BA Archaeology and Heritage

UCAS code Typical offer Length
V404 ABB-BBB (See full entry requirements) 3 years full-time
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Developed in response to demand within the growing and significant heritage sector, this is a challenging and socially important degree programme, as well as being an attractive general degree.

You will combine depth of knowledge about the human past with informed and practical understanding of what that knowledge represents in contemporary society, and how it can best be managed for the future: in short, why the past matters, and to whom.

Course overview

**Note: The BA in Archaeology and Heritage was until 2014 named the BA in Heritage Studies. You may still see that referred to in some places, such as the printed 2015/16 University prospectus, and our NSS and KIS statistics from previous years. Please be patient while all our media is updated to reflect the change.

What is archaeology and heritage?

For the past decade York has successfully taught about the links between archaeology and heritage to postgraduate and professional development students, and we have developed an excellent international reputation for our teaching and research in this field. We are now building on these strengths by offering an undergraduate degree programme, which can serve as the basis for careers within the heritage sector, as well as other career choices and for further study.

Heritage is not simply about the past; it is vitally about the present and future. A heritage that is disjoined from ongoing life has limited value.

Robert Palmer, Director of Culture and Heritage at the Council of Europe

We recognise the direct relevance of heritage to contemporary society, a sentiment which is clearly evident in the way we teach heritage studies. Cultural heritage includes legacies of past human activity, with a particular focus on those which have persisted into the present. These can be physical things like buildings and archaeological sites, artefacts, and the visible and ‘tangible’ landscape, but heritage can also be intangible: cultural traditions and dialect are equally important parts of how people define themselves and their heritage.

Our BA Archaeology and Heritage programme includes instruction in the full range of cultural heritage, and trains you to understand and put into practice the ideas and procedures that help us manage it. Why are certain places, objects or areas valued, for example, and by whom? What happens when these values are not shared by everyone, or where they come into conflict? How is heritage protected, and why does it need to be? How are archaeological projects managed to best effect? And how do we present our findings and our sites to the wider public?

Unique facilities

The Department of Archaeology is not housed on York's Heslington campus, but rather in our own building in the centre of the city of York - the historic and truly unique King's Manor. Archaeology students benefit enormously from having full access to their own dedicated space, which they can choose to use in addition to all the facilities the main campus has to offer.

In the Department, you have access to a range of in-house facilities, including:

  • our own seminar rooms and state-of-the-art lecture theatres
  • computer labs with printers, scanners, and specialized photo, digital drawing, and mapping software
  • a dedicated library with subject-specific books, access to the York Library System resources, and plentiful study space
  • a large lab space for working with artefacts, soil and environmental samples, and skeletal remains
  • an extremely wide range of archaeological equipment available for student use, including fieldwork tools, Total Station theodolites, geophysical survey equipment (resistivity, magnetometry, ground penetrating radar), handheld GPS systems, a laser scanner, and a variety of photo, imaging, and information technology

The King's Manor also has dedicated social spaces for your use, including a refectory and a senior common room in which you can relax and read a paper, chat with your friends, study on your own or in groups, or peruse the regular exhibitions of local and national artists that we host in the SCR. The King's Manor building is built around two courtyards, both of which provide ample space to work, socialize, or just relax and enjoy the sunshine.

Heritage on your doorstep

In addition to the Department's particular expertise in heritage studies and conservation, in which many members of our staff have research interests, the city of York and the wider region offer wonderful resources of historic buildings, world-renowned archaeological sites, heritage institutions, and museums and galleries. York is home to several archaeological units, and one of the biggest urban archaeology units in the country - York Archaeological Trust, and its subsidiaries JORVIK and DIG. It is also the home of the Council for British Archaeology, and the northern headquarters of English Heritage. The Yorkshire Museums Trust encompasses the Yorkshire Museum, the Castle Museum and the York Art Gallery, all in the city, and we also have access to facilities provided by the library and archives at York Minster and the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Further afield, we are also surrounded by castles, monasteries, National Trust and English Heritage properties, and country houses, many of which offer volunteering and research opportunities to students.

Course content

What you'll study

Our course structure pages will give you specifics about how York's Archaeology degree programme is structured, as well as the range of modules you can take over your three years with us.  Below you'll find a quick 'at-a-glance' guide to each year.

Year 1

In the first year, you will be introduced to the background and history of archaeology and heritage, and will discuss the contribution of our disciplines to the contemporary world. You will explore why we go about looking at the past in the way we do, as well as learning about (and trying out) the different approaches available to us as 21st-century archaeologists and heritage practitioners.

We use a range of traditional and 'hands-on' approaches to teaching, including practical fieldwork and a heritage project.  The year is structured around 6 modules:

  •     Accessing Archaeology
  •     Prehistory to the Present
  •     Field archaeology
  •     History and theory
  •     Archaeological Science
  •     Heritage Practice

More information on each module is available by following the links on our course structure pages.

