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Understanding global heritage

What is the nature and value of heritage? Why are certain objects, places and practices considered more worthy of protection than others? This module will introduce you to the study of heritage and its function at local, regional, national and global levels. You’ll develop a critical understanding of how heritage is created and consumed across different cultures, and the roles heritage fulfils in contemporary and past societies. Using case material from around the world you’ll explore the global scope of heritage, from the ways in which local communities use heritage to build their own sense of identity, to the ways in which the state employs heritage in nation building.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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I really enjoyed this module. However I would suggest that anyone considering it, should note that it is about how...
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I found this course very interesting. It certainly opened my mind to heritage and how it is perceived. The subject...
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What you will study

Global heritage studies draws on understandings developed both by academics and professionals in museum and conservation fields. It offers a critical understanding of how professionals and other stakeholders make judgements about heritage and the underlying value systems on which these judgements are based.

Key questions include ‘What does heritage do?’ and ‘Who is heritage for?’. Some of the answers raise the connection between heritage and nationalism, and the notion that heritage is something created by social action.

You will learn about changing approaches to heritage and conservation in western and non-western societies from the eighteenth to early twenty-first centuries, focusing particularly on the global implications of the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

This module also looks to the future by identifying new directions in how people are defining heritage, including heritage of the contemporary world and heritage in virtual worlds. It is an opportunity for you to engage with heritage studies simultaneously as an area of academic enquiry, cultural meanings and practical application.

Understanding global heritage is presented through three, specially written, illustrated module books which provide a sound introduction to critical heritage studies as a global discipline. They use a range of international case studies which consider heritage at global, national and local levels.

Book 1 – Understanding the Politics of Heritage – is about the ways in which heritage can be exploited for political ends. It questions the view that heritage is necessarily ‘good’, and uncovers the ways in which heritage embodies relationships of power and subjugation, inclusion and exclusion, remembering and forgetting. It considers who is represented by heritage and who is excluded.

Book 2 – Understanding Heritage in Practice –  is about the ways in which heritage is understood and experienced by professionals and by the public. It moves through different arenas of professional practice, such as art conservation, museum curatorship, site interpretation and natural heritage conservation. In each case, the notion that only heritage professionals or experts can successfully select and interpret heritage is being eroded by an increasingly powerful community of heritage enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. Opportunities for engaging with the past are expanding beyond traditional museums and sites. In this book you’ll examine the opening up of heritage to new audiences and new meanings by looking beyond the ways in which heritage is offered to the ways in which heritage is valued.

Book 3 – Understanding Heritage and Memory – is about the ways in which heritage adapts and is adapted to new circumstances. We often think of heritage as collective remembering, but war memorials and intangible aspects of culture, such as language and literature, can also function as tools for collective forgetting. The past we inherit and the present we create are both plagued with problems of commemoration.

An online study guide will direct you through each week’s readings and audio-visual materials, with exercises, discussion points and online quizzes. As well as the numerous, interesting case studies in the three books, specially commissioned video and audio pieces offer additional case studies to bring the issues to life. The internet provides valuable resources for studying heritage and this module will help you to learn more about this. Although some assignments will require internet use, you are not assumed to have highly developed online skills before you start.

Vocational relevance

This module will appeal to students interested in public policy, cultural and environmental heritage management, public history and archaeology, art and architectural conservation, museums, galleries and related sectors.

Outside the UK

This is a module in global heritage and it is accessible to students both within and outside the UK.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. While much of your tutor’s time will be spent providing you with online support, we may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Assessment is an essential part of the teaching, so you are expected to complete it all. You will be given more detailed information when you begin the module.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015 when it will be available for the final time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and builds on the OU level 1 modules The arts past and present (AA100) and Voices, texts and material culture (A105). These OU level 1 modules develop skills such as logical thinking, clear expression, essay writing and the ability to select and interpret relevant materials. They also offer an introduction to the range of subjects in the arts and humanities.

If you have not studied at university level before, we strongly advise you to study at OU level 1 before progressing to OU level 2 study.

Any of the OU level 2 arts and humanities modules, in particular Exploring history: medieval to modern 1400–1900 (A200) would make a good pairing with this module. Similarly, you might consider pairing this module with other modules in social sciences or environment, development and international studies.

Your regional or national centre can advise you on where you can see reference copies of OU level 1 study materials. We particularly recommend looking at these materials if you have not successfully completed OU level 1 study or studied at an equivalent level elsewhere.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

There is no set preparatory work. We suggest that you spend some time visiting heritage sites, such as a local museum, stately home, archaeological site, national park or conservation area. Think about this experience and discuss it with family or friends. Guide books and information leaflets can be useful here. Start by getting an understanding of what they tell you about the site, but go on to try to think about how they have been put together – particularly if anything has been left out that might enable you to get a different sense of the meaning or value of the site. Try also to find out as much as you can about the history of the site as it appears today – for example, when was it first opened as a heritage site? Is it actively marketed? If so, to what kind of audience?

More generally, if you have not studied AA100, you will find it useful to have The Arts Good Study Guide (E. Chambers and A. Northedge, The Open University), which will help you to develop your study skills.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

October 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 03/08/2015.

What's included

Books, other printed materials, DVDs, website, online forums.

You will need

If you wish to participate in live online discussions as part of the tutorial support, you will need a headset with built-in microphone.

An integral part of the module is a specially designed online study guide, and some of your assignments will require you to use the internet. If you choose to take the module and you do not have regular access to the internet, you will find that your experience of the module is diminished.

You may choose to view the audio-visual materials on your television instead of your computer, in which case you will need a DVD player and television.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Fairclough, G., et al. (ed) The Heritage Reader Routledge £35.99 - ISBN 9780415372862
  • Smith, L.J. Uses of Heritage Routledge £24.99 - ISBN 9780415318310

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

There are sections of the module which make heavy use of illustrations, but assessment is not based on visual discrimination. If you have severely impaired sight you might benefit from the help of a sighted assistant to access this material. Brief descriptions of key visual materials are available.

Some discussions and collaborative activities may take place as live voice-based events in our audioconferencing (audiographics) environment, which combines voice, text and images. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.