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MA|Postgraduate Taught

Public History

Entry year
Entry requirements
2.2 (minimum 55%)
1 year (Full-time)
3 years (Part-time)
Places available
25 (Full Time)
25 (Part Time)

The MA in Public History at Queen’s University Belfast offers an opportunity to study how historical knowledge is produced, mediated, represented and consumed in public spaces, in a region where the past continues to resonate powerfully. The close relationship Queen’s enjoys with a broad range of partners across the country, from national cultural institutions, heritage organisations and media through to community-led initiatives, provides an unparalleled opportunity for first-hand experience of how history works and is put to work in many different ways. The close involvement of partner organisations in the delivery of the course through practitioner workshops, guest lectures, field trips and events, as well as the 30-day placement, provides first-hand, practical experience of the wide range of issues, challenges and opportunities faced by the public historian.

This course approaches public history from many perspectives ranging from the local to the global. The city of Belfast offers an exciting opportunity to engage with key issues surrounding contested histories, national narratives, memory, commemoration and community history in a very real and meaningful way, and to gain first-hand understanding of the relationship between history, heritage and public audiences at a local and national level. A global understanding of public history is encouraged through taught modules on difficult public history in a range of national contexts.

Students will carry out 30-day placements in one of a wide range of museums, archives, heritage sites or visitor experiences across the country.

The course combines academic training in historical theory and research methods with specialised topics relating to history in the public sphere, such as negotiating contested pasts, oral history, heritage and tourism, or digital curation, thus linking the analytical and critical approaches of traditional academic history with innovative ways of creating and disseminating histories for a diverse variety of public audiences.

The programme offers a unique 30-day internship placement with a public history site where in-depth sector and career development experience is gained.

Public History highlights

Student Experience

Guaranteed work placement with a cultural institution or heritage organisations.

Internships have taken place with the following organisations:
Ulster Museum, Armagh Public Library, Special Collections at Queen’s, Titanic Belfast, HMS Caroline, Ulster American Folk Park, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, BBC, Doubleband Media, Belfast City Council, Hillsborough Castle (Historic Royal Palaces), Mount Stewart and Castle Ward (National Trust), Newry and Mourne Museum, Ulster Rugby Museum, Museum of Free Derry.

The course develops a range of skills such as research methods, archival work, oral history, digital curation, and museum collections.

Industry Links

Close involvement of practitioners from a wide range of organisations in many aspects of the course including practitioner-led workshops.

Student Experience

You will benefit from being part of a vibrant research culture and postgraduate community. The Centre for Public History, of which you will be part, runs monthly seminars, regular workshops and an annual conference. Students on this course also have access to Queen’s Graduate School, an exclusive postgraduate hub which connects students and researchers across fields and disciplines and provides high-quality, transdisciplinary training and development programmes. Based in the beautifully restored and remodelled Victorian Lynn library, this space offers modern, hi-tech meeting and group study rooms, a silent study area and social spaces creating a vibrant hub for intellectual exchange and collaboration.

World Class Facilities

All students have full use of the award-winning McClay Library, which blends the best features of a traditional library with the latest technology. The library provides access to vast book and journal collections along with computing and media services, IT training rooms, quiet study and group work areas, a cafe, and a Language Centre.

Internationally Renowned Experts

Research-led teaching by world leading experts who have secured grants by UK and EU funding bodies for research on a range of subjects relating to public history.

Career Development

Many of our graduates have gone on to PhD programmes and others go into a wide variety of employment including careers in museums, archives or libraries; journalism or media related work; teaching; private and public administration, economic development and the voluntary sector.

Student Testimonials

Course Structure

Students take five modules across two semesters and work on their dissertation over the summer.

In the Autumn students take two required core modules: 'History and its Audiences', which is exclusive to students on the MA in Public History, and 'Historian's Craft' which is taken with the students on the History MA. For their third module students can choose between taking the 'Individually Negotiated Topic' which is an extended research essay on a topic of their choice, or the interdisciplinary module, 'Belfast: Place, Identity and Memory in a Contested City'.

In the Spring semester students take the 'Case Studies in Public History' module and carry out their 30-day internships. They will also begin working on their dissertation which is then written over the summer.

The programme is designed to introduce you to the various ways in which history is presented to public audiences, and to develop critical theoretical understandings of how the past is used, engaged with and consumed in the public space. It also provides experience in the practical application of public history through your internship, practitioner workshops, field trips and the combination of practitioners and academics in the teaching team.

People teaching you

Internships Coordinator

Dr Leonie Hannan is a social and cultural historian working on intellectual life in the long eighteenth century, with a focus on themes of gender, material culture and domestic space. Over the last ten years, Leonie has also worked extensively in museums and heritage and built collaborative working relationships between researchers, teachers, curators, museum collections and heritage sites.

Senior Lecturer

Dr Niamh Cullen is a specialist in modern European history and a social and cultural historian of modern Italy. She is particularly engaged with the themes of social change, family, emotions, gender and sexuality.

Course Convenor

Professor Purdue's research interests have focused on the social history of nineteenth and twentieth-century Ireland, especially issues of poverty, welfare and public health. She also has a strong interest in the practice and experience of Public History particularly in divided societies. She is a Director of the Irish Museums Association and a Project Board Member for the redevelopment of the Ulster Museum.

Teaching Times

Teaching takes place at a variety of times from 12-8pm Monday – Friday.

