Archaeology MA (by Research)


Fact file

MA (by Research) Archaeology
1 year full-time | 2 years part-time
Entry requirements
2.1 (Upper 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent)
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


Individual study pathways will be created based on your interests and your chosen area of research specialism.
Read full overview

The MA (by Research) in Archaeology provides you with the opportunity to develop advanced knowledge and understanding of specific areas of archaeology by following a personalised, individual study pathway, in close collaboration with our staff. You will further your own intellectual development and enhance your independent research skills by completing a substantial archaeological research project.

It is ideal preparation for students wishing to undertake a PhD in Archaeology, and follows the research model (one year research training MA plus three years research) suggested by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It also provides a wide range of highly sought-after skills in research, critical thinking, data analysis, and communication which will provide the foundation for a future career in archaeology and heritage, as well as many other sectors.

This course offers you the flexibility to tailor the content to reflect your personal interests and research topic. Our teaching draws on the extensive and world-leading research expertise of staff within the Department of Classics and Archaeology.

We have specialists working in Old-World Prehistory, the ancient Mediterranean and the Roman world, and Medieval and Post-Medieval Europe, as well as internationally-renowned expertise in bioarchaeology and archaeological materials. You can follow a specialist pathway focusing on a specific period or region, or practical training in archaeological methods, and will undertake independent research supervised by a member of staff.

For those in current employment, the MA (by Research) can be studied over two years on a part-time basis. As teaching is largely undertaken through individual tutorials or small groups, there is a great deal of flexibility to organise your time around existing commitments.

Visit the department website to explore the department's research and teaching profile. 

Key facts

  • The department offers excellent facilities for teaching and research, including six newly refurbished research laboratories for bioarchaeology, archaeological materials, and imaging.
  • This course is taught within a thriving department that attracts academic and research staff from around the world, and which has a friendly and vibrant atmosphere. 
  • We have a good track recording in helping our postgraduate students secure competitive funding for their studies. 

Course details

All students take 180 credits in a year. The taught component is worth 60 credits. It consists of three 20 credit modules, Special Topic in Archaeology 1, Special Topic in Archaeology 2 and a Faculty of Arts professional development module that can be chosen from a number of topics such as research methods for the arts and humanities, or public engagement and communication. You are able to choose from a wide variety of topics for the Special Topic modules, which may include archaeozoology, archaeobotany, glass, human osteology and evolution, and period-specific topics in Prehistoric, Mediterranean, Roman or Medieval archaeology.

Individual study pathways will be created with guidance from the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor and members of academic staff, and these will be based on your interests and your chosen area of research specialism. Modules will be taught individually or in small groups through seminars, tutorials and laboratory sessions, assessed through a combination of written essays and assignments, or practical lab tests and reports, as appropriate to the subject.

You will then complete an independent Research Project (120 credits), producing a 25,000-word thesis on your chosen subject. To prepare for this, you will take the compulsory course ‘Research Skills in Archaeology’. This provides essential discipline-specific and key transferable skills including research design, project management and planning, data collection and analysis, written, oral and visual communication of research, and key IT skills. The course culminates in our annual Postgraduate Archaeology Conference, which our MA and MSc students organise together, where you will present your research to a wide audience.

You can choose to specialise in any area in which the department has research and teaching expertise. The MA (by Research) is a highly flexible degree, allowing great freedom of choice in topics and allowing you to combine many different chronological, regional, methodological and theoretical perspectives. The subject areas below are a guide to our core areas of research and teaching, but please consult our department website for a full picture.

Prehistoric archaeology

Our members of staff research and teach in many different fields of Old World prehistory, ranging from human evolution in Africa and Europe, to the development of more complex societies in later prehistory. Members of staff have particular strengths in early hominin palaeoecology, the study of Neolithic to Iron Age societies in the Mediterranean, and Iron Age communities in Atlantic Europe, from Spain to Scotland.

Mediterranean Archaeology

You can study many different aspects of the archaeology of Mediterranean society. We have particular strengths in prehistoric Mediterranean archaeology, from prehistoric Italy (Neolithic to Iron Age), to Bronze Age Greece (Minoan and Mycenaean archaeology) and the Dark Ages of Greece. Specialists in this field work with landscape archaeology, burials and archaeobotany. We also have specialists in the archaeology of the classical Mediterranean and the Roman Empire, and the period of Late Antiquity and the transition to the early medieval world. You will be able to study a range of different types of archaeological evidence including burials, monuments, landscapes, cities, forts and material culture.

