Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education in Historic Building Conservation 2015 - 2017

Please note that this course has started or is now finished and enrolment may no longer be possible.

You can now:

Madingley Hall, Cambridge
Madingley Hall, Cambridge

Application to this course has now closed. If you would like to register your interest for the 2017-2019 course, please let us know.

This two-year part-time University of Cambridge award is intended as an introduction to the philosophy and practice of historic building conservation, with an emphasis on developing practical skills.

The course is taught by means of lectures, visits and field trips across East Anglia to view buildings and practitioners at work. Lectures take place at Madingley Hall, a 16th-century manor house set in seven acres of landscaped gardens designed by Capability Brown, and the headquarters of the Institute of Continuing Education.

What will I be studying?

The evolution of buildings from medieval to modern times runs as a thread through the course and you will receive guidance on identification, recording and development of appropriate conservation strategies. The objectives are:

  • To understand the development of the philosophy and ethics of conservation and the legislation and policy that protect the historic environment.
  • To survey, record and analyse the development of historic buildings through the examination of their materials, construction and style.
  • To learn practical techniques for conservation, repair and restoration, with the opportunity to experience the use of traditional materials.
  • To be able to make informed judgements on conservation issues affecting historic buildings.

Each of the six termly units has a particular topic:

Year 1

Unit 1: Conservation law and practice and vernacular architecture 

Lectures and sites visits from Monday 5 October 2015

The first unit introduces the philosophical and legal frameworks for conserving the built heritage as a basis for students to begin developing their own approaches to conservation issues. Students will also begin to explore the close relationship between place, material and building crafts which is particularly evident in early and vernacular architecture, using lectures and site visits. Students will develop practical skills in observation, analysis and recording using a variety of techniques, through site visits and the maintenance of a site notebook

Unit 2: Church architecture (up to 1600) and buildings in stone

Lectures, workshops, day-schools and site visits from Monday 11 January 2016

The second unit examines in detail the use of stone as a building material, exploring the relationship between geology, place, construction and style and students will examine more formal styles of architecture, in which stone is most often a key element, particularly the development of church architecture up to 1600. This will be done through lectures and visits to churches, a quarry and masonry yard, and through the examination of case studies. Students will receive tuition to develop their skills in drawing and sketching for recording standing structures.

Unit 3: Building with traditional materials: timber, earth, lime, plaster and thatch

Lectures, site visits and day-schools from Saturday 23 April 2016

The third unit examines the use of timber in traditional buildings, including its sourcing and preparation, and timber construction and repair techniques. Other traditional materials and techniques such as earth walling, lime mortars and thatch will also be introduced. These topics will be covered through lectures, site visits and practical demonstrations. Learning will be supported through continuing practice in analytical and recording techniques.

Year 2

The course resumes in October 2016.

Unit 4: The development of polite architecture and building in brick

Building on content from Year 1, this term will look more deeply into the philosophical and legal frameworks for conserving the historic buildings, focusing on the concept of “place” and ways in which it can be analysed and protected. Through lectures and site visits Term 4 will also explore the development of “polite” architecture” and associated materials and building crafts from the Tudor period onwards, considering Renaissance influences and the development of the Baroque. Students will develop their practical skills in observation, analysis and recording through sessions covering measured survey techniques and writing specifications.

Unit 5: Neoclassicism, early Victorian and industrial architecture and the use of metal in buildings

Unit 5 will look at important themes in architectural history, including Neoclassicism, early Victorian and industrial architecture, and designed landscapes. Associated building materials, particularly metals, will be considered in the lectures and site visits. Students will develop their understanding of structural and material failings in historic buildings and repair solutions and wider strategies for the treatment of buildings at risk through the examination of case studies.

Unit 6: Style from the Gothic revival to Art Deco, Modernism and the use of concrete

The final term completes the overview of the development of architectural style from the late Victorian period, focusing on the Gothic revival, through trends of the early twentieth century and the radical changes to design philosophy and construction brought in with the Modern Movement. The use of modern construction techniques using steel framing, curtain walling and concrete will be examined through lectures, site visits and the examination of case studies. Students will be introduced to the important issue of development economics and its influence on securing the successful repair and re-use of historic buildings. 

How will I be taught and assessed?

The course is made up of approximately 180 hours of class contact time over two years. Teaching is carried out in two-hour evening sessions over 30 weeks of the year. There are field trips and site visits each year (approximately four a term except for the first term). These usually take place on Saturdays or Sundays but may occasionally be on weekdays.

You are expected to take an active part in the course and submit work showing evidence of learning, including:

  • assignments ranging from 2,500 - 4,000 words each, with the opportunity to submit a longer piece of work in the second term of each year
  • a field notebook
  • student presentations.

It is essential that students have an email account and regular access to an internet-connected computer. The course is supported by a web-based virtual learning environment and course communications will be sent via email. Students are expected to submit their assignments online and feedback on assignments is delivered online.

