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Research Degrees

Our top-rated, internationally-acclaimed department supports early-career researchers to pursue innovative research projects and develop their ideas, skill sets, networks and intellectual horizons, toward building professional or academic careers in Archaeology, Heritage, Museums, Conservation, and beyond.

We have a world-class reputation for teaching and research, being regularly ranked one of the top two Archaeology departments in the UK (e.g. Research Excellence Framework [REF] 2014 and 2021) and one of the top ten globally (World University QS rankings 2023).

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We have a very wide range of research specialisms, encompassing archaeologies of Britain and Europe, West Asia, Egypt and North Africa, South Asia and East Asia, the Palaeolithic to the 21st century, studying materials from human remains to iconography, and honing cutting-edge scientific methods to theoretical frameworks. Synergies in this pool of research activity are fostered in vibrant, cross-disciplinary Research and Impact Groups.

We can offer you expert research supervision leading to MA and MSc by Research (aka MRes), MPhil, and PhD qualifications through full- or part-time study. Durham’s library holdings are excellent and our post-graduate researchers can take advantage of regular researcher meetings in department and through Durham’s many interdisciplinary research centres. Our PhDs have the option of a traditional dissertation of 100,000 words (maximum) or a portfolio of publications.

Feel free to browse the research interests of our staff.

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Our Research Degrees 

MA or MSc by Research: one year of full-time or two years of part-time research and writing, plus up to six months of continuation writing up time, producing a dissertation of up to 50,000 words. The research topic for this qualification is usually based on a specific object, site, or phenomenon. If your topic is suitable and you demonstrate an aptitude for research, the MA or MSc by Research can lead to postgraduate research at a higher level (MPhil. or PhD). You will normally have a qualification in a related area, evidence of sound research training, and a good project proposal developed with a supervisor in department prior to application. 

MPhil: two years of full-time or four years of part-time research and writing, plus six months of continuation writing up time where needed, producing a dissertation of up to 60,000 words. The research topic for such a dissertation is usually based on an area or period of study, or the study of a specific class or group of objects, and this qualification can be upgraded to a PhD if your topic is suitable and you demonstrate an aptitude for original research. You will normally have a qualification in a related area, evidence of research training, and a strong project proposal developed with a supervisor in department prior to application.  

PhD: three years of full-time or six years of part-time research and writing, plus another year of continuation writing up time where needed, producing a dissertation of up to 100,000 words. The subject of your thesis will be a substantial piece of original research where you demonstrate your ability to undertake independent research. In consultation with the supervisor and department, the candidate may substitute the traditional dissertation with a collection of related publications tied together with introduction and conclusions.

A PhD will be necessary for those who wish to pursue a career in a University setting, in research and/or teaching. Applicants will normally have a masters-level qualification in a related area, evidence of previous research training, and a strong project proposal developed with a supervisor in department prior to application (see further below).

PhD in Heritage and Preservation Studies: This PhD programme is for professionals employed in the fields of archaeology, heritage, museums and conservation, who wish to develop an applied project in their employment practice into a PhD-qualification under the tutelage of experts at Durham University Department of Archaeology. The PhD is a five-year-long, part-time distance-learning programme, enabling those in professional employment to maintain their positions, full- or part-time, while working toward an advanced research qualification explicitly related to their employment base. Suitable projects might include, but are not limited to collection research and interpretation, conservation methodology and application, small-finds or site-based archaeological research, or heritage theory and presentation. They should be based on materials or issues that the researcher is engaged with through employment, and have the capacity to be developed into substantial, innovative, doctoral-level research projects. Those on this programme would be expected to travel to Durham at least four times during the five years, usually annually, for stays of at least one week, including for initial induction and welcome (early October), two formal work reviews (usually May or June), and otherwise flexibly to use facilities for analysis and attend events relating to their particular research as arising. A standard UK visa only is required for study visits. You will be able to participate in department life while outside Durham through hybrid departmental and research centre seminars, postgraduate student research activities and termly fora, as well as monthly online meetings with your supervisory team.

Those interested in exploring this opportunity are encouraged to review the research interests and staff of the department, and contact us to initiate discussions about your project ideas:

Facilities, Training and Development

  • Specialist guidance from two partner supervisors on project formation and direction, subject specific sources, networks, research methods, skills, and equipment;
  • World-leading, on-site facilities for scientific analyses in human bioarchaeology, environmental archaeology and materials, including aDNA laboratories, SIBL and Isotopes laboratories, the DARC Lab, thermoluminescence, human, fauna, and flora remains laboratories;
  • World-leading facilities for digital methods in remote-sensing and geographic information systems in our Infomatics Laboratory;
  • World-leading laboratory facilities for conservation of archaeological materials and for digital imaging including photogrammetry, 3-D scanning, and RTI;
  • Access to a suite of undergraduate and masters modules, including research and study skills, and practical skills modules;
  • A regular weekly department research seminar and host of events hosted by our department’s Research and Impact Groups (RIGs), and by university research centres and institutes;
  • Access to funding to support themed research workshops through our Research Dialogues programme;
  • Access to funding to support PGR organised research events through Graduate Research Archaeology at Durham (GRAD), the RIGs or university Research Centres;
  • Opportunities to become a PGR representative and/or join the GRAD committee;
  • A communal post-graduate researcher office with work desks;
  • Use of a university-supported laptop or computer for the duration of studies if required;
  • Access to paid Graduate Teaching Assistant positions on first-year undergraduate modules, with training and feedback, from second year on;
  • Training in software packages (e.g. R; Access; Excel; EndNote; LaTeX; ArcGIS; and digital imaging) through Durham Centre for Academic Development (DCAD), the Durham Research Methods Centre and/or department;
  • Research, presentation, engagement and other academic development training through DCAD’s Researcher Development Programme;
  • Archaeology-specific early career researcher career-development training occasions;
  • Access to funding to support research travel through department, colleges and research centres;
  • Use of a departmental common room;
  • Social mixers with staff, including research seminars, occasions, and weekly staff-PGR coffee mornings. 

How to apply

The process can be summarised in 5 steps:

  1. Check you meet our entry requirements.
  2. Make contact with the department and a potential supervisor. It is essential prior to applications that the supervisor has agreed to supervise your project, and normally you will have sent in a writing sample and drafts of your research proposal for feedback prior to applying. This is especially important if you are applying for AHRC or other funding.
  3. Write a research proposal following our guidance.
  4. Check on available start dates and deadlines, especially where you are applying for funding.
  5. Apply using the applicant portal.

Find out more about our research projects, or contact us for more information on applying. We hope you will choose to join us for a research degree in archaeology.


There are a number of sources of funding for research postgraduate (and particularly PhD) study. You can find out more on the University's funding and scholarships pages. The table below summarises some main sources of funded scholarships for PhD studies.

Funding Body Deadline
China Scholarships Council 15 January
Northern Bridge DTC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) 10 January
IAPETUS DTC (Natural Environment Research Council) Varies by project - see website for details
Commonwealth Scholarships November 2023

There are a range of other funds for international students provided by the governments of individual countries including, but not limited to:

  • Nigeria: TETfund (Tertiary Education Trust Fund)
  • Bangladesh - Bangabandhu Overseas Scholarship Program
  • Malaysia – Ministry of Education
  • Türkiye – Ministry of Education
  • Republic of Kazakhstan – International Bolashak Scholarship
  • Japan – Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
  • Mexico – Conacyt
  • Thailand – the Royal Thai Embassy Scholarship
  • Chile - Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica

Other funding for final year (writing up):