Roman Archaeology

You can study many different aspects of the archaeology of the Roman World, from the Mediterranean world and the City of Rome, to Britain and the north-western provinces, to the Balkans and the eastern Empire. Our teaching and research ranges from the high point of the Roman Empire in the 1st and 2nd centuries, to the transformation of the late Roman Empire and the period of Late Antiquity. 

Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology

Nottingham has one of the UK’s largest concentrations of specialists in medieval archaeology. We have members of staff researching and teaching in the periods of both early Medieval (Anglo-Saxon and Viking) and later medieval and post-medieval (from the Norman Conquest to the Renaissance), and you can study topics across this range or choose to specialise in one period. We have expertise in the study of landscape and settlement archaeology, the archaeology of standing buildings, and medieval topics in zooarchaeology and archaeobotany.

Our teaching covers the archaeology of the British Isles and adjacent countries of north-west Europe and Scandinavia, as well as the early Medieval Mediterranean and the archaeology of the medieval Silk Road. Medieval Archaeology at Nottingham benefits from the interdisciplinary connections provided by the Institute of Medieval Research, which brings together staff and students in the Departments of English, History, Classics and Archaeology and Art History with a series of seminars, lectures and conferences throughout the year.

Underwater Archaeology

Nottingham is leading the way in developing sophisticated new techniques for underwater archaeology, using advanced digital survey methods on underwater sites. Our research in this field focuses on prehistoric submerged settlements, including the excavation of lake dwellings in Scotland as well as a major project investigating the ancient sunken city of Pavlopetri in Greece.

Social Bioarchaeology – People, Plants and Animals

Our department is a recognised centre of excellence in the innovative study of social bioarchaeology and the interaction of humans, plants and animals in their wider landscape and environmental context. Staff members specialise in palaeoanthropology, zooarchaeology and archaeobotany, across regions and time-periods ranging from the Palaeolithic to Roman and Medieval Europe. You are provided with a practical, methodological and theoretical grounding in bioarchaeology, allowing them to develop core practical and analytical skills to enable them to undertake independent study of environmental evidence for their dissertation, and to pursue a career as a specialist in the field.

Archaeological Materials

You have the opportunity to combine archaeology and science in the investigation of ancient materials and pyrotechnologies. You can study the archaeological, ethnographic and scientific aspects of materials – primarily glass – choosing to specialise in particular methods and techniques or taking a broader comparative approach. To undertake an independent research project in archaeological materials, you will be taught core practical and analytical skills to enable you to undertake primary scientific analysis using a wide range of techniques and approaches.



There are 180 credits in the MA by Research. All masters students take the same pathway of core modules:

‘Research Project’ (full year: 120 credits)

This core module includes a series of compulsory ‘Research skills’ sessions that run throughout the year, culminating in a 25,000-word thesis (120 credits).

Taught through a series of group workshops in the Autumn and Spring semesters, this module provides you with essential discipline-specific and key transferable skills including research design, project management and planning, data collection and analysis, written, oral and visual communication of research, and key IT skills. It is assessed by means of a ‘Research Portfolio’ which you build up through the year, as preparation for your independent research project. The course culminates in our annual Postgraduate Archaeology Conference, which is organised by our MSc and MA students (with staff support), where you will present your research to a wide and supportive audience.

The 25,000-word thesis will be on an archaeological topic of your choice, where you will undertake advanced research using primary scientific analysis of environmental or material archaeological evidence, and critical appreciation of the wider scholarship in your field. You will be provided with guidance and supervision from one or more members of staff, and your thesis will also be assessed by an independent external examiner.

‘Special Topic in Archaeology’ 1 and 2

The ‘Special Topic’ modules enable you to gain advanced knowledge and understanding of specific areas of archaeology by period or theme. You will choose your special topics in collaboration with the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor and supervisor. Topics will be taught individually or in small groups through seminars, tutorials and laboratory sessions, assessed through a combination of written essays and assignments, or practical lab tests and reports, as appropriate to the subject. They may be taught through participation in undergraduate lectures or practicals in addition to following a course of guided reading and study under the supervision of a member of staff.

Some potential topics are shown below, but special topics can often be created to suit students’ individual needs and interests – please contact the department before making your application to discuss your specific requirements, and the topics that may be offered in any particular year. 

