MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology

Course details


Oxford is a research-intensive university, and the subject of Archaeology is currently ranked as No. 2 in the world by the QS World Rankings (was No. 1 in 2019-20).

Prof David Griffiths, Professor of Archaeology at Oxford University and founder of the MSc course sums up its aims as follows:

"If you share with me a passion for landscape, and an urge to find out how it has all come together and changed over time, then this course could be for you. The landscapes we experience in the UK and in every other part of the inhabited world are the products of human engagement and interference with the natural environment. Agriculture, industry, warfare, settlement and belief systems have all left their mark over the centuries. We can use and develop field and investigative skills to record and interpret these, and to tell the story of the landscape. Although we make most use of UK examples on our teaching, the course has no period or geographical limits - meaning you can follow your own interests. Landscape Archaeology is all about being out there together, exploring the traces of our fascinating shared past."

Oxford is a wonderful place to study and it has unrivalled facilities. We have been running this part-time masters course successfully for over twenty years (its first intake was in October 2002). The overwhelming response gained from our students over the years is one of satisfaction, enjoyment and fulfilment. We have brought together a good balance of recent graduates, older and younger students, historic environment professionals and those with a personal or community interest in the subject. We have had some great field experiences and outstanding seminars. Although the coursework requires a solid commitment from you over two years, the course atmosphere is informal and friendly, and we aim to support every student with ideas, guidance and encouragement.

Open event

A hybrid open event for this course was held on Saturday 2 December 2023. If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please get in touch by emailing us at:

Quick links

What the course offers

The MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology is a part-time modular course over two years, leading to an Oxford University Postgraduate Degree in Archaeology. Students become fully matriculated members of Oxford University during their period of registration, and therefore also become a member of a college. The course is designed for the needs of students who wish to study part-time and this includes those who are in full-time employment. Those with a personal or professional interest in landscape archaeology are welcome to apply.

Landscape Archaeology is an increasingly popular and widely-understood concept. Using a multi-period systematic approach, it is concerned with understanding past human impacts on the resources, topography and environment of the whole landscape, from uplands to coasts, and from farmed landscapes to urban/industrial areas.

Many methods of research are being developed in landscape archaeology, including geophysical survey, digital mapping and remote-sensing techniques such as LiDAR. These take their place alongside fieldwalking, historic landscape analysis, aerial photography and selective excavation to provide an effective armoury of techniques for the researcher. Skills such as survey and resource assessment are becoming essential for anyone involved in the management of the historic environment. Effective communication and presentation of the value and potential of the historic landscape are vital in the world of planning, tourism, outreach and education.

The course involves a combination of academic study and field practice - we use technologies to research and map the landscape, but the essence of the course is humanistic and interpretative, and most of the coursework consists of written and illustrated narratives. 

This course is designed to appeal to those who already have experience of studying archaeology (or a closely-related subject) at undergraduate degree or diploma level and who wish to expand their academic, practical and professional skills in landscape archaeology. With a strong (but not exclusive) emphasis on the archaeology of Britain, it focuses on the applications of research methods in varying landscape situations. The course format is flexible and enables students to pursue their own research interests leading to a 15,000 word dissertation.

Student experience

"I found the course both challenging and hugely rewarding, and the skills and knowledge I gained have made a significant contribution to developing my career within the archaeological profession." Andrew Walsh, Worcestershire Archaeology, formerly National Trust for Scotland archaeologist, St Kilda.

"I had the most enjoyable time during the 2 years reading for my MSc in ALA. The course is carefully designed covering all relevant aspects of landscape archaeology placing landscape analysis within a strong theoretical framework. I thoroughly enjoyed all modules from the Historic Landscape to Archaeological Prospection and in particular Digital Landscapes and GIS.  The Saturday sessions were very dynamic, delivered by well-known scholars and gave a solid introduction to the various topics. After the sessions we would head to the pub where usually very animated discussions followed from what we had learnt. Field trips added considerably to the teaching sessions and the Field Training Week provided the perfect context for landscape analysis. We were able to put in practice various surveying techniques and learnt how to 'read the landscape'. The resources of the Department are excellent, and I cherished the moments and the reading time I spent in many of the libraries the University has to offer. College life gave a perfect background for social networking. Throughout the course the atmosphere was very friendly resulting in long-lasting friendships; we keep in touch on a regular basis and we still manage to meet up twice a year! During the course and through my dissertation I was encouraged to pursue my own research interests in Latin American archaeology and Mediterranean geoarchaeology. The MSc in ALA gave me confidence to further develop my personal research, leading to the presentation of a paper at an international conference." Mariza Christina Kormann, East Riding Archaeological Society.

"This masters course provided me with an extremely useful range and depth of knowledge. Successfully completing it increased my professional confidence and self-belief enormously." Sharon Soutar, Field Investigator, Historic England.

