Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology

Course details

Does the idea of becoming an archaeologist attract you?

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

This two-year, part-time undergraduate course is designed for adult students with little or no previous experience of academic archaeology. This includes those who are new to archaeology and those who may have some practical experience, and/or have completed 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 alternate 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
  • The birth of the discipline: key archaeologists
  • (Saturday) Field visit to White Horse Hill
  • 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: artefacts
  • 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) Fieldwork
  • 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: flint and lithics
  • Dating in prehistory
  • (Saturday) Tutorials day at Rewley House
  • Theory in prehistory
  • Key site: Çatalhöyük

Hilary term  

  • Cities in the Roman world
  • Public life in Ancient Rome
  • (Saturday) Workshop at Rewley House: plant remains in archaeology
  • The economy and working life of Rome
  • Preparation for extended projects
  • Roman material culture
  • (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: pottery
  • 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

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.

IT requirements

To study at this level you are expected to have some IT skills, access to a computer and the internet. Your course requires you to engage with the Virtual Learning Environment for course materials and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. Students need to have regular access to a computer and the internet, and some level of experience and skill including the use of Microsoft Word or similar word-processing package, email and internet browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome.

The computer you use should meet our recommended minimum computer specification.

Teaching staff

The Course Director is Dr David Griffiths. A range of tutors will teach specific topics.

The Course Director and tutors will be able to help you with academic advice and support. In addition, the Department runs a programme of Study Skills workshops designed to help you develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. For further information and to book a place, please email studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk or contact +44 (0)1865 280892.

For advice on educational opportunities, credit transfer, disability and/or special needs provision and sources of funding, please email: student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk or contact the Course Administrator on +44 (0)1865 270369.

Contact information

Dr David Griffiths: david.griffiths@conted.ox.ac.uk +44 (0)1865 270360 (main desk)

For queries on applications and admissions: +44 (0)1865 280882 undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355 student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

For information about Study Skills courses: +44 (0)1865 280892 studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk

How to apply

This course will open to applications from Monday 21 September 2020.

Award and credit transfer

An Undergraduate Certificate will be awarded on completion of the course. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. You will be invited to receive your Certificate at the annual Awards Ceremony of the Department for Continuing Education, held at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre.

The syllabus and teaching of the course are aimed at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4). An Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology (120 CATS points) will be awarded to students on completion of the two years of the course. 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

Fees and expenses

The fee for 2021-22 is £2,678 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,031 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.  Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually.

Following an announcement by the Universities Minister on 23 June 2020, EU fee status students starting a course in 2021/22 will no longer be eligible to pay fees at the ‘Home’ rate and will instead be charged the higher ‘Overseas’ rate. This change will not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK or Ireland, who will continue to be charged fees at the ‘Home’ rate for the duration of their course. 

Information on financial support can be found on our website here.


The Department for Continuing Education offers archaeology day and weekend coursesweekly classesonline short courses and summer schools. In the Undergraduate programme we offer the Certificate in Archaeology, the Certificate of Higher Education, the Diploma in British Archaeology and the Advanced Diploma in British Archaeology. At Postgraduate level we offer an MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology and the DPhil in Archaeology.

If you are planning on embarking on a new career as a result of your studies, or hope to progress in your current field, you can access help and advice through the University Careers Service.

Overseas students

This course is not suitable for overseas 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.