Archaeological Practice MSc

What is special about this course?

The MSc Archaeological Practice is a world-leading archaeology course which equips you with the tools for work in the real world.

The course combines an emphasis on the key practical skills essential for a career within the archaeological profession with a critical study of the advanced theoretical and methodological concepts underpinning the discipline.

We stress the acquisition of vocational skills through practical experience using as our 'laboratory' the rich archaeological resource of Orkney, home to some of the world's most renowned archaeological monuments.

Core modules will introduce you to the principles, philosophy and theory of cultural heritage management and immerse you in a suite of practical archaeological techniques including: excavation; non-intrusive field archaeology; digital means of exploring and recording archaeological materials; environmental archaeology; and post-excavation analysis.

There is flexibility to pursue an interest in period-based modules which reflect the research specialisms of the Archaeology Institute staff, or you may choose to focus entirely on our professional skills modules.

Special features

  • Study in the outstanding archaeological landscape of the Orkney Islands
  • Contribute to cutting-edge archaeology research at world-renowned sites including the Ness of Brodgar World Heritage site excavations
  • A three-month placement module offers the opportunity to develop your professional skills and gain valuable fieldwork experience
  • Flexibility is built into the course to match your personal and professional life; you can study individual modules, work towards the PgDip, or develop your expertise to gain a full masters degree

Entry requirements

  • 2:2 honours degree or above in archaeology or closely related subject, or equivalent academic or professional qualifications
  • You may also be considered if you can demonstrate significant professional experience in the field of archaeology


*Funding support notice*

A limited number of funded places are available for full-time, Scottish or EU fee status students

Postgraduate Loans (SAAS) (Scotland-domiciled and EU students)

Loans for tuition fees are available from SAAS for eligible Scotland-domiciled and EU students, and loans for living costs for eligible Scottish students.

(see fees/funding tab for more information)

Access routes


Core modules are:

  • Cultural heritage management
  • Practical archaeology

You will also choose four option modules which may include:

  • Death and burial archaeology
  • Vikings and Norse in the North Atlantic
  • Neolithic studies
  • From Vikings to VE Day: Scottish Medieval and later society
  • Iron Age Scotland in the Atlantic World
  • Archaeological and geophysical survey
  • Maritime archaeological heritage
  • Digital analysis
  • Sustainability past and present
  • Excavation
  • Art and archaeology: contemporary theory and practice
  • Geoarchaeology of the North Atlantic
  • Archaeobotany to archaeozoology


To achieve the award of MSc Archaeological Practice you must complete a 60 credit professional placement or dissertation.

How will I study my course?

Additional information for course delivery in 2021-22

From September 2021, it is our intention that physical campuses will be open to all students for access to study facilities, support services and social activities, subject to Scottish Government guidance. Our priority is to provide a safe learning environment for all students and staff. We will continue to review government guidance as restrictions shift and will inform you of any further changes to the information provided below about your course. You will study the course through our blended learning approach. From September, where practical and safe to do so, on-campus practical delivery will be prioritised and modules involving practical activity will be introduced in line with the Scottish Government guidance, including social distancing. Where this is not possible alternative options will be available. The theory elements may be delivered online through a combination of tutor-supported study, video-based seminars and self-directed study using the university's virtual learning environment. You can access your online and video-based classes from home however it is our intention to provide on-campus space for individual students where required as far as possible. Further information will be provided by your home campus. You will have an opportunity to attend an online, face to face or blended induction at the start of the course. International students requiring a Student Route visa to study with us must access scheduled classes on-campus.
  • Full-time
  • Part-time (structured)


  • You will learn through face-to-face lectures and tutorials at Orkney College UHI and video conference tutorials with experts based at other university campuses, and online study via the university's virtual learning environment (VLE).
  • There is also a significant amount of fieldwork that involves excavation, investigation and curation techniques in one of the world's best archaeological classrooms, The Orkney Islands.
  • International students requiring a Student Route visa to study with us must be based at Orkney College UHI during their studies
  • For more information, or if you have any questions about studying archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands, please contact us at:


How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 1 year
  • Part-time (structured): 2 years



Where can I study my course?

  • Orkney College UHI - Archaeology Institute

Start date

  • September


For students normally domiciled in Scotland, with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

This includes

  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status in the UK,
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with settled status in the UK
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.
  2020-21 2021-22
Per module (20 credits) £560 £560
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £1,680 £1,680
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits) £3,360 £3,360
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation) £5,000 £5,000

Rest of UK students

For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland, including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), studying this course on-campus, the following fees apply:

  2020-21 2021-22
Per module (20 credits) £650 £650
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £1,950 £1,950
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits) £3,900 £3,900
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation) £5,850 £5,850

EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled or pre-settled status in the UK

Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Scottish Government has confirmed that EU/EEA and Swiss nationals starting their study in Scotland from academic year 2021-22, who do not have settled or pre-settled status, will be considered as international for fee purposes. For 2021-22, students will get an automatic fee scholarship.

This includes EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are not self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.