Year 2

In the second year, you begin to specialise in your chosen discipline by choosing option courses. In the first term, you will begin to explore one of a range of studies in world archaeology and heritage: we offer options ranging from the politics of colonial settlement to the key 21st-century issue of heritage crime.  You will also begin to study the themes and debates that characterise the study of either the prehistoric or historical period. That means you'll be studying things like identity, landscape, memory, and human mobility, which are all issues of key concern both in the past and the present.

You will also have the chance to learn a particular skill of your choice. This may involve working with heritage legislation and policy, conservation, or archaeological remains such as skeletons, artefacts, or buildings. You can then put into practice what you've learned by undertaking a team project on the subject.

In addition to all of this specific training, in the second year we also introduce you to a whole range of transferrable skills that are invaluable whether you stay in the heritage sector, or go into a different career. You'll learn to collect and analyse diverse data, to critique literature, to construct a logical argument, and to professionally present that argument both in print and in person.

Again, further information on each module is available by following the links on our course structure pages.

Year 3

In your third year you can really specialise in the subjects that interest you, in addition to writing your dissertation, which is the result of your own independent research.  First, in the autumn term, you study an advanced 'Special Topic' in real depth. This will be a subject of your choice, and may cover anything from the use of visual media in heritage, to battlefield archaeology, to the conservation of standing buildings. In the spring and summer terms we offer you our flagship 'Assessed Seminar' series, when again you may pick from a range of topics, but each session is designed and chaired by you, the students. That means you have the chance to develop the content of a seminar yourself.  This is a great opportunity to develop your inellectual, organizational, and presentation skills, and our students find that it gives them a real boost in confidence, alongside the formal lecture on your dissertation research that you present to your colleagues at the end of the year.

Once again, further information on each module is available by following the links on our course structure pages.

Fieldwork and practicals

York places a lot of emphasis on the relationship between theoretical and practial elements of both archaeology and heritage. From very early on you will be outside of the classroom, looking at the modern and historic landscape, considering the changing relationships between humans and the natural world, and thinking about issues of investigation, conservation, and presentation of heritage. This all leads up to the summer term, when you will participate in a heritage project alongisde one of our departmental excavations. You will carry out desk-based and archival research relating to the research project and design and implement ideas for its public presentation, including museum exhibits, online features, or even films, and the project will culminate in a departmental exhibition. This experience will set you up well for the remainder of your three years, when there will be ample opportunity to engage with heritage sites, monuments and landscapes in both theoretical and hands-on formats.

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.

This module will:

  • define academic integrity and academic misconduct;
  • explain why and when you should reference source material and other people's work;
  • provide interactive exercises to help you to assess whether you've understood the concepts;
  • provide answers to FAQs and links to useful resources.


How you'll be taught

Highly rated teaching

In our Department, we are very proud of the experience we offer to our students.  Our teaching approach has been consistently highly rated in both student feedback and peer review, and we have received outstanding results in the National Student Survey in every year since it began in 2008. Check out our Unistats entry for highlights of our most recent results; you might note in particular the scores relating to teaching quality, assessment and feedback.  Our Heritage Studies programme is based on the same solid foundations that our Archaeology students have so well appreciated.

There are many reasons for this success, but key is our emphasis on diversity of experience, and on student development. Occasionally you will work together in teams, and at other times will take full individual responsibility for your work. You will be asked to take notes in lectures, participate in and even lead group discussions, and perform a range of practical skills and fieldwork. First year courses offfer a mixture of formats, but as you progress through your time here, you will begin to spend more time in intensive small group teaching and individual study, culminating in running your own seminar, producing a dissertation, and presenting an academic lecture.

Using this wide-ranging approach to teaching and learning, we help you to develop confidence in your own abilities, and cultivate the transferrable skills which are in high demand amongst your future employers, both inside and outside archaeology.

A flexible programme of study

York is well known for its flexible patterns of study and the variety of choices we offer in our options. Our course structure pages will give you specifics about the structure of our degrees, as well as the modules you can take over your three years with us.  With the help of your supervisor, you can tailor your degree course to suit your individual interests and career aims.

Small group teaching

York prides itself on a wide variety of teaching methods, but the most distinctive is our commitment to small-group teaching. What does 'small group teaching' mean in practice? Seminars are a key component of our teaching and learning strategy, and may be a format that's new to you, as most school curriculum focuses on formal lectures. In seminars, reading and preparation in advance of the class are essential. In a few cases the class will simply be open, directed discussion, but in most seminars the content is delivered by you to your fellow students, in the form of short, topical presentations. This style of teaching means not only that all students need to engage with the subject in detail, and thus get more out of it, but also that you develop important intellectual skills, such as the ability to communicate complex information, or to logically pursue an argument 'on your feet'.


How you'll be assessed

Along with a wide variety of teaching methods, York emphasizes a diverse range of assessment. Our methods include traditional exams, short and long essays, a variety of innovative writing tasks, online assignments, team and independent projects, portfolios, and presentations. We know that every student has their strengths, and we believe firmly in allowing you to shine in what you already do well, but also in training you and challenging you to improve in all forms of academic expression.

We encourage this development through the use of 'formative' assessments: practices that take place ahead of your formal 'summative' assessments, and which ensure that you are developing the necessary skills and understanding to progress.  We provide detailed feedback on all assessment, and one-on-one sessions with markers allow you to make sure that you you are clear on what you need to do in order to improve your work.  This approach is now well-developed in the department, and our students value our assessment and feedback practices very highly, as can be seen from our National Student Survey scores.

Both the range of assessments that you undertake at York, and our proactive and personal approach to feedback are fundamental to developing highly sought-after transferable skills, and preparing you for future success in any career.


Careers and employability

Skills Development

Our degrees train you in the latest methods, techniques, and theories available to archaeologists and heritage professionals, preparing you to pursue a career in the archaeology or heritage fields. However, Archaeology and Heritage is also an excellent general degree course, which provides you with an unparalleled range of transferable skills. For example, you’ll learn how to carry out primary research in libraries, archives, the internet, and in the field. You'll also develop excellent written and verbal communication skills through regular essays, seminar presentations and discussions, and ultimately, through an assessed lecture in your 3rd year. You’ll be able to organise and manage meetings, and throughout, you will learn how to work closely with others, both as a leader and a team-player in the classroom and in the field.

You will learn to combine skills and approaches from across the sciences, arts, and humanities: how many other degrees combine elements of maths, science, languages, history, politics, economics, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology? This diverse package means that our students are uniquely placed to accept the challenges of the modern workplace, from using complex statistical computer software to the ability to 'sell' an argument to a sceptical audience.

Just as importantly, dealing with the complexities of archaeological data and heritage theory is a great way of training the mind to think logically and critically about the world around you; this is why our graduates are so well-prized by such a range of professions. In today's competitive employment environment, a degree in Archaeology and Heritage may just give you the edge over your rivals.


Students with a BA in Archaeology and Heritage can, of course, enter a variety of heritage professions, from museums and galleries, to archives and archaeological units. In addition, many of our students go on to become education officers in museums or public archaeology groups, or provide expertise to local authorities and heritage bodies. However, students might also use the skills they develop here to enter a wide range of professions outside of the heritage sector, particularly those which value skills such as:

  • problem solving;
  • creative thinking;
  • analysis and interpretation of evidence;
  • project management skills;
  • public engagement;
  • IT literacy and numeracy;
  • equal aptitude in written and verbal communication;
  • a sense of geography and space, and a global perspective.

Clearly these skills are in high demand, and though many disciplines offer the opportunity to excel in some of them, few will allow you to develop across the whole spectrum.  In short, York Archaeology and Heritage students graduate with a very attractive and highly unusual skillset. Further details, including stories from some of the dept's recent graduates, are available here.


How to apply

Archaeology and Heritage is an excellent way to combine an interest in the past and its material culture with an enthusiasm for government and policy, public outreach, education, or tourism. For that reason, we accept students with a wide range of academic backgrounds, and we are popular with mature students and those who have non-traditional academic and work experience. We also don't require you to have done any archaeology before you apply. If you have an interest in the past and its relevance to the modern world, you can pursue a degree in Heritage Studies.

All applications must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Our undergraduate admissions officer is happy to answer any questions you may have about our department, our degrees, and the application process.

We accept any combination of A levels, including General Studies and Critical Thinking, and we encourage you to undertake independent projects and experiential learning. We also accept a wide variety of equivalent overseas qualifications, and request a 6.5 IELTS score for non-native English speakers. Please see our typical offers for more information about the grades we require for entry onto our courses.

We encourage you to visit York on one of the university Open Days throughout the year, which will provide you with an opportunity to visit the Department and talk to staff about the courses and your interests.

Direct second year entry

For direct second-year entry, you must take our accredited programme via the Centre for Lifelong Learning, passing 120 credits in 3 core modules, with an average mark of 60+. 

If you have completed the first year of an Archaeology or cognate degree at another university, you may be able to enter directly into our second year through an Accrediation of Prior Learning. Please contact the department if you would like to enquire about APL for second-year entry.

Entry requirements

A levels


A Level General Studies and Critical Thinking are accepted

International Baccalaureate

Obtain Diploma with 34-31 points

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers


Irish Leaving Certificate



BTEC National Diploma or QCF BTEC Extended Diploma with DDM

European Baccalaureate

Overall average grade of 75% or higher

Other qualifications

•Cambridge Pre-U: D3, M2, M2-M2, M2, M2
•Access to HE: Obtain Access to HE Diploma with 15 credits achieved from units awarded Distinction and 15 awarded Merit or higher - Obtain Access to HE Diploma with 30 credits achieved from units awarded Merit.

Other qualifications are accepted by the University. Please contact Undergraduate Admissions

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in all units
  • Pearson PTE Academic: 61 overall with 51 in all parts
  • Cambridge Advanced English (CAE): grade A
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): grade C
  • GCSE/IGCSE/O level English Language (as a first language): grade C.

Mature students

We welcome applications from mature and non-traditional students. Archaeology is a popular degree for people coming back to education, and if you have an interest in the course, we encourage you to get in touch with us to talk about your experience and qualifications.

Any questions?

Contact our friendly admissions tutor if you've got any questions:

Admissions Tutor

Dr Penny Bickle

  • 01904 323935



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