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Degree type


Course length

2 years full-time, 3 years part-time


Durham City

Program code


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Course details

This is a two-year course, which trains graduate students to be conservators of archaeological and museum objects. You will learn to research, analyse, preserve and care for a wide range of artefacts and you will learn how to make decisions to help safeguard this material for the future. The course is intended for those who wish to become practicing artefact conservators, or who want to work in the fields of artefact research or collections care. Graduates of the course now work in a wide variety of museums as well as large heritage organisations, such as the National Trust and English Heritage.

Course participants are drawn from a wide range of disciplines. However, manual dexterity, a basic knowledge of chemistry and the desire to work with museum objects are all essential prerequisites. The first year consists of 11 months intensive teaching in Durham. The second year is typically an industrial placement in a conservation laboratory at a major museum or heritage organisation. Fees in the second year are approximately 35% of the initial year.

Course structure

The course is structured into six modules: Conservation Theory Conservation Skills Artefact Studies Care of Collections Conservation Practice Professional Practice. The first five are completed over the course of the first year and the sixth, Professional Practice, is completed in the second year.

Materials are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes as well as an industrial placement. The balance of these types of activities changes over the course as you develop your knowledge, skill and the ability to be an independent learner and practitioner. All teaching is delivered by qualified conservators with experience in the museum sector.


The course is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes as well as an industrial placement. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate among conservators in that area. Practicals provide opportunities to develop and implement skills, based on the knowledge gained through lectures and through independent study outside the course's formal contact hours. Self-development learning packages allow participants to continue their learning in a structured way outside the practical sessions. The industrial placement forms a major part of the contact time in the programme for Professional Practitioners, allowing you to gain direct experience of practical and applied skills in Conservation. Industrial partners have included the Museum of London, the National Museum of Wales and the York Archaeological Trust.

The balance of activities changes over the course as you develop your knowledge, skills and abilities as independent learners and practitioners. The course’s emphasis on taking learning from the classroom to real-life situations in Museums and conservation laboratories, prepares you well for work or further study once you have completed the course. All teaching is delivered by qualified conservators.

In the first two terms of the course, you will typically attend 4-5 hours a week of lectures, 6 hours of practical work including seminars, 3 hours of structured self-development learning and up to 9 hours of conservation skills working in the conservation laboratory. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to undertake independent study to prepare for classes and broaden your subject knowledge. The Department also has an exciting programme of weekly research seminars and talks by visiting scholars, which you are strongly encouraged to attend.

The balance shifts in the third term, as you develop your hand skills and decision-making through supervised practical conservation work. This 11-week module leads to the creation of a portfolio of work that includes projects and reflections.

In the final year, you will spend nine months working in a conservation lab. You will gain experience working with a wide range of materials and further develop your practical skills, within a real-life working environment. A focus is placed upon problem-solving and organisational and managerial skills, under the supervision of a professional conservator.

Entry requirements

A good second class honours degree (typically 2:1 Honours) or international equivalent in any subject and a pass in Mathematics Grade 4 (or C) or above at GCSE level, or equivalent.

Applicants without a degree will be required to demonstrate sufficient academic capability to satisfactorily complete this degree. Chemistry requirements, one of the following: An 'AS' level in Chemistry or its equivalent, A degree that included a significant science component, e.g. Biology or Material Science, An A, B or C grade for Chemistry in a Scottish 'Higher' or similar high grade in the Irish 'Leaving Certificate' may also be acceptable, Completion of university level course units in Inorganic and Organic chemistry - this is particularly appropriate for students from North America, Completion of the 'Chemistry for Conservators' course. This is a correspondence course, which lasts approximately 6 months. Details of the course are available here.

All students need to be able to accurately distinguish between colours and safely handle objects, scalpels, and other conservation tools. Students may be required to undertake tests to ascertain the levels of some of these skills, if they are invited to visit. Evidence of engagement with and interest in archaeological and museum objects, while not formally required, is highly recommended. This may be in the form of employment, internship or volunteer work in a museum, historic house, or a collecting institute, such as an archaeological repository, or through archaeological site work.

Please note there are a maximum of ten places available on the course each year, due to the size of the teaching laboratory.

We will only consider applications from those where English is not their first language if they have taken a relevant English Language test which meets the minimum requirements.

Reference requirements:

One satisfactory academic reference is required.

Application deadlines

As there are a finite number of places on this course and demand is quite high, we operate a staged admissions process with two rounds of application deadlines.

If you apply before the application deadline for a particular stage, as shown below, you will normally receive a response on or before the Decision by date. In some instances, it may be necessary for us to roll your application forward to the next round.

  • All deadlines are 23:59 UK time (GMT)
  • Although we aim to give you a decision on your application by the listed date, due to the volume of applications this may not always be possible. Please note that we reserve the right to issue offers to exceptional candidates in advance of each deadline.

Applications received after the Round 1 deadline will be considered in Round 2. Applications received after the Round 2 deadline will be considered at our discretion only if places are still available on the course. Applications received after our final application deadline will be considered at our discretion if places are still available.

Applicants are strongly recommended to apply well in advance of the application deadline.

Round One:

Application by: Jan 16th 2023

Decision by: February 17th 2023

Round Two:

Application by: April 17th 2023

Decision by May 19th 2023

Tuition fee deposit

All self-financing overseas students are required to pay a £1000 tuition fee deposit if an offer from the Department of Archaeology is accepted. The tuition fee deposit is paid before the University issues a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) number, which is required in order to apply for a visa. £500 deposit is also payable by UK applicants if an offer of a place from the Department of Archaeology is accepted.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees Year 1

Home students £14,900 per year
EU students £32,500 per year
Island students £14,900 per year
International students £32,500 per year

Full Time Fees Year 2

Home students £4,900 per year
EU students £10,700 per year
Island students £4,900 per year
International students £10,700 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.

Department information


Our internationally respected research expertise will provide you with some of the best resources available for archaeological research. Here at Durham, we have one of only three commercial archaeology units in the UK based in a university department. You will be able to work with experts and have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and specialised facilities in the Department of Archaeology.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 8th in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Archaeology 2022
  • 6th in The Complete University Guide 2023
  • 7th in The Guardian University Guide 2023


For a current list of staff, please see our Archaeology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 97% of our research outputs graded world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021)
  • 2nd in the UK top ten for the overall quality of research (REF 2021)


We are one of the most comprehensively equipped archaeology departments in the UK. Our facilities include project rooms with state-of-the-art interactive technology, teaching laboratories, a computer suite, a photographic studio, internationally renowned scientific research laboratories in DNA, conservation, isotopes, environmental archaeology, luminescence dating, palaeopathology, soil and bone chemistry, and collections that support research in biometrics, informatics, and Anglo Saxon stone sculpture.

More information on our facilities and equipment.

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 08/02/2023
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Register for open day
Postgraduate Open Days - Online
  • Date: 13/02/2023
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Register for open day