2021-22 On-campus study (term-time address in Scotland) With scholarship
Per module (20 credits) £1,420 £1,070
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £4,260 £3,210
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits, 180 credits) £8,520 £6,420
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation, 180 credits) £12,780 £9,630

International students

For students who do not normally reside in the UK or European Union, studying on-campus, the following fees apply:

On-campus study (term-time address in Scotland)
  2020-21 2021-22
Per module (20 credits) £1,380 £1,420
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £4,140 £4,260
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits, 180 credits) £8,280 £8,520
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation, 180 credits) £12,420 £12,780

Fees are payable in advance each academic year unless otherwise agreed.

A no fee increase guarantee is available for self-funding full-time and structured part-time rest of the UK, EU and international postgraduate students for continuous study for the same award, up to the permitted standard time limit for the relevant award.


The university is pleased to offer a limited numbers of places with full tuition fee support for Scottish/EU students studying full-time on this course starting in September to help talented students join this key growth sector for the Scottish economy. Fees will be funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programmes. This funding was approved before Brexit and will continue to the end of the programme as planned, including funded places on this course for 2021-22.

To be eligible for this funding, students must meet the criteria for Scottish or SCEU (European nationals with settled status in the UK) fee status and be resident in the Highlands and Islands (including Moray) or Perth and Kinross for the duration of their studies. In accordance with funding regulations, tuition fee support will only be available to students who meet the funding eligibility criteria and are self-funding i.e. who are not in receipt of funding for tuition fees from other sources, including employers. Funded places will be allocated and successful applicants notified from March onwards, available places will continue to be allocated throughout the recruitment cycle. There is no separate application process, applicants holding an offer will be considered against the eligibility rules.

EU, Scottish Gov and SFC funding logos

Applications are welcome from all suitably qualified applicants. Students who do not meet the eligibility for the tuition fee support, or are not successful in being allocated one of the limited places, will be responsible for paying their own fees. However, there are other potential sources of funding support available.

Eligible Scotland-domiciled students studying full-time can access loans up to £10,000 from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). This comprises a tuition fee loan up to £5,500 and a non-income assessed living cost loan of £4,500. EU students studying full-time can apply for a tuition fee loan up to £5,500.

Part-time students undertaking any taught postgraduate course over two years up to Masters level, who meet the residency eligibility, can apply for a for a tuition fee loan up to £2,750 per year.

Full details can be found on the SAAS website. Applications for loans open in April.

Students from the rest of the UK who meet the eligibility requirements may be able to apply for a loan from the Student Loan Company.

Additional costs

There is also a significant amount of fieldwork that involves excavation, investigation and curation techniques in one of the world's best archaeological classrooms, the Orkney Islands.

What can I do on completion of my course?

  • Government agencies and local authorities
  • Tourism, heritage sites, national and countryside parks
  • Contract units and consultancy

Can I progress into further study?

You may wish to consider further study in areas such as: advanced research; vocational diplomas; masters by research; and PhD study.

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

I graduated with a first-class honours in Archaeology in October 2019, by which time I had taken a huge leap of faith and moved my family to Orkney to undertake the MSc in Archaeological Practice at Orkney College UHI. Unfortunately, as with everyone else in the world, Covid-19 has had an impact my plans, however I’m close to finishing my dissertation and am on track for a distinction. The kids have settled really well and everyone agrees it was the best decision we could have made.

Studying with this university was the best thing I’ve ever done. The online facilities which make a wide variety of courses available to people in rural areas, allowed me to discover a subject I love, and the fantastic staff supported me throughout. It gave me confidence in my own abilities and the opportunity to change the lives of our family undoubtedly for the better. 

I’d absolutely urge anyone thinking about studying to go for it. I can’t tell you it’s easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile. 

Mandy Dailly graduated with a first-class honours in Archaeology from West Highland College UHI in October 2019 before progressing onto the MSc in Archaeological Practice at Orkney College UHI.

I was attracted to this course because of the flexibility to choose modules tailored to your own interests. A big bonus was the amount of archaeology present in Orkney and how archaeological sites are integrated into the course structure through surveys, excavations and desktop work.

I’m hoping that the practical experience I have gained will stand me in good stead to follow a career in archaeology within the commercial sector. I love the real sense of community around the university; the lecturers just want the students to succeed and are always on hand to impart their knowledge and life experiences.

Ross Drummond is studying on our MSc Archaeological Practice at Orkney College UHI.

I feel very honoured to have been selected from all the potential candidates for this PhD scholarship from the Carnegie Trust. I was unaware that I am the first student from the University of the Highlands and Islands to achieve this and realise that, firstly, I must thank all the lecturers and staff who have supported me throughout and, secondly, seize this opportunity to undertake this research and fulfil a lifelong dream.

Stephen Worth graduated from our BA (Hons) Archaeology and MSc Archaeological Practice courses before undertaking his PhD. His scholarship will help cover his fees and research expenses for three years. He is undertaking research into the fate of farms which were set up on marginal land after the Highland Clearances.

Apply for Archaeological Practice MSc

I want to start in Aug/Sep 2021

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.