Conservation Practice (MSc)
2 years (full-time) / n/a (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)
Conservation helps cultural and heritage objects ‘tell their stories’ now and into the future. As a conservation student, you will combine theoretical knowledge with your developing practical skills in a laboratory setting.
With alumni working in the sector across the globe, Conservation at Cardiff has an enviable reputation for their courses at postgraduate and undergraduate level and for links with the heritage sector at home and abroad.
Students become skilled in the care, repair and protection of cultural and heritage artefacts and adept at selecting the appropriate approach from the full toolkit taught to maintain our past for future generations.
To offer knowledge and expertise to operate as professional conservators in the heritage sector. Alternatively, the MSc can prepare graduates for further research and offers transferable skills in project and resource management, problem solving and communication for a wide range of careers.
This is a conversion course designed for graduates who want to pursue a career in Conservation whose first degree was in a humanities discipline such as history, classics, fine arts, or a scientific discipline such as chemistry, biology, natural sciences, physics.
There is the opportunity for a placement in the heritage sector of at least two months. Previous placements have been with Imperial War Museum, Çatalhöyük research project, Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales, Staffordshire Hoard project, Bristol Museum and the Royal Armouries.
Who is this Programme for?
The programme allows students with existing degrees to convert their qualification into a conservation degree which leaves them ready to enter the workforce.
- There are opportunities to work on archaeological, historical, and cultural materials in a laboratory and to consider their value, use, legal and ethical context.
- You will gain a range of transferable skills.
- The degree offers students a chance to develop an exciting mix of practical and research skills encompassing aesthetics, ethics, science and project management.
- This programme integrates theory and practice throughout the degree and uses object-based learning in a series of practical seminar classes to teach the principles and practice of conservation. Learning outcomes for the module are correlated to the novice to expert scale utilised by Icon, The Institute for Conservation for competence assessment.
- Assessment of the programme comes through a diverse range of assessment methods including reflective learning logs, essays, exams, oral presentations, portfolio, reports and viva. This range of assessment ensures that students have developed a broad range of skills, knowledge and communication methods by the completion of the course.
This MSc delivers a conservation qualification that encompasses theoretical and practical skills. It provides a comprehensive intellectual framework with which to interpret, synthesise and critically evaluate objects and collections, evidence from research and from written sources. Students develop a detailed understanding of conservation theory and practice via project management and conservation of objects.
This MSc uses ‘objects based learning’ techniques in a series of practical seminar classes to teach the principles and practice of conservation. Students develop a detailed understanding of conservation theory and practice via project management and conservation of objects.
The course aims to:
- Provide an introduction to the core techniques and methodologies of conservation.
- Teach students to convert theory into practice.
- Encourage students to develop original, independent and critical thinking.
- Enable students to devise a coherent, fluent and structured written research project in accordance with professional conventions.
- Extend students’ familiarity with information technology resources.
- Develop a detailed understanding and critical appreciation of conservation theory and practice via project management and conservation of objects.
- Provide a comprehensive intellectual framework designed for the interpretation and critical evaluation of objects, collections, evidence from research and from written sources.
- Develop competence in the use of equipment and instrumental tools.
- Develop practical conservation skills.
- Encourage students to operate as reflective conservation practitioners.
- Provide students with necessary support for conducting detailed analytical investigation of objects and materials.
- Establish within students a commitment to professional development and the ability to work with self direction and originality to contribute to the conservation profession and society at large.
- Encourage students to develop original, independent and critical thinking.
- Provide students with transferable skills that will increase their prospects of employment within and beyond heritage.
Students take a total of 300 credits of modules, consisting of:
- 120 credits of basic conservation training
- 40 credits of core skill training
- 80 credits of advanced option modules selected by the student
- 60 credit dissertation (topic or theme chosen by the student in consultation with academic staff)
Students will have the opportunity to work in the laboratory on their objects most days of the week. You will have four supervised and scheduled half day practical sessions in the first year and two in the second. Lectures and seminars run throughout both semesters. Most students will augment the formal teaching time with additional time carrying out analysis, recording or conservation treatments in order to build a diverse and professional portfolio of experience. Your engagement with the course, whether it is by attendance in laboratories, classes or the library will be full time.
