MSc in Archaeology | University of Oxford
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 degree you will specialise in a particular area of archaeology, and will follow one of a number of subject streams:

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

You will 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 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 of one to five students. 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.

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.

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.

Assessment

  • The 'Archaeological Principles' option is assessed by a portfolio of work
  • Subject stream core option 1 is assessed by a three-hour written examination in the second term
  • Subject stream core option 2 is assessed by two 5,000-word pre-set essays submitted in the third term
  • The option course is assessed by two 5,000-word pre-set essays submitted in the third term.
  • A dissertation of 15,000 words is submitted in late August.

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

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. 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 first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in archaeology or a relevant subject.

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, 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 

  • Professional experience in archaeology may be taken into account.
  • 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

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

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

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)£13,075
Overseas£23,505

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 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 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 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 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:
Up to 500 words

You should provide a personal statement written in English that explains why you want to study this particular master’s course and which subject stream you will follow. 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. 

This 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 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.

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.

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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