One year full-time or two years part-time
Two to three evenings a week full-time or one to two evenings a week part-time, October to July
Public history is concerned with the practice of history outside of academia in all its myriad forms and public historians come in all shapes and sizes: they are consultants, museum professionals, archivists, preservationists and curators, cultural resource managers, policy specialists, and community activists, among many other roles. What they share is a commitment to making history relevant, beneficial, informative and instructive within the public sphere. The practice and significance of ‘public history’ has grown significantly in recent years, as historians become more aware of audiences beyond the academy, of the role of history in politics, of the need for their research and analysis to have an impact in the real world, and of the growing public and media interest in popular history and heritage.
This MA will introduce you to key aspects and issues of the practice of public history. It will provide you with the necessary theoretical and practical skills to undertake critical assessments of public history projects and interventions - as well as to create your own. Its focus on public history in practice will provide you with a wide range of examples of different types and methods of public history, from museums and material culture, to public history in the media, to the role of history in policy making. This MA aims to give you a sense of the wide range of public history, the variety of roles played by historians in public, and the importance and impact of public history in politics, culture, and society.
The MA Public Histories provides relevant training for careers in media, education, museums and heritage, publishing, and policy, and it also provides rigorous training in the historical discipline suitable to prepare you for further personal or professional research, or research at MPhil/PhD level.
Named in memory of Birkbeck’s former President, and one of the greatest historians of the 20th century, the Eric Hobsbawm Postgraduate Scholarship fund offers a full fee-waiver for Home, EU and Overseas Master’s students in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology (part-time awards are pro-rata).
- Our Department of History, Classics and Archaeology is a world-renowned centre of original, influential research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), History at Birkbeck was ranked sixth in the UK for the percentage of our research deemed world-leading or internationally excellent. 94% of our eligible staff submitted research and we achieved 100% for a research environment supporting world-leading and internationally excellent research.
- Many Birkbeck historians take very active public roles as policy consultants, columnists in newspapers, editors of digital history websites, and leaders in community history projects. Students on the MA Public Histories will be given the opportunity to benefit from their expertise.
- Tutors and potential dissertation supervisors on the course could include Dr Julia Laite, whose work focuses on aspects of women's history and policy and who is an expert in history online; Professor Matt Cook, who works extensively in community history, oral history and queer history and is a Director of the ; Professor David Feldman, who has worked extensively in history and policy related to migration and minorities and is Director of the ; Professor Orlando Figes, an expert in oral history and the history of 19th- and 20th-century Russia; and Dr Fiona Candlin, an expert in museum studies, whose work focuses on small museums and public heritage.
- Our Department is home to thriving student societies and a number of affiliated research centres that actively run seminars, conferences and other events where some of the world's best scholars present their latest research. These include the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
You study two compulsory modules and two option modules from a diverse range of topics.
Not all modules are available each year.
Indicative public histories option modules
- Athens: Material Culture Approaches to the Classical City
- Creating a Public. Museums and their audiences
- Cultural History of War in Britain and America between the First World War and the Conflict in Vietnam
- Histories in Transition: Visual Culture, History and Memory in South Africa and Beyond
MA Public Histories dissertation
We welcome a wide range of qualifications, from the UK and abroad, and we will also consider your non-academic achievements.
The usual requirement is a second-class honours degree in a humanities subject, as well as references.
We may request writing samples or ask you to attend an interview, if you don't meet the entry criteria but have non-traditional educational or professional qualification/experience.
International entry requirements
If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.
If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.
Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.
Credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL)
If you have studied at university previously, you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution. You should discuss this with the Programme Director when you are making your application.
We offer advice on all the options for financing your studies. You can pay your fees interest-free by direct debit and postgraduate loans are available for all Home/EU students.
Fees (2017/8)Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa
Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa
Part-time overseas students: £ 7225 pa
Full-time overseas students: £ 14450 pa
Teaching and assessment
Our innovative, engaging teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments.
At Birkbeck, almost all of our courses are taught in the evening and our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience. In the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s system for rating university teaching, Birkbeck was allocated a Silver award.
Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading.
Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.
In addition, you will have timetabled meetings with your Personal Tutor.
Methods of teaching on this course
Teaching is delivered primarily through seminar groups, with occasional lectures. You will also engage in one-to-one tutorials and receive supervision in preparation for your dissertation. Where appropriate, use is made of online resources, including Moodle.
Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).
Indicative class size
Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to large groups, with 30 to 100+ students in attendance, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups of 10 to 30 students, led by an academic.
Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:
- academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
- written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
- numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).
Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.
Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.
Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short– or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.
Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations. You will be given time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.
Unseen written examinations are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June, and, in most cases, are held during the day on a weekday – if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance. Exam timetables are published online in March each year.
Methods of assessment on this course
Assessment is via written work, with a different essay for each module, and a dissertation of 15,000-16,000 words.
Every module has an attendance requirement, so you will need to attend at least 60% of classes in order to pass.
As well as a mark for your coursework and exams, you will also receive feedback from your marker(s) to help you learn, improve and succeed. We encourage you to discuss feedback with your module tutor.
Feedback can come in different forms: notes via Moodle (our online learning environment); a paper copy of a completed feedback form; or in-class or face-to-face feedback. The College Policy on Feedback on Assessment sets out what you can expect from your feedback.
Your department will usually provide you with your marked coursework within four weeks of submission. Your initial mark is provisional until the relevant Board of Examiners has confirmed it.
Your official coursework and exam results will be made available to you via your My Birkbeck Profile online.
Careers and employability
To help you get ahead in your career, we offer free advice and training and our recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, can connect you with employers.
Careers and employability
Graduates can pursue careers in research and archiving, education, the heritage industry, publication and the media, the charity sector and journalism. Possible professions include historian, higher education lecturer, or archivist. This degree provides a range of transferable skills, which may be useful in becoming a journalist, heritage manager, politician’s assistant, academic librarian, or museum/gallery curator.
Find out more about the destinations of graduates in this subject.
We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.
How to apply
Once you've found the course that's right for you, here's what to do next to get your place at Birkbeck.
How to apply
You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link below.
Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form, including our online personal statement tool, which will guide you through every step of writing your personal statement.
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