School of Society and Culture

MA Archival Practice

Do you want a career in the archive sector? Join a new MA programme designed and taught in partnership with archival professionals, created to give you practical experience of the archive, from manuscripts to film, sound and digital archives. Co-taught with The Box, Plymouth's new heritage centre, and with links to local archives and work-based learning, you also learn about current and practical management issues, the varied needs of users and how to communicate through outreach and marketing.

This programme is also available to study part time (6238).

Find out more about your eligibility for a postgraduate loan

You may now be eligible for a government loan of over £11,000 to help towards the cost of your masters degree.

Find out more about your eligibility for a postgraduate loan

This programme is not available for September 2022 entry

Join the programme in September 2023.

Careers with this subject

The MA Archival Practice is designed to prepare you for a range of archive and related jobs, including posts with local government, national archives, museums, universities, businesses and charities.

Where could your history degree take you?

Key features

  • Taught in partnership with The Box, Plymouth's new heritage centre, with archival professionals as core and optional module teachers and in the placement module.
  • Work-based learning is a key feature of the MA.
  • Digital skills are embedded in all modules.
  • You develop links with local record offices and other archives which will be important for future employment in the archive and heritage sector.
  • The core and optional modules meet practical and current needs (fund-raising, employment law, archival and digital skills) for a range of archive and related jobs.
  • Designed to be an accredited, professional qualification aligned to the Archives and Records Association’s new competencies in core modules. Provisional accreditation for the programme is being sought.

Course details
  • Programme overview

  • You can study MA Archival Practice full time over one year, or part time over two years. 

    Your studies will consist of six modules, of which five are core modules: The Management of Archives; Audiences and Users in Archives; Placement; Business of Archives; Dissertation 

    You’ll supplement these with an optional module where you select the areas of archival practice that you interest you from a range of options including Palaeography; Display and Interpretation; Sound and Vision.

    Continual Professional Development

    ARCHI703 Business of Archives can be taken separately as either a credit-rated and non-credit rated module, by professionals or para-professionals wishing to enhance their competencies in archives and records.

    Pre-programme placement

    You will need to undertake a period (minimum 30 days / 120 hours) of paid or voluntary employment in an archive or records service, or have experience in a post where archive or record management is a substantial responsibility, prior to starting the programme. We are very happy to help with finding a suitable pre-programme placement. If you would like to discuss options please contact or

    Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation pre-course placements are impacted. If you are interested in the MA Archival Practice Programme and you currently have not been able to undertake or complete the usual placement experience, please contact to discuss the situation further.

    Core modules

    • Audiences and Users in Archives (ARCHI701)

      This examines audiences and needs; and the ways archives and heritage assets are used, experienced and offered. It considers opportunities / challenges from diversity, barriers to access, research room, physical and virtual exhibitions and programme or educational project delivery. The environment for resource-user relationships is explored in terms of collaboration, community engagement, user-participation, volunteering and `citizen archivists'. The roles of new technologies (including those associated with `big data') and social media are explored. Policies, standards and evaluation are studied as critical to access and audience-engagement strategy.

    • Archival Practice Placement (ARCHI702)

      This module provides the student with placement opportunities organised by / or approved by the MA Programme Leader in partnership with Plymouth City Council, staff at The Box, and with local heritage sites. The placements are designed to provide practical experience including in the search room, collections, or 'visitor experience' aspects of the site. Work-based learning will relate this module to aspects of management, business, audience and users which are explored in the other core modules: experientially, practically and through observation.

    • The Business of Archives (ARCHI703)

      This module addresses the dynamic and changing position that many modern day archival professionals find themselves in within their organisations. Being able to think critically and strategically about the management of resources, governance and stakeholder relations, buildings, products, people, technology, financing and budgets, sustainability through the development of commercial revenue, and advocating for higher profile through partnerships, are crucial skills. Key self-management skills such as time management, presentation and report writing, team working and project management are developed through this module.

    • Archival Practice Dissertation (ARCHI704)

      A dissertation between 15,000 and 20,000 words on an archival-focused topic. The assessment incorporates a 10% project proposal phase in semester 2, assessed by the dissertation supervisor assigned to the student. There will be preliminary discussions about the module in the MA induction at the start of semester 1 and informal conversations through semester 1 for Full Time students (and in Year 2 for Part Time students).

    • The Management of Archives and Records (ARCHI708)

      This module concerns core professional activities and principles underpinning collections development. Students will be introduced to: the definition of archives and records, functions of archive services, the purpose and value of archives of records; the professional and legislative landscape for archive keeping and record keeping, and moral and ethical responsibilities. Core elements of professional archival management and record keeping e.g., acquisition, appraisal and description, are supplemented by study of physical defence of archives and record; preservation policies and digital preservation methods; environmental monitoring; and disaster recovery planning.