"The MSc is challenging, enjoyable and seamlessly combines theoretical knowledge with applied archaeological skills. As such, the course provided me with a springboard to the DPhil in Archaeology, enriching both academic research and practical fieldwork elements." Sally Taylor, D.Phil student (part-time) at Oxford. 

Course details

Course structure

The course is divided into two one-year modules, Year A and Year B, which are run in alternate academic years (from October to September):

Year A begins in October 2024

Year B begins in October 2025

All students attend both modules, but they may be done in any order depending on year of admission. Because the course is modular there is no advantage to one combination over the other. Students normally study two consecutive modules and this is regarded as the best way to experience the course. However, in exceptional cases, regulations permit a student to intermit between modules (by permission of the Board of Studies only).

Both one-year modules have one core paper and two advanced papers spread over three terms.

Year A:

  • Core Paper: Method and Theory in Landscape Archaeology
  • Advanced Paper (Artefacts and Ecofacts in the Landscape)
  • Advanced Paper (Archaeological Prospection)

Year B:

  • Core Paper: Managing Historic Landscapes in the 21st Century
  • Advanced Paper (Digital Landscapes)
  • Advanced Paper (Reading the Historic Landscape)
  • Field Training Week (Field Log Book)

Instead of one advanced paper, students may choose to opt for a ‘flexi-placement’ comprising at least 14 days spread over approximately one year to be spent working at an organisation which is involved in an aspect of landscape archaeology. The Course Director will supply details of these.

The dissertation (15,000 words) is the student’s own project which develops throughout the course and is submitted at the end of the second module. It can be based on a piece of fieldwork, or a methodological or artefactual study. Each student will be assigned a tutor who will supervise their dissertation. A dissertation workshop is held each year to help students work together on this essential course element.

In addition, once every two years (in late June - early July of Year B) a compulsory field survey training week will take place. Each student will also have a series of tutorials with the course director and tutors; these may take place in person or on-line.

Course timetable

All assignment titles, submission deadlines, reading lists, field visit and field work locations will be supplied when you have taken up your place. The course is based at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA. Some classes may take place at Ewert House, Ewert Place, Oxford (the Department’s teaching annexe off Banbury Rd, Summertown, North Oxford).

Proposed dates for 2024 entry are as follows (TBC):

Course induction (new students only):

Sunday 20 October 2024, 10.00am - 3.00pm. Location: Rewley House.

Term 1 teaching sessions:

Core Paper (2 x 2,500 word assignments): METHOD AND THEORY IN LANDSCAPE ARCHAEOLOGY

Four Saturdays: 26 October 2024, 9 November 2024, 23 November 2024, 7 December 2024 (contingency date: 14 December 2024)

Term 2 teaching sessions:

Dissertation Workshop (all students): 25 January 2025

Advanced Paper (1 x 5,000 word assignment): ARTEFACTS AND ECOFACTS IN THE LANDSCAPE

Five Saturdays: 1 February 2025, 15 February 2025, 1 March 2025, 15 March 2025, 29 March 2025 (contingency date: 5 April 2025)

Term 3 teaching sessions:

Advanced Paper (1 x 5,000 word assignment): ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROSPECTION

Two Saturdays: 26 April 2025 and 24 May 2025 (contingency date 31 May 2025)  and a fieldwork practical weekend, exact dates TBC.

Course elements applicable to both years

Optional Flexi-Placements

Minimum 14 days within a period of not more than one year in terms 2 - 6 (by mutual arrangement of student and placement tutor). Students will be given real work within the organisations, and their placement project portfolios will be supervised by the placement tutors. Placements must be focused on a specific piece of original or semi-original research or development work within the programme of the placement organisation, eg a digital archive; a finds report; an analysis of a geophysical plot; a fieldwork report, to be presented as a practical portfolio. Text word limit: 5,000 words, equivalent to one Advanced Paper.

15,000 word dissertation

A dissertation must be a piece of independent research, and may involve fieldwork. You will be assigned a personal dissertation tutor from among the course teaching team, and will have a series of individual meetings to oversee and review progress. It is handed in towards the end of September in the second year of the course.

Assessment methods

This course is 100% continuous assessment: there are no written examinations. Each core paper consists of two 2,500 word assignments, each advanced paper consists of one 5,000 word assignment (or in the case of a placement, an equivalent-sized placement report); the field training week logbook and the 15,000 word dissertation complete the written requirements. At the end of the course, students attend a viva voce (oral) examination.

The total marks over the two-year programme are awarded as follows:

  • Core Papers 20% (10% each year)
  • Advanced Papers 40% (20% each year)
  • Field Week Logbook 5%
  • Dissertation 35%

Course tutors

Prof David Griffiths, Professor and Director of Studies in Archaeology at OUDCE, has taught at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE) since 1999, prior to which he was a full-time professional archaeologist. (Please note: David will be on research leave in 2024-25 so the course will be directed by a colleague, name TBC).

