MSt in Archaeological Science | University of Oxford
Femur study
An archaeologist studies a human femur in the laboratory
(Image Credit: Pawel Sytniewski / Oxford University Images)

MSt in Archaeological Science

About the course

The MSt in Archaeological Science provides a broad introductory education for those with a first degree in archaeology wishing to apply science-based research methods, or for those with a first degree in a science subject wishing to learn about specifically archaeological issues amenable to scientific methods.

The MSt in Archaeological Science is designed to give a broad but detailed grounding in the theory as well as practical experience in the major applications of science in archaeology, particularly for archaeologists who intend to pursue a career in archaeological project management or become policy makers in this area.

The MSt in Archaeological Science is based on the research strengths of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology. The MSt consists of three taught elements taught over two nine-week terms, comprising materials analysis and the study of technological change, molecular bioarchaeology, and principles and practice of scientific dating, plus a 5,000-word report on a practical project chosen in consultation with the supervisor. The pre-set essay(s) and practical project provide opportunity for specialisation within these areas.

Most students study all three archaeological science options, but it is possible to replace one of these with an option from the Master's in Archaeology or the Master's in Classical Archaeology run by the department. Students can also supplement the course by attending teaching in another course in preparation for the extended essay. One option which provides very useful supplementary skills is the Practical Archaeobotany option from the MSt in Archaeology.

Each option has a co-ordinator who will be responsible for arranging your option teaching, while the course director has overall responsibility for your progress, and you will have a supervisor for your individual practical project.

Teaching is through a combination of lectures, classes and laboratory sessions requiring regular written work, and is supplemented by a range of graduate seminars. The course benefits from the small size of the cohort (usually about eight, including both MSt and MSc), allowing many opportunities for student participation. Class presentations are also required, providing valuable experience and the opportunity for feedback from your peers.

The archaeological science options are assessed in early May by written examination, plus a 10,000-word extended essay. Options taken from other master's degrees in archaeology are examined by a pair of 5,000-word pre-set essays, and the remaining options in archaeological science require only one 5,000-word pre-set essay. The practical project is of approximately six weeks duration, over May and June, culminating in a 5,000-word report.

A viva voce examination may be held, when candidates' work-books may also be examined, at the discretion of the examiners.

Graduate destinations

Graduates from the MSt in Archaeological Science continue to careers in archaeological project management or more generally in commercial archaeology and in heritage management organisations.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in archaeology or science.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7 or above, a first-class degree or the equivalent.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Relevant publications are not expected, but may add to the strength of an application.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Applicants may have either a predominantly archaeological or science-based education, although it is advantageous to have some experience of both subjects.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the School of Archaeology to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the School of Archaeology and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the School of Archaeology

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

Resources

Archaeological Science students are all based at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art (RLAHA). You will have the use of workspace in the RLAHA which has computers and desk space with points for laptop computers.

The RLAHA also has excellent laboratory facilities which are used by all members of the laboratory, including students undertaking dissertations. Students may also make use of specialised IT (including GIS) and other facilities in the Institute of Archaeology.

The Radcliffe Science Library, the Sackler and Balfour Libraries are the main services within the University for the material you will require. The RLAHA library also carries some core texts and journals that can be viewed on site.

Graduate students run their own organisation, Graduate Archaeology at Oxford, which provides further skills seminars, a mentoring programme, social events and a very successful conference series. This provides many opportunities for you to develop your skills, present your research and develop ideas for the next stage of your career.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (further details will be announced in October 2016), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£7,400£3,021£10,421
Overseas£16,770£3,021£19,791

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff prior to submitting your application. 

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Personal statement:
300 words

You should provide a personal statement explaining (in English) why you want to study this particular master’s course, focusing on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

This will be assessed for:

  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your reasons for applying
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,500 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples, written in English, are required. These can be undergraduate essays or excerpts from a longer work such as chapters from a dissertation, in which case they should be prefaced by a note which puts them in context.

The written work should relate directly to archaeological science. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for ability to assess evidence, derive logical conclusions, and write in a scholarly and lucid manner.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Academic references are generally preferred. One professional reference is acceptable, but in cases where more than one such reference is sought you should contact the department to explain why this is necessary.

Your references will support academic achievement, and potential for graduate study and research.