MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology

Course details


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

Dr David Griffiths, Reader in 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 seventeen years. 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

An open evening will be held on Thursday 10 December 2020 between 6-7pm (UK time) and Saturday 13 February 2021, between 11.00am-12.00pm (UK time) Please email if you wish to attend.  This year the events will be held online.

Coronavirus update

The admissions cycle for this programme is progressing as planned, and the University is committed to ensuring that offer holders can take up their place as expected. Information will be made available as the situation develops. Find out more here

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. Effecive communication and presentation of the value and potential of the historic landscape is vital in the world of planning, tourism, outreach and education.

The course involves a combination of academic study and field practice - survey and geophysics form a central theme, and we enjoy the support of Bartington Instruments Ltd for this.

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 and Archaeologist based at National Museums Liverpool.

College affiliation

All students studying for a degree (including this MSc) must be a member of a college. A number of Oxford colleges accept applications from part-time postgraduates whereas others do not: please consult the graduate prospectus or enquire with individual colleges. The majority of part-time MSc and DPhil students in Archaeology have chosen to apply to Kellogg College and most of the tutors and lecturers are members of the College. Kellogg is dedicated to graduate part-time students and has developed a unique expertise in attending to the intellectual, social, IT and welfare needs of part-time, mature graduate students. If a college choice is not specified on your application, it will be automatically sent to Kellogg if places are still available there.

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

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 B begins in October 2021

Year A begins in October 2022

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 B:

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

Year A:

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

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 content and 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).

Dates for 2021 entry:

Course Induction (new students only): Date Sunday 18 October 2020, 10.00am - 3.00pm

One day including orientation session and short field visit within Oxford. Location: Rewley House.

Teaching Sessions


Core Paper (2 x 2,500 word assignments)


Four Saturdays: 23 October, 6 November (field trip), 20 November, 4 December

Contingency date: 11 December



Dissertation Workshop (all students): 15 January 2022

Advanced Paper (1 x 5,000 word assignment)


Four Saturdays: 29 January, 12 February, 26 February, 12 March

Contingency date: 19 March 



Advanced Paper (1 x 5,000 word assignment)


Four Saturdays: 30 April, 14 May (field trip), 18 June, 25 June

Contingency date: 2 July 

Field training week: 28 May - 3rd June (To be confirmed).

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%

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.

Course tutors

David Griffiths, Director of Studies in Archaeology at OUDCE and Reader in Archaeology, has taught at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education since 1999, prior to which he was a full-time professional archaeologist. His period interests are early medieval, and he runs field projects in NW England, Wales and Orkney.

Tutors for individual papers include:

Dr Jane Harrison is a Research Associate at OUDCE and was previously Departmental Lecturer and Course Director, coevring research leave in 2019.  Jane currently directs, with Trevor Rowley, the Appleton Area Archaeological Project.

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.

Dr Tony Johnson, Research Laboratory for Archaeology, Oxford, and Oxford Archaeotechnics Ltd, an expert in practical survey and landscape geophysics.

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

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.

Who can apply?

Prior to applying, prospective applicants are encouraged to contact our Course Team at email The Course Director is available by appointment to talk to prospective applicants about the course; if this is of interest to you please notify the course team. 


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

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: