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Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Conservation Studies 
99760  Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Conservation Studies 
South African Institute for Heritage Science (Pty) Ltd (The) 
CHE - Council on Higher Education  HEQSF - Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework 
Postgraduate Diploma  Field 10 - Physical, Mathematical, Computer and Life Sciences  Physical Sciences 
Undefined  120  Not Applicable  NQF Level 08  Regular-Provider-ELOAC 
Reregistered  SAQA 1141/23  2021-07-01  2024-06-30 
2025-06-30   2028-06-30  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification does not replace any other qualification and is not replaced by any other qualification. 

The purpose of this qualification is to equip learners with the necessary knowledge and skills to undertake professional, highly skilled work within a conservation field. The qualification has been designed to equip learners with broad knowledge of conservation theory and practice as well as a working knowledge of four specialisations namely paper conservation, ceramics conservation, metals conservation and stone and mortar conservation. Learners will also have the opportunity to do more specialised work in two specialisations of their choice. The modules have been developed to demand a high level of theoretical engagement, technical skills and the ability to relate knowledge and skills to a range of contexts in order to establish the abilities which characterise a Conservator.

All conservation projects also contain an element of research which informs the physical intervention. This includes: establishing the composition, manufacturing processes and mechanisms of deterioration which then guide techniques and materials employed during the conservation process. These selections are subject to trials and assessment of appropriateness before being implemented as a treatment regime. The curriculum for the qualification includes a research project which will not only contribute to the abilities characterising a Conservator, but will also serve a further purpose of the qualification, namely to prepare learners for further studies.

Opportunities to train in the field of conservation are comparatively rare. A Heritage Sector Skills Audit, commissioned by the National Department of Arts and Culture indicated that there is insufficient provision for accredited learning in support of the South African Heritage Sector. More specifically, this national audit identified a shortage of conservation skills, which the study lists among the top four among 21 critical skills shortfalls which it identifies. This shortage has detrimental consequences for the condition of various parts of the South African heritage, including museum collections, the built environment, public installations and innumerable heritage treasures in private ownership.

The findings of the above-mentioned skills audit led to recommendations that the Department of Arts and Culture should engage with training providers, including private providers, to ensure that training in specialised areas of the Heritage Sector is provided in the near future and to investigate the development and accreditation of a wider range of Heritage related qualifications. During recent years, the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) has repeatedly urged Institutes to seek formal accreditation for their programmes, expressing the Department's hopes to address this dire shortage of formally qualified conservators within the ranks of the heritage sector.

The reason for the establishment (in recent years) of Postgraduate Conservation qualifications at several universities in Europe and North America has relevance to this discourse; namely, the need for a better scientific education than would be possible by means of apprenticeships. This same rationale must be borne in mind as South Africa ventures to introduce this qualification - its first conservation training qualification.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Conservation Studies will provide the opportunity to learners already qualified at graduate level in fields related to Heritage Conservation, to acquire scientific-based knowledge of conservation theory and practice as well as learning in regard to enterprise and commercial practice - enabling such candidates to work as a Conservator, either in the Heritage Sector or in private practice. The qualification will also equip learners for further study at a Master's Degree Level.

The sustained implementation and field application of Conservation Science qualifications, astutely tailored to the South African environment and context over the course of two decades has prepared a thorough and highly suitable foundation for the offering of this Postgraduate Diploma. This qualification will act as a catalyst for the further and broader development of Conservation Science and Conservation practice within South Africa. 

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):
In cases where working experience in full-time conservation practice can be satisfactorily demonstrated by persons who do not meet the requirement of a suitable Bachelor Degree, admission may be granted on the basis of RPL. In such cases, submission of a portfolio of evidence will be mandatory in order to supplement the candidate's application before the selection panel.

Learners may apply for credits for some modules on the basis of RPL by submitting a portfolio which provides evidence of recent application of the content of modules which they have done previously. The content of the portfolio will be assessed against the outcomes of the modules and a mark will be awarded for each module for which a learner has received credits. Learners to whom credits have been awarded for certain modules may still do all the activities regarding those modules, including assessments, in order to improve their marks for the modules, but they will not receive marks lower than those they have already received.

