills, experience, work ethic, and suitability for this programme. References should be signed, dated and less than six months old at the time you submit your application.
  4. A personal statement which includes your reasons for studying this programme and any experience with issues related to the historic built environment and/or sustainability within your previous studies or professional career.

If you do not have a degree in a relevant area, your application may be considered on the basis of your professional experience. Please provide additional evidence to support your application such as signed and dated employer references.

Application Deadline

We allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis following interview, so we recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications normally close at the end of August but may close sooner if all places are filled.

Selection process

We will review your application and if you meet the entry requirements, we will invite you to an interview. Following interview, offers will be made to the highest scoring candidates.

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.

Criminal convictions

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
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

The programme is offered on both a full-time and a part-time basis.

The taught modules are all delivered over six two-day sessions per year thereby attracting part-time candidates who are employed in full-time practice.

Part-time students will complete three taught modules (i.e. 60 credits) in the first year and two taught modules in the second year, one of which is a double module. This is followed by a dissertation, with part-time students given until December to submit.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2024/25 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2024.

Year one

Part time students will complete three modules (i.e. 60 credits) in the first year.

Module titleModule codeCredits
The Conservator's RoleART50120 credits
Tools of InterpretationART50220 credits
Energy Use in Historic BuildingsART50320 credits

Year two

Part time students will complete two modules in the second year. They will be given until the following December to submit their dissertation module.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Case Studies and Regional WorkART50440 credits
Design Tools: Methods of RepairART50520 credits
DissertationART50660 credits

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?

The taught material is largely delivered by a range of specially selected guest speakers, all prestigious within their particular field. The speaker’s presentation is followed by lively debate and discussion with the group, taking the form of a seminar to give the opportunity to learn from a range of perspectives. We undertake many site visits during the course of the programme, seeing live projects and engaging with practitioners, clients and statutory authorities.

Resources and Facilities:

The Welsh School of Architecture has a strong reputation in sustainable design research which forms a point of reference in the programme. The School possesses its own laser scanner and students are all introduced to methods of digital documentation including structure-from-motion and terrestrial laser scanning techniques. Software skills including principles of hygrothermal modelling and energy use modelling are also introduced. If they are interested, students may be supported in further study of monitoring techniques. We introduce students to archival research methods both at Cardiff University and in public archives.

How will I be assessed?

Each piece of work or report is assessed at an outline stage and at completion stage, with feedback given to guide future submissions. There are no class tests or exams during the programme, however, students are required to submit written and project work on time and also on occasion to be able to present their work orally to the group.

The course briefs are designed to enable students from differing backgrounds to pursue paths relevant to their chosen or existing career progression.

Each 20-credit module is assessed via a combination of written assignments (4,000 words approx. each) and presentations. The 40 credit ART 504 module on Case Studies and Regional Work is assessed through a 4000 word dossier and a final presentation and 4000 word report. The 60 credit dissertation is 20,000 words and students are strongly encouraged to pursue and develop their own distinctive interests through the choice of subject here.

How will I be supported?

All of our students are allocated a personal tutor when they enrol on the course. A personal tutor is there to support you during your studies, and can advise you on academic and personal matters that may be affecting you. You should have regular meetings with your personal tutor to ensure that you are fully supported.

You will have access to the Architecture Library, as well as to materials in the other Cardiff University Libraries.

We also support students through the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central, where you can ask questions in a forum or find course-related documents.

We encourage all of our postgraduate students to engage in personal development. At the start of the course we will introduce you to available opportunities for personal and professional development and again at major stages of the course.

Cardiff University also offers a wide range of support services which are open to our students, such as the Graduate Centre, counselling and wellbeing, financial and careers advisors, the international office and the Student Union.


We offer written and oral feedback, depending on the coursework or assessment you have undertaken. You will usually receive your feedback from the module leader. If you have questions regarding your feedback, module leaders are usually happy to give advice and guidance on your progress.

Formative Feedback

Is provided for every submission in order to help you optimise the quality of your final work.

Summative Feedback

Is provided for every module with both comments and grades





What skills will I practise and develop?

