An archaeologist undertaking fieldwork
Archaeological fieldwork in Mexico
(Image Credit: Capture the Uncaptureable / Flickr)

MSc in Archaeology

About the course 

The MSc in Archaeology provides an opportunity for students to build on their knowledge from undergraduate studies and to specialise in a particular area of archaeology, while also offering an excellent foundation for those wishing to continue towards research at doctoral level. It also offers transferable skills which are beneficial to a range of professional roles.

During the 11-month taught master's degree you will specialise in a particular area of archaeology, and will follow one the subject streams listed below:

  • Archaeology of Asia
  • Medieval Archaeology
  • Prehistory and Pre-colonial Archaeology
  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Maritime Archaeology
  • Social Archaeology.

Each stream comprises four modules and a dissertation.

The core module ‘Archaeological Principles: Data and Theory’, which all students take in the first term, is designed to prepare you with necessary archaeological knowledge, research and practical skills to support your other modules and dissertation.

You will take two core modules offered within your stream, one taught in the first term, and the other taught in the second term.

The fourth module is your option module, also taught in the second term. This is chosen from all available modules in any stream, or an option from the MSt in Classical Archaeology. In some circumstances a subject taught in the MSc in Archaeological Science may be taken as your option module and is taught over two terms. If you wish to specialise in the theory and practical applications of science in archaeology, please consider applying to the MSc in Archaeological Science rather than the MSc in Archaeology.

On the MSc in Archaeology, you will also complete a dissertation of 15,000 words on an approved topic relevant to your stream subject, chosen in consultation with a supervisor. Most of the dissertation research and writing takes place in the third term and into the summer.

The degree is a very intensive course, and you will be expected to treat the University vacations as integral parts of your academic work time.

The MSc in Archaeology allows subject specialisation, but also flexibility, by combining core modules with your option module, and topics chosen for your dissertation and summative pre-set essays. The dissertation allows you to develop a larger piece of research in which you can more fully explore a topic. It will allow you to develop your research skills and undertake self-directed and independent research that is a necessary basis for future doctoral research, and highly desirable in non-academic employment.

Teaching and learning

Teaching of stream modules is mainly through a combination of lectures and tutorials which are normally taught in small-groups. Other teaching methods may also include seminars, museum-based classes, laboratory work or other practicals, depending on your stream and module choices. You will usually prepare formative assignments on a weekly or fortnightly basis for your modules. The core Archaeological Principles module is taught by lectures and seminars and will include group work; the assignments given in this module will form the basis of an assessed portfolio.

The teaching methods provide you with the opportunity to debate and discuss essays and topics on a regular basis with other students and teachers. Your assignments will also allow you to develop your writing and presentation skills. The seminars, museum-based classes, laboratory work and practicals provide an arena for you to engage with and develop techniques of analysis and evaluation.

You will have an academic advisor in your subject stream who will advise on module choices and monitor overall progress.

The teaching is supplemented by a wide range of lecture courses, seminar series, and the Graduate Archaeology at Oxford skills seminar series available in the School of Archaeology.

Each member of the academic staff in archaeology normally offers at least one module in his or her areas of specialism over the year, but some modules or streams listed may not be available every year.

Supervision

You will have a dissertation supervisor who, during your supervision meetings, will discuss and guide your research. They will usually be one of the teachers in your subject stream.

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 Principles' option is assessed by a portfolio of work.

Subject stream core option 1 will be assessed by three 2,000-word (max) take-home essays submitted in the second term.

Subject stream core option 2 is assessed by two 5,000-word (max) extended essays submitted in the third term.

The option course is assessed by two 5,000-word (max) extended essays submitted in the third term.

A dissertation of 15,000 words (max) is submitted in late August.

Graduate destinations

It is anticipated that graduates from the MSc in Archaeology will continue to further degree programmes in Archaeology either at Oxford or at leading universities elsewhere. Others may find careers in education, museums, commercial archaeology and the heritage industry.

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

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in Archaeology or a related subject¹.

Under the UK system, applicants should have a minimum of 65% in their degree. However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree (> 70%) or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA in archaeology or a related subject, 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, History, Classics, History of Art, 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 

  • Professional experience in archaeology or related fields will also be considered if you are applying after a period of time out of higher education.
  • 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.

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.

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.

References

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.

Supporting documents

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 are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

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

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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:

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

The School 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 School 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.

The School of Archaeology has lecture, seminar and common rooms. There is a small library with a searchable catalogue available online in the Institute of Archaeology.

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.

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 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.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2022-23

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£15,270
Overseas£30,910

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

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 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.

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 Archaeology:

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. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

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.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

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.

Referees:
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.

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 500 words

You should provide a personal statement written in English that explains why you want to study this particular master’s course and your chosen subject stream. The statement should focus on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations, and should state what you believe the degree will lead to after graduation. 

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

You must state which subject stream you wish to follow. If you do not it may delay the assessment of your application.

The personal statement will be assessed for:

  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your reasons for applying to the School of Archaeology, the MSc in Archaeology and your chosen stream
  • evidence that your academic ability and focus are suited to the demands and nature of the degree
  • coherence
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability.

If you have an idea for your dissertation topic, please include the research question and a brief outline of the proposed sources and method at this moment. It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your topic. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate your familiarity and understanding of the subject.

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.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

It is not necessary that the written works relate directly to archaeology, as there are many things that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as the qualities listed below.

The written work will be assessed for:

  • understanding of the subject area
  • ability to assess evidence
  • ability to construct an argument and derive logical conclusions
  • ability to write in a scholarly and lucid manner
  • presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

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.

Application Guide Apply

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