Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural History

Key facts

Part-time 12 months

Application deadlines:

  • 19 January 2018 (we will consider applications received in January with the applications received in March)
  • 9 March 2018
  • Later applications may be considered if places are available

Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural History

The Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural History covers English architectural history from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day. It will be of interest to those seeking to develop their:

• knowledge of the broad sweep of English architecture
• understanding of the evolution of the historic environment more widely
• practical skills of recording and analysing buildings.

What the course offers

The Architectural History course is part-time and consists of three taught units and a dissertation. The taught units are delivered in association with the MSc 

in Historic Conservation course at Oxford Brookes University. The first two units, Historical Studies, are taught at OUDCE, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, and the third unit, Site Evaluation and Survey, is taught at Oxford Brookes in Headington. The dissertation is supervised within OUDCE.

Teaching takes place on Monday mornings, from 9.30am to 1pm, over three terms commencing in the autumn each year. Some sessions in Unit 3 will be held on Monday afternoons between 2pm and 5.30pm, and one continues on to a Tuesday.

The number of Certificate students is normally limited to 10 in each year. There may be up to a further 25 students in each class from Oxford Brookes University.

Although it offers a qualification in its own right, the course is designed to enable successful students to progress to the Oxford Brookes MSc in Historic Conservation with exemption from the three taught units, subject to the admission requirements of Oxford Brookes University.

Programme details

Units 1 and 2 are linked and taught in consecutive terms. Their aim is to enable students to acquire an understanding of the evolution of England's architecture, and of different approaches to the history of buildings.

Unit 1: Historical Studies 1

Settlement, Landscape and Medieval Buildings

Unit 1 concentrates on the medieval period. It provides an introduction to the evolution of the landscape and the major elements of architectural history in England up to the sixteenth century.

The aim of the unit is to enable a student to acquire a sound understanding of the basic development of medieval buildings and their context.

Teaching is by means of lectures and field trips. Students also need to ensure they have sufficient time for directed reading and private study. Tutorials are available by request.

Assessment: three essays, each of approximately 1,500 words.

Unit 2: Historical Studies 2

Post-Medieval Buildings

The unit will continue the themes introduced in Historical Studies 1 and will analyse the major architectural developments from the sixteenth century to the present century.

The unit will seek to build on the achievements of Historical Studies 1 to enable students to acquire a sound understanding of the development of English architectural history and its broader context down to the present century in a manner which is relevant to historic conservation.

Teaching is by means of lectures. Students also need to ensure they have sufficient time for directed reading and private study. Tutorials are available by request.

Assessment: two essays, each of 2,000 words.

Unit 3: Site evaluation and survey: Local Historic Building Survey

Held at Oxford Brookes University, Headington.

This is a skill-based unit designed to develop expertise in understanding the special architectural and historical characteristics of a particular site, building (or group of buildings) and to develop techniques for its representation through research, measurement, and drawn/photographic recording.

This unit will develop the skills necessary to plan, prepare and execute a programme for the recording of structures and sites, and will introduce the main sources of archive material for investigations into historic buildings, sites and monuments. It provides an introduction to the making of a competent analytical record of a site through text, photographic and measured surveys, and drawn representation.

Teaching is by means of lectures, field trips and practical workshop, which need to be supplemented by private study and individual fieldwork.

Assessment: portfolio record of a selected building to be submitted by mid-May 2019.

Unit 4: Individual dissertation

To provide an opportunity for an extended exploration of a single topic based on primary and secondary research to demonstrate the skills and knowledge gained in the other elements of the course.

An 8,000-word dissertation on a subject relevant to architectural history, chosen in consultation with the Course Director and due for submission by the end of August 2019. Dissertations are supervised within OUDCE.

Dissertation topics are chosen during Hilary Term, and all students make a short initial presentation of their subject in the last session of that term. There may be another class seminar in June, by agreement with the students. Individual supervisions are given at mutually convenient times from May to the end of July.

Course structure

Historical Studies 1:

Settlement, Landscape and Medieval Buildings
Michaelmas Term 2018
OUDCE, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford from 9:30am-1:00pm.

Week 1    24 Sept    Introduction
Week 2    1 Oct    Historic Landscapes
Week 3    8 Oct    Traditional Building Materials
Week 4    15 Oct    Ecclesiastical
Week 5    22 Oct     Visit to Christ Church Archive
Week 6    29 Oct    Castles and Great Houses
Week 7    5 Nov    Rural Vernacular
Week 8    12 Nov    Site Visit to Dorchester
Week 9    19 Nov    Urban Buildings
Week 10    26 Nov    Timber Framing

Historical Studies 2:

Post-Medieval Buildings
Hilary Term 2019
OUDCE, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford from 9:30am-1:00pm.