The course is a two-year Masters programme. The first year of the programme is taught alongside existing undergraduate teaching and covers the underpinning skills and knowledge of conservation. The second year is taught at Masters level and shares its structure with other Masters programmes. The Masters year incorporates a taught element which lasts for the first two semesters of study and is assessed at the end of this period; this is followed by a dissertation. In the summer between the two years there will be an eight-week placement working in conservation.
This programme integrates theory and practice throughput the degree and uses ‘object based learning’ in a series of practical seminar classes to teach the principles and practice of conservation. Learning outcomes for the module are correlated to the novice to expert scale utilised by Icon, The Institute for Conservation for competence assessment. Core knowledge and understanding is acquired via tutor monitored practical classes, problem based learning assignments, lectures, tutorials, small-group classes, research seminars, placement in professional conservation laboratory and guided study.
More advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by independent study, guided reflective laboratory practice, self-directed learning and individual supervision of dissertations.
Resources and Facilities
Cardiff Conservation has a wide range of analytical facilities including an Analytical Scanning Electron Microscope, with EDX and WD analysis. This is used routinely to identify and investigate the composition and structure of objects undergoing conservation. To better understand the properties of materials the Cardiff facilities include a climatic chamber for testing objects and materials responses to fluctuating atmospheric moisture and temperature. Students have access to FTIR, XRF and XRD equipment. Further support for investigating and analysing objects that undergo conservation comes from a wide range of both traditional and digital microscope, x-radiography and photographic facilities with a dedicated image processing laboratory and computer suite. Treatment facilities include a freeze-drying system for treating waterlogged materials (such as wood and leather), a kiln and an airbrasive suite for the investigation of metal surfaces and removal of corrosion.
Conservation has recently acquired a ND:YAG Laser, funded by a grant gained from Clothworker's Foundation. Its use for removing coatings and dirt from archaeological and historical materials boosts the range of skills conservation students will obtain and builds their employability portfolio.
Students will be provided with teaching and learning resources through the School. These include the Postgraduate Handbook and handouts produced for specific modules and these are made available via Learning Central (Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment).
- Jane Henderson (senior lecturer)
- Prof. David Watkinson
- Phil Parkes
- Dr. Panagiota (Yiota) Manti
- Nicola Emmerson
This course is assessed by a variety of methods, including written assignments, exams, presentations, practical assessments and on-going assessment. Additionally, there will be considerable formative assessment during the laboratory based practical classes. Students will work in a laboratory where question and answer sessions with staff will form part of the on-going assessment. There is a presentation and viva for a core module in the last taught semester.
Students also undertake a Dissertation of 20,000 words.
Students develop communication, time management, decision making, presentation and good record keeping skills. Students are taught core skills in laboratory management including health & safety, equipment care and maintenance and the ordering of supplies.
Graduates from this programme can expect to move into internships, contracts and jobs in conservation, conservation science and collections care. Transferable skills prepare graduates for further research or for challenging careers outside of the heritage sector.
The conservation course at Cardiff has a relatively small group of students who work closely together. Many students stay in conservation and keep in touch with each other and the department throughout their career.
'I chose to study at Cardiff because the programme balances theory and practice and sets its students in a better stead for the job market.'
Ian Channell, current student
Read Ian's full testimonial
'I am a former osteoarchaeologist and archaeologist who decided to make a career change after working with objects and the public at National Museums Scotland. I chose to study at Cardiff University for several reasons. Firstly, the programme allows for an in-depth analysis of the conservation discipline with guidance from experienced conservation and museum professionals. It is this experience which promotes object-based learning and a holistic emphasis - with a focus on both theory and practice. This balance sets Cardiff apart from other conservation degrees and sets its students in a better stead for a post-university job market.
