Graduate School: next steps in architectural history

Architectural history is a very broad field of study and professional practice; the SAHGB represents members who work in the university, private and public sectors, and those who contribute as volunteers, as independent scholars, or who follow their own  interests and support our aims. We recognise the broad scope of studies within architectural history, which might take you around the globe, up scaffolding or into the lab. All of us really appreciate the opportunities we get to work with buildings; if you are reading this, you might be thinking about taking your studies further.

UK universities introduce architectural history topics as part of a wider programme of study within art history and architecture programmes at undergraduate level; it is more usual to specialise in architectural history or a related field of conservation or heritage studies at Masters level, and you might then want to go on to research a doctoral thesis. UK universities generally require you to hold a Masters level qualification before you can begin your doctoral work, and it is common for your idea for a topic to emerge from your Masters dissertation. If you are currently in a Masters programme, then do talk to the academic staff as early as possible about what you might do next. If you have taken a break since your Masters degree, you will remember that doctoral students work with two or three academics who supervise their work. Ideally, you should try to identify an academic you would like to work with, who is a specialist in your area of interest, and make contact with the postgraduate co-ordinator in their university department. It is common for one academic to be the single point of contact for PhD/DPhil enquiries in their discipline, and they may advise you on how to develop your idea into a full proposal.

You also need to think about whether you want to study full- or part-time, and whether you expect to fund yourself, or need a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan (repayment) or gain an award from a funding body or charitable trust (no repayment). Some PhD/DPhils are already funded, and advertised as projects seeking a candidate to research them: universities may advertise their own studentships in this way, or offer unique Collaborative Doctoral Awards for specific projects in partnership with a non-university body, such as the National Trust or Historic England. If your interests are a good match for an advertised project, it is well worth considering applying. Just reading the ways in which topics are described, even if you don’t want to apply, can be a good way of learning how doctoral topics are pitched.

If you decide you want to develop your own project, and you need some funding to study, then your university may assess your academic potential and put you forward for an annual competitive award (distributing funds from the Arts and Humanities Research Council). Our own PhD Scholarships are timed so that you will know the result of any AHRC-supported competition before you need to decide to apply to us. You can read more about our scholarships here.

For more advice on doctoral study, careers, and funding, explore here.