Environmental Archaeology MSc

London, Bloomsbury

This MSc provides participants with a theoretical understanding of research questions and methodologies in the study of past human-environment interactions, including subsistence and subsistence change. The Institute of Archaeology has a long research and training tradition in environmental archaeology and has well-established laboratory facilities and reference collections as a result.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
1 calendar year
2 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
Applicants who require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 28 Jun 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Applicants who do not require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 30 Aug 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Environmental archaeology is an interdisciplinary field encompassing sciences both for fieldwork and in the laboratory, that not only enrich archaeological interpretation but also contribute an archaeological perspective on the long-term legacy of human and environment interactions that have relevance for the future of our planet.

We recognize that the Anthropocene is an epoch in which human actions have become a a geological force influencing climate and biodiversity, but the human behaviours that contribute to these have long histories. Humans have impacted the landscape and environment locally, regionally and perhaps globally, and these effects stretch back to before written records. Environmental archaeology gathers the empirical evidence for how people have used and transformed the environment, including resources from animals and plants, as well as soil and sedimentary systems.

Environmental archaeology works through datasets that are not strictly speaking artefacts but remains of other organisms, soils and sediments, recovered routinely on excavations. Research questions in the field can grouped as addressing issues about focusing food/diet in the past or past land use and landscape reconstruction. This MSc programme addresses these research questions by drawing on research fields of archaeobotany (plants), zooarchaeology (animals) and geoarchaeology (sediments). It stretches across time from early hunter-gatherer societies through domestication and the origins of agriculture, to agricultural intensification, complex societies and world systems. Through the core courses students develop an understanding of formation processes and their implications for developing sampling strategies, and for the critical assessment of environmental archaeology datasets.

In addition, each student gains practical experience in laboratory analysis of at least one of the sub-fields: identification of animal bones, identification of plant macro-remains, or geoarchaeology (micromorphological and sedimentological analyses). They are trained to collect and analyse data in this field, to follow this through labwork and to report scientific results to a high standard.

Who this course is for

The programme is particularly suitable for students with a first degree in archaeology (or - subject to consultation - a subject relevant to environmental archaeology, such as biology, anthropology, geography, and earth sciences) who wish to develop skills and training in research methods relevant to environmental archaeology, and to gain practical training in laboratory practice in the areas of archaeozoology, geoarchaeology or archaeobotany.

What this course will give you

The UCL Institute of Archaeology is one of the largest and most diverse department of archaeology in the UK, and was ranked first for Research Power in the UK Research Excellence Framework 2021. The institute has a strong suite of archaeological science laboratories, including some of the longest established for environmental archaeology. Teaching and research in geoarchaeology and zooarchaeology began in the 1940s and archaeobotany in the 1960s. These labs have unrivalled comparative collections as well as up to date equipment and world-leading staff expertise. Recent and current research in these laboratories cuts across most continents, and have trained generations of researcher now established around the world. Practical training and a lab-based dissertation in once of the three sub-fields of environmental archaeology prepared students to go into fieldwork or join commercial archaeology projects as specialists, or to laboratory-based research for a doctoral programme.

This degree reflects the institute’s broader mission to harness knowledge of the past and what is to be human, including pre-eminent research in archaeological sciences and world archaeology, and critical approaches to its contemporary conservation.

UCL is located in the heart of London, close to the resources of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum.

The foundation of your career

A successfully completed dissertation for the MSc in Environmental Archaeology course, coupled with graduates' assessed participation in specifically-designed Environmental Archaeology core modules, provides a demonstration of graduates' ability to undertake hands-on research in a given specialism (zooarchaeology; archaeobotany; geoarchaeology) and equips them with significant background training to engage environmental archaeological aspects within developer-funded archaeology. 


Some graduates of the programme go on to PhD studies but others will be well-placed to pursue a wide range of professional careers both within and beyond archaeology, including employment as environmental specialists for contract archaeology units.


It is not uncommon for staff to put students in touch with colleagues in other organisations (both academic and non-academic), especially in the context of dissertation research. Additionally, a range of visiting speakers pass through the Institute of Archaeology every year and there may be opportunities to meet them.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, presentations, laboratory sessions, practicals, and site and museum visits.

Assessment is through the dissertation, and a combination of essays, coursework, presentations, practical examination and laboratory reports, depending on the options selected.

The core courses are seminar-based and involve two contact hours per week during the teaching weeks. Extensive reading is required in advance of each weekly seminar.


The teaching is carried out in the first two terms. In the second term you identify a dissertation topic and supervisor then in the third term you begin work on your dissertation, which continues over the summer. Research skills sessions provide support for this and you will be required to deliver an oral presentation of your dissertation plans to staff and your student colleagues to obtain feedback.

Teaching takes place during terms one and two. Those who undertake part-time study will discuss their pathway through the degree with the degree co-ordinator.

Typically students will take the compulsory core modules in the first year and select their optional modules in order to spread these out to year two. The dissertation is discussed in year 1 and completed at the end of year two. We endeavour to be flexible to the needs of part-time students in designing their pathway through the degree over two years.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded an MSc in Environmental Archaeology.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £15,100 £7,550
Tuition fees (2024/25) £31,100 £15,550

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Additional costs

The fees cover the use of the UCL Institute of Archaeology laboratories for scheduled practical sessions and MSc dissertation research. Other expenses related to the provision of additional specialist materials, laboratory analyses undertaken outside of the Institute of Archaeology, or fieldwork are not covered. All MA/MSc students at the institute have the possibility of taking part in the Institute of Archaeology's summer term field training course, held at a site in southern England (usually involves extra costs of approximately £250-350 to cover food and travel).

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

UCL Institute of Archaeology International Masters Student Award. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor the scholarship will enable one Overseas fee paying student to undertake a year of study. It will provide support of up to £26,000 for the duration of their degree to cover fees. Further details can be found here. The deadline for applications is 1 March 2024.

Institute of Archaeology Master's Awards: The UCL Institute of Archaeology has one studentship of £10,000 available to support a graduate student who is an ordinarily resident in the UK or Ireland and eligible to pay home fee rate. The deadline for applications is 1st March 2024. For further information and to download an application see here: here

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Aziz Foundation Scholarships in Social and Historical Sciences

Value: Full tuition fees (equivalent to 1yr full-time) (1yr)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

Institute of Archaeology International Masters Student Award

Deadline: 1 March 2024
Value: Up to £26,000 (1yr)
Criteria Based on academic merit
Eligibility: EU, Overseas

Next steps

Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at Application fees.

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Environmental Archaeology at graduate level
  • why you want to study Environmental Archaeology at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to this programme
  • how your personal, academic and professional background meets the demands of a challenging academic environment
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

Applicants need a general archaeological background to be eligible for direct entry onto this degree. Applicants without this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis or may wish to consider our Graduate Diploma in the first instance. 

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

Got questions? Get in touch

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