Learning and Teaching

Learning and Teaching

  • Educational Aims of the MA Public History Programme

    Intellectual aims
    This will give students the opportunity to:
    • develop an advanced knowledge and understanding of the core theories, issues, concepts and scholarly debates in the field of Public History
    • explore critically the range of ways in which history is presented to and experienced by public audiences, and how history is engaged with and used for a variety of purposes in the public realm
    • understand a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives and intellectual contexts when considering the relationship between the past and public realm
    • explore and understand issues relating to the exploration, presentation, and consumption of difficult or contested historic narratives in the public sphere in a number of comparative contexts.

    Skills development aims
    This will give students the opportunity to:
    • develop skills in presenting history to a range of public audiences for a variety of purposes using a range of methods (including public presentation, media, photography, exhibition design, online curation, oral history collection)
    • develop a range of academic and professional skills including the ability to engage in independent research
    • work collaboratively with practitioners in the cultural and heritage sectors
    • work independently and as part of a team in presenting aspects of history to a range of public audiences.

    Impact development aims
    This will give students the opportunity to:
    • understand how their learning, knowledge and understanding equips them to contribute to debates around the practice, purpose and understanding of history in the public realm
    • contribute to academic impact by stimulating and shaping intellectual debates in Public History
    • work with practitioners and academics to build capacity in the heritage and cultural sectors across Northern Ireland and beyond
    • develop their own academic and professional impact across a wide range of developmental skills through training events, peer engagement, engagement with public audiences and heritage professionals, and a placement.

  • Knowledge and Understanding

    Critically evaluate the communication of historical knowledge and understanding by bodies outside the academy. Understand how the content and communication of knowledge can be adapted to meet the needs of a range of audiences. Understand the challenges presented in conveying contested historical narratives to public audiences.

  • Learning and Teaching

    Learning and teaching takes place through seminars, practitioner workshops, field trips and placements.

  • Learning opportunities associated with this course are outlined below:

    Recognise and use appropriate theories, concepts and principles from history and relevant cognate disciplines. Understand and communicate complex ideas and concepts to both academic and public audiences. Critically evaluate the theory and practice of history in academic and public spheres.

  • Subject Specific Skills

    Demonstrate an ability to use effectively relevant archives, finding aids and online resources in completing a major personal research project. Undertake a public history project in the workplace both individually and as part of a team and to reflect critically on their practice. Handle, catalogue, describe and organise historical sources and artefacts. Develop skills relating to the assessment and analysis of sources.

  • Transferable Skills

    Communicate complex ideas effectively to a range of audiences.

    Manage time and resources and work effectively as part of a team. Demonstrate an ability to conceptualise, plan and see through to completion a major personal research project to a high standard of historical professionalism. Demonstrate competency and a professional approach to undertaking research and the presentation of project work.


Assessments associated with the course are outlined below:

  • Assessment is by coursework:
    • essays
    • projects
    • critical commentaries on primary sources
    • portfolio and reflective essay
    • blogs and placement related assessment
    • power point presentations
    • practical work on documents or placement related assessment
    • dissertation
  • Feedback is given appropriately across the range of assessments given.




The information below is intended as an example only, featuring module details for the current year of study (2023/24). Modules are reviewed on an annual basis and may be subject to future changes – revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year.

  • Year 1

    Core Modules

    Dissertation (60 credits)

    Optional Modules

Entrance requirements

Normally a strong 2.2 Honours degree (with minimum of 55%) or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in a Humanities or Arts subject or an acceptable cognate discipline.

Applicants who hold a 2.2 Honours degree below 55% in one of the disciplines specified above or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University, who can demonstrate relevant professional experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Further criteria may be applied as placements are limited. This will include ranking applications on the basis of academic performance and/or an interview.

Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible and ideally no later than 16th August 2024 for courses which commence in late September. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

International Students

Our country/region pages include information on entry requirements, tuition fees, scholarships, student profiles, upcoming events and contacts for your country/region. Use the dropdown list below for specific information for your country/region.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
  • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.



Career Prospects


The Public History MA can be regarded either as an end in itself, culminating in the distinction of having obtained a postgraduate degree and enhanced your employability skills as a researcher, or as a stepping stone to the higher research degree of PhD. Many graduates have gone on to PhD programmes . Others go into a wide variety of employment including careers in museums, archives or libraries; journalism or media related work; teaching; private and public administration; economic development and the voluntary sector.

The MA in Public History provides you with the essential skills and in-depth knowledge of history and its public audiences for career development at any stage – from students straight from an undergraduate degree with limited to no priori professional experience to those seeking continued professional development. The programme enables you to broaden your horizons, providing you with a competitive edge in a global graduate market in a wide variety of areas, such as museums, archives, heritage, culture and tourism, or media.

Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award for extra-curricular skills

In addition to your degree programme, at Queen's you can have the opportunity to gain wider life, academic and employability skills. For example, placements, voluntary work, clubs, societies, sports and lots more. So not only do you graduate with a degree recognised from a world leading university, you'll have practical national and international experience plus a wider exposure to life overall. We call this Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award. It's what makes studying at Queen's University Belfast special.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £7,300
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £7,300
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £9,250
EU Other 3 £21,500
International £21,500

1EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled status, will be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB will be charged the GB fee.

2 EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI are eligible for NI tuition fees.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Additional course costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

How do I fund my study?

The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £6,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £11,836 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

More information on funding options and financial assistance - please check this link regularly, even after you have submitted an application, as new scholarships may become available to you.

International Scholarships

Information on scholarships for international students, is available at



How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Apply now

When to Apply

The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2021. In the event that any programme receives a high volume of applications, the university reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Entry Portal (DAP) against the programme application page.

Terms and Conditions

The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

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