DPhil in Archaeological Science
About the course
The DPhil in Archaeological Science provides students with the opportunity to pursue substantial independent research that contributes to the development and application of scientific methods to the study of the past.
The DPhil is a full-time degree, during which you will carry out research and produce a substantial thesis. You will be required to complete a research project that you should design with your supervisor, who will be an expert in their field of research. Projects which cross disciplinary boundaries, for example with archaeology or classical archaeology, are welcome. Some suggested projects and recently completed DPhil projects are listed on the School website.
Although there is no formal course of instruction, you will be trained in relevant laboratory techniques, and you are encouraged to attend lectures and participate in research seminars. These will include the numerous and wide-ranging weekly seminar series organised within research groups, particularly bioarchaeology, chronology, and materials and technology. Details of taught course lectures and research seminar series term cards are available on the School webpages. Seminars These also often provide opportunities for you to present your own work.
For this course, 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.
While the degree of contact varies depending on individual circumstances, it is expected that supervisors and students should meet to discuss progress at least three times each term.
All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). By the fourth term as a PRS student you will be expected to apply for, and achieve, transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status.
A successful transfer of status from PRS to DPhil status will require a formal assessment though the submission of written work and an interview. Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status within seven terms of admission, to show that your work continues to be on track.
Both milestones normally involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination. At each stage you will also make a short formal presentation of your research at one of the doctoral student symposia organised by the School of Archaeology, which will help you to develop your presentation skills at an early stage of your career.
You will be expected to submit an original thesis within three or at the most four years from the date of admission. Students can apply to submit the thesis as a collection of publishable papers. Successful doctoral theses must, among other things, display evidence of substantial and original research, lucid and scholarly presentation and a sound knowledge of the general field within which the thesis falls. To be successfully awarded a DPhil you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.
Graduates from the DPhil in Archaeological Science are successful in obtaining academic posts at universities in the UK, USA and elsewhere, while others engage in postdoctoral research, or go on to positions in industry, commercial archaeology, and heritage management organisations.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
All graduate courses offered by the School of Archaeology
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a master's degree in archaeological science; and
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any relevant subject¹.
Under the UK system, applicants should have a minimum of 65% in their degrees and >67% for their research dissertation. However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree (> 70%) or the equivalent.
For applicants with degrees from the USA, the minimum overall GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have an overall GPA of 3.7 or above.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
¹Such as (but not limited to) Anthropology, Geography, Geology, Biology, Physics or Environmental Studies.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
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.
- Relevant publications are not expected, but may add to the strength of an application.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews may be held, subject to applicant numbers.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Archaeological Science students are 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 desk space with points for laptop computers. The RLAHA also has excellent laboratory facilities. You should discuss with your prospective supervisors whether these are suitable for your proposed research project. You may also make use of specialised IT (including GIS) and other facilities at the School 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.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the school's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
Where can I find further information about fees?
The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research 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 grants to help with these costs from the School of Archaeology, the Faculty of Classics, and/or your college. In the past the costs of fieldwork have ranged from between £0 to £10,000, but to a considerable extent the fieldwork element in a project may be tailored to take account of the funding available. If you choose a laboratory-based project, you may incur additional costs, such as analytical costs, travel expenses for sample collection, etc. With the approval of your supervisor, you may be eligible to apply for grants to help with these costs from the School of Archaeology, your college, and/or external sources. Your supervisor will help you with such funding applications.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Archaeological Science:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Application fee waivers for eligible associated courses
If you apply to this course and up to two eligible associated courses from our predefined list during the same cycle, you can request an application fee waiver so that you only need to pay one application fee.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You are strongly encouraged to contact a prospective supervisor (academic member of staff) before applying to establish if they are accepting new students, and to get their advice on the research proposal. Details of academic staff who act as primary DPhil supervisors including their research interests and contact details, can be found on the departmental website.
General questions about the course should be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic (s) who you would like to supervise your research.
Three overall, academic preferred
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.
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.
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.
A maximum of 1,500 words
Your research proposal should state the research question, mention key literature, and discuss the research methods. The proposal must be written in English.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
The overall word count does not include any bibliography.
This will be assessed for: the coherence of the proposal; the originality of the project; understanding of the proposed area of study; the ability to present a reasoned case in English; the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course; commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course; preliminary knowledge of research techniques; capacity for sustained and intense work; and reasoning ability.
To demonstrate that your project is feasible you should provide details of the resources required, which should be discussed with a prospective supervisor in the School of Archaeology. The proposal should also include information on collaborations, fieldwork, samples, and the analytical equipment required for the project.
It is normal for your ideas to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to define your research question and methods at this moment.
Two essays, a maximum of 2,500 words each
Written work in English and relating directly to the field of archaeological science is required. This can be undergraduate essays or excerpts from a longer work such as chapters from a dissertation. An excerpt should be prefaced by a note which puts it in context.
Please note that this course does not allow the submission of one longer piece of work instead of the two essays.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for ability to assess evidence, derive logical conclusions, and write in a scholarly and lucid manner.
Start or continue your application
You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.