Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grad Program Guide: Newcastle University

I’ve been googling “cultural heritage studies grad program” every now and then, mostly to see if I missed any programs the first bajillion times I searched it. The Newcastle University International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies’ many programs didn’t pop up until the second or third afternoon of avid Googling, but the persistence was worth it. Newcastle University doesn’t just have a Cultural Heritage Studies MA or a Museum Studies MA, or even an MA that combines the two. No. Why have one or two programs when you could have six programs in this field, each with multiple degree types: Art Museum and Gallery Education, Art Museum and Gallery Studies, Art as Enterprise, Heritage Education & Interpretation, Heritage Management, and Museum Studies.

I want to be in all these programs, but I’m particularly taken by the Heritage Education and Interpretation program. The Master of Arts is a 12 month course full time, and 24 months part time; a Postgraduate diploma is 9 months full-time and 18 months part time; and a Masters of Heritage Practice (what!) is 24 months full time and 48 part time. This program is intended to prepare students to work in the heritage sector and to equip students what the skills and knowledge they might need for research degrees. Modules familiarize students with the workings of the museum, gallery, and heritage sectors and allow opportunities for students to “rub shoulders” with students from other programs, as well as engage in program-specific seminars. Like most programs, there is a compulsory 8-week work placement at a heritage sit or organization, followed by the dissertation. The Centre as a whole has close ties with international bodies like UNESCO, national organizations and museums, and heritage organizations like English Heritage and the National Trust.

Newcastle’s website has been wooing me hard, and I can’t put my finger on why, exactly. The Centre’s main page lists 10 reasons to study at ICCHS; the first reason is expert and friendly staff. After seeing a lot of programs emphasize how competitive they are, it’s really nice to just see a program that says, “Hi. We’re friendly, we know our stuff, you should study with us.” Other reasons include the employability of students (boo ya), the vast range of guest lecturers, the intensity of the course, the hands-on approach to teaching and learning by doing, and the dynamism and closeness of the community’s work, trips, seminars, society, and parties. This school actually reminds me a lot of the school I already go to with its emphasis on hard work, joyous parties, and its unique ability to bring the world to its doorstep though it may not be in a major city like London. Is this the British Bennington? Do the kids at Newcastle University also wear too much plaid, talk about how art itself pisses them off, and eat vegan for health purposes while smoking multiple packs a day? Oh man. I want to go to there.

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