Institute of Archaeology



Frequently asked questions about the Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA degree programme.

A Heritage Futures exhibition sign (grey and yellow) with two display cases, one containing pottery, CDs and mobile phones, and the other a (stuffed) turtle specimen

Please do contact us if you have any questions not featured below. 

What is heritage? Is it the same as history and archaeology?

History can be part of heritage, but it isn’t quite the same thing. A simple way of thinking about the distinction is that history is what happened in the past; History (with a capital H) is the discipline concerned with writing about what happened in the past through the study of written records; Archaeology is the discipline concerned with writing about what happened in the past through the study of material remains; and heritage is how the material and immaterial remains of the past are used, conserved and interpreted in the present, for the future, for social, political, economic or ecological benefits. Of course, this only really covers cultural heritage-and part of this programme involves studying natural heritage too!

What are some examples of heritage?

The word ‘heritage’ covers lots of different things, including objects, places, and practices of many different kinds. These may be things which are valued by individuals, communities or nations; scientists and researchers, or ordinary people. The sector tends to distinguish between ‘natural’ heritage-biodiversity, protected areas like national parks, endangered species; and ‘cultural’ heritage-things like historic buildings and landscapes, artefacts and traditions. But these things overlap significantly, and it might not be helpful to make such a clear distinction between them, for reasons you will discover on the programme.

Why does heritage matter?

Heritage defines who we are as individuals, communities and nations, and in the light of the climate and extinction emergencies, how we will live, and who we will share the planet with in the future. Heritage emerged as a way of understanding the collective, largely unwritten rules that would govern nation states in the nineteenth century - who could be a citizen and who could not. In this sense, heritage is also about who and how it excludes certain people, histories and landscapes as it is about those who it includes. Graduates of the programme will learn to challenge accepted definitions of heritage and taken-for-granted ideas about race, nation and collective identity, and build more diverse and inclusive understandings of heritage in the future.

What will I study on the programme?

In the first year, you will learn about the concept of heritage across a variety of disciplines from art history to geography. You will be introduced to the heritage practices of curation, conservation, management and digital methods.

In the second year you will explore how contemporary global issues are addressed through heritage research, interrogating critical theories pertaining to colonialism, race, gender, sexuality, environmentalism, conflict and health, among various other crucial issues. You will develop key skills in working with diverse communities that are core to heritage research, including recording oral history, doing ethnography, undertaking visitor surveys, and developing communication skills. You will take at least one of three optional ‘skills’ modules, depending on whether you wish to focus on museums and collections, natural and cultural site and landscape management, or digital heritage. You will also choose from a range of options from Archaeology, Anthropology, Geography, History of Art and the Institute of the Americas to strengthen your interdisciplinary knowledge, as well as electives from other UCL departments.

At the end of your second year, you will undertake a placement. The placement will give you an opportunity to apply your learning to employment contexts within and outside of the heritage sector, and to build networks beyond the university. This module will interrogate work and working practices through, for example, introductions to working in various industries (including heritage, creative, educational, charity and public sector), organisational, time management and project management approaches, and examinations of equality and access to the workplace. 

In Year 3 you will strengthen your interdisciplinary research skills in addressing global challenges through heritage, exploring the various ways in which heritage can contribute to building better futures. You will take your chosen ‘skills’ modules to advanced level, and will again be able to select from a list of cross-disciplinary modules according to your particular interests. Your studies will culminate in the completion of your dissertation on a heritage topic of your choice applying your various skills and knowledge to an original research project.

Further information about the structure of the degree programme is available on our ‘What will I study?’ page. 

How do I know if a Heritage, Sustainability and Society degree is right for me?

If you’re interested in Archaeology, Anthropology, Art History, History, Geography, Media or related subjects, then a Heritage degree could be a great fit! Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA is an interdisciplinary degree, meaning you will study across disciplines, academic departments and campuses at UCL.

