Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural History

Course details

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.

The course 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 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.

Coronavirus update

The admissions cycle for this programme is progressing as planned, and the University is committed to ensuring that offer holders can take up their place as expected. Information will be made available as the situation develops. Find out more here

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How you will study

The first two units, Historical Studies, are taught at Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education (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.

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.

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 and practical workshops, which need to be supplemented by private study and individual fieldwork.

Assessment: workbook record of a selected building to be submitted by mid-May 2022.

Unit 4: Individual dissertation

The dissertation provides 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 2022. 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. Individual supervisions are given at mutually convenient times from May to the end of July.

Course structure for 2022/23 academic year

Historical Studies 1:

Settlement, Landscape and Medieval Buildings
Michaelmas Term 2022
OUDCE, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford from 9:30am-1:00pm.

Week 1             26 Sept           Introduction
Week 2              3 Oct              Historic Landscapes
Week 3             10 Oct             Traditional Building Materials
Week 4             17 Oct             Ecclesiastical Buildings (includes a visit to Christ Church Cathedral)
Week 5             24 Oct             Visit to Christ Church archive
Week 6             31 Oct             Castles and Great Houses
Week 7              7 Nov             Rural Houses
Week 8             14 Nov            Trip to Dorchester-on-Thames  
Week 9             21 Nov            Urban Buildings
Week 10           28 Nov            Timber Framing

Historical Studies 2:

Post-Medieval Buildings
Hilary Term 2023
OUDCE, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford from 9:30am-1:00pm.

Week 1            9 Jan               Introduction
Week 2            16 Jan             Tudor and Jacobean
Week 3            23 Jan             Seventeenth Century
Week 4            30 Jan             Classical
Week 5            6 Feb              Gothic Revival
Week 6            13 Feb            Twentieth Century
Week 7            20 Feb             Rural Vernacular Buildings
Week 8            27 Feb            Urban Buildings
Week 9            6 Mar              Industrial and Agricultural Buildings
Week 10          13 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 outcomes

By the end of the course students should have achieved:

  • 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 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.

The course is credited with 90 CATS points at FHEQ level 7.

Course Director

Dr David Lewis, Associate Professor of Architectural History and the Historic Environment

David Frazer Lewis is an architectural historian whose interests include the architecture of modern Britain and the United States, the design of sacred architecture, and the Gothic Revival. Prior to joining the academic staff of the Oxford Department for Continuing Education, he was an Assistant Professor at the Notre Dame School of Architecture. He has experience in museums and heritage, as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Yale Center for British Art, and has worked for architecture firms in San Francisco and London that specialise in historic conservation.

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.

Application details

Fees and additional expenses

Please visit the Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural History page on the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for details of course fees and costs.

Any additional expenditure will be towards books and study materials, purchased at students' discretion.

How to apply

For information about entry requirements and how to apply please visit the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website.

Application deadlines

Application deadlines are 12 noon on Friday 21 January 2022 and Tuesday 1 March 2022.  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 280783; email:

English language ability

English is the language of instruction for all courses offered at Oxford. You must submit evidence that you meet the University’s English language requirements for your course if your first language is not English, or if your first language is English but you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). List: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America.

You do not need to submit test results, or request a waiver, if your first language is English and you have always been a resident and citizen of the UK, Ireland or any other majority English-speaking country (see list above).

Score requirements (Higher Level)

The University only accepts certain standardised tests with results at or above the following scores. 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 Academic (Institution Code: 0713): overall score of 7.5 (with at least 7.0 in each of the four components).
  • TOEFL iBT (Institution code: 0490): overall score of 110 with component scores of at least: Listening 22, Reading 24, Speaking 25, and Writing 24.
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Overall score of at least 191, with a minimum of 185 per component.
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Overall score of at least 191 with a minimum of 185 per component.

Asking for a waiver of the requirement

Exemptions from this requirement may be waived if you have completed, or are currently completing, a degree-level course that is full-time, at least 9 months and undertaken at a recognised institution where teaching and assessment throughout the course is entirely in English.

Please click here for further information.

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