Research Article

Studying at the UCL Institute of Archaeology

  • Bill Sillar (UCL Institute of Archaeology, London WC1H 0PY, United Kingdom)
  • Lisa Daniel (UCL Institute of Archaeology, London WC1H 0PY, United Kingdom)
  • Charlotte Frearson (UCL Institute of Archaeology, London WC1H 0PY, United Kingdom)


Ranked 1st in The Guardian (2013) league table for studying archaeology Ranked 2nd in The Times (2013) ‘Good University Guide’ 100% of Institute undergraduate finalists expressed satisfaction with our teaching and support in the UK National Student Surveys 2010 and 2011

How to Cite: Sillar, B., Daniel, L., & Frearson, C. (2013). Studying at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. Archaeology International, 16(1).

Rights: Copyright: © 2013 The Author(s)



Published on
24 Oct 2013
Peer Reviewed

“My three years as an undergraduate at the Institute have been fantastic. The fieldwork opportunities, stimulating courses and vibrant atmosphere make it, in my opinion, the best place to study Archaeology.”

Maryann Kontonicolas

(BA Classical Archaeology and Classical Civilisation, 2009–2012)

Students at the UCL Institute of Archaeology discover the rich diversity of the human past, exploring societies from two million years ago to the present day, and asking questions of relevance to our shared global future. To address these questions students integrate the humanities and the sciences; using a wide range of approaches to collect, evaluate and interpret relevant evidence. At UCL and during survey and excavation projects students make life-long friends while developing teamwork, management and leadership skills. Studying archaeology demands energy and enthusiasm, it challenges expectations while developing the problem-solving and transferable skills which all employers are looking for. Graduates from the Institute go on to make wide-ranging contributions to society, including business, academia and archaeology. For stories from past alumni, see the ‘Alumni Reflections’ section towards the back of this issue of Archaeology International.

“Much more than a degree in Archaeology, it has offered me skills I can use for the rest of my life.”

Victor Mellors

(BA Archaeology, 2009–2012)

The eight floors of the Institute occupy the northern side of Gordon Square, next to the main UCL campus, within easy reach of the museums, cultural life and resources that lie at the heart of London. This building is home to all our staff, undergraduate, Master’s and PhD students. It houses an outstanding and world renowned archaeology library, numerous laboratories, computing and photographic facilities, world-renowned collections and seminar rooms, allowing students at all levels to critically engage with – and contribute to – current research. Students at the Institute are part of a thriving community, and a central feature of this is the Society of Archaeological Students (SAS), our social and academic society.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1

The skull of a sheep from the Institute’s extensive reference collection of faunal remains from around the world (photo: Lisa Daniel).

In 2012 we reviewed all of the Institute’s undergraduate teaching and from September 2013 we will start a revised curriculum for all our BA and BSc Degrees. The changes have been designed to enhance student awareness of the transferable skills that they are acquiring and to better prepare them for varied careers within and outside archaeology. It also aims to enhance the Institute’s on-going commitment to UCL’s policy of ‘Education for Global Citizenship’ by strengthening the debate about the contribution archaeology makes to social, economic, environmental and ethical issues in the UK and around the world.

Fig. 2
Fig. 2

A student at work in the Institute’s conservation laboratories (photo: Lisa Daniel).

The new 1st-year core courses develop basic skills and essential knowledge for all undergraduate Archaeology students. We have also enhanced the distinctiveness of our six undergraduate degrees, with a renewed emphasis on our excellent staff, laboratories and reference collections for the BSc. We also provide clearer direction to support students’ selection of optional courses, with students required to take a minimum number of options that are identified as ‘World Archaeology’ (focusing on particular regions of the world and time periods) and ‘Science and Skills’ (which provide training in the application and interpretation of analytical methods). We have also introduced fortnightly small-group tutorials (not linked to specific courses) throughout Years 1, 2 and 3 in order to promote a deeper intellectual engagement with staff through in-depth discussion of issues pertinent to the degree.

“The time I have spent at the IoA has been the best of my life. I have learnt so much from the best in the business!”