The degree has been designed to provide hands-on training and practical skills to prepare you for careers in the creative and cultural sectors. Access to state-of-the-art facilities at UCL East, including media and conservation studios and exhibition spaces, will facilitate key skills training in areas such as exhibition curation, collections management and care, and working with communities. The second year placement provides an exciting opportunity to make professional connections, and develop your knowledge and understanding of the heritage sector. 

Heritage is fundamentally concerned with the present and future. If you want to make a difference, and to build better, more inclusive, more ecologically sustainable and more just worlds, then our Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA is for you.

What can you tell me about the placement? Where can I complete my placement?

During the third term of the second year, students will undertake a compulsory placement (total of 90 hours’ work across four weeks). This placement will be with an approved organisation and will give students the opportunity to apply their learning to workplace contexts, explore the heritage sector and build professional networks.. We have a range of relationships in place with placement providers across London and beyond to suit the interest of students, and have developed special relationships with East Bank partners, including V&A East, BBC and Sadlers Wells, as well as the National Trust, amongst more than a hundred other local, regional, national and international institutions. Placements may involve curating, collections care, visitor services and public engagement, digital marketing, social media, events, and much more!

What can I do with a Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA degree? What careers support will be available?

The creative and cultural industries are the UK’s fastest growing industrial sector and a major contributor to economies globally. UCL’s new School for the Creative and Cultural Industries will support and develop the next generation of practitioners to work across the cultural and creative sectors, and more widely for careers where creativity and critical thinking are valued.

Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA will furnish you with a strong interdisciplinary background and skillset that are crucial to employment paths within and beyond the field of the creative and cultural sector. As well as an in-depth knowledge of heritage studies and practices, you will develop a highly transferable skill set, including critical thinking, qualitative and quantitative data collection, public engagement, analysis and interpretation.

The Institute of Archaeology will help you explore your career options through events, networking opportunities and careers consultations. You will also have the support of UCL Careers, who provide advice and guidance, run sector specific events and help you navigate the job or graduate study application process.

Visit our ‘What can I do with a heritage, sustainability and society degree?’ page to find out more.

What is UCL East? What facilities are there?

UCL East is UCL’s new campus on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offering exciting new degrees and giving us the scale and space we need to help tackle the biggest challenges facing people and the planet. It’s the biggest development in our nearly 200-year history.

Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA students will be part of the School for the Creative and Cultural Industries, which draws together research, learning, public engagement and enterprise focused on art and technology, media, history, heritage and cultural production. Our brand-new facilities in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will include a 160-seater surround-sound cinema with Digital Cinematic Projection, 16mm and 35mm projectors, media and art conservation labs, and specialist archival and recording technology to support oral history projects. It will also be home to The Culture Lab, an exhibition, performance and immersive learning space that will enable students and the public to create collaborative exhibitions and work with artefacts to explore global challenges such as migration and climate change.

Our spaces will be creative and collaborative gathering places for students, academics, professionals and activists with a common passion for shared exploration, a belief in the power of creative practice and the importance of role of heritage and public history in creating new futures. 

Students at UCL East will also have access to a range of other resources and facilities across the new campus, including the new Institute of Making and People and Nature Lab. Visit the UCL East website for more detailed information.

What about Library Access?

Students at UCL East will be able to access library materials from across all of UCL’s collections. At UCL East there will be a library facility in the Marshgate Building to assist with enquiries and access to resources. In addition to online collections, students based there will be able to request print material from across UCL's libraries, including the IOA Library, and collect these at UCL East. They will also have access in person to library facilities based at Bloomsbury. 

Further information is available on the UCL East website.

Will I also have access to the UCL’s Bloomsbury campus?

In addition to the brand new, world leading facilities at UCL East, Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA students will also have access to all of the facilities at UCL’s Bloomsbury campus. In years 2 and 3 of their degree, Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA students will be able to select from a carefully curated number of optional modules delivered at Bloomsbury to take into account the travel time between the two campuses.

I still have questions. Where can I find out more?
  • Student Recruitment & Experience Officer/Fieldwork & Placement Co-ordinator/Careers Tutor: Charlotte Frearson
  • BA Heritage, Sustainability and Society Degree Programme Coordinator: Rachel King