MSc in Archaeological Science | University of Oxford
A person holding a human femur in a lab
An archaeologist studies a human femur in the laboratory
(Image Credit: Pawel Sytniewski / Oxford University Images)

MSc in Archaeological Science

About the course

The MSc 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 MSc 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. It is intended for archaeologists or scientists who wish to go on to undertake research in archaeological science, or archaeologists who intend to pursue a career in the management of archaeological projects or become policy makers in this area and would like to have a sound understanding of the potential of science to elucidate archaeological problems. The MSc also acts as preliminary training for doctoral research.

The MSc in Archaeological Science is based on the research strengths of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology. The MSc consists of three 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 five month research project chosen in consultation with the supervisor. The pre-set essay(s) and research 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 MSt in Classical Archaeology run by the school.

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 research 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), allowing many opportunities for student contribution. Class presentations are also required, providing valuable experience and the opportunity for feedback from your peers.

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.

Assessment

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. Students submit a 15,000- to 20,000-word dissertation on their research project in mid September.

viva voce examination may be held and students' workbooks may also be examined at the discretion of the examiners.

Graduate destinations

Many graduates from the MSc in Archaeological Science continue to further degree programmes in Archaeology, especially at Oxford, or to careers in archaeological project management or more generally in commercial archaeology, industry and heritage management.

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 2021-22

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 first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours 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 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

  • Substantial professional experience may be taken into account.
  • 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.

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.

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. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

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

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

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 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 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

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the school's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£15,360
Overseas (including EU)£25,900

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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

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 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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

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 MSc in Archaeological Science:

How to apply

You are not expected 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.

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:
A maximum of 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.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Written work:
Two essays of a maximum 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.

Please note that this course does not allow the submission of one longer piece of work instead of the two essays.

The written work should relate directly to archaeological science. 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.

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.

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

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