MRes Archaeology

This versatile programme provides a basis both for doctoral study and for career development in archaeology and in heritage and cultural environment professions.

It comprises a major individual research project, supervised by a specialist in the field of study, and a taught component that develops research and analytical skills. Potential research projects can be on any archaeological subject, as agreed with the supervisor, and there is a wide range of choice for the taught component, enabling students to build their own unique programme of study.

Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham has been ranked among the top five departments of Classics in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

The principal element of the programme, and of assessment, is the 20,000-word research dissertation on a subject agreed by you and a member of staff with appropriate research interests.

This research project also forms the core of your application to study, and we recommend that you discuss your proposed research project with a potential supervisor in advance of applying. The thesis can be regarded as an independent piece of research or a foundation for doctoral-level study.

The potential areas for research are very diverse and include British and European prehistory, the archaeology of the Roman World, Late Antiquity and Greece, and thematic areas such as environment, landscape, material culture, death and burial, age and gender, warfare, ritual and religion, and archaeological theory and method.

Alongside the dissertation, you take three taught modules to complement your research topic and your existing skills profile. The modules available include:

  • Theory, Method and Interpretation in Archaeology
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Material Culture
  • Funerary Archaeology
  • Archaeology of Greece
  • Egyptian Culture 1100-1200 BC
  • Complex Societies in Europe, 1000 BC-AD 1000
  • Empire and Identity
  • Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture
  • GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • Field Survey

Why study this course

  • The department celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 2014 results. 38% of research at the University of Birmingham for Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology was top 4* rated ‘world-leading’. A further 43% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • Birmingham's Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills including: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.
  • We have a vibrant and productive postgraduate community and students are encouraged to enter fully into the life of the Department and the University. We enable advanced research students to broaden their skills through appropriate training in teaching skills and, where possible, through offering the chance to gain experience in teaching.

Modules

The principal element of the programme, and of assessment, is the 20,000-word research dissertation on a subject agreed by you and a member of staff with appropriate research interests.

Alongside the dissertation, you take three taught modules to complement your research topic from the list below.

Archaeological Theory, Method and Interpretation

This module delivers a generic disciplinary introduction to how archaeologists investigate and interpret past cultural worlds and social life. It focuses on key areas of theory, method and interpretation, embracing a range of cultural archaeology, landscape archaeology, heritage and environmental archaeology themes. It is also designed to develop and enhance key practical and research skills, especially in oral presentation, teamwork and essay-writing.

Landscape Archaeology

This module surveys contemporary landscape archaeology and themes in the analysis and interpretation of past landscapes. It provides an introduction to theoretical approaches in landscape archaeology, and how different kinds of landscapes and extensive forms of landscape organisation, social practice and perception have been recognised, investigated and interpreted archaeologically. Methodologies of landscape-scale study will be reviewed and evaluated in the light of theoretical frameworks, research agendas, and the impacts of investigative techniques, including remote sensing and geophysical survey. The course is delivered in both class contexts and through a field study visit to explore the design and application of fieldwork methodologies in a specific landscape setting, interpretations of the past cultural landscapes revealed, and their modern representation and construction.

Material Culture

This module provides an introduction to material culture studies and artefact analysis in Archaeology, drawing on wider perspectives on materiality in related disciplines such as Anthropology. It serves to create a foundation in material culture theory, analysis and interpretation, focusing on current archaeological approaches to the study of artefacts and the materiality of cultural life. Key themes include classification and typology, technology, functionalism, symbolism, contextual analysis, agency theory and signification, aesthetics, and the material analysis and representation of artefacts in both research and popular media. The module comprises lectures, seminar classes, and analysis of material culture in class exercises and other contexts.

Funerary Archaeology

This module presents a critical review of theoretical approaches and interpretative themes in contemporary funerary archaeology, and examines the central significance of this field of study in current debates in world archaeology. The extraordinarily rich and diverse character of mortuary evidence is highlighted, with particular focus on how this kind of evidence is used to explore the relationships between cultural ideals, values, social agency and symbolic representation. Key interpretative themes that are considered from several perspectives include social interpretation, cultural identity and personhood, ritual practice, and past belief systems. The module draws widely on cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary case studies in archaeology and cognate disciplines such as anthropology and history.

Archaeology of Greece

This module provides an advanced overview of approaches to the archaeology of Greece from prehistory to the Roman period. Students will be introduced to contemporary developments in the theory and practice of archaeology, and will gain expertise in using and interpreting a variety of evidence including site reports, artefacts and iconography in addressing archaeological questions, and in relating archaeological evidence to textual evidence where available. The module will include a series of case studies of important archaeological sites across a range of periods.

