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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Degrees

Within our top-rated, internationally acclaimed department, some of the very best postgraduate students in Archaeology are able to develop themselves and their careers.

Our research, teaching and reputation are world-class: we are regularly ranked one of the top two Archaeology departments in the UK (e.g. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, The Guardian University Guide 2018, Complete University Guide 2018) and one of the top four globally (World University QS rankings 2017) and have an impressive spectrum of research expertise, especially in British, European, Middle Eastern and South Asian archaeology, and in the science based and theoretical areas of the discipline.

We can offer you research supervision leading to MA, MSc, MPhil, and PhD qualifications in a broad range of subjects, through both full and part-time study. You will work closely with our academic staff - experts in their fields with access to extensive research facilities. Skills-based training is provided to assist you in developing your research projects. All postgraduates are encouraged to share their work with the departmental and wider community, by means of departmental seminars, afternoon workshops, postgraduate-led one day conferences, and by means of publication.

MA or MSc by Research: Following one year of full-time or two years of part-time (plus up to six months writing up time) research and writing, you will produce a thesis of up to 50,000 words. The research topic for this qualification is usually based on a specific object, site, or phenomenon. If your topic is suitable and you demonstrate an aptitude for research, the MA or MSc by Research can lead to postgraduate research at a higher level (MPhil. or PhD).

MPhil: Following two years of full-time or four years of part-time research and writing, you will produce a thesis of up to 60,000 words. The research topic for such a thesis is usually based on an area or period of study, or the study of a specific class or group of objects, and this qualification can be upgraded to a PhD if your topic is suitable and you demonstrate an aptitude for original research.

PhD: Following three years of full-time or six years of part-time research and writing, you will produce a thesis of up to 100,000 words. The subject of your thesis will be a substantial piece of original research where you demonstrate your ability to undertake independent research.

A range of general and specialist research training will be provided for you through individual and group tuition based in the department and more general research preparation courses organised centrally. Your individual training needs will be assessed at the start of your course, and this process is repeated annually.

Departmental Training:

  • Research and Study Skills in Social Archaeology/Archaeological Science;
  • access to Level 3 and taught Master's modules, where required;
  • training in teaching methods with feedback, normally from 2nd year onwards;
  • specialist training provided by supervisors specific to individual research needs;
  • contributions to the general Research Seminar Programme and seminars specific to Research Centes linked to the department.

University Training:

  • Faculty Induction Course at the start of your first year;
  • Training Needs Analysis to identify your specific training needs;
  • courses/workshops on research (e.g. 'Managing your research project', Managing the student-supervisor relationship', 'Your intellectual property rights');
  • access to UKGRAD HEFCE funded training events
  • access to University information technology courses.

Find out more about staff research areas, our current research postgraduate students, our research, or contact us for more information on applying. If you are applying for a PhD, please read the guidelines below.


Ophelie Lebrasseur

"[The best part of being a member of my department] is being part of a team of international experts and being able to discuss ideas and hypotheses with them in such a friendly and open, yet professional, atmosphere. The weekly research seminars and the various discussion groups also provide a great opportunity to develop other skills."

Ophelie Lebrasseur - PhD Student.

Gary Bankhead

"As a current MA by Research student, having access within the department to a range of appropriate imaging and analytical systems ensures that I can undertake meaningful analysis of my archaeological artefacts from the River Wear, Durham. However, what really makes the difference is the immediate access I have to expert staff and it is because of their detailed understanding of ancient materials, technology and artefacts that I can accurately interpret the results."

Gary Bankhead - MA by Research Student.