Entry Requirements:
  • A Bachelor's Degree, Level 7 but preference will be given to candidates holding a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Engineering), with Chemistry at Level 5.
  • Candidates holding any other Degree may also qualify if an appropriate Chemistry bridging course is successfully completed. 


    This qualification consists of compulsory and elective modules at Level 8, totalling to 120 Credits

    Compulsory Modules at Level 8.
  • Conservation Theory and Skills, 8 Credits.
  • Introduction to Paper Conservation, 8 Credits.
  • Introduction to Ceramics Conservation, 8 Credits.
  • Introduction to Metals Conservation, 8 Credits.
  • Introduction to Stone and Mortar Conservation, 8 Credits.
  • Identity of the Conservator, 3 Credits
  • Use of Software for Conservation, 0 Credits.
  • Chemistry for Conservators, 10 Credits.
  • Commercial Practice, 6 Credits.
  • Heritage Legislation, 4 Credits.
  • Research Project, 35 Credits.

    Elective Modules at Level 8 (Choose two):
  • Conservation in the Built Environment, 11 Credits.
  • Advanced Paper Conservation, 11 Credits.
  • Advanced Ceramics Conservation, 11 Credits.
  • Advanced Metals Conservation, 11 Credits. 

    1. Communicate through written and verbal means an advanced interpretation of the stipulations outlined in the 'Code of Ethics'.
    2. Demonstrate an understanding of the supporting chemistry and scientific practices which are fundamental to the accurate identification of materials, assessment of conservation materials and techniques, determination of deterioration mechanisms and assessment of environmental conditions.
    3. Execute on complex objects the treatment required to conserve material without causing physical and aesthetic damage or obscuring/removing historically significant information, displaying sensitivity and judgment when applying foreign materials to the historic fabric.
    4. Generate technical documents which record all findings and treatment processes in order to produce instructive condition, treatment and instructional reports, employing digital, photographic and diagrammatic means as appropriate.
    5. Understand and comply with health and safety requirements in respect to tools and materials employed, as well as the operation and maintenance of tools and equipment where required.
    6. Apply a critical understanding of the role of international and national instruments in shaping regional and national heritage legislation and policies.
    7. Apply a range of appropriate research methods, including primary research and experimentation.
    8. Demonstrate an awareness of and familiarity with, current research and debates around a chosen subject and a wide range of reference materials gathering.
    9. Structure and express coherent, concise and focused arguments and critically evaluate work produced by self and others. 