    Optional modules

    • Palaeography (ARCHI705)

      This module considers the development of historic handwriting (palaeography) from the medieval period, examining some specific scripts and documents (diplomatic) types, establishing the principles of transcribing and editing manuscripts. Archaic dating practices, abbreviations and other elements of manuscripts commonly encountered in the archives, will also be studied. Manuscript material from the Plymouth collections will form the core of the material which will be read (with some training in reading Latin provided) and transcribed by students in a module that is designed to apply the theory to this important archival practice.

    • Sound and Vision (film, photographic and audio archives) (ARCHI706)

      This module is concerned with the care and management of film, sound and photographic collections; how they can be used as an effective resource for learning and engagement; best practice around preservation and storage; digitisation and cataloguing, adhering to specific description standards; the complexities of copyright, licensing, orphaned works and third part content and; the provision of content for audiences and for programming, exhibition, broadcast and production purposes.

    • Display and Interpretation in Archives (ARCHI707)

      This module develops a critical understanding of how heritage organisations address their public role through displays and interpretation opportunities. Students will gain understanding about audiences and audience needs and perspectives and develop hands-on experience of a range of contemporary archive and museum practices including curating an exhibition, development of partnerships and collaborations, education, outreach and learning objectives, management and care of assets within an exhibition, marketing, evaluation and capturing data from audiences to support sustainability and legacy.

    • Talking History, Preserving the Living Past: Oral History & Archive Practice (ARCHI709)

      This module is designed to develop an intermediate-to-advanced level of critical theoretical, historiographical, and methodological knowledge in oral history and ‘talking’/reflective history approaches. Complementing this knowledge, MA Archival Practice students will develop essential practical skills in developing, planning, conducting, and processing real-world oral history research projects relating to their programme of study; and/or explore scholarly topics of historical interest relating to their programme of study using oral history within their archival practice.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA Archival Practice Programme Specification 2021 22 6237

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements

A 2:1 or first class BA (Hons) degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification) and ideally a period (minimum 30 days / 120 hours) of paid or voluntary employment in an archive or records service, or experience in a post where archive or record management is a substantial responsibility. Applicants meeting these criteria are interviewed by a practising member of the profession in the selection process.

We are very happy to help with finding a suitable pre-programme experience. If you would like to discuss options or if you have any questions about the programme or the admissions process, please contact

As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunities for pre-course placements may still be limited. If you are interested in the MA Archival Practice Programme for 2022 - 2023 and you have not been able to undertake or complete the usual duration of placement experience, please contact to discuss the situation further.

English language requirements. 

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

New Student 2022-2023 2023-2024
Home £8,300 £9,250
International £15,700 £16,500
Part time (Home) £450 £510
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.

  • 20% discount on tuition fees for home students
  • £2,000 discount on tuition fees for international students
Read our fees policy

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

Find out more about funding options for postgraduates.   

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.

If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Find out more about MA Archival Practice and the practical experience you will gain through work-based learning in local archives. Explore current and practical issues such as fund-raising, the varied needs of users, and how to communicate through outreach and marketing.

<p>The Foulston room</p>

Foulston Room

Our specialist teaching facilities in the Foulston Room, at The Box, allow staff and students to work within this important heritage centre, access collections and gain hands on experience.

Find out more about the room

Archival practice resources

The University library has key journals in archival studies and management and specialist texts in relation to palaeography and other topics.
This degree is run in partnership with Plymouth City Council, drawing on experts in the archives sector, and with access to archival, audio-visual and photographic collections and facilities at The Box.
The resource and teaching space is housed in The Box, Plymouth, the new arts and heritage centre, next to the main campus of the University of Plymouth.

<p>18th Century / early 19th C provenance material, photo by Dr Elaine Murphy<br></p>
<p>Plymouth Borough records: Letters Patent (charter), 11 May 1554<br></p>

Plymouth Borough records: Letters Patent (charter), 11 May 1554

This is the oldest original charter in the possession of the Corporation and is illuminated. Also referred to as the Queen Mary charter.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)

<p>Plymouth Borough records: Receiver's accounts, 1486-1560<br></p>

Plymouth Borough records: Receiver's accounts, 1486-1560

The Old Audit book, including a reference to a venison pasty recipe.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)

<p>Plymouth: Stoke Damerel Parish, Devonport, Baptisms, 1859-1878<br></p>

Plymouth: Stoke Damerel Parish, Devonport, Baptisms, 1859-1878

Showing entry for Robert Falcon Scott, baptised on 30th June 1868.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)

<p>Henry de Tracy, Charter, c1190<br></p>

Henry de Tracy, Charter, c1190

This is the oldest document at PWDRO.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)