Daniella Afeltra

(BSc Archaeology, 2010– 2013)

All Institute degrees have structured core courses and a dissertation, but students are able to choose from around 70 undergraduate and a further 70 Master’s optional courses that develop their personal interests. We offer a wide range of BA, BSc, MA and MSc degrees, for details (including full handbooks for each course) see: .

The Institute also has the largest and most diverse community of archaeology research students of any UK University. Information on PhD and staff research can be found at: .

In spite of being the largest archaeology department in the world, students at the Institute are part of a small community which values and supports all its members. The close co-operation and interaction between staff and students means that everyone benefits from this exciting research-led and teaching-focused institution.

All undergraduate students participate in a minimum of 70 days fieldwork, which includes four days on the ‘Experimental Archaeology Course’ and a 12-day ‘Archaeology Field Training Course’ during their first year. Funding from UCL covers subsistence and travel costs for most fieldwork and study tours in the UK and abroad. See ‘The Institute of Archaeology Around the World’ feature in this issue.

“The opportunity for studying abroad – especially the year abroad degree – has provided me with a valuable and unforgettable experience.”

Benjamin Horne

(BA Archaeology with a Year Abroad, 2010–2013)

UK students have access to Government loans to cover the £9,000 UCL fees. Students start to pay off these loans after graduation, paying 9% of any income over £21,000 a year. In addition, UCL undergraduates from families with incomes lower than £42,000 a year receive an annual cash bursary of £1,000.

A Semester or Junior Year Abroad at the Institute of Archaeology is a unique opportunity for students enrolled at a university outside the UK. These affiliate students attend the same classes as the Institute’s regular degree seeking students. For further information contact Charlotte Frearson:

Our Graduate Diploma can provide an academic qualification for students who already hold a first degree in a non-archaeology subject or as a foundation year in preparation for one of our Master’s degrees.

We welcome high achieving and committed students of all backgrounds, ages and nationalities. If you have questions about our undergraduate degrees, please contact Charlotte Frearson: Enquiries about the Graduate Diploma, Master’s Programmes and PhD-level research can be addressed to Lisa Daniel:

“The most enthusiastic and inspiring teachers I have ever had.”

Harriet Louth

(MA Cultural Heritage Studies, 2011–2012)

“Great location, fabulous staff and amazing resources.”

Lizzie Cooper

(MA Museum Studies, 2011–2012)

Undergraduate and Graduate Open Events at the Institute of Archaeology

Undergraduate Open Days

The opportunity to come to the Institute is available through our Undergraduate Open Days, which will take place on:

Wednesday 13th November 2013

Wednesday 4th December 2013

Wednesday 15th January 2014

Wednesday 26th February 2014

These events are open to those interested in our undergraduate degrees (compulsory Open Days for offer holders will be held on different dates to be communicated once offers are made). Staff and current students will be on hand providing talks, tours and information on undergraduate degrees in the Institute. The days will run from 10am-2pm and will include tours of the Institute from current undergraduate students, a series of talks (about life at the Institute and more detail about the degrees, as well as information regarding fieldwork) will be given by current students and staff, including the Admissions Tutor, Dr Bill Sillar (or Deputy Tutor, Dr Andrew Garrard) and tours of the Institute’s Collections by our Collections Manager. Refreshments will be available throughout the day.

Graduate Open Evenings

The Institute of Archaeology offers an unparalleled array of Master’s courses covering all aspects of the discipline, including the archaeological sciences and heritage studies. Our staff also offer PhD supervision across a wide topical, geographical and chronological range. Those wishing to find out more about what we offer at graduate level should visit our web pages:

The opportunity to come to the Institute is available through our Graduate Open Evenings, which will take place on:

20th November 2013

11th March 2014

5th June 2014

These events are open to those interested in our Master’s courses or research degrees and to those already accepted onto a graduate degree programme. Staff and current students will be on hand providing talks, tours and information on Master’s and doctoral opportunities in the Institute. Staff and current students will be available from 5pm to advise on course content and the admissions process. At 5.30pm there will be an introduction and welcome to the Institute of Archaeology by Professor Andrew Reynolds, Graduate Admissions Tutor, and at 6pm there will be tours of the building to include the world class library, the archaeological collections, the Wolfson Archaeological Science Laboratories, conservation laboratories and archaeobotany laboratories. Refreshments will be available throughout the evening.