Best UK Universities For Archaeology – 2024 Guide

Pursuing a degree in archaeology offers a unique opportunity to delve into the mysteries of the past, uncover ancient civilisations, and contribute to our understanding of human history. With the United Kingdom’s rich historical heritage and esteemed educational institutions, it has become a hub for aspiring archaeologists. In this article, we will explore the top archaeology universities in the UK, equipping you with the knowledge to make an informed decision about your educational journey. 

archaeology universities in uk

Table of Contents

Why Pursue an Archaeology Degree?

Embarking on a journey to pursue a degree in archaeology is an exciting and worthwhile endeavour. Here are several compelling reasons why an archaeology degree is worth it:

  1. Uncover the Past: Archaeology provides a unique opportunity to delve into the depths of history, unlocking the secrets of ancient civilisations and shedding light on our shared human heritage. As an archaeologist, you will have the privilege of working on archaeological sites, excavating artifacts, and piecing together the puzzle of the past.

  2. Interdisciplinary Approach: Studying archaeology involves a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating elements from anthropology, history, geology, biology, and more. This interdisciplinary nature expands your knowledge base, enabling you to develop a well-rounded understanding of various subjects and their interconnectedness.

  3. Hands-on Experience: An archaeology degree offers hands-on fieldwork opportunities, allowing you to gain practical experience in excavation techniques, artifact analysis, and site preservation. Fieldwork not only enhances your technical skills but also fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork abilities that are highly valued in numerous professions.

  4. Cultural Preservation and Heritage Management: Archaeologists play a crucial role in preserving and managing cultural heritage sites. By studying archaeology, you become an advocate for cultural preservation, ensuring that invaluable historical treasures are conserved for future generations to appreciate and learn from.

  5. Global Exploration: Archaeology is a global discipline, offering opportunities to travel and explore different parts of the world. Whether you are excavating ancient Egyptian tombs, uncovering Roman ruins in Europe, or studying indigenous cultures in South America, archaeology allows you to experience diverse cultures, environments, and landscapes.

How to Become an Archaeologist in the UK?

Becoming an archaeologist in the UK requires a combination of academic qualifications, practical experience, and a passion for uncovering the past. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to embark on the path to becoming an archaeologist in the UK:

  1. Education and Degree: Start by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in archaeology or a related field.  Look for reputable institutions known for their archaeology departments and choose a programme that aligns with your interests, such as prehistoric archaeology, classical archaeology, or maritime archaeology. After that, you can also consider specialising in a particular area of archaeology through postgraduate study. Pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree allows you to deepen your knowledge, develop expertise, and conduct original research. 
  2. Practical Fieldwork Experience: Gain practical fieldwork experience through archaeological excavations and surveys. Additionally, consider volunteering for archaeological organizations, museums, or local heritage projects to further enhance your practical skills.
  3. Professional Networking and Accreditation: Engage in professional networking within the archaeology community. Attend conferences, seminars, and workshops where you can meet fellow archaeologists, researchers, and professionals. Join relevant archaeological societies and associations, such as the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), to stay updated with industry trends, job opportunities, and professional development resources.
  4. Internships and Work Placements: Seek out internships or work placements with archaeological organisations, museums, or heritage agencies. These opportunities provide valuable practical experience, enhance your CV/resume, and allow you to make professional connections in the field. They may also lead to potential employment prospects or further research collaborations.

Career Pathways

Archaeology offers diverse career pathways beyond academia. Explore opportunities in archaeological research, consultancy, museum curation, heritage management, government agencies, and cultural resource management firms. Be open to both permanent positions and short-term contracts, as the nature of archaeological work often involves project-based employment.

Best Archaeology Universities in the UK

Here are the best universities for archaeology degrees in the UK entering 2024.

1. University of Cambridge Archaeology Review

Archaeology at Cambridge is like no other, well deserving of the top spot in this list. The courses include a wide variety of interesting areas such as Archaeology, Assyriology, Biological Anthropology and Egyptology. On top of that, you get to choose whether you prefer a broader start or specialise right from the get go. 

The Cambridge Archaeological Unit has a large collection of resources. Do also check out the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. The Digital Lab project highlights collections through a range of themes such as Substances of Wellbeing and Intoxication, Object Diasporas, Making and Mending, and Digitisation.

2. University of Southampton Archaeology Review

Archaeology at Southampton covers areas from maritime archaeology to bioarchaeology, paleoanthropology and heritage management. Students will have the opportunity to carry out exciting fieldwork within the UK and beyond. One of the strengths in the University of Southampton is their maritime archaeology project. Being the largest in the world, you will expose yourself to the latest theories and techniques, and explore underwater archaeology. 