'Additionally, Cardiff University offers a vast amount of resources for its students including state-of-the-art student labs, x-ray machines, multiple photography studios, XRF machines, etc. - along with hands on experience with actual archaeological, historical and cultural objects. Students are encouraged to evaluate the value, ethical and legal attributes of the object and make educated and informed decisions towards there conservation.
'During the summer before our second year, we are encouraged to take part in work-experience, taking us out of the lab and into the actual work environment. I am taking part in conservation work at Neolithic Çatalhöyük in Turkey which will be the perfect union between my previous archaeological experience and my current work.
'Conservation is a close-knit department and the encouragement, friendliness and motivation given by the lecturers makes conservation at Cardiff University an exhilarating and exciting degree.'
Ian Channel, MSc Conservation Practice student (2014-16)
'I wanted to come to Cardiff not only because of its excellent international reputation, but because I found the staff and students to be so welcoming and enthusiastic.'
Caitlin Southwick,current student
Read Caitlin's full testimonial
'I am an American student in my first year of the MSc Conservation Practice program. I studied conservation in Italy for three years before coming to Cardiff University. I applied to Cardiff last year after having visited the program during the Postgraduate Open Day. I wanted to come to Cardiff not only because of its excellent international reputation, but because I found the staff and students to be so welcoming and enthusiastic.
'Cardiff University offers me a dynamic and hands-on experience with a combination of theory and practical coursework that is providing me with the skills to become a well-rounded and employable conservator in any market. I am thoroughly enjoying my time at Cardiff and am not only gaining the skills and tool sets that I need for my chosen profession, but am making invaluable connections and lifelong friends.'
Caitlin Southwick, MSc Conservation Practice student (2014-16)
'The great quality of objects to work on is underpinned by access to a wide range of scientific instruments.'
Gemma Aboe, former student
Read Gemma's full testimonial
'Following a pre-qualification Icon/HLF conservation internship, I was inspired to pursue a career in the conservation of museum objects and archaeological material. Conservation degrees at Cardiff University are widely respected in the conservation sector- having gained an MSc in Conservation Practice has greatly helped me toward finding employment as a conservator.
The course is at Masters (MSc) level and therefore suited to self-motivated, hard working students, willing to self-study. The MSc teaches self-led research, methodical thinking and critical evaluation of treatment choices. The great quality of objects to work on is underpinned by access to a wide range of scientific instruments.'
Gemma Aboe, MSc Conservation Practice (2011-13)
"The MSc Conservation Practice program is well balanced towards the needs of a professional and informed practicing conservator. The assessments reflect the core skills of conservation well and set the students challenges that test their ability to demonstrate their learning in real life contexts."
David Thicket, English Heritage & previous external examiner
1st or upper 2nd class UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject.
Suitable for graduates in archaeology, history, ancient history, fine arts, conservation, science and chemistry, and other related and relevant disciplines. Graduates from heritage management and museology will also be considered.
Evidence of an interest in or commitment to the cultural heritage sector will strengthen an application.
You must provide evidence of your highest level of science qualification with your application. We will consider making offers to students based on their results from the IAP course ‘Chemistry for Conservators’.
If you have an arts based degree you must supply evidence of the highest level of education within science that you have achieved.
International students can find equivalent entry requirements via our website.
Students whose first language is not English will be required to pass an IELTS test (minimum 6.5) or equivalent.
Note: International students pursuing part-time programmes of study are not eligible for Tier 4 (General Student) visas and must have alternative leave to remain in the UK if they intend to study at the University in person.
How to Apply
Applications can be made for this course via our Online Application Service selecting the MSc Conservation Practice option from the list of courses.
Applicants should use the Personal Statement section of the form to outline their area of interest and, if possible, the topics or materials on which they would like to focus.
Decisions will be made on the basis of your written application and the references received. Decisions are made on a continuous basis throughout the year.
For more information on funding available for Masters students in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion please see the School's funding website.
Next intake: September each year
Name: Ms Jane Henderson
Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 5629
Name: Helen Szewczyk
Telephone: +44 (0)029 2087 0903