FAQs

Background

I do not have an archaeological background. Does this matter?

No. It is not necessary for applicants previously to have studied archaeology, although we do look for evidence of motivation and interest in the subject.

I do not have a science background. Does this matter for an MSc?

This depends upon the MSc. In the case of the MSc in Archaeological Information Systems and Early Prehistory it is not necessary to have a strong background in science subjects, but for the MSc in Bioarchaeology, you may want to be more familiar with biology and chemistry.

Application Procedure

When is the best time of year to apply?

This depends upon your circumstances. If you are currently a UK undergraduate, we recommend that you apply between the November and April of your final year. If you are applying for an AHRC studentship you will need to have submitted your application and hold an offer by the award deadline.   If you want to be considered for a departmental award, you must have an offer by 30 April.

Overseas students who wish to be considered for departmental or university funding must apply and hold an offer by 30 April.  If you are an overseas student with your own financial support, you have a little more flexibility. However, you must be sure to allow sufficient time for your visa application to be processed, and to finalize any loans that you might be using for your funding. Having enough time to sort out these necessities may be problematic if you apply after July of the academic year preceding the course. 

Furthermore, if your English is below the department's entrance standard (IELTS 6.5), you will need to apply early enough to allow time to attend an appropriate pre-sessional English course.  You may take one at York in the Centre for English Language Teaching. These are of variable lengths, but the longest (nine months in duration) commences in January of the academic year preceding the course.

When will I know if I have been offered a place?

We try to review submitted application forms within four weeks of receiving them, although this may be longer at peak application times.  If you are successful, we will offer you a place on the course, and you will be notified by post from the Graduate Schools Office of the university.  For more details of the application procedure see the Postgraduate Application Pages.

How are decisions about places made?

Whether or not you are offered a place on one of our Masters courses depends upon a number of criteria. These include your academic track record at undergraduate level, your writing ability, your level of experience, your motivation, and your aptitude for the course.

Are there any other entry requirements?

Applicants for whom English is not a first language must also demonstrate an appropriate English language proficiency. This is usually done by means of an IELTS (International English Language Testing Service) score of 6.5 or greater or a Pearson score of 61 or greater. If you fall below this level you should consider registering for a pre-sessional English course at the Centre for English Language Teaching. The language centre also runs also English classes during the academic year, but taught Masters courses are so intensive that if your language skills are not sufficient at the outset, you may be unable to complete the course successfully.

Providing the results of a recent IELTS test with your application forms helps to speed up our decision- making. In the absence of an IELTS score, any offer of a place will usually be conditional upon you demonstrating an appropriate standard of English prior to the start of the course.

I am a mature student. Am I likely to be considered for a place on a course?

Yes, certainly. Mature students typically make up 10-20% of our student population, and are often amongst our top performers. Mature students bring a range of backgrounds and experience to the course, and mature applicants should be reassured that they would not be alone.  Entrance requirements for mature students take account of the range of backgrounds from which applicants come, and the fact that undergraduate degrees or other academic qualifications may have been undertaken some time ago. We consider each case individually, and we take relevant work experience into account.

What should I do if I want to take a year off before starting a course?

If you want to take a gap year before beginning a course, by all means apply whilst you are still in your final year at university/college. We can make you an offer of a place, deferred for one year, so that you can go away knowing that you will start the course on your return.

How many new students usually start each year?

The largest group we will have on any course is 20 students, at which point individual degree courses are generally capped. A typical average is about 5-10 students per course. With our recent expansion of the Department and our standing in the league tables these numbers may grow, but we will continue to maintain the good staff-student ratios which have characterized these courses in the past.

Do you pay interview expenses?

Sorry, no. We prefer to use Departmental money to part-fund students on the courses, and to pay for field trips, site visits, and dissertation projects.

Funding & Fees

How are students on the courses usually funded?

Some students are funded via departmental or university scholarships, and some home students receive AHRC studentships. Most are self-funded. There are limited numbers of EU funded places, but these are linked to specific training sites.  Updated information about scholarships available within the archaeology department can be found on our funding page.

Non-UK students have typically arranged their own funding, often through their employers, national governments and research organizations, international scholarship and exchange schemes, academic loans, or by self-funding.  The University also administers an overseas postgraduate scholarships scheme designed to meet the specific needs of non-UK and non-EU applicants. These include Overseas Research Scholarships and Overseas Taught Postgraduate Scholarships.

