Master in Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK

In 2010 I completed a Master in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester. Though perhaps not such a household name as Cambridge or Oxford, Leicester University is in fact home to the oldest Museum Studies department in England. The experience and network that the programme has built up over the years means that the degree attracts lecturers who are prominent researchers in their respective fields. The school of Museum Studies is currently considered the best in England.


The master degree can be completed as a one year full time course with approximately 10 contact hours a week, as well as group work sessions, or as a two year distance learning programme. I would say that overall the workload is less intense than that of UCU. The course consists of four modules: 1 - Museums, Societies and Cultural Change, which covers museum history and the continuous development of museum practice. 2 - Strategic Resource Development. This focuses on museum management and the different procedures required in running an accredited museum. You will also complete practical sessions in object handling, marking, accessioning and in documentation. Additionally, you will work with a team of fellow students on the creation of a (mock) funding bid for an exhibition of your own design. 3 - Communication, Media and Museums. This module includes different approaches to museum education, audience evaluation and exhibition design, as well as the role of digital media in museums.
Module four is a special option module, during which you can work in depth on a subject area of your choice. The choices are: Archaeology for the Museum, Curating the Art Museum, Digital Media and Curatorship , Museum & Gallery Communication and Education , Museum & Gallery Marketing, Museums and Histories , Natural Science Curation  and World Arts/Museum Ethnography.  I chose the latter and unfortunately I have to say that this was one of the few disappointing aspects of the otherwise very constructive programme. It was billed as an option for students with a previous degree in Anthropology, but very little new ground was covered (perhaps this is a credit to the UCU Anthropology track!).


During the special option module you will also have the chance to turn one of the exhibition proposals created in the previous modules into reality. This is an amazing opportunity and you get a real taste of the time-pressured environment of exhibition planning, installing, budgeting and marketing! All the modules include one or more fieldtrips to museums across England.


The next three months of the course are allocated for researching and writing a 15,000 word dissertation (either for an MA or an MSc). My dissertation investigated whether collaborative practices between Maori and non-indigenous museum staff in the UK present an ideal and social harmony that is not reflected in wider society. Being able to interview and engage with a wide range of prominent curators and the UK Maori community and build a partnership with the latter was extremely rewarding.
You will conclude your year with a two month placement at a museum that suits your interests and which will enable you to put your newly acquired knowledge and skills into practice.  I would say that this programme is especially suitable as an entry-level qualification, to get that first foot in the door. It is a very broad programme which will help you to establish what direction you want to take within the museum world and provide you with the skills and tools to get there in this ever increasing competitive industry!


Remke van der Velden