MA History and Archaeology
UCAS code: VV1K
Duration: 4 years
School: History, Classics and Archaeology
College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Introducing MA History and Archaeology
This programme allows you to pursue specialist studies in history in combination with the distinctive insights and methodologies of archaeology.
Edinburgh has a strong tradition in both history and archaeology and excellent collections of printed and material collections to support intensive study in these disciplines.
In history, courses cover:
- historical periods from the early Middle Ages to the most recent past
- geographical regions including Britain and Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas
- a wide variety of approaches to the past, including political history, cultural history, social history, economic history, intellectual history, gender history, and global and transnational history
Archaeology investigates the human past using material remains such as artefacts and excavated sites to reconstruct the economic, social and cultural life of early societies.
At Edinburgh we have a rich tradition of archaeological teaching and research, specialising in:
- European prehistory
- the early civilisations of the Mediterranean
- the Near East and Egypt
You will be introduced to standard and innovative archaeological techniques and the practice and theory of archaeology.
This will include the study of science-based archaeology, the study of animal and human bones and digital applications.
We emphasise the importance of training in practical archaeological skills.
You can gain hands-on experience of artefact identification and analysis in practical sessions using artefacts from our own Vere Gordon Childe collection.
At the end of Year 1, you will complete three weeks of archaeological fieldwork, with the option to undertake further fieldwork.
In later years of study, you will also take part in projects in heritage management and public engagement and the lab-based analysis of archaeological remains.
You can choose to take a professionally accredited pathway in this programme. This pathway is accredited by the University Archaeology UK (UAUK) and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), the leading professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK and overseas. Accreditation recognises that the Edinburgh degree provides skills relevant to a career in the historic environment and provides you with the opportunity to join CIfA as a means of supporting your professional development.*
*(Revised 27 September 2022 to update accreditation information)
In Year 1, you will study Archaeology 1A and Archaeology 1B.
These courses offer a broad introduction to our human past. They cover the period from the evolution of the first humans several million years ago; to the emergence of farming and the development of civilisations in Europe, Egypt and the Near East.
These courses also cover the key techniques that archaeologists use, including:
- methods of site discovery, excavation and recording and analysing artefacts
- more recent and innovative approaches to reconstruct the lifeways of past peoples, including the scientific analysis of animal and human remains
History courses in Year 1 are broad survey courses that prepare you for more specialised study in Years 3 and 4.
Courses on offer cover historical periods from the Middle Ages to the present.
You will take one of these courses and a compulsory course in historical skills. The historical skills course engages with broader questions about the nature of history as an academic discipline and the methods and skills required for historical research.
Option courses and fieldwork
You will also choose from a wide range of option courses outside your primary subjects.
During the long vacation at the end of Year 1, you will undertake three weeks of archaeological fieldwork.
You will study the archaeology of Scotland from the earliest evidence for human occupation at the end of the last ice age to the Roman incursion in the early 1st millennium AD.
Key themes include:
- the world heritage sites in the 'heart' of Scotland (such as Neolithic Orkney)
- human-environment interaction
- the ways in which the environment shapes human behaviour
- the lasting impact activities such as farming had on the Scottish landscape
A field trip to visit archaeological sites and visits to the Museum of Scotland are core components of this course.
You will also study Archaeology in Action. This develops your understanding of professional archaeological practise and explores exciting innovations in archaeological methods through real-world applications and hands-on practical exercises.
Year 2 history courses extend your range geographically and chronologically, covering various historic periods and themes in American, European, British, Scottish and global history.
As in Year 1, history courses offer broad surveys that are designed to prepare you for more specialised study in Years 3 and 4.
You will choose one of these courses and also take a compulsory course in historiography.
You will also choose from a wide range of option courses outside your primary subjects.
You will take compulsory courses in historical and archaeological skills and methods.
You will also study courses from a wide range of specialised elective courses in history and archaeology.
