Undergraduate Diploma in British Archaeology

Course details

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.

There are three modules, with one module offered each year. This University of Oxford Diploma is obtained by successfully completing two of the modules:

  • Early Prehistoric Britain
  • Later Prehistoric and Roman Britain
  • Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Medieval Britain

Who is this course for?

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

We also welcome applications from those who have completed a short course in archaeology, such as a weekly class or short online course, and have relevant practical experience.

Open event

An open event for this course was held on Thursday 9 February 2023. If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please email: undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk

Quick links

How you will study

This is a two-year course. Each year has three terms, and in each of these you will attend weekly classes, which are usually on Thursday evenings and 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.

Teaching delivery

This course is expected to be taught in person at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA. Should circumstances dictate, the teaching can be moved online (either fully or partly).

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:

  • Later Prehistoric and Roman Britain, starting October 2023
  • Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Medieval Britain, starting October 2024
  • Early Prehistoric Britain, starting October 2025

Later Prehistoric and Roman Britain

This course explores the late Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman period in Britain - covering the first millenium BC through to the early fifth century AD. This was a time of great technological, economic and social change, which we will study by looking at landscapes, settlements and material culture. To what extent did people continue to inhabit hillforts and roundhouses? Who lived in cities and towns, villas and farmsteads? How can we trace the impact of the continent on Britain’s cultural and political relationships? This course will investigate these and other questions.

Course structure

Provisional teaching programme for 2023-24

Thursday evenings, 7.00-9.00 pm

Michaelmas term (October - December)

  • Introduction: an overview of chronology and the nature of evidence
  • Landscapes: theory and practice
  • Hillforts
  • Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland
  • Field Trip: Ridgeway Hillforts
  • Lowland settlement and farming
  • The Atlantic coastal zone
  • Northern Britain
  • Cross Channel connections and oppida
  • Practical Weekend I
  • Social re-ordering in the late Iron Age

Hilary term (January - March)

  • The conquest
  • The role of the army: forts, frontiers and communications
  • Establishing Roman rule: administration and the Roman system
  • Towns of Roman Britain: the built environment
  • The economy of Roman Britain
  • Rural settlement patterns: farms, villas and villages
  • Field Trip: Silchester and Reading Museum
  • Environmental archaeology and agricultural practices 

  • Practical Weekend II
  • Religion and ritual
  • Religious sites
  • The living and the afterlife

Trinity term (April - June)

  • Roman industry, engineering and technology
  • Roman art and material culture
  • Saturday Visit: British Museum
  • Celtic art: craftsmanship and patronage
  • Later Prehistoric and Roman metalworking
  • Later Prehistoric pottery
  • Roman ceramics: the industries and their economic impact
  • Practical session: working with Roman ceramics
  • Group Project presentations
  • The end of Roman rule


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

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 Alison MacDonald. 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: +44 (0)1865 280882 undergraduate@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

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

Please click on the ‘Apply’ button which will automatically notify us that you want a link to the online application form. We will email you that link together with a code to waive the application fee, and guidance on completing and submitting your application.

All candidates need to upload the following documents as part of their application:

  • a written statement stating why they wish to undertake the course, and including (if relevant) an outline of previous experience of the subject;
  • contact details for one referee
  • proof of English language ability if a non-native English speaker. Further information on English language requirements can be found here. Please note that candidates are required to have the higher-level score.

Continuing Education Certificate students who wish to progress to the Diploma should submit their completed application with a statement of reasons for wanting to apply to the course. No reference is necessary.

Other applicants need to provide contact details for one referee. If possible, your referee should be someone who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, please choose a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.

If you are a Continuing Education Certificate student, a place on the Diploma will be reserved for you if your application form is received by the first deadline and if there are enough places available. If there are more Continuing Education Certificate students than places available, a selective system will operate.

Admissions decisions will be based on an assessment of knowledge, relevant experience, academic ability, potential and suitability for a course of study. We welcome applicants without traditional qualifications, including those with relevant career or life skills.

Selection criteria

Even if a course has no specific academic entry requirements then: (a) assessment of an applicant’s academic ability and suitability for the course of study will still take place and (b) since applications for many courses often significantly exceed places available, each application will be judged against the gathered field of applicants for each course each year.

The University is committed to promoting diversity, equality, inclusion, and widening access, including during the admissions process. We fully endorse the Equality Policy and our admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy.

Short-listed applicants will be invited for interview.

The final decision on admission to the course rests with the Department.

Award and credit transfer

An Undergraduate Diploma will be awarded on completion of two modules of the course. 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.

Students who successfully complete this course will be awarded an Oxford University Undergraduate Diploma in British Archaeology. The Diploma carries a Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) rating of 120 points at FHEQ Level 5. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. These credit points are widely recognised in terms of credit for transfer to other higher education institutions, including the Open University and modular universities such as Oxford Brookes University. 

Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course in order to transfer credit are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Course Administrator on undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk or student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

Learn more about the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS points).


The fee in 2023-24 is £3,000 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,650 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.

Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually.

Information for applicants from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU national and do not live in the UK then you are likely to be charged Overseas fees. Students with settled and pre-settled status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme and some other categories of students who work in the UK can qualify for Home fee status as long as they meet the residence criteria. For more information about fee status criteria please visit the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website as well as the Oxford and the EU webpage.

Information for applicants from the Republic of Ireland

Irish nationals who have been living in the Republic of Ireland or the UK can qualify for Home fees as long as they meet the residence requirements which can be found on the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website.

UK nationals who have been living in the EEA, Switzerland or Gibraltar and are returning to England to study

UK nationals living in the EEA, Switzerland or Gibraltar from December 2020 until the first day of their course and for the three years before the first day of their course will also be charged Home fees subject to the requirements on the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website. Children of UK nationals will also be eligible on the same terms, even if they are not themselves UK nationals, as long as both they and their parent meet the above criteria.

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

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

Please check the information of the specific English language requirements for this course. Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.


The Department for Continuing Education offers archaeology day and weekend courses, weekly learning programmes and summer schools.

In the undergraduate programme, as well as the Diploma in British Archaeology, we also offer the Certificate of Higher Education, the Certificate in Archaeology, and the Advanced Diploma in British Archaeology. At oostgraduate 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.


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