On satisfactory completion of six modules you will:

  • Be able to rapidly expand the scope and range of professional work you are able to undertake, thereby increasing your fee earning potential and broadening their economic sustainability in the marketplace.
  • Be able to adopt an integrated conservation approach to climate change and the low carbon agenda. In this respect, graduates of the programme will have a unique qualification.
  • Be eligible to enhance your prospects for Building Conservation accreditation as outlined in the section ‘Distinctive Features.’.
  • Have developed a practical knowledge and theoretical understanding of building conservation in legislative, technical and holistic terms that will enable you to address relevant projects with autonomy and effectiveness.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?:

Please refer to the module descriptions

Intellectual Skills:

On satisfactory completion of six modules you will:

  • Be able to balance and articulate in practical and conceptual terms the circumstances of change and the values of the physical environment and to construct effective strategies to address such problems.

Professional Practical Skills:

As an IHBC accredited course it enables suitably qualified candidates to achieve full IHBC accreditation in 2 as opposed to 5 years. Completion of the RIBA approved course by RIBA and ARB registered Architects entitles them to become “Conservation Registrants” immediately. For ARB/RIBA registered architects, it reduces the number of years in practice required to be entitled “Specialist Conservation Architect” to 4 years (from 5) and 2 years (from 3) for “Conservation Architect”.

The course validation for the IHBC accreditation is based on its alignment with International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) education criteria. As such, international students should be able to claim similar professional acknowledgement in their home countries.

Transferable/Key Skills:

Our students have gone on to be employed by the National Trust, the Planning Inspectorate, to be promoted within local authorities and to set up new divisions in their practices and businesses.

Millena Moreira Fontes, MSc Sustainable Building Conservation
I was able to study the MSc in Sustainable Building Conservation after receiving a scholarship from Chevening and Cardiff University Partnership. The course is the perfect balance between practice and theory. Every lecture was with a different professional from diverse fields, enriching our debates and adding a multidisciplinary approach within the architectural and heritage world. The study trips and workshops contributed to my hands-on experience but also made me realise how Wales is astonishing and rich in terms of heritage, castles, and culture. Cardiff is a welcoming city with lovely people and food from every corner of the world.
Millena Moreira Fontes, MSc Sustainable Building Conservation

Tuition fees for 2024 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £5,725 None
Year two £5,725 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2024/25 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Fees for island status

Learn more about the postgraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Fees for overseas status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £14,100 £2,500
Year two £14,100 None

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support

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.

Additional costs

The University will cover any additional costs that are essential for you to pass the programme.  For this reason, you will be provided with a small financial allocation as required.  The details of this will be provided by your Programme Lead throughout the academic year.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

We will provide any equipment that is essential to the course. However, we recommend that you bring a laptop computer with appropriate software (e.g. word processing), USB or a hard drive, general stationery and a tape measure. We will provide basic personal protection equipment; however, students may prefer to bring their own hard hats, high visibility jackets and protective footwear for site visits.

During the course, you will have access to the specialist Architecture Library, and other University libraries, and study spaces across campus. Within the School, you may use our computing suite and other facilities which include a digital laser scanner as well as access to structure from motion and hygrothermal modelling software.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.


Master's Scholarships

An award open to UK students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate loans

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2024 or later, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan to support your study at Cardiff University.

Alumni Discount

The alumni discount is available for Cardiff University graduates who are planning to start an eligible master's in 2024/25.

Careers and placements

For their dissertations, three of our graduates have won the IHBC Gus Astley award and one has also been a student scholar at the North America based Association for Preservation Technology International.

Our graduates have gone on to transform their professional practices, to win funded PhD studentships, to take up senior management roles in government heritage agencies in three continents, to be specialist advisors in the Planning Inspectorate and to adopt senior roles in numerous local authorities and NGOs including the National Trust.


Placements are not offered through the course. However, relevant job opportunities are circulated as and when they arise.

‘My course at the Welsh School of Architecture offered a unique opportunity to study conservation and sustainability within a practical design context, and I am indebted to Dr Oriel Prizeman for her continued support and encouragement. In my last year at Cardiff I was fortunate to be offered a fully funded EPSRC PhD research post – a rare opportunity to extend my studies in the conservation of coastal heritage.I am delighted to be awarded the Gus Astley Prize for 2016, and delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Annual School in 2017. My thanks to the IHBC for their generous award’.
Hilary Wyatt, PhD Researcher at Cardiff


There are numerous site visits in the UK throughout the course giving tangible access to live issues at heritage sites in the UK. We undertake one 5 day study visit in the second year as part of the ART 504 Case Studies and Regional Work module.

Students on a fieldtrip in Rome.
Students on our 2-day intensive fieldtrip to Rome during which we meet with tutors from the second level International Masters in Architectural Restoration and Cultural Heritage at Roma TRE University..

Next steps


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HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.