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.

Online open event

An online open event was held on Thursday 10 February 2022, from 6-7pm (UK time). If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please get in touch by emailing: undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk

Coronavirus update

The safety of our students and staff is our top priority, and we are following Government guidance and University regulations, which are subject to change. The teaching on this course in the coming year is expected to take place in person, although we are prepared to move this teaching online (either fully or partly) should circumstances dictate. For example, should social distancing be necessary, we may opt to conduct teaching fully online, or to have some participants accessing teaching from home whilst others join us in the classroom. Offer-holders will be kept informed of all developments.

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.

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 2022
  • Later Prehistoric and Roman Britain, starting October 2023
  • Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Medieval Britain, starting October 2024

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 module 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 2022-23

Thursday evenings, 7.00-9.00 pm

Michaelmas term (October - December)

  • Overview: British early prehistory in context                                     
  • Climate change and environments in early prehistory                      
  • Dating methods for early prehistory                                                  
  • Practical session: lithic artefacts                                                       
  • Saturday visit: Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit
  • Human populations in early prehistoric Britain                                 
  • Lower Palaeolithic Britain                                                                  
  • Neanderthals and the British Middle Palaeolithic                              
  • Practical Weekend I               
  • The origins of advanced cognition and the arrival of modern humans in Europe    
  • Early Upper Palaeolithic Britain                                                         
  • Late Glacial hunter-gatherers and cave artists          

Hilary term (January - March)

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

Trinity term (April - June)

  • Earlier Bronze Age climate, communities, and economy                 
  • Earlier Bronze Age monuments and funerary practices                   
  • Bronze Age social complexity and change                                       
  • Bronze Age metalworking, hoards, warfare, and ritual                                 
  • Saturday visit: Salisbury Plain                                                           
  • Practical session: prehistoric pottery                                                
  • Middle to Late Bronze Age landscapes and settlements                  
  • Group Project presentations                                                              
  • Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age communities and monuments       


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. 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 in 2022-23 is £2,780 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,230 (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.

English language requirements

Please read the English language requirements for undergraduate study on the University's website. Applicants are required to have the higher level scores.

English language test waivers

To request a waiver, please answer the questions in the online application form accordingly.

Criteria for requesting an English language test waiver.

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.


The Department for Continuing Education offers archaeology day and weekend coursesweekly classesonline short courses and summer schools. In the Undergraduate programme we offer the Certificate in Archaeology, 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.