MPhil in Archaeology | University of Oxford
Archaeological fieldwork in Mexico
(Image Credit: Capture the Uncaptureable / Flickr)

MPhil in Archaeology

About the course

The MPhil in Archaeology provides an opportunity for students to build on their knowledge from undergraduate studies, while also offering an excellent foundation for those wishing to continue towards research at doctoral level.

The MPhil in Archaeology adds a student-led research project onto the MSt year. It is ideal if you are thinking of carrying on to doctoral research and wish to acquire higher levels of research skills and/or complete a medium-sized individual research project before embarking on doctoral study. Flexibility is built into the degree to allow you to create your own unique courses that reflect your chosen area of study.

In your first year, you take one of a range of core papers plus an option paper, with a third subject to be taken from either set of options in a combination specific to your interests during the academic year. Most students choose to follow one of a number of streams, although this is not a formal requirement, including the archaeology of Asia, and environmental, European, maritime or Palaeolithic archaeology.

If you are are seeking a broader course then you may, if you wish, select one subject from among those offered in a number of cognate disciplines. In the second year, you take a fourth taught subject from within archaeology and work on your thesis.

You will have a supervisor in your main area of interest, who will usually supervise your dissertation and may provide some other teaching, and will advise on option choices and monitor overall progress. Each member of the academic staff in archaeology offers at least one different subject in his or her areas of specialism over the year, but not all courses listed will be available every year.

Teaching is mainly through small-group tutorials or classes of one to five students, for which you will prepare short essays on a weekly basis. Tutorials are supplemented by a wide range of lecture courses and graduate seminars.

The options are examined by pre-set essays, while the core paper is assessed by a written three-hour examination at the end of the final term of the first year. In their second year students take one additional option, examined by pre-set essays, along with their thesis. The thesis subject is decided by the end of the first year, with any fieldwork taking place in the long vacation. Research and writing occupy most of the second year. There may be a viva voce examination for the whole course.

Graduate destinations

Many graduates from the MPhil in Archaeology continue to further degree programmes in Archaeology either at Oxford or at leading universities elsewhere, predominantly in the UK and the USA. Others find careers in education, museums, commercial archaeology and the heritage industry.

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 a relevant subject.

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.

Professional experience in archaeology may be taken into account.

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.  


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

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.


The Institute of Archaeology provides a computer room for the use of all graduate students, with 24-hour access. This has both Windows and Mac machines offering the usual range of software; a number of computers provide specialist GIS and mapping-related software.

The Institute of Archaeology has a wide-range of digital facilities, including desktop imaging and manipulation for publication and dissertation/thesis production such as full-colour scanning of slides, negatives, maps and other paper plan originals.

There is a small library in the Institute and a searchable catalogue is available on-line. The Sackler Library, a world-class library for archaeology, is situated between the Institute of Archaeology and the Ashmolean Museum, and is the central facility, providing for most student needs. Students also use the Balfour Library of anthropology and ethnography.

The department has close ties with the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum, the collections of which may contribute to graduate teaching.

The Institute of Archaeology has a lecture room and a seminar room, and a common room which also houses a small library.

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.


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), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).


Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)

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

If you decide to undertake fieldwork as part of your studies, you will need to cover all expenses, eg travel, accommodation and living expenses, visa and medical fees (such as vaccinations), etc. The location and duration of fieldwork will vary for each student, which means that the cost of the fieldwork requirement will vary depending on your area of study. You may be eligible 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, these will usually be met from Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art funds, or, if the costs are substantial, 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

The department's website provides further information in the Notes for Guidance documents, which are available to download from the Graduate Resources page.

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 may find it useful to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

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.


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 written in English that explains why you want to study this particular master’s course, focusing on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. A clearly set out and well-documented research proposal (of up to two pages) in English can be also included as a single, combined document with your personal statement, with an appropriate sub-heading.

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 ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

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.

It is not necessary that these relate directly to archaeology. 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.

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