Depending on the courses you choose to study in Years 1 and 2, you may have the option to choose one from another subject outside of these areas.
If you intend to do a dissertation in history, we recommend taking a course where you will engage with historical skills and methods.
In Year 4, you will:
- Study a year-long history special subject course, and further specialist option courses in archaeology or classical art/archaeology.
- Carry out independent research to produce an honours dissertation in either history or archaeology on a topic substantially of your own choosing.
Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.
To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.
The School of History, Classics and Archaeology is located in the heart of the city, within the University's Central Area. Here you will have access to:
- a range of study spaces
- our Student Research Room
- research collections
- an undergraduate common room
You will also have access to the University's libraries and computing facilities, located in George Square.
You will be taught in a range of lecture theatres and seminar rooms within the School and across the University's Central Area.
Take a virtual tour
You can take a closer look at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.
As well as using our own resources and those of the University Library, you can apply for access to the outstanding collections of the:
- National Library of Scotland
- National Museum of Scotland
There are plenty of opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 by applying for one of the University’s many international exchanges.
These cover many parts of the world, including:
- North and South America
- New Zealand
These are unique opportunities to immerse yourself in different university systems and cultures.
How will I learn?
You will be taught through a range of teaching and learning methods, including:
- independent study
For option courses, teaching and learning methods may vary.
In Years 1 and 2, formal teaching involves lectures and tutorials.
Lectures are delivered by experts in the field and provide an overview of key themes, concepts and questions relating to the week's topic.
In tutorials, the emphasis is on student discussion in small groups. Some courses also incorporate small student study groups, which help you learn from each other in preparation for tutorials.
You will also study independently, with a focus on reading in preparation for lectures and tutorials.
Years 3 and 4 involve more seminars and independent study, with individual supervision of your final-year dissertation.
How will I be assessed?
Our courses use a variety of assessment methods to help you develop transferable skills and improve your performance.
You will be assessed by exams and coursework. Your coursework may include:
- primary source analyses
- oral presentations
- online discussion forums
In some courses, your participation in tutorials and seminars may be part of how you are assessed.
You will gain key transferable skills that employers are looking for. In particular, you will learn to develop intellectually rigorous arguments, based on sound independent research and analysis.
You will also learn to:
- compile and critically evaluate large amounts of complex and conflicting evidence
- formulate and present your views coherently and cogently, both orally and in writing
The research and analytical skills history students develop can be used in any research-based career. These skills can also be applied to careers such as:
- museum and heritage work
- public relations
- the diplomatic service
Where our graduates go on to work
Many archaeology graduates find employment as professional archaeologists working for:
- government agencies
- museums and heritage organisations
- applied archaeological companies/consultancies in the UK or elsewhere
Previous graduates have gone on to pursue a wide variety of careers, including in:
- the media
- the civil service
Standard entry requirement
The standard entry requirement is:
- SQA Highers: AAAB-ABBB by end of S5 or AAAA-AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: AAA - AAB
- IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 36 points with 665 at HL.
Minimum entry requirement
The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:
- SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: ABB.
- IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.
The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:
- SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
- A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
- IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
International Foundation Programme
If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.
You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.
SQA, GCSE and IB
For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:
- SQA National 5 at C
- SQA Standard Grade at 3
- GCSE at C or 4
- Level 2 Certificate at C
- IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)
English language tests
We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:
- IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
- TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
- C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
- Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
- PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.
We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.
English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.
It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.
Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.
In Year 1 we expect you to participate in an archaeological fieldwork project.
Normally, the minimum requirement is three weeks of field experience. Archaeological projects often charge a participation fee.
We are able to make a contribution towards your mandatory fieldwork. However, the overall cost to you will depend on the type of work chosen and the location.
In later years, you may opt to undertake additional practical archaeological work in the vacations following Year 2 and 3.
If you study abroad in Year 3, your costs will vary by country.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.
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