Week 1    7 Jan    Introduction
Week 2    14 Jan    Tudor and Jacobean
Week 3    21 Jan    Seventeenth Century
Week 4    28 Jan    Classical
Week 5    4 Feb    Gothic Revival
Week 6    11 Feb    Twentieth Century
Week 7    18 Feb    Rural Vernacular Buildings
Week 8    25 Feb    Urban Buildings
Week 9    4 Mar    Industrial and Agricultural Buildings
Week 10    11 Mar    Seminar on dissertations

Site Evaluation and Survey

Historic Building Study
This unit is taught on either side of Christmas, in December and January, and around Easter, in March, April, and early May. The detailed timetable for this Unit will be circulated during Michaelmas Term. Class-based lectures are held at Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford. The syllabus will cover drawing and survey techniques, documentary research, photographic recording and practical building analysis.

Programme outcome

By the end of the course students should have achieved:

• a broad understanding of English architectural history
• an awareness of the critical literature relating to the subject
• the ability to make a record of a building
• the ability to conduct independent research.

Assessment methods

Assessment will be by coursework. The three units and the dissertation will each count for 25% of the final mark. To be successfully awarded the Certificate, you will need to attend 80% of the taught classes and achieve an overall mark of 50%. Full regulations and examination conventions can be obtained from the Registry, OUDCE, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA.

Course Director

Dr Paul Barnwell , Director of Studies in the Historic Environment

Historical Studies and the dissertation are taught by Paul Barnwell, who formerly worked for English Heritage. Primarily a medievalist, he has researched, and managed research, on a wide range of building types and historic landscapes from medieval churches to the monuments of the Cold War, and has published widely on historical and architectural subjects. He is a former President of the Vernacular Architecture Group, the national society for those interested in traditional buildings.

Staff from Oxford Brookes University School of the Built Environment and from English Heritage.

Fees and Additional Expenses

The fee for the course is £3,275 (EU students), £8,115 (non-EU students). A deposit of £200 is required on acceptance of a place on the course and the remaining sum is payable in instalments. Any additional expenditure will be towards books and study materials, purchased at students' discretion.

Who should apply

As this is a postgraduate course, you are normally expected to have a good first degree, although in exceptional cases candidates may be admitted on the basis of relevant professional experience.  In addition, all candidates will be expected to have a sound background knowledge of English social, economic and political history.

Students come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, including those who
• wish to learn more about architectural history for its own sake;
• are seeking to start a career in a conservation related profession;
• are already engaged in a conservation career and wish to expand or update their knowledge;
• may ultimately wish to pursue further academic study in architectural history, conservation studies or a related field.

Apply for this course

For information about entry requirements and how to apply please visit

Application Deadlines

Applications deadlines are 12:00pm on 19 January 2018, 9 March 2018, 11 May 2018 and 6 July 2018. Please be aware we shall consider applications received in January with the applications received in March. Late applications will be accepted, if places remain.

If you have any questions about the progress of your application, please contact the Graduate Admissions Office (tel: 01865 270059; email: ); or the Course Administrator, (tel: +44 (0)1865 280154; email:

Non-EU students This course is not suitable for non-EU students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. For information, refer to

English Language Ability

English is the language of instruction for all courses offered at Oxford. If your first language is not English, or if your first language is English but you are not a national of the UK, Ireland or a majority English-speaking country recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), you must supply suitable evidence that you have reached the required level.

The University only accepts certain standardised test results (see list below). Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. The score requirements in each test are as follows:

•    IELTS: overall score of 7.0 (with at least 7.0 in each of the four
    components) or
•    TOEFL (paper based): overall score of 600, with a Test of Written
    English score of 5.5 or
•    TOEFL (internet-based): overall score of 110 with component scores of
    at least: Listening 22, Reading 24, Speaking 25, and Writing 24, or
•    Cambridge English: Advanced, also known as the Certificate of
    Advanced English (CAE): grade A if taken before January 2015, or a
    score of at least 185 or
•    Cambridge English: Proficiency, also known as the Certificate of
    Proficiency in English (CPE): grade B if taken before January 2015, or a
    score of at least 185 or
•    English Language GCSE, or O-level: grade B (for IGCSE, please see
    * below) or
•    International Baccalaureate Standard Level (SL): score of 5 in English
    (as Language A or B) or
•    European Baccalaureate: score of 70% in English.

*     (We do not accept IGCSE in either First Language English or English as
    a Second Language as proof of English proficiency.)

Exemptions from this requirement will be considered for applicants who have
•    studied the International Baccalaureate programme, if it is taught in
•    studied the Singapore Integrated Programme (SIPCAL)
•    been educated full-time in the medium of the English language
    throughout the two most recent years before the application deadline,
    and who remain in full-time education conducted in the English language
    until the end of the school year in their home country.  

Please go to for further information.

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course

Sources of funding

Information on financial support