An enriching pursuit

05 Jul 2019
Dr Emma J Wells MCIfA, FRSA, SFHEA, is an expert in pilgrimage studies, ecclesiastical history and architecture, as well as historic buildings in general. She is the Programme Leader for the online PGDip in Parish Church Studies: History, Heritage and Fabric at the University of York, which is delivered in association with The Churches Conservation Trust. Here, Emma tells us a bit more about the course and how working in partnership with CCT is a crucial element of the learning.
Studying the English parish church can be one of the most enriching pursuits in academia. At the University of York, you can do just that. A physical embodiment of religion, popular devotion, community, economy and government, these institutions encapsulate the very history of the British Isles. The only course of its kind, the two-year, part-time online Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Parish Church Studies: History, Heritage and Fabric is proud to announce its delivery in association with The Churches Conservation Trust.
Covering the spread of Christianity to the Age of the Venerable Bede, right through to the role of the church today, the programmes offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain detailed and practical knowledge of the history, use, care and conservation of the English parish church. We travel back to unravel liturgy and how it aided the development of ecclesiastical architecture, as well as moving forward to consider how those buildings may be used, reused, managed and maintained in what is arguably a difficult religious climate.
Dr Emma J Wells, above


The interdisciplinary nature of the diploma means it has something for everyone. From art and architecture to conservation, to the communities that have shaped and been shaped by the church – even to the legislation that governs and the evidence that survives. In equal measure, the programme introduces the skills and resources you will need for academic work at postgraduate level, from analytical rigour and independent thought to clear communication, meaning that you will be well prepared for the world of work in a variety of sectors, or for further research.
As noted, a very special aspect of the course is its partnership with The Churches Conservation Trust, which allows you exclusive access to local CCT sites, membership, key resources and further opportunities for valuable work placements within the Trust. We are extremely proud of this partnership as it provides our students with a unique set of skills and prospects – it really does have it all!
The online component allows you to undertake the course from anywhere in the world and to be flexible with your studies, allowing you to complete work around your schedule, all the while supported by experts. We have introduced many ways that allow you to interact with both your tutor and your fellow students, such as the ‘virtual refectory’. There are also specialist resources provided by expert lecturers, as well as hosted virtual lectures and seminars, and regular phone and Skyping opportunities for one-to-one tutorials.
Finally, there is an optional residential school held within York, which allows you to get together and meet your peers, mingle with experts (including CCT staff) and, of course, visit some wonderful churches (including Evensong at magnificent York Minster). What more could you ask for? 
Current students even have their very own Parish Church Studies website: The blog, which is written and curated by students for prospective applicants and all other simply interested parties, gives you a real taste of the programme. The website also offers information on relevant conferences, external courses and things of interest.
The PGDip in Parish Church Studies starts in late September, concurrent with each new academic year. Places are limited to ensure a constructive atmosphere for discussions. To apply, visit: or contact Programme Leader, Dr Emma J Wells