UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


Heritage Evidence, Foresight and Policy MSc

Equipping policy professionals and heritage practitioners to think critically and strategically about the long-term futures of what society values.

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  • Use foresight principles to anticipate change, imagining and testing different futures in response to global challenges
  • Understand how heritage practice recognises meaning, significance and value, and apply these ideas to recognise what matters in society
  • Study specialised foresight techniques from a rich mix of disciplines, from trend analysis to speculative fiction.
  • Apply critical, enquiry-based problem-solving approaches to real-world policy challenges for heritage and for society at large

Programme overview

Heritage is about the future of what matters, protecting natural and cultural objects and practices that are meaningful to communities and societies for future generations. But what kind of future are we facing? How do the choices we make help to shape the future? And what can we do now to protect the long-term futures of the things that society values?

The MSc Heritage Evidence, Foresight and Policy will equip students to combine a deep understanding of what matters to society with the capacity to manage uncertainty and anticipate change. Professionals working, or who aspire to work, in heritage, social and cultural policy contexts will gain a unique skillset equipping them to support long-term decision-making in their organisation. The programme draws on a wide interdisciplinary range of theoretical and methodological approaches, from strategic foresight, and from related disciplines like sociology, geography, and design, all of which have their own academic traditions of engaging with the future. 

Students will gain an understanding of how heritage recognises and protects what is meaningful and valued, learn practical foresight techniques of scenario planning and horizon scanning, develop critical perspectives on different approaches to the future, encounter key concepts from systems analysis and complexity theory, and grasp the most effective ways to embed evidence from foresight and futures analysis in day-to-day policy contexts. Along the way, they will build a practical understanding of core qualitative and quantitative research methods, and become skilled in working with evidence from multiple disciplines and paradigms. 

As the effects of climate change intensify, as new technologies shape cultural production, and as societies face global challenges to their identity and composition, organisations concerned with protecting and growing social and cultural value will need to anticipate and articulate future possibilities in order to develop a strategic response. This programme will equip students to lead that process, drawing on heritage’s unique connection between past and future.

Learning outcomes

Students on the programme will benefit from learning a wide range of transferable skills, including: 

  • Specialized foresight techniques, covering horizon-scanning, trend analysis, scenario planning, backcasting and visioning, and speculative futures approaches drawn from design disciplines; 
  • an understanding of the different ways in which heritage value is understood, assessed and protected in societies, and an awareness of the core theoretical concepts that support discussions of value; 
  • the capacity to adopt a critical stance towards the future, enabling them to question taken-for-granted and business-as-usual futures, and to support this stance with reference to key theoretical concepts from relevant academic fields; 
  • an understanding of the importance of participatory and collaborative approaches towards thinking about the future; 
  • an appreciation of the fundamental principles of systems thinking and complexity in social systems; 
  • the capacity to work with evidence produced across multiple domains and disciplines, and an understanding of the role evidence plays in shaping policy; 
  • a familiarity with core principles and methods of qualitative and quantitative research paradigms, and the capacity to develop new methods appropriate to the nature of a particular object of enquiry;
  • the intellectual and organisational skills necessary to formulate and carry out an independent research project; and, 
  • the communication skills to present their research and make the case for its worth, in written and spoken forms. 


    Key Information 

    Entry requirements

    See the entry requirements for this programme on the UCL Graduate Prospectus. 


    • The programme can be studied full-time for one year, part-time for two years or on a modular/flexible basis from two to five years.
    • A Postgraduate Diploma route is available, with fees set accordingly.

    Fees and funding

    Course content and structure

    The MSc HEFP is organised in four strands: introducing the key theoretical and methodological concepts underpinning sustainable heritage and the study of the future; engaging with other disciplinary perspectives on the future; exploring how these ideas are applied in the context of long-term social change; and developing practical research skills and techniques. In the academic year 2020/21 all modules are compulsory: optional modules will be introduced to meet demand in subsequent academic years.

    Students will take the following modules:

    • Introduction to sustainable heritage (15 credits)
    • Foresight for heritage I (15 credits)
    • Foresight for heritage II (15 credits)
    • Time, systems and future heritage (15 credits)
    • Design futures for heritage (15 credits)
    • Material futures for heritage (15 credits)
    • Policy advice and evidence (30 credits)
    • Dissertation module (60 credits)

    Find out more about the programme structure and modules 

    Teaching and learning

    The programme draws upon the full range of expertise offered by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage. The programme will be delivered by a team of world-leading academics working at the forefront of their disciplines , alongside policy practitioners from heritage and related fields sharing real-world challenges and experience.

    Key Staff

    Professor Richard Sandford
    Programme lead

    Professor May Cassar
    Director of UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage

    Careers and employability

    Graduates will have a diverse skill-set usually associated with senior or leadership roles, encompassing research skills, competence in strategic foresight, the ability to envision and work towards strategic outcomes, and an understanding of the value of different forms of evidence to policy teams. These attributes, coupled with the capacity to recognise social value and make the case for its protection, will make graduates attractive to a wide range of employers. 

    Within the heritage sector, both policy teams and academics recognise that there is a need for heritage professionals and practitioners with the capacity to anticipate and manage long-term change. For groups in social and cultural policy more widely, the ability to think strategically about complex issues is established as a highly desirable skill. 

    Further information

    Register your interest in our programmes

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    For more information, please contact bseer-studentqueries@ucl.ac.uk