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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

The MA in Socio-Cultural Anthropology introduces you to the endlessly fascinating academic study that looks at humanity and the behaviours, societies and cultures that underpin the lives that are led as sentient beings.

The course enables you to move to anthropology from an undergraduate degree in another subject and offers a solid foundation of knowledge for carrying out research in socio-cultural anthropology in the future or preparing for an anthropology-related career.

You will undertake core modules covering topics such as thinking anthropologically, fieldwork and interpretation and understanding society and culture. There are also optional modules, including global health and a study into energy or climate change, allowing you to tailor the course to your own interests. The MA dissertation gives you the opportunity to explore your interests in greater depth.

You will develop a clear understanding of classical and contemporary writing and research on the subject through lectures, seminars and fieldwork with teaching provided by academic staff who are renowned experts in socio-cultural anthropology and have a wealth of fieldwork experience.

As part of your learning and development, you will be expected to spend a sizable proportion of your time, reading, discussing and preparing for classes, assignments and project work. You will also meet with your degree tutor regularly for further academic support and guidance.

As an anthropology student, you will have access to the Department’s highly respected research laboratories including the Durham Infancy and Sleep Centre, Behavioural and Ecological Physiology Lab, Physical Activity Lab, the South Africa field station and to material culture and skeletal collections.

Course structure

Core modules:

Thinking Anthropologically develops your understanding of the current issues and challenges in socio-cultural anthropology and will enable you to carry out the practical application of theories and concepts to these issues. This module develops the skills you need to think critically and carefully about relationships between theory and ethnography.

Fieldwork and Interpretation offers a comprehensive view of qualitative field methods used by social sciences, including the collection, management and interpretation of qualitative data. This module features content such as the relation of explanatory theories to methods of research, ethnography and participant observation, interviewing, participatory research methods such as focus groups and the issue of ethics.

Understanding Society and Culture explores the history and some of the recent developments in the theory of socio-cultural anthropology and enables you to critically assess the theoretical debates in socio-cultural anthropology and address them in their research.

Interrogating Ethnography explores the concept of ethnography as the distinctive method of socio-cultural anthropology and enables you to interpret ethnographic writing and ethnographic argument by looking at single issue studies. This module also allows you to develop the specific critical and theoretical skills required to analyse your own ethnographic account and those of others.

The Dissertation is an independent research project based on a specialist area of your degree of particular interest, using the knowledge gained in the research methods modules. You will be expected to write a literature review, collect data through fieldwork, laboratory work or from published sources, conduct data analysis and be able to initiate discussion of your findings.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Anthropology and Development
  • Sustainability, Energy, Environment and Resilience
  • Anthropology of Global Health
  • Society, Health and Wellbeing
  • Field Study
  • Climate and Energy - intensive study
  • A language module offered by the Centre for Foreign Language Studies


You will learn through a mixture of lectures, seminars and workshops, with the lectures providing key information on subjects which you will then analyse and discuss in seminars, contributing your findings from independent study.

As a full-time student, you will have on average 6-8 hours of formal teaching and learning contact each week and you will also be expected to attend weekly departmental and Social Anthropology Research Group research seminars, often given by prominent visiting speakers.

You will also complete a dissertation, an original piece of work on a subject that is of particular interest to you, working closely with academic staff on developing its subject. Guidance will also come from the dissertation leader.


Your course activities are assessed by a mixture of essays, portfolio work, critical reviews and project work. In the final term you will complete a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.

Entry requirements

A minimum 2:1 Honours degree from a UK institution (or the overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject.

References play an important part in the admissions process.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £12,500 per year
EU students £26,500 per year
Island students £12,500 per year
International students £26,500 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,900 per year
EU students £14,600 per year
Island students £6,900 per year
International students £14,600 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Our anthropology postgraduates are well-placed to build on the research-led teaching the department offers. Many continue their academic careers by carrying out further research into the complex and diverse nature of humanity.

Durham courses develop a depth of practical skills and knowledge about understanding behaviour and society that are hugely applicable to the workplace environment and are highly sought after by employers in the UK and internationally.

Such attributes and qualities are easily transferable to a range of stimulating and rewarding professional careers. Our postgraduates have secured roles in development, health, government, policy, social research, culture, heritage, consultancy, education and media.

Recent postgraduates have moved into roles with employers that include Save the Children, HM Prison Service, Civil Service, Durham University, VSO, Office for National Statistics, National Graduate Development Programme (the local authority graduate scheme) and non-governmental organisations such as Concern Universal and Kenwa.

For further information on career options and employability, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability pages.

Department information


The Department of Anthropology is one of the largest among UK universities and one of only a handful covering Social Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology and Anthropology of Health.

This broad subject range is reflected in the flexibility of the Masters learning structure that makes it possible to choose advanced specialist courses to suit career or research aspirations. A research-led approach to teaching means that course content is as relevant and contemporary as it is informed by the latest developments in the subject area. 

Learning is delivered by subject specialists who are world experts in their particular field, be it energy use, sustainable development, the evolution of brain and cognition, aesthetics, primatology, global health and sleep. 

At Durham, the essential skills and knowledge in anthropology that we nurture are also developed through practical learning. We offer you the opportunity to join an active research group and, supported by expert staff, undertake world-class research that will ultimately prepare you for your future career.

We are proud to say that we produce some of the most innovative research taking place in contemporary anthropology. We are equally proud of the inclusive and supportive community that you will join in the Department, offering a stimulating and rewarding environment in which to work.


  • Top 30 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • Top 10 in The Complete University Guide 2024 and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see the Anthropology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 45% of our research was rated as world-leading (REF 2021)


In keeping with our vision to offer research-led teaching, the Department provides a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities to support postgraduate research projects and programmes.

These include the Behavioural and Ecological Physiology Laboratory, the Physical Activity Laboratory and the South Africa Field Station as well as the award-winning Durham Infancy and Sleep Centre Laboratory.

We are the location for one of the country’s best collections for palaeoanthropological and morphometric research in biological anthropology and have a material culture collection of over 2,000 objects from around the world.

The Department of Anthropology is housed in the Dawson Building, which is conveniently located next to the main library, and close to lots of other departments and university services.

More information on our facilities and equipment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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