Architectural Conservation - MSc


With its stunning blend of medieval, neo-classical and modern architecture, and its unique concentration of national cultural institutions, Edinburgh is the ideal city in which to develop postgraduate skills in historic preservation. You’ll be part of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies (SCCS), Edinburgh College of Art’s specialist teaching and research unit, based in the city’s Old Town and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Students on our MSc Architectural Conservation programme come to Edinburgh from all over the world, and from a wide range of disciplinary first degree backgrounds, including architecture, history, planning, engineering and interior design.

This highly regarded programme is over forty years old - the longest established graduate historic preservation programme in the UK.

Using Edinburgh’s position as a World Heritage Site, the programme focuses on the themes of conservation theory, criticism and history; urban conservation; conservation technology; World Heritage; 20th-century architectural heritage; and the challenges of reconciling heritage and new architecture. In addition to formal teaching, Edinburgh’s dense network of heritage organisations provides varied opportunities for placements, and our international academic links are rapidly developing.

Historic preservation presents a broad range of career possibilities. On graduation, you’ll have the broad knowledge base and skills to pursue whichever you choose, from heritage management to conservation architectural design. Crucially, your qualification will be extremely well regarded, thanks to its recognition by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, the UK’s official organisation of architectural preservation professionals.

What you will study

The programme combines compulsory and optional courses, and is assessed through individual papers, group projects and presentations, and report writing: culminating in a supervised dissertation.

Assessment takes the form of individual written papers, group projects and presentations, design exercises, and report writing.

The programme is modular in structure, with taught courses totalling 120 credits in semesters 1 and 2; the 60 credit dissertation makes up a total of 180 credits to MSc level.

Core Courses:

Elective Courses:

MSc Dissertation

A specially focused Research Methods module is designed to prepare students for MSc dissertation. The taught programme concludes with an intensive overseas tour to Germany, carefully designed to complement the History and Theory course.

During semester 3 (May - August), MSc students research and write their dissertation, a 12,000 - 15,000 word research paper on an aspect of architectural conservation. Specialist supervision is provided throughout the period of research and writing-up.

The programme is subject to continual monitoring and review to ensure that the quality and standards of teaching and learning are maintained and improved as necessary.

Collaborative projects

We organise collaborative projects with a number of key organisations, giving the students opportunities to engage in topical subjects. These include the Royal Commission (RCAHMS), British Geological Survey, Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, Edinburgh World Heritage, Durham World Heritage, Architectural Heritage Society for Scotland, Orkney Islands Council, the City of Edinburgh Council, as well as DOCOMOMO International and international partner universities.

Field trips

The MSc in Architectural Conservation programme includes an annual field trip to Germany and a series of course-specific site visits.

Our annual study field-trip to Bavaria is organised so as to expand, in particular, on the issues raised in our History and Theory of Conservation course, including the relationship of conservation to political and ideological impulses, the history of urban conservation, the growth of 'hurtful-memory' and 'post-holocaust' heritage, and the challenges and achievements of postwar reconstruction.


The annual series of Architectural Conservation Masterclasses feature leading national and international figures from a wide spectrum of disciplines. They are a recognised pathway for Continuous Professional Development, and also includes a special, expert-led seminar for our Architectural Conservation – MSc students.

Typically held in the evening, each Masterclass addresses a subject of major significance within architectural conservation or cultural landscape heritage.

We regularly collaborate with partner organisations to host the masterclasses; our 2015 series has included joint sessions with the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, DOCOMOMO ISC/Urbanism+Landscape, and Europa Nostra UK. 

Conferences and exhibitions

Numerous conferences, seminars and exhibitions, are run by the SCCS in collaboration with partner organisations, including DOCOMOMO International, Edinburgh World Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. These public events give our students opportunities to participate as organisers and present their work as speakers.


Our research work covers not only architectural conservation in its strictest sense but also a range of linked areas of built-environment studies.

Top five reasons to choose the programme

  • Based in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and World Heritage Site – one of Europe’s premier historic cities. The programme directly exploits this heritage context.
  • Closely integrated into Edinburgh’s thriving network of heritage organisations and professionals.
  • Only one year of study (two semesters taught work and one semester dissertation) required for Masters qualification in historic preservation - as opposed to two years in many other countries.
  • Strong thematic emphases: conservation theory, criticism and history; urban conservation; conservation technology; World Heritage; 20th-century architectural heritage; and the challenges of reconciling heritage and new architecture. 
  • Extensive multi-disciplinary academic infrastructure and facilities of the University of Edinburgh.


Prof Miles Glendinning | View staff profile >

Programme Director; Director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies; Course organiser for the following courses: History and Theory of Conservation, Conservation of Modern Architecture, Planning Law, Building Description, MSc Dissertation.

Dr Ruxandra-Iulia Stoica | View staff profile >

Course organiser for the following courses: Urban Conservation, World Heritage, Design Intervention, Building Analysis. Coordinator of the Conservation Masterclasses and student placement programmes.

Dr Dimitris Theodossopoulos | View staff profile >

Course organiser for the following courses: Conservation Technology, Culture and Performance in the History of Construction.


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Scholarships & bursaries

Scholarships available for one academic year of postgraduate study at Edinburgh College of Art. (£5,000)

News & events


Photo of 1-32 Coll Street and Red Road, Glasgow
1-32 Coll Street and Red Road, Glasgow

The three-year Heritage Lottery-funded project has digitised over 4,000 historic images taken in the 1980s and is now making them publicly available as part of the Tower Block-UK Slide Archive.

The Mansfield Traquair Centre.jpg

The Mansfield Traquair Centre
The Mansfield Traquair Centre
The building and its murals were restored by Historic Scotland’s Conservation Centre
Image: Jonathan Oldenbuck (Wikimedia Commons)

Gillian Lang was able to conduct the research for her dissertation thanks to funding from the Saltire Society.


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