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 1:
  • Identify, describe, assess and apply the rationale for and impact of ethical considerations in all aspects of heritage preservation.
  • Demonstrate on an on-going basis through essays, reports, audio-visual presentations and oral defences, the ethics, values and importance of heritage preservation.
  • Demonstrate flexibility in the choice and application of conservation interventions and prescriptions.
  • Demonstrate proficient client relationships.
  • Display conduct which is beneficial and to the advancement of the profession and colleague relationships as well as the promotion of learnerships.
  • Communicate the purpose and value of conservation to the general public and associated professionals.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 2:
  • Demonstrate by practical execution, reports, specifications and publication, the ability to perform chemical analyses.
  • Assist with material identification and display scientific knowledge to prescribe instrumental and physical analyses.
  • Determine the condition of an object/structure/installation, monitor environmental conditions and evaluate storage and display materials.
  • Remedy deterioration and/or stabilise an object/structure/installation.
  • Apply knowledge in the formulation of effective environmental management systems.
  • Stipulate processes and protocols to store, handle and display objects and specify intervention treatments and materials.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 3:
  • Execute previously generated treatment specifications while taking into account ethical requirements in order to remedy the identified problem without compromising the historic, aesthetic and physical integrity of the object, structure or installation.
  • Redirect and justify treatment proposals/actions should unforeseen discoveries during treatment necessitate this in order to preserve/safeguard the integrity of the object or installation at all times.
  • Analyse and report on the veracity of the information gathered during damage analysis and assessment as instructed by the physical implementation of the treatment in order to arrive at an integrated solution for the conservation project.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 4:
  • Produce a clear, comprehensive and illustrated report that gives an accurate account of the ethics, analysis and interpretation, condition, treatment procedures, heath and safely procedures, decision making processes, environmental requirements, economic considerations, legislative issues, storage and handling requirements.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 5:
  • Understand the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 with its specific regulations in regard to statutory compliance related to conservation in the laboratory, conservation studio and built environment.
  • Complete the requisite Health and Safety Data Sheets in compliance with the Regulations.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 6:
  • Identify weaknesses and gaps in the application of a legislative approach to heritage conservation and remedies to effect a more holistic approach towards cultural heritage protection and its advancement.
  • Understand and describe the reasons for and the origins and sources of international and national heritage law with particular reference to the differentiating nature, role and legal force of international conventions, declarations and charters and of national law and policies.
  • Analyse the requirements for a coherent and consistent regime of heritage law and associated instruments in view of the current strengths and weaknesses of the regime at international and national level.
  • Identify and describe the ethical considerations associated with the application and implementation of international and national legal instruments in the area of cultural heritage conservation and how this may impact the effectiveness or otherwise of the intended legal outcomes.
  • Ccritically analyse and present arguments concerning the efficacy of legal instruments aimed at the protection of cultural heritage in view of gaps and problems experienced by practitioners and communities involved with the practice of heritage conservation.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 7:
  • Identify a research issue.
  • Plan a research project to address the issue which has been identified.
  • Defend the choice of the research method which has been used to address an issue.
  • Draw convincing and appropriate conclusions.
  • Generate information and ideas by research.
  • Answer questions in a way which indicates that understanding of the relevance of the subject in the context of a wider field of knowledge.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 8:
  • Locate relevant reference material which has been selected from a variety of sources.
  • Record and interpret information and ideas.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 9:
  • Assess reference material critically.
  • Record the research investigation results and conclusions.

    Integrated Assessment:
    A variety of formative and summative assessment methods will be used to assess both theoretical and practical components of the qualification. Tasks for formative assessment will include control tests, practical work assignments, lab-notebooks, safety folders and work submitted in the course of research supervision. Tasks for summative assessment will include written tests, case studies, treatment specifications, condition and treatment reports, essays, a report on a research project and oral defence. 

    The University of Lincoln in the UK offers a Graduate Diploma in Conservation. This qualification provides graduates from non-conservation backgrounds with skills, knowledge and understanding required to undertake study of Conservation at a Master's Level. Learners for this qualification normally hold one of the following qualifications:
  • A first Degree from a United Kingdom university or equivalent.
  • A professional qualification recognised as being equivalent to a first Degree.
  • Other qualifications and/or experience which demonstrates that a candidate possesses appropriate knowledge and skills equivalent to a first Degree.
    For learners not wishing to progress to Masters Level it is a foundation for further training or work in fields allied to conservation.

    The Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Conservation Studies is comparable to the above-mentioned qualification with regard to its twofold purpose of preparing learners for further studies at a Masters Level and providing a foundation for work in the conservation field. However, the duration of the two qualifications differs. The content of the Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Conservation Studies slightly differs with the graduate diploma, however the focus is similar. 

    This is the first qualification that this institution has had accredited and they plan to increase their offerings. There are, therefore, no specific articulation opportunities within the institution.

    There are systemic articulation opportunities both horizontally and vertically, with qualifications offered by other institutions provided learners meet the minimum entry requirements of the qualifications and the institutions concerned.

    Horizontal Articulation:
  • Bachelor of Science Honours Construction Management, Level 8.

  • Master of Built Environment, Level 9.
  • Master of Science: Urban and Regional Planning: Environmental Planning, Level 9.
  • Masters: Construction Management (Built Environment), Level 9. 





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    1. South African Institute for Heritage Science (Pty) Ltd (The) 

    All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.