How are decisions about studentships made?

Whether you are awarded a studentship depends on a number of criteria.  For MA studentships, your academic track record as an undergraduate, your personal statement, your writing samples, and your references will be taken into account.  For PhD studentships, your undergraduate and MSc/MA grades (or your predicted grade if you have not yet graduated), your project proposal, and your referees' comments on your abilities and motivation are all considered.

Does the University or Department offer any financial support to students?

A hardship fund exists to help students who are experiencing severe financial hardship whilst at the University. It is a condition of registering on any course at the University that you have ensured that you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition fees and living expenses. You should, therefore, be able to demonstrate that any financial difficulties have arisen through unforeseen or exceptional circumstances. There is a separate international students hardship fund to assist EU and international students whose financial support has suddenly been reduced either for political reasons or personal misfortune.

What other potential sources of funding are available?

Career Development Loans are another alternative source of funding. These are available throughout the UK and are designed to help pay for vocational courses that lasting up to 2 years. Career Development Loans are deferred repayment bank loans and you can borrow between £300 and £10,000 to cover up to 80% of your tuition fees, plus the full cost of books, materials and other related expenses including travel, childcare and disability costs.

For non-UK applicants, the British Council administers the British Chevening Scholarships. These vary from fees-only awards, to full awards which also pay your living and travel expenses. The average value of a Chevening Scholarship, at £18,000-£20,000, is quite substantial. However, competition for the awards is heavy, and you will need an excellent academic record. You should contact the British Council Office in your own country for further information on these. The British Council also has information on sources of funding for international students, which contains information on various funding schemes and gives useful addresses for further information. Again, you should contact the British Council office in your own country.

What are the current University tuition fees?

Details of tuition fees for both Home/EU and International students are available here.

Are there any additional course-related costs not covered by the academic fees?

There are no additional course related costs, although some courses offer optional trips or study tours, which may incur an additional fee if you choose to attend them.

Courses

What courses does York offer?

We offer nearly two dozen MA and MSc courses in the department, including MAs by Research in Archaeological Studies and Conservation Studies. For more detail, visit our programme pages.

How are the courses structured?

Our Masters courses last for one year and consist of a six-month taught component, followed by an individual research project, for which you have to write a dissertation. During the taught component (October to March) you attend lectures and workshops, and where appropriate, undertake field or laboratory-based practical classes. Your independent research projects may be field, laboratory, or literature based, and your completed dissertation is handed in during the first week of September. Dissertations are examined by internal and external examiners in late September. There is a mid-year graduation ceremony for postgraduate students in January following the end of your course.

How much field work does each course involve?

This depends upon the course you undertake. See our individual course descriptions for details.

How is the course assessed?

To be awarded a Masters degree you must (a) pass the taught component of the course, and (b) pass the dissertation project.  Assessment procedures for the taught components vary (see the relevant Masters pages).

As noted above, the award of the degree depends upon the standard of the dissertation, as well as the mark attained during the taught component. Work is assessed on a scale from 0-100, with marks above 50 counted as passing, and above 70 as passing with distinction. Students who fail the dissertation are only eligible for the award of the appropriate diploma.

What is the dissertation project?

The dissertation is an individual research project which begins in late April, and for which you must submit a written project of c. 20,000 words on September 1st. The project allows you to put into practice the skills and knowledge gained in the taught part of the course. You will begin to develop your ideas for dissertation topics after Christmas, and you have free choice to work in the subject area you find most interesting within the parameters of your degree course. You will submit a proposal for the dissertation at the end of the Spring term, and you will be assigned a supervisor according to topic, with whom you will consult over the summer term and summer vacation during the research and writing of your project.

We encourage and support students who wish to publish the results of their dissertations, and many past Masters students have been successful in this area.

Can I suggest my own dissertation project?

Yes. Most students, with the help of York staff, devise their own projects. If you decide to do this, you will need to approach an appropriate lecturer with your idea in order to see whether it would make a reasonable project. The topic must be one for which we have the necessary expertise and facilities, and it must be practical and viable, i.e. something which can be completed in 5 months.

Do the dissertation projects involve fieldwork?

