The Research Student's Life
The rest of the text on this page was written by one of our Research Students to help to give an insight into life as a Research Student at the Institute of Archaeology.
Post-Graduate Research at the Institute of Archaeology
The most striking aspect about being a graduate student at the UCL Institute of Archaeology is the working environment created by the place. There are currently over 250 graduate students and over 60 staff members actively involved in research projects creating a lively and stimulating environment within which to work. It can be a very difficult choice to decide on the best place for graduate research and this informal discussion is designed to give an insight into the life of a graduate student at the UCL Institute of Archaeology or at the ‘Institute’ as it is affectionately known. The descriptions of life as a graduate student below were all provided by graduate students currently working at the Institute.
Perhaps the first step along the graduate path for any student is funding. The Institute has a very good record for getting students funding from national funding bodies (the exact figures of scholarship allocations can be seen on the funding body websites). The Institute seems to have a good standing with bodies like the AHRC reflected by the number of scholarships awarded to prospective Institute students each year. If you want to apply to one of these funding bodies you need to contact the department before making your application. It is always good to start thinking about funding applications well in advance of when you want to start at the institute, as deadlines are often up to eight months before the start of the academic year. There are a number of internal funds that are available when you become a graduate student at the Institute to help finance research related activities such as fieldwork or conferences. These funds can enable graduate students to carry out quite ambitious research projects as part of their graduate research. More information about funding bodies, eligibility and how to apply can be found at UCL’s main website.
The Institute recognises that the supervisor is perhaps the most crucial part of any graduate study and there is a well-established process in place to insure that you develop the best working relationship with your supervisor. With over 60 members of academic staff at the Institute working in over 30 countries around the world it is likely that you should be able to find a supervisor well suited to your research interests that can successfully inspire and supervise your work. The relatively informal atmosphere of the Institute is reflected in the good relationship that most students have with their supervisors, meeting regularly, discussing ideas, sharing results and developing new research objectives overtime. As well as an academic supervisor there is also a graduate tutor who is always there to lend support and advice throughout the year.
Library and Teaching Collections
The Library is a fantastic resource for the graduate student with a comprehensive collection of heritage related literature and teaching collections. The graduate students can take out up to 10 items on their library card and read them at their leisure in the research rooms or at home. As well as the Institute Library you can also make good use of the other four UCL libraries, the Senate House Library and the British Library all a short walk from the Institute. Over the past 67 years that the Institute of Archaeology has been in existence it has accumulated a number of fantastic teaching collections that students can use. These can be extremely useful for all students, particularly those working with ceramic, osteological or archaeobotanical collections.
All graduate students have a research room where they can find a tranquil environment to write papers and read books from the library. These rooms also have computer terminals so you can browse the library archives whilst printing off an online journal article. There are also lockers provided so you can keep possessions secured in the building.
Organising fieldwork and getting work experience is strongly encouraged by the Institute and the majority of Graduate students make good use of this opportunity. Many of the master’s programs include work placements using well-established contacts with a number of museums, archaeological companies and heritage agencies. So the Institute has all the necessary administrative and financial networks in place to help graduate students gain the necessary work experience or to set up their own independent fieldwork projects.
London can be a bit of an intimidating place for any new arrival but the Institute is a very international place with a large proportion of international students and staff. This makes it an easy place for any new student to fit in quickly and become part of the research community. UCL also provides an induction for international students arriving from oversees so that you soon become familiar with the UCL campus.
Being such a large department there are a lot of events going on all year round that students are encouraged to participate in. These seminar series, conferences and lectures are a great way to meet colleagues and hear about the latest developments in Archaeology. It is also possible to join one of the Institute’s established research groups where you can meet fellow students and staff members working in your research area. The primary research groups include, Environment and Culture, Heritage Studies, Complex and Literate Societies, Social and Cultural Dynamics, Material Culture and Data Science.
With Covent Garden and Soho just a few minutes walk away; the Institute enjoys a great location in the centre of London. The research rooms, seminars and common room mean that it is easy to meet fellow students and then enjoy the best of what has London has to offer with friends. The UCL and ULU unions are also only a stones throw away and always provide a lively place to ‘unwind’ at the end of each day. The Institute also has regular department parties organised by the SAS (Society of Archaeology Students) where it is possible to meet people in an informal environment.
Unfortunately, graduate studies at the Institute can’t last forever and getting a job when you finish is everyone’s top priority. The training, work experience and contacts you can build up whilst at the institute gives you the best possible chance of finding the job you want when you finish.