MSc Timber Building Conservation

Delivered by the Weald & Downland Living Museum and validated by the University of York
Applications for this course close on 31 January 2021.

About the Museum

The Weald & Downland Living Museum has established itself as a provider of specialist education and training in building conservation and historic building techniques. The fifty historic buildings reconstructed on its beautiful downland site give the Museum an unrivalled teaching resource in this specialised area.

About the University of York

The University of York is a world top 100 institution which is renowned for its excellence in both research and teaching. It has been ranked eighth in the world and number one in the UK in new Times Higher Education world rankings of universities less than 50 years old. In 2011, the Department of Archaeology at York won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its leading-edge work in archaeology from pre-history to the modern age. York joined the prestigious Russell Group of universities in August 2012.

The course

The conservation of historic buildings has gained great importance in the building industry, both in the UK and overseas, leading to increased demand for specialist conservators. These courses can enable practising building conservators to improve their competence, and open new doors to other building professionals wanting to specialise or change career direction.

The course developed from programmes which started in 1992 and were originally validated by Bournemouth University.

MSc Timber Building Conservation

Virtually every pre-modern building used timber in its construction, and there is a widespread need for conservators who have a specialist knowledge of timber and associated craft and repair techniques. This long-established course was set up by specialists in timber building conservation, and the module headings are:

  • Development of timber structures
  • Timber science and decay
  • Timber-framing systems
  • Site and workshop practice, and associated materials
  • Repair of timber structures
  • Consolidation and surface finishes. Non structural repair
  • Research project

For further information about the content of the course please click on the following link:


Assessment for the six taught modules of each course is based entirely on coursework. Assignments will address problems and simulate tasks of the kind likely to be encountered in the professional environment. To gain an MSc students must successfully complete a dissertation of 15,000 words, based on their research into an approved topic.

Entry Requirements

The programmes are designed to provide a high level, practical and professional education at Masters level for students who have:

  • at least a second class honours degree or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution in archaeology, architecture, surveying, engineering or conservation, or a related field; OR
  • less conventional qualifications but with related professional experience. Previous students have come from a wide range of professional and craft backgrounds, such as building contractors wishing to undertake conservation contracts, engineers, planning departments, conservation organisations, surveyors, architects, carpenters, masons, archaeologists, specialist conservators and project managers. The MSc is suitable for students and mid-career professionals seeking to develop or enhance an academic or professional specialism in the conservation of buildings (timber buildings).

It is important that applicants have a keen interest in the conservation of historic buildings and the self-discipline and determination required to complete a postgraduate programme.

For those applicants whose first language is not English, evidence of a minimum standard of written and spoken English will be required.

Course structure

Each course is run as a series of six study modules taken over eighteen months, followed by a period of six months to carry out a piece of research which is presented for examination as a dissertation. Each study module runs from Wednesday to Sunday, allowing students to continue working while taking the course. The MSc degree requires successful completion of the personal research project.


All taught modules include contributions from leading practitioners in the field. Ample time is allowed for discussion with these experts, usually within the supportive and relaxed environment of the Museum.


Facilities are second to none. The Museum’s teaching resources are enhanced by a specialist Museum library. Whilst students do not have access to physical resources at the University of York, access will be given to their electronic library resources. The Museum’s innovative Downland Gridshell workshop is the location for practical work, and its artefact collections are available for the study of tools and materials.


Teaching is based on lectures and seminars, together with visits to historic buildings and sites, contractors’ workshops and specialist conservation studios. Where appropriate, modules provide hands-on experience of materials and processes. Most of the teaching is based at the Weald & Downland Living Museum, and is delivered by Museum staff and visiting lecturers employed by the Museum.


The 2020-20220 fees for the cohort will be £6,600 (£3,300 each academic year).

2020-2022 Intake

Applications open: MSc application details here
Closing date: 31st July
Interviews, virtual or potentially in person, will be held on a number of dates in August
Induction days: 24th and 25th September
Course starts: November 2020