Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology

Key facts

Starting: October 2019

Duration: 2 years part-time

Applications for 2019 entry are now closed.

Applications for 2020 entry will open in early September 2019.

Course Director: Dr Jane Harrison (Jan-Sept 2019)


Application status

  • Application closed

Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology

Does the idea of becoming an archaeologist attract you?

Did you perhaps first come across archaeology on TV? Do you love visiting museums and monuments and wish you knew more? Are you inspired by ancient artefacts and historic landscapes, and intrigued by new discoveries about our shared human past? Are you concerned that our heritage is fragile and needs greater understanding and protection?

If you want to learn more about archaeology, and to acquire some practical skills, in an enjoyable way, then the Certificate in Archaeology is an excellent introduction. All are welcome to apply.

This two-year, part-time undergraduate course is designed for adult students with little or no previous experience of academic archaeology. This includes people who are new to archaeology, those who may have some practical experience, and/or have done online or evening classes but would now like to pursue a study-based subject qualification. We aim to demonstrate the development and richness of archaeology and introduce how archaeologists work today. We explore people and societies from the past using evidence from Britain, other parts of Europe, and the wider world. In addition to following the programme of taught seminars and practicals, you can specialise in a chosen area or theme by doing an extended project.

The Tuesday evening classes and seminars, Saturday practical workshops and field trips, and fieldwork experience, are led by University teaching staff and professional archaeologists. The Certificate is awarded by Oxford University once the two years have been successfully completed.

We teach in smaller groups than many full-time degree courses. Tutors and students get to know each other and the atmosphere is informal, supportive and friendly. We get to know each student, and their aspirations and needs.


Who is this course for?


You will need enthusiasm, commitment and a high degree of motivation if you are to enjoy and complete the course. No formal academic qualifications are required. After applications have been received, the Course Director will invite potential students to come and discuss how appropriate the course is for their needs. We will offer places based on evidence of motivation, understanding of the time commitment, and preparedness / suitability of the level of study. (If you have no prior study experience of any kind, you may wish to take a weekly or online class first, to get a feel for the subject and how it is taught and assessed). 

How you will study

This is a two-year course. Each year has three terms, and in each of these you will attend alternate weekly Tuesday evening classes and some Saturday field trips, fieldwork and workshops. At the end of the first year there is a one-week programme of practical fieldwork.

The classroom sessions provide the foundation for the practical elements of the course, which are:

  • workshops, in which you will investigate artefacts and environmental evidence
  • fieldwork sessions, in which you start to learn essential practical skills in survey and excavation
  • field trips, on which you will investigate sites and landscapes.

Weekday evening sessions are based at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, on Tuesdays, 7.00 - 9.00 pm. Saturday sessions are usually from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and are held at Rewley House, the Ashmolean Museum and various fieldwork sites close to Oxford.

In addition to the teaching sessions, we expect you to spend an average of 12 hours each week in activities such as reading, preparing coursework, visiting museums, libraries and sites. You can undertake the necessary background reading and research for the coursework using the facilities of the Continuing Education Library at Rewley House and other libraries.

The course in detail

Course structure

The first year considers the development of the modern discipline and covers the fundamentals of archaeological theory and practice. The second year studies key themes and turning points in archaeology from prehistory to the medieval period, and deals with certain practical and scientific topics in more detail. Each year focuses broadly on prehistory in the first term, later prehistory and the Roman period in the second term, and post-Roman and medieval archaeology in the third term.

Provisional teaching programme for Year 1

Michaelmas term (October - December)

  • What is archaeology? Current organisation and purpose of the modern discipline
  • (Saturday) Field visit to White Horse Hill
  • The birth of the discipline: key archaeologists
  • (Saturday) Workshop: ancient metalwork
  • Archaeological evidence
  • Archaeological theory
  • (Saturday) Tutorials at Rewley House
  • Key site: Troy
  • Visit to Oxford Archaeology; the work of Oxford Archaeology (Rewley House)

Hilary term  (January - March)

  • Finding sites from the air
  • The development of urban archaeology
  • Landscape archaeology in the field
  • (Saturday) Workshop: plant remains in archaeology
  • Artefacts in archaeology
  • Key sites: Palmyra and Petra
  • (Saturday) Museum visit

Trinity term  (April - June)

  • Survey in archaeology: topography and geophysics
  • (Saturday) Workshop/fieldwork
  • Excavation in practice
  • (Saturday) Fieldwork
  • Relative dating and stratigraphy in archaeology
  • (Saturday) practical workshop: human bone studies
  • Key site: Oxford
  • (Saturday) Field trip

There is a one-week programme of practical fieldwork in the summer.

Provisional teaching programme for Year 2

Year 2 covers key themes and turning points introduced in Year 1 in more detail: for example science in archaeology and excavation report writing. Practical workshops studying archaeological evidence and fieldwork elements continue building on the foundations laid in Year 1. Students from both years join together for the practical sessions.