Potential topics

This is a small selection of the special topics modules that the Department of Classics and Archaeology offers at MA/MSc level. The themes discussed in each of these special topics are tailored to the interests of the participating students.

Britain and West Francia from the Carolingians to the Crusades, AD 600 - 1200
This “special topic” is structured on a thematic basis to enable detailed comparative analysis and study of the development of societies in Britain and West Francia (France and Belgium), between AD 600 and AD 1200. It examines the differences and similarities between the material culture of societies on both sides of the English Channel, and the range of responses to the same social forces between the period of Carolingian western European dominance to the time of the Angevin/Plantagenet empire, covering England, Wales and much of modern-day France. This period saw the transformation of Late Antique forms of government, the emergence of new elites and kingdoms, the political unification (for a short period) of Continental western Europe, the creation of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Kingdoms of England and France. It also witnessed profound changes in rural and urban settlement patterns, and social and economic transformation.
Prehistoric Italy

This “special topic” deals with the prehistory of Italy, from the Mesolithic to the first millennium BC. Teaching is by weekly seminar and subjects covered are tailored to the interests of students taking the topic.

Perspectives in Underwater Archaeology
This “special topic” deals with current methods & practice of Underwater Archaeology. It focuses on themes such as lake dwellings, shipwrecks, submerged cities and sunken harbours. Case studies range in space from Scandinavia to Australia and in time from 1500 BC to the last century. Among the issues tackled will be: methods and techniques of underwater excavation, post-excavation processing of underwater material, problems of conservation and wet finds processing, shipwrecks from 1200 BC: the ship as a symbol, sunken harbours, cities and processes of submergence, lake dwelling & freshwater archaeology, and cultural resource management vs. treasure hunting.
Perspectives in Aegean Archaeology
This "special topic" deals in-depth with the prehistory of the Aegean region from the end of the Neolithic period to the end of the Late Bronze Age. During the modules a wide range of issues will be discussed including (but not limited to) social, political and economic organisation, material culture, trade and exchange, the archaeologies of politics and ideology, cult and death, and the study of material data through textual evidence. Teaching is by weekly seminars and subjects covered are tailored to the interests of students taking the topic. 
The City of Rome
This "special topic" aims to develop your research skills in the study of ancient Rome. You will be required to attend the British School at Rome's 'City of Rome' postgraduate course over eight weeks in April and May, dependent on successful application made the previous autumn. You will be expected to attend appropriate classes in the module 'The Ancient City', which will provide you with basic skills in urban topography, archaeology and visual culture. In Rome, half the time is spent visiting sites and half on a pre-agreed individual study. In addition, you will have individual meetings with staff at the British School at Rome, as well as weekly lectures from guest speakers. 
Archaeology of Medieval Buildings
This "special topic" explores the development of building types in medieval England (c.1100-1500). We will examine the houses of lords, peasants and townspeople, churches and monasteries, exploring topics such as construction, function and the social use of space. Students will also gain wider knowledge of the discipline of buildings archaeology and practical skills in building recording and observation. Please see the MSc listing for more information on scientific topics.


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



UK/EU Students & International Students

Competitive scholarships available include:

  • MA Scholarships
  • PhD Scholarships
  • School Overseas Research Scholarship

This is by no means a complete list. For up-to-date information and application forms on these and other funding opportunities, please visit the funding section of the Postgraduate Prospectus.

You may also search the University’s funding database, designed to give you an indication of University scholarships for which you may be eligible to apply. The University Graduate School  operates funding schemes of its own to help support current postgraduate research.

For a detailed list of external funding schemes, please visit the School of Humanities funding page.

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



The MA by Research in Archaeology is ideal preparation for a research career in Archaeology, following the suggested model of one year research training MA plus 3-year PhD favoured by the AHRC.

For more information, please visit the postgraduate archaeology courses and research opportunities page

Archaeology graduates pursue a wide variety of careers, ranging from law and business, to teaching and publishing. During your degree, alongside your academic knowledge, you will develop many transferable skills that are sought after by employers. Please see career opportunities for more information.

Average starting salary and career progression

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers.*

In 2016, 96% of postgraduates from the School of Humanities who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £22,370 with the highest being £30,000.**

The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.  
**Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career Prospects and Employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from  careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.  

Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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