Tutors for individual papers and sessions include:

Dr Alison MacDonald, Departmental Lecturer in Archaeology at OUDCE. Alison's background is in Roman/Classical archaeology.

Dr Olaf Bayer, expert in landscape prehistory and Research Associate at OUDCE, was a temporary Departmental Lecturer at OUDCE in 2014-15 and is now a field investigator working at Historic England.

Roger Thomas, Formerly Senior Analyst, Historic England, a leading authority in archaeological resource management.

Dr Amanda Chadburn, researcher and formerly Senior Advisor, Historic England and DCMS. 

Dr Mike Allen FSA, one of the UK’s foremost palaeoenvironmental archaeologists, has taught on this course since 2010.

Dr John Pouncett, Research Fellow in Spatial Technology at the School of Archaeology, Oxford University, teaches the paper on Digital Landscapes.

Dr Stephen Mileson, Departmental Lecturer in Local History, OUDCE.

Oxford college affiliation

As a matriculated postgraduate degree student, you will become a member of one of the University’s famous interdisciplinary colleges, enabling you to encounter new perspectives in your field or learn more about many other different subjects from fellow college members.

The collegiate system makes studying at Oxford a truly special experience. Oxford colleges are small, intimate communities, where you could find yourself absorbed in fascinating conversations with students and academics from a variety of disciplines at college seminars, dinners, and informal occasions. 

To find out more about Oxford University colleges, please consult the University's Graduate Admissions website.

Libraries and computing facilities

Registered students receive an Oxford University card, valid for one year at a time, which acts as a library card for the Departmental Library at Rewley House and provides access to the unrivalled facilities of the Bodleian Libraries which include the central Bodleian, major research libraries such as the Sackler Library, Taylorian Institution Library, Bodleian Social Science Library, and faculty libraries such as English and History. Students also have access to a wide range of electronic resources including electronic journals, many of which can be accessed from home. Students on the course are entitled to use the Continuing Education Library at Rewley House for reference and private study and to borrow books. The loan period is normally two weeks and up to eight books may be borrowed. Students will also be encouraged to use their nearest University library.

The University card also provides access to facilities at Oxford University Computing Service (OUCS), 13 Banbury Road, Oxford. Computing facilities are available to students in the Students'Computing Facility in Rewley House and at Ewert House.

Provision for students with disabilities

The Department’s aim is to treat all students equally and we welcome applications from students with disabilities. Individual student needs are taken into account as far as possible, providing necessary adaptations and assistance within the resources available. For example, if practical work such as excavation or surveying would present difficulties, other types of work can be arranged. If you disclose your disability on your application form (which will be confidential) we will aim to make reasonable adjustment to ensure all academically capable students are able to participate.

If you have a learning difficulty, e.g. dyslexia, there are ways in which the Department can support you in your study. Please discuss with us how we may be able to help you before you start your course. We can refer you to an educational psychologist for assessment, if needed, and aim to have any assistance identified available for you from the beginning of your studies. Financial assistance may be available for the cost of the assessment.

For matters relating to disability or learning difficulty, please contact the Access Officer on 01865 280355 or via email at

You can also obtain information from:

Disability Advisory Service
3 Worcester Street, Oxford, OX1 2BX
Telephone: 01865 280459

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. In order to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.

Who should apply?

For entry requirements and selection criteria please visit the course page on the University's Graduate Admissions website.

Prior to applying, prospective applicants may wish to know more about this course. We have a series of informal open events (usually an hour long, currently being done online) where the Course Director talks to prospective applicants about the course. If you wish to attend one of these, please see the dates published on the website and contact our Course Team at email After this point, or if you are unable to attend, the Course Team will endeavour to answer your queries by email, or you can request a short meeting with the Course Director; if this is of interest to you please notify the course team on

Application details

Fees and additional expenses

Please visit the MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology page on the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for details of course fees and costs.

Application deadlines and when to apply

Application deadlines are 12 noon on Friday 19 January 2024 and Friday 1 March 2024. 

We strongly recommend that you apply by the January or March deadlines. After the March deadline, the course will only stay open for that year's entry if places are still available. 

Remember that it can take a number of weeks to obtain all of the documents you need and to prepare a competitive application. You should also allow your referees plenty of time to submit your references. We therefore recommend you apply as soon as possible.

Please see the current admission status.

How to apply

For entry requirements, selection criteria and how to apply please visit Graduate Admissions website.

If you have any questions about the progress of your application, please contact the Course Administrator, tel: 01865 286945;
or the Graduate Admissions Office, tel: 01865 270059; email: