Institute of Archaeology


Programme Structure for MA Principles of Conservation

The MA Principles of Conservation offers students an introduction to the context of heritage conservation, how conservation works, and the issues and constraints which affect conservation practice.

Degree co-ordinator: Dean Sully 

Other Major Contributor: Jill Saunders

The programme explores the principles, theory, ethics and practicalities relating to the care and conservation of a wide variety of objects and structures.

This cross-disciplinary degree has a strong focus on object-based learning through the use of UCL collections as teaching tools that benefit both students and the collections. Our object-based approaches are grounded in real problems that generate both practical and theoretical responses. Students gain an in-depth understanding of approaches to collections care, preventive conservation, risk assessment, conservation strategies, ethics, management and professionalism, and develop critically aware perspectives on professional practice and research processes. 

Degree Handbook


Students take compulsory core modules, one or more option module and write a dissertation. Each of these components is outlined in more detail below.

Core Modules

Students all take the following four core modules:

Option Modules

Students choose to follow further option modules up to the value of 30 credits from the following list of related options (the degree coordinator may seek to guide the option choices made by those intending to carry on for the MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums):

Please note not all modules are available every year, other modules may also be available, subject to agreement with the programme coordinator. 


(90 credits) - The dissertation (15,000 words) is on any approved topic relevant to the degree and the taught components. It is produced as a result of an individual research project undertaken during the course. Students are assigned a supervisor to guide the main stages of the work.

Examples of past dissertation projects include:

  • A consideration of the restoration and conservation of British castles: a juxtaposition of the effects of the tourism
  • A framework for determining the appropriate use of material heritage
  • Climate change impact assessments for cultural heritage: A Western approach to a global problem
  • Communicating conservation: as study of communication and its potential for conservators and conservation
  • Conservation considerations involved in the conversion of closed church buildings to residential use
  • Conservation for the blind
  • Decolonization and conservation of aboriginal art and artifacts
  • Investigating methods of UV measurement and the implications of their use for assessing risk in museums
  • Issues and practicalities in conservation of ephemera: movie props, costumes and sets
  • Mobile technology (smart-phones and tablets) and computer programming for conservation tasks and education
  • Should we preserve graffiti? The ethical, cultural and artistic dimensions of preserving contemporary graffiti.
  • The Conservation and Presentation of Historic Ships
  • The implications of laser scanning on conservation theory and practice
  • Thinking outside the longbox: preventive conservation in comic book shops

Assessment methods

We use diverse assessment methods that include essays, a work portfolio, poster design, practical work, surveys and the use of social media. Bespoke assessment forms provide detailed feedback to help students meet their potentials.