Egyptian Culture 1100-200 BC

The first millennium BC is one of the most fascinating periods in Egyptian history, during which the country was invaded by Libyans, Persians and Greeks, among others. There was also intensified contact with the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds generally. The central themes of this module will be the resilience of Egyptian culture, its relationship to its own past and the new ways in which traditional forms of religious expression developed. Students will be introduced to contemporary developments in the theory and practice of Egyptology, and will gain expertise in using and interpreting a variety of evidence in addressing historical questions.

Creating Europe: complex societies 1000 BC – AD 1000

This module explores the nature of complex societies in Europe from the Iron Age to the early medieval period, and their interactions with the state-organised societies of the Mediterranean. It is organised thematically and chronologically, focusing on interpretations of complex societies, large-scale economic and political systems, ethnicity, elite culture, chiefdoms, state formation, empire, urbanism, coinage, and long-term change. Case studies are drawn from a wide range of cultural contexts in north-west and central Europe, using both archaeological and historical evidence. A key theme addressed throughout the module is the extent to which social forms and transformations in Europe can be explained in terms of indigenous cultural, economic and political processes or in terms of inter-regional Mediterranean/temperate European influences and dependencies.

Empire and Identity

This module considers the impact of the Roman Empire on peoples’ perceptions of themselves and how this was represented through their material culture. The lectures are arranged thematically, covering the period from c. 250 BCE to 300 CE. Based on primary archaeological evidence and on the critical evaluation of previous scholarship, the module aims at analyzing the specific quality of Rome’s rule over the Mediterranean and Central and North-western Europe and the various forms of cultural (and violent) interaction this hegemony entailed. Lectures will focus on a broad range of topics, such as the changing perceptions on the concept of ‘Romanisation’, the army as an incubator of Roman identity, religion and identity in the empire, bathing and Roman identity, urbanism and empire, violence and cultural transformation, Roman art and society, imperial modes of production, and the creation of Roman provincial landscapes.

Late Roman and Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture

This module is based on the largest source of fresh evidence for the Late Roman to early medieval eastern Mediterranean world (including south-east Europe), namely archaeology. It is designed to accustom students to use archaeological materials to evaluate historians’ ideas about economic, social, cultural and political changes. The module will survey the history of archaeological practice as it concerns the post-Roman East, and will explore key aspects of the Late Roman and Transitional (‘Dark-Age’) archaeological record, different archaeological strategies, and how archaeological literature can be used to understand some of the major long-term changes that characterise the period AD 300-800. It will focus in particular on interpretative themes such as Christianisation, invasions, demographic changes, the transformation of urban culture, and changes in rural settlement, agriculture and artisanal production.

GIS and Spatial Analysis

This module aims to develop knowledge and understanding of the theory and practice of landscape analysis using Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The course introduces students to advanced concepts of GIS and spatial analysis and the application of GIS to landscape studies, covering concepts such as the development of data models for landscape archaeology, airborne/satellite remote sensing, GIS as a research tool, and issues relating to the deployment of GIS for both research and curatorial purposes.

Field Survey

This module introduces you to the theory and practice of recording the archaeological and environmental elements of ancient landscapes, from individual structures and monuments to integrated large-scale landscape surveys. The module includes an introduction to the fundamentals of geodetic survey, and practical training in basic measured survey using a variety of equipment and survey data processing in both conventional and digital formats. The module will also explore the potential of survey data for analysis through assessment by a group project using data through work generated through the course Field School. The Field School will take place at an appropriate site or landscape selected by staff.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home / EU £4,121 full-time; £2,061 part-time
  • Overseas: £13,680 full-time

The above fee quoted is for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • If you are applying for a PhD then you will usually also need to hold a good Masters qualification.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Birmingham's Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills including: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.

In 2013, over 92% of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many of our postgraduates enter roles for which their programme has especially prepared them, such as museum and heritage activities and archaeological posts. Elsewhere, a range of professions are undertaken by our graduates, from librarianship and teaching to accountancy. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: AOC Archaeology Group; Blakesley Hall Museum; City and Borough Councils; English Heritage; KPMG; National Trust; and Sotheby's.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.

Accommodation

Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

Support in your studies

We offer an Academic Writing Advisory Service, which aims to help your transition to postgraduate research. The service offers guidance on organising your ideas and structuring an argument, referencing and avoiding plagiarism, being clear and coherent and editing your work for academic style and linguistic accuracy. Individual support is provided by a professional academic writing advisor via tutorials or email, as well as through the provision of online materials.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.