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Course content

  • 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 placements 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 placement 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.

How you will learn

You will learn through seminars, self-directed study, tutorials, field visits, practical workshops, conferences/guest lectures, and work-based learning.

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.


Visit the Public History and Heritage (MA) page on the University of Derby website for more details!

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