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 certificate is taught at the same level as the first year of an undergraduate degree. It is designed for adult students with little or no previous experience of academic archaeology. This includes those who are new to archaeology along with those who may have some practical experience, attended local talks and/or completed a short course, but would now like to pursue a study-based subject qualification. Those who have completed, or due to complete, our Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education (specialising in Archaeology) may also find this course of interest. 

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 your 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. We teach in smaller groups than many full-time degree courses. Tutors and students are friendly towards each other and the atmosphere is informal and supportive. We get to know each student, and their aspirations and needs.

The Certificate is awarded by Oxford University after the two years have been successfully completed. You will be offered the opportunity to accept your qualification in person at a University award ceremony. Most students then continue to the next level of  study with us.

Online info session

Watch our webinar with the Course Director, Professor David Griffiths

During our recent info session Professor David Griffiths covered the essential aspects of the course – including course content, structure, assessment and how to apply. Watch a recording of the event below.

Quick links

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. There is a one-week programme of practical fieldwork, this is usually held in April or early May, around or just after the Easter holidays (in for 2024 entrants this will be in Year 2, dates TBC).

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, 7-9pm. Saturday sessions are usually from 10am-4pm 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.

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 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? 
  • Study skills and library briefing (online via MS Teams)
  • (Saturday) Field visit to White Horse Hill
  • The birth of the discipline: key archaeologists
  • Archaeological evidence
  • (Saturday) Workshop: Prehistoric Stone arfetacts 
  • Archaeological method and theory
  • Key site: Troy
  • Professional Archaeology 

Hilary term (January - March):

  • Introduction to Environmental Archaeology
  • Excavation in Practice
  • Relative dating and stratigraphy
  • (Saturday) practical workshop: animal remains in Archaeology
  • Artefacts in archaeology
  • (Saturday) Museum visit

There is a one-week programme of practical fieldwork, usually in April (please note that for October 2024 entrants this element will take place in 2026, during the second year of the course).

Trinity term (April - June):

  • Landscape Archaeology in the field
  • Finding sites from the air
  • (Saturday) workshop: pottery
  • (Saturday) Earthwork Survey
  • Key sites: Palmyra and Petra
  • (Saturday) Fieldwork - Test pits

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
  • Prehistoric theme
  • Prehistoric theme
  • (Saturday) Workshop: plant remains in Archaeology
  • Key site: Çatal Höyük

Hilary term:

  • Extended Project briefing/ Isotopes and Ancient DNA
  • Scientific Dating techniques
  • (Saturday) Workshop: ancient metalwork
  • Key sites: Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • (Saturday) Visit: the British Museum
  • Roman material culture

Trinity term:  

  • Medieval and post-Medieval landscapes
  • The Archaeology of buildings
  • (Saturday) Workshop at Rewley House: human remains (osteology)
  • Visit to Oxford Archaeology
  •  Post excavation and report writing 
  • (Saturday or Sunday) Earthworks survey
  • Student presentations of extended assignments
  • (Saturday) Field trip, Avebury


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 and associated assignment, each of up to 1,000 words.
  • a two-hour written examination at the end of the first year (usually on a thursday morning in late June). This is done online. 
  • 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 and attendance 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 Professor David Griffiths*. The Director of the training excavation is Dr Jane Harrison. 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 280882 undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk.

*on research leave during the 2024-25 academic year. 

Contact information

Professor 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

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.

You will need to upload the following documents as part of your application:

  • a statement of 300 words outlining your previous experience of the subject (if any) and your reasons for wishing to enrol on the course. No need to submit any written work.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 Certificate will be awarded on completion of the course. 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). Students who successfully complete this two-year course will be awarded an Oxford University Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology, equivalent to 120 CATS points at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4) in the Department’s Qualifications and Credit Framework. 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 for 2024-25 is £3,295 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £6,210 (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

On 11 May 2021 the UK Council for International Student Affairs published new regulations and guidance to be used in assessing the fee status of students commencing courses in August 2021 and later. We will be using this guidance to carry out fee status assessments for students commencing courses in 2021/22 and later, including students 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 in the UK 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.

Students from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland

If you are from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland, you will be classed either as an ‘Overseas’ or 'Islands' student.

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 on 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 Certificate in Archaeology, we also offer 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.


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