Students retain access to the learning resources on their course, and to the student common room, for two academic years after they have completed their course.

The computing facilities available at a public library or internet café may be sufficient and unlimited free computing and internet access will be available to you within the University Library throughout your course.

Teaching staff

The Course Director Sarah Buckingham has worked for more than 25 years in a broad range of roles in historic conservation and archaeology, in local authorities and English Heritage. She holds a Masters Degree in Historic Conservation and is both a chartered Town Planner and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Her current role in English Heritage is Head of Better Heritage Protection.

Entry requirements

No formal prior qualifications are necessary, but some knowledge and a definite interest in the subject are needed and you are asked to detail your previous involvement in this subject-area on your application form. You should be willing to participate in practical work.

Students who have physical disabilities or suffer from allergies or phobias are welcome on the course. However, there will be some places (eg roofs, cellars, scaffolding) where access may be difficult.

Please be aware that the course is taught at university level and you should be able to read, write and speak English fluently. If English is not your first language, we will need evidence of your competence in the English language before we can confirm that you have a place.

ICE English language requirements


The course is rated at 120 points at FHEQ 4 (first year undergraduate level) in the national Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). Under this scheme, students may transfer credit achieved into the degree programmes of other universities, including the Open University.


The course lectures take place on Monday evenings at 7.15 – 9.15pm from 5 October 2015 at Madingley Hall, a Grade I listed building.


The fee for this two-year course is £3,600 (£1,800 per year). The fee covers the provision of course information but does not normally include students’ travelling expenses for site visits, entry fees or meals.

Yearly fees can be paid in three interest-free instalments, as an alternative to paying in full on enrolment.

Students who must leave this two-year course at the end of the first year may not be required to pay the second-year fees.

ICE fees and refund policy


The Fenland & Wash Branch of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) is keen to encourage the knowledge and practice of the SPAB principles of minimal intervention, like-for-like repair and respect for history among crafts people working within their area. To this end they are offering a bursary of up to £500 per year towards course-fees to a successful course applicant who works or has worked in a practical capacity on historic buildings.

To register your interest in applying for the SPAB bursary, please contact the Academic Programme Manager Dr Liz Morfoot at ug-awards@ice.cam.ac.uk 

For more info on the SPAB see their website at www.spab.org.uk

How to apply

Online application is recommended and you will find the link to the online application form at the top of this page.

The closing date for receipt of all applications is Tuesday 30 June 2015 at 12 noon. The Course Director will consider all applications and offers of a place will be made as speedily as possible, although this may be after the closing date. Please note that the number of places on this course is limited.

If you are offered a place on the course, we will ask you to complete your booking within a limited time and to pay the fees for the first year of the course (£1,800) or if paying fees by instalments, the first instalment of fees to secure your place. The remaining five instalments will be payable on 1 November 2015, 1 February 2016, 1 August 2016, 1 November 2016 and 1 February 2017.

If you are interested in taking this course in the future but do not wish to apply for the 2015-2017 intake, please register your interest by contacting us at ug-awards@ice.cam.ac.uk. It is intended to run the course again in 2017-2019.

Find out more

A course specification for the first year, giving detailed information about course-content, teaching dates, site visits, assignments and preliminary reading, is given below under Downloads.

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before making your application, please contact the Course Director, Sarah Buckingham: Sarah.Buckingham@tutor.ice.cam.ac.uk

For all other enquiries, please contact the Academic Programme Manager, Dr Liz Morfoot: ug-awards@ice.cam.ac.uk or 01223 746226 / 746418.


pdf Course specification year 1


This course carries credit points under the nationally recognised Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). We offer a flexible, part-time route to academic qualification. For further details see the section ' Qualifications and awards'.

Unless otherwise stated, teaching and assessment for ICE courses are in English. Students whose first language is not English should refer to the Competence in the English Language Policy for further guidance.

Printable versions of our brochures are available to download from the Institute Publications page.

Pre-enrolment information

Information about studying with ICE

Register interest

To register your interest in this course please contact us:


Write to us

Dr Liz Morfoot
Institute of Continuing Education
University of Cambridge
Madingley Hall, Madingley
United Kingdom
CB23 8AQ

Call us

+44 (0)1223 746226 / 746418

Email us


Write to us

Dr Liz Morfoot
Institute of Continuing Education
University of Cambridge
Madingley Hall, Madingley
United Kingdom
CB23 8AQ

Call us

+44 (0)1223 746226 / 746418

Email us

Course details

Start date

5 October 2015 (19:15)

End date

31 July 2017 (21:15)

Application deadline

30 June 2015

Course code



2 years


Institute of Continuing Education
University of Cambridge
Madingley Hall, Madingley
United Kingdom
CB23 8AQ

Teaching sessions

Fieldtrips: 23

Meetings: 29

Saturday sessions: 9

Qualifications / Credits

120 credits at FHEQ4

Course director