Undergraduate Diploma in British Archaeology

Key facts

Starting: October 2019

Duration: 2 years part-time

This course is now closed to application for 2019 entry.  Applications for 2020 entry will open in early September 2019.

Course directors: Dr Alison MacDonald

Application status

  • Application closed

Undergraduate Diploma in British Archaeology

Gain a grounding in British archaeology with this part-time course, designed to suit adult students with busy lives.

This two-year course provides a comprehensive introduction to British archaeology within the context of different chronological periods. You will increase your understanding of the skills and techniques needed to recover, process and evaluate archaeological evidence for the particular periods under investigation.

Open evening: Thursday 20 February 2020

We are holding an open evening on Thursday 20 February 2020, 6.00-7.00 pm, at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA. You are invited to visit the Department, meet the Course Director and discuss the course. If you would like to attend, please email undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Who is this course for?

Equivalent to the second year of undergraduate study (FHEQ Level 5), this Diploma course is the next step if you have either completed, or are due to complete, our Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology or other similar courses at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4).

How you will study

This is a two-year course. Each year has three terms, and in each of these you will attend weekly Thursday evening classes, which are two hours long. You will also have tutorials, weekend field visits and either a practical course held over two weekends or approximately one week of practical fieldwork. You are given a programme of reading for the teaching sessions and the written work. Assessment is based on five out of six assignments and a practical logbook (or in the second year, an extended project).

As well as the time spent in teaching sessions, you will need to spend around 12 hours a week studying in term-time. This might include reading, preparing course work, and visiting museums, libraries and sites. You will be able to use the facilities of the Continuing Education Library for your background reading and research.

The course in detail

Course content

There are three modules, with one module offered each year. You obtain the Diploma by successfully completing two of the modules, which can be taken in any order. The modules are:

  • Early Prehistoric Britain, starting October 2019
  • Later Prehistoric and Roman Britain, starting October 2020
  • Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Medieval Britain, starting October 2021

Early Prehistoric Britain

The first humans arrived in Britain more than 800,000 years ago when the climate and geography of the British Isles were very different from what they are today. This course will examine the early prehistory of Britain from the time of these earliest inhabitants until c. 1000 BC. The dramatic environmental changes and the behaviour of early hominin populations will be considered within a European context, and the cultural developments of the British Palaeolithic will be examined. Hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic, the society and settlement of the first farmers, trade and exchange, and the emergence of new technologies including the use of metals will be explored.

Course structure

Provisional teaching programme for 2019-20

Thursday evenings, 7.00-9.00 pm

Michaelmas term

  • Overview: British early prehistory in context
  • Climate change and environments in early prehistory
  • Human populations in early prehistoric Britain 
  • Dating methods for early prehistory
  • Saturday visit (details tbc)
  • Practical session: lithic artefacts
  • Lower Palaeolithic Britain
  • Neanderthals and the British Middle Palaeolithic
  • Practical Weekend I
  • The origins of modern humans and modern human behaviour
  • Early Upper Palaeolithic Britain
  • Late Glacial hunter-gatherers and cave artists

Hilary term

  • Mesolithic industries
  • Mesolithic diet and demography
  • The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition
  • Early Neolithic communities
  • Monuments and society
  • Neolithic landscapes of the dead
  • Practical Weekend II
  • Late Neolithic monuments and material culture
  • Funerary archaeology
  • Social change in the late Neolithic
  • Saturday visit: Stonehenge and environs
  • Beaker tradition and the Early Bronze Age in Britain and Europe

Trinity term

  • Settlement and economy: production, exchange and consumption
  • Early Bronze Age graves and monuments
  • Social complexity and change
  • Middle and Late Bronze Age landscape and settlement
  • Saturday visit: Salisbury Plain
  • Practical session: prehistoric pottery
  • Bronze Age metalwork, warfare, hoards and ritual
  • Group Project presentations
  • Settlements, enclosures and hillforts            


You will need to complete:

  • Five out of six assignments of up to 2,500 words.
  • In the first year, a practical logbook of up to 8,000 words, to include four tasks. The tasks usually involve a practical element, for example a field trip, museum visit and/or archaeological fieldwork.
  • In the second year, either a practical logbook or an extended project.

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

The Course Director is Dr Alison MacDonald, OUDCE. 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. You can view full details of this programme, or contact the Study Skills office at studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk or +44 (0)1865 280892. For advice and information on educational opportunities, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding please contact the OUDCE Widening Access Officer on +44 (0)1865 280355 or student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Contact information

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before making your application you may contact:

Dr Alison MacDonald +44 (0)1865 270370 alison.macdonald@conted.ox.ac.uk

Course Administrator +44 (0)1865 280882

For queries on applications and admissions: 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.

OUDCE Certificate students who wish to progress to the Diploma should return a completed application form to the address below with a statement of reasons for wanting to apply to the course. No reference is necessary.

Other applicants should complete the reference form and send it to their 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 200–300 words explaining why you wish to enrol on this course, including details of any previous experience in the subject and membership of relevant societies or groups.
  • Proof of your English language ability if you are a non-native English-speaking applicant (see below for more information).

The application deadlines for this course are Thursday 7 March 2019 and Thursday 9 May 2019. Applicants who submit a complete application by 7 March 2019 will be guaranteed an interview. We will consider late applications if there are still places on the course. The final decision on course entry rests with OUDCE.

Please send your application with the additional materials to the:

Course Administrator


Ewert House

Ewert Place

Banbury Road


Oxford OX2 7DD

Award and credit transfer

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

The Diploma carries a Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) rating of 120 points at FHEQ Level 5. 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 Student Adviser on 01865 280355 or student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Fees and expenses

The fee for 2019–20 is £2,475 (Home / EU students) or £4,650 (non-EU students). An option to pay the fee in instalments is available. The fee includes tuition for the practical fieldwork or the two practical weekends. Accommodation during these periods may be available at Rewley House at an additional charge.

It is not essential to buy books, but there may be a few recommended key texts which you might like to buy. Transport for field trips and the practical field work is normally arranged on a car sharing basis by the students themselves. Costs of any additional hire of transport would be paid for by the students. Entry fees to museums or sites are paid individually by the students.

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.

Sources of Funding


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