3. The University of Manchester Archaeology Review

Archaeology at Manchester allows you to explore archaeology from the Paleolithic period to the recent past. During the course, you will get to take part in fieldwork and excavation projects in Herefordshire, Yorkshire, Scotland and the Mediterranean. In addition, The University of Manchester has made significant investments in some of the best technologies in the industry. This includes their dedicated archaeological laboratories, drones, a 3D printer and portable XRF.

4. University of Exeter Archaeology Review

Archaeology at Exeter is nothing short of excellent, especially their internationally-renowned research prowess. Fieldwork is a priority here in the University of Exeter. Recently, students in the programme were given the opportunity to take part in excavations of prehistoric settlements in Kazakhstan and environmental archaeology of the Amazon basin. There is also a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. This allows you to tailor your degree to your areas of interest, such as exploring specific historical periods of cultures, or examining human bones and artefacts.

5. University of York Archaeology Review

Archaeology at York is one of the top rated archaeology departments in the UK. They have a long list of awards under their belt, both at the university level and also individual student performances. This includes the prestigious YUSU Excellence Awards and the SAfA Student Paper Award 2023. Check out their academic contributions through the wide array of journal publications. 

Archaeology University Rankings in the UK

Check out the rankings for the best universities offering archaeology degrees in the UK as we enter 2024:

RankInstitutionEntry StandardsStudent SatisfactionResearch QualityContinuationGraduate prospects outcomesGraduate prospects on trackOverall Score
1University of Cambridge1773.561008170100
2University of Oxford1873.4198.4827599.9
3Durham University1644.23.5995.5938597.9
4UCL (University College London)1663.993.3398.4817594.6
5University of Southampton1374.193.5798738092.7
6University of Manchester1583.683.45100727592.4
7University of Exeter1454.063.4194.7769091.7
8University of York1404.083.4297776590.9
9The University of Edinburgh1813.953.3399657090.9
10University of Birmingham1363.93.24100777590.8
11University of Glasgow2023.923.33100596590.7
12University of Reading1204.343.6692.4676087.4
13Cardiff University1313.843.491.9717085.8
14University of Nottingham1283.793.2494.2707085.3
15Newcastle University1254.163.2196654084.6
16University of Liverpool1294.043.1596.5603583.3
17Queen's University Belfast1334.13.3186666582.9
18University of Kent1123.953.3595.2566082.7
19University of Leicester1073.843.5489.2647582.2
20University of Aberdeen1254.153.19626581.5
21University of Central Lancashire1164.32.8597.3645581.1
22University of Wales Trinity Saint David1173.712.7100566080.7
23University of Chester1123.832.4692.6777580.3
24Bournemouth University983.693.2492.8657580.2
25Canterbury Christ Church University3.782.6598.2495578.5
26Swansea University4.113.0988.4515578.1
27University of Winchester1084.182.289.3784576.6

How are the Rankings Measured?

The ranking methodology includes several key indicators, such as teaching quality, research output and reputation, industry connections and engagement, international diversity, and citations. These indicators help evaluate the academic environment, resources, faculty expertise, and global impact of relevant institutions. The rankings also consider factors like student satisfaction, graduate employability, and the influence and reach of research conducted by the universities.

Frequently Asked Questions about Archaeology Universities in the UK

Entry requirements vary among universities, but most undergraduate programmes require A-levels or equivalent qualifications. Specific subject requirements may also be necessary, such as history, archaeology, or a related discipline. It’s advisable to check with individual universities for their specific entry requirements.

Strong analytical and critical thinking skills are essential for success in archaeology. Additionally, excellent written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, problem-solving abilities, and a keen interest in history and culture are highly beneficial. Practical skills such as fieldwork techniques, data analysis, and proficiency in archaeological software and equipment are also valuable.

Yes, many archaeology programmes offer opportunities for specialisation. Students can focus on areas such as prehistoric archaeology, classical archaeology, medieval archaeology, maritime archaeology, or archaeological conservation. Specialisation typically occurs at the postgraduate level, where students can delve deeper into their chosen field of interest.

Yes, fieldwork is an integral part of many archaeology programmes in the UK. Universities often provide opportunities for students to participate in archaeological excavations, surveys, and laboratory work. These experiences allow students to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical setting and gain valuable hands-on experience.

Apply To The Top Archaeology Universities In The UK Today

Speak to us today for free application assistance and education advice. Our expert consultants are more than happy to help!

Subscribe For Our FREE Insider UK Study Advice

Apply To Your Favourite UK University Today!

Speak to us today for free application assistance and education advice. Our expert consultants are more than happy to help!

Scroll to Top