Many dissertation projects involve practical work, either in the laboratory or in the field. You may carry out original work, or choose to analyze data or samples which have been collected previously or provided by colleagues or companies. For those projects which do involve fieldwork, you should discuss with your supervisor your plan for completing this portion of the dissertation, as it is imperative that your timetable allows sufficient time for carrying out the research and writing it up.

If I am sponsored, can my sponsor suggest my dissertation topic, or provide my samples?

Yes, but we would need to receive a proposal describing the project, and identifying the sample suites to be used. The proposal should also name the person in the sponsor's organisation who will act as liaison, and provide contact details for them. Samples should be delivered to York by no later than the end of March. The Masters dissertation schedule is very tight, and there is absolutely no room for delays. The sponsor should be able to confirm the suitability of the samples for the proposed study.

How many dissertation projects does each member of staff usually supervise at one time?

An individual staff member will typically supervise several projects. We try to ensure an excellent staff-student ratio for supervision of independent projects, although the size of your Masters degree cohort and changes in staffing availability (i.e. sabbatical terms) may affect the number of students a supervisor must take on. However, dissertation supervision loading is monitored to make sure that each student gets very good access to his/her supervisor.

Do you offer any industrial/professional placements?

This depends on the Masters course you take.  The degrees in Archaeological Information Systems, Digital Heritage, Conservation Studies, Conservation Studies (IHBC accredited) and Cultural Heritage Management all have formal placement requirements.  The remaining courses do not have a formal placement scheme, but if you are interested, you may speak with your course director about possible placement opportunities.

Career

Will doing a Masters improve my employment prospects?

As a graduate of one of York's courses, your employment prospects will be good, as we are well known and respected in both the academic and professional archaeological/heritage sectors. During the last 5 years, two thirds of our graduates gained jobs for which the Masters was relevant, and about a quarter began PhDs. Similarly, over the last eight years, about three quarters of the MA graduates gained appropriate employment or secured studentships for higher degrees. For further information on careers see the CBA's factsheet.

Are you ever contacted by employers looking for new employees?

We frequently receive and circulate advertisements for relevant jobs and PhD studentships, and your course director is often a good source of information on where to look for jobs.

I am not sure whether I want to do a Masters or a PhD. What should I do?

Many of our applicants have considered both Masters and PhD degrees. Ultimately, the choice is yours. However, you may find that the Masters is more appropriate if you wish to deepen your archaeological understanding, or if you are initially uncertain whether you wish to devote at least 3 years of your life to a PhD.  In the UK, it is uncommon to begin a PhD without first undertaking a Masters course, as there is no taught component to the PhD programme, and the registration period (3 years) is much shorter than in many countries.

During York's one-year Masters courses, you gain a much more advanced knowledge and understanding of a specific area of archaeology than is typically available from an undergraduate degree programme. The courses address both theoretical concepts and practical skills and, when you graduate, your employment prospects will be good. Indeed, having a PhD would not necessarily guarantee you a better job than you would get with an MA/MSc, as overall employment rates for Masters and PhD graduates are similar. In certain sectors (e.g. academia), a PhD will probably be a necessity, and in others, it may make your application more competitive. However, a research degree is not required for most jobs within archaeology and heritage.

In our experience, students who have taken one of York's Masters courses are better prepared for PhD projects. Indeed, we sometimes recommend our Masters courses to unsuccessful PhD applicants in order to help them improve such skills. However, because of the sustained effort required, we would not recommend a PhD to anyone who was not genuinely interested in research. PhD students need to enjoy research work rather than seeing it as a necessary stage in a career development plan.

Living in York

I do not know very much about York. Where can I find more information?

York is one of the most attractive places to live in the UK and was previously voted European Tourism City of the Year. The beautiful countryside and coasts of North Yorkshire are accessible by car, bike and public transport, whilst Leeds, Durham, and London are within easy day-trip range. VisitYork.org gives comprehensive information about what to see and do in the city.

For further information about living in York, we suggest you take a look at the York City Council webpages.

Is University accommodation available for Masters students?

Yes. Overseas students are guaranteed university accommodation if they want it, and some home students also take up this option. Further details are available on the University's accommodation pages.

What is non-University accommodation like?

With two universities, and several colleges, York has a large student population. Fortunately, there is plenty of non-University accommodation available, and rents are quite reasonable. The most popular areas of the city are Fulford/Fishergate, South Bank, and Bootham/Clifton. For further details see the Private Sector Housing pages.