Michaelmas term  

  • Introduction to prehistoric periods: farming in prehistory
  • Landscapes of prehistoric monumentality
  • (Saturday) Practical workshop: ancient metalwork
  • Dating in prehistory
  • (Saturday) Tutorials day at Rewley House
  • Theory in prehistory
  • Key site: Çatalhöyük

Hilary term  

  • Rural and urban Roman landscapes
  • Roman economy and society
  • (Saturday) Workshop at Rewley House: plant remains in archaeology
  • Roman material culture
  • (Saturday) Field trip
  • Mapping evidence (case studies): preparation for extended projects
  • (Saturday) Fieldwork near Oxford
  • (Saturday) Visit: the British Museum
  • Key sites: Pompeii and Herculaneum

Trinity term  

  • Post-Roman and medieval agricultural and religious landscape
  • (Saturday) Fieldwork near Oxford: geophysical survey
  • Environmental archaeology: medieval sites
  • (Saturday) Workshop at Rewley House: human bone studies
  • Post excavation and report writing
  • (Saturday) Fieldwork near Oxford: test pit excavation
  • (Saturday) Field trip
  • Student presentations of extended assignments


Assessment is based on:

  • 5 assignments per year of up to 2,000 words in length (including the first assignment in Year 1, which is formative and does not count towards the final assessment)
  • a practical fieldwork journal at the end of the first year of up to 2,000 words
  • a two-hour written examination in the first year
  • an extended assignment of up to 5,000 words in the second year

Assignments count for 60% of the final assessment, and the examination and the extended project each count for 20%. It is not essential to pass in the continuous assessment element and the examination separately in order to pass the course overall.

A progress review of each student's performance is carried out at the end of the first year: your performance must be considered satisfactory if you are to continue to the second year.

There is a time limit of three years for completing the course.

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.

Teaching staff

Course Director, Dr Jane Harrison, with a range of tutors to teach specific topics.

The Course Director and the tutors will be able to provide you with academic advice and support during the course. In addition, the Department runs a programme of general and academic study skills workshops which are available to Certificate students at a reduced fee. For full details of the programme please contact the undergraduate course team on +44 (0)1865 280882 or email undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk. For advice on educational opportunities, credit transfer, special needs facilities and sources of funding, please contact the student support advisor on +44 (0)1865 280355 or email student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk


The syllabus and teaching of the course are aimed at first-year undergraduate level and students are eligible for the award of 60 transferable credit (CATS) points at FHEQ Level 4 on successful completion of each year. An Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology (120 CATS points) will be awarded to students on completion of the two years of the course within a three-year period. Credit points may be transferred to the Open University, modular universities such as Oxford Brookes University, and other institutions of higher education. For further information about transfer of credit, contact the Course Administrator on +44 (0)1865 280882 or student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

Contact information

Course Director, Dr Jane Harrison (Jan -Sept 2019)

jane.harrison@conted.ox.ac.uk  +44 (0)1865 270360 (main desk)

Applications and admissions +44 (0)1865 280882 undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk

Student Advice +44 (0)1865 280355

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision, residential category and sources of funding: student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

Study Skills +44 (0)1865 280892

For information about Study Skills courses: studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk

How to apply

Please use the apply button on this page to download the application form, which includes a reference form. You should complete the reference form and send it to your referee, asking him/her to provide a reference by direct email to us. Please note that the reference is compulsory and we cannot consider your application without it.

If possible, your referee should be a person who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not possible, you should name a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.

Please complete the rest of the application form and send it to the address below with the following additional materials:

  • a statement of 300 words outlining your previous experience of the subject (if any) and your reasons for wishing to enrol on the course. No need to send in written work.
  • proof of your English language ability if you are a non-native English-speaking applicant (see below for more information).

Please send your application with the additional materials to:

Course Administrator


Ewert House

Ewert Place

Banbury Road


Oxford OX2 7DD

There are three application deadlines for this course: Thursday 24 January 2019, Thursday 7 March 2019 and Thursday 9 May 2019. Applicants who submit a complete application by 24 January 2019 will be guaranteed an interview. We will consider later applications if places remain. Please check our website for details of availability. The final decision on admission rests with OUDCE.

Fees and expenses

The fee for 2019–20 is £2,475 (Home / EU students) or £4,650 (non-EU students). There may be a small fee increase in line with inflation in 2020-21. An option to pay the fee in instalments is available. The fee includes tuition for the practical fieldwork.

The UK government has confirmed that non-UK EU students commencing their studies in 2019-20 will continue to have ‘Home’ fee status and pay fees at the home rate for the duration of their course.

You won’t be required to purchase books, but there may be a few recommended key texts that you may like to buy. Transport for field trips and the practical fieldwork is normally arranged on a car sharing basis by the students themselves. The students would pay for costs of any additional hire of transport. Entry fees to museums or sites are paid individually by the students.

Non-EU students

This course is not suitable for non-EU students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. For information, refer to www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration.

English language requirements

Check information on the specific English language requirements for this course.

Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course

Sources of funding

Information on financial support