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

DPhil in Archaeological Science

About the course

The DPhil in Archaeological Science provides students with the opportunity to pursue substantial independent research on their own which contributes to the development and application of scientific methods to the study of the past.

The DPhil is examined only by thesis and there is no formal course of instruction. Students are required to complete a research project that they should design with their supervisors, who are experts in their field of research. Projects which cross disciplinary boundaries, for example with archaeology or classical archaeology, are welcome.

While the degree of contact varies depending on individual circumstances, students generally develop a close relationship with their supervisors. You are also encouraged to attend lectures and participate in research seminars, including the numerous and wide-ranging weekly seminar series organised within the cutting-edge research groups, particularly bioarchaeology, chronology, and materials and technology. These also often provide opportunities for you to present your own work. 

The DPhil is a full-time degree and students are expected to complete their theses, which have a maximum word length of 80,000 words, within three or at the most four years. Students can apply to submit the thesis as a collection of publishable papers. To begin with, students are admitted as Probationer Research Students, transferring to full doctoral status within four terms of their arrival. Their progress is formally assessed through the submission of written work and an interview by a small assessment panel ('transfer of status'), while a further similar assessment ('confirmation of status') is held within seven terms of their arrival.

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 presentational skills at an early stage of your career.

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.

Supervision

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.

Graduate destinations

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a master's degree in archaeological science; and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in archaeology or science.

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

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.

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.

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 requirement

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

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

In the majority of cases interviews are not held.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

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.

Resources

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 computers and desk space with points for laptop computers. The RLAHA also has excellent laboratory facilities. You should discuss with your potential 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.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£14,765
Overseas£24,910

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 likely increases 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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

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.

Living costs

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are strongly encouraged to contact with 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 staff members who act as primary DPhil supervisors are listed on the School of Archaeology website.  

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.

Research proposal:
Up to two pages

A clearly set out and well-documented research proposal, written in English, is required. The overall page count should include any bibliography.

This will be assessed for:

  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of the project
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project with the resources and time (a maximum of four years) available for the course 
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability.

To demonstrate that the project is feasible you must provide sufficient detail on the essential and desirable resources required for your proposed research project. This should be discussed with your potential supervisor and should include information on collaborations, fieldwork, samples and the analytical equipment required. It is normal for aspects of the project to change once you have started but your proposal should highlight the main research question, methods, data and sources that are key to the project.

Written work:
Two essays 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.

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, 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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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