About the course
The MSt in Classical Archaeology is designed for those who wish to build on undergraduate studies in classical archaeology, as well as for those with experience in other areas of classical studies wishing to develop an understanding of the material culture.
The MSt provides the flexibility to allow you to choose from a wide range of periods which provide broad overviews, and detailed options focusing on different specific aspects of the subject.
You will choose one period module. A list of typical period modules is provided below. Not all modules run every year.
- Early Iron Age Greece, 1200-700 BC
- Archaic, 800-480 BC
- Classical, 500-300 BC
- Hellenistic, 330-30 BC
- Late Republican, 200-30 BC
- Early Imperial, 30 BC-AD 120
- Middle Imperial, AD 70-250
- Late Antiquity, AD 280-650
- Byzantine, AD 600-1453
You will then take two further option modules which will enable you to develop a deeper understanding of a particular field of research. A list of typical option subjects is provided below and more information is available on the department’s website (See Further information and enquiries). Not all modules listed will be available every year.
- Topics in Aegean Prehistory
- Roman Architecture
- Greek Coinage
- Greek Sculpture
- Greek and Roman Landscape Archaeology
- Roman Provincial Art
- Late Roman and Byzantine architecture
- The Archaeology of Greek Religion
- Historical Narrative in Art
- Aegean Bronze Age Trade OR Religion
- Burials, settlements, and society in Iron Age Greece, 1200-650 BC
- Greek Vases
- Greek and Roman wallpaintings
- Etruscan Italy
- Hellenistic Far East
- Gandharan Art and the Classical World
- Pompeii and Ostia
- Roman Coinage
- Archaeology of the Roman Economy
- Maritime Archaeology
- Lived Religion in Late Antiquity
You may also be permitted to study an unlisted topic within Classical archaeology, or another directly related to it, provided that the topic is appropriate and teaching is available. If you are seeking a broader course then you may, if you wish, in addition to one period option and one subject option, select a third subject from among those offered by a number of cognate disciplines.
Teaching is mainly through small-group tutorials or classes of usually one to five students, for which you prepare short essays on a weekly basis, supplemented by a wide range of lecture courses and graduate seminars.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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. You will meet with your academic supervisor at least at the start of each term.
You will have a departmental supervisor, normally in your main area of interest, who may provide some of your teaching but will advise on option choices and monitor overall progress. Each member of the academic staff in Classical archaeology offers a different subject in his or her areas of specialism in each of the first two terms, so you can normally choose from about eight different subjects each term; these cover major topics from the Bronze Age to the Byzantine period. Not all courses listed will be available every year.
The subject options are examined by pairs of pre-set essays, submitted early in the following term, or you may choose to prepare a dissertation in place of one subject, submitted in the middle of the final term (Trinity term).
The final term is devoted to the broad study of a particular period, which is assessed by written examination at the end of the term. There is also a compulsory viva voce examination for the whole course.
Many graduates from the MSt in Classical Archaeology continue to further degree programmes in Classical Archaeology or related fields (ancient history, museum studies) 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.
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, 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.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying.
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 Classical archaeology or related fields such as classics or ancient history.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or 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
- Evidence of training in ancient and relevant modern languages would be an advantage.
- 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 overall score
|Minimum score per component
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*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.
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.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. 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 described 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. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
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:
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.
The School of Archaeology provides computer rooms for the use of all graduate students, with 24-hour access, offering the usual range of software, while 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.
Students in Classical archaeology also have access to networked computers in the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies. There is a small library in the institute and a searchable catalogue is available on-line. The Bodleian Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library, a world-class library for archaeology, classics, and art history, is situated between the Institute of Archaeology, Ioannou Centre and the Ashmolean Museum, and is the central facility; this provides for most student needs. The school has close ties with the Ashmolean Museum, the collections of which, including the Cast Gallery of Classical Sculpture, contribute to graduate teaching. The School of Archaeology also provides specialist skills seminars.
The School of Archaeology has lecture and seminar rooms and a common room. There is also a small library at the Institute of Archaeology on Beaumont Street, while lectures and graduate seminars in Classical archaeology are also held in the nearby Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, where there is another common room.
For students who choose to take modules in archaeological science, the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art has a range of equipment for cutting edge techniques across scientific dating, bio-archaeology and materials analysis.
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.
Oxford’s School of Archaeology is one of the few departments in the world where many diverse aspects of archaeological research are brought together to address critical questions about our past.
The department’s graduate courses are based around the three main centres of archaeological research in Oxford, working together to offer support and facilities to graduates:
- Institute of Archaeology
- Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art
- Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies
One of the great strengths of Oxford archaeology is the opportunity for cross-disciplinary research, making use of the expertise in more than one centre.
Archaeological research at Oxford has a long and distinguished history, with current expertise and interests in the development of human societies from the Palaeolithic to the Early Modern periods, and spanning much of the globe.
As a graduate student at Oxford you will be part of a world-class university, offering unsurpassed opportunities for innovative study and research, and the department’s thriving graduate community of over 150 students drawn from across the world. The four University Museums, including the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers, the world-class libraries, and the University’s other archaeological resources are all available to you to stimulate your interests and increase your knowledge.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
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.
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.
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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the MSt in Classical Archaeology:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide.
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.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
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.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
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.
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.
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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 300 words
You should provide a personal statement of no more than 300 words, explaining in English why you want to study this particular course and focusing on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. Please also list all subject and period options in which you might be interested.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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.
Two essays, a maximum of 2,500 words each
Academic written work in English 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.
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 topic(s) of the work relate directly to classical archaeology.
This will be assessed for ability to assess evidence, derive logical conclusions, and write in a scholarly and lucid manner.