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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

Durham’s MA in Museum and Artefact Studies is a unique course offering a choice of professional and academic-focused routes tailored to equip you with the skills and expertise to develop a successful career in museums, the cultural heritage sector or in the academic world.

The course is based within the Department of Archaeology and although we deal with the past, we also ensure as a course that we look into the future with the aim of building upon our global reputation as one of the best archaeological research departments and continually improving your experience with us within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In terms of learning, you will develop a critical understanding of current professional principles and contemporary debates relating to museum and artefact studies. You will also develop professional skills relevant to the care, management and exhibition of collections in museums and analytical skills, relevant to the study of a wide range of materials and artefacts from different periods and cultures. In addition, the course structure will help improve your ability to take a personal responsibility for your own learning, for working in teams and for your professional conduct.

You will have the option to select one of two routes through the course depending on your career aspirations. The research paper route is ideal if you want to work in museums or galleries. You are likely to benefit from the dissertation route if you have an interest in artefact studies, want a career in the cultural heritage sector or are planning to undertake postgraduate research after completing your MA.

As a department we are very aware of our place as a learning community and for the need to create a sustainable future in which there is also space to care for the knowledge and materials from our past.

Course Structure

Core modules:

Museum Principles and Practice introduces museological theory and practice and provides an understanding of the principles, practice and debates around professional museum work, in particular collection and museum management. The module will enable you to develop a critical perspective and to use it in the assessment of museums and to build professional skills, through seminars, workshops and a placement at a local or national museum.

Artefact Studies provides an understanding of the theory, practice and status of artefact studies, from an archaeological and an interdisciplinary perspective, referencing museum collections and archives. You will learn about the physical properties, and traditional production and consumption, of a range of materials and products and subsequently gain the necessary skills in handling, analysing, interpreting and recording them. You will also study a range of artefacts and materials from different periods and cultures.

Debating Heritage and Museums enables you to identify and discuss the similarities and differences between heritage studies and museum studies and to develop your understanding of their key concepts, principles, theories and debates using case-studies from around the world. The module will also deliver the necessary skills in research and analysis that you can take into your subsequent academic or professional working life.

You will also complete either a Research Paper or a Dissertation depending on your route through the course. If you plan to pursue a career in museums and galleries after the MA, you will research and write a research paper in an area of interest. Alternatively, if your interests lie in cultural heritage or you intend to undertake further postgraduate research, you will complete the more in-depth dissertation in an aspect of museum and artefact studies of your choice.

For the remainder of the course, you will be able to make a selection from the following option modules.

For the dissertation route, you will select one from: 

  • Research Topics in Archaeology
  • Care of Collections (Museum Studies)
  • Museum Communication
  • Protecting World Heritage

For the research paper route, you will select two from:

  • Care of Collections (Museum Studies)
  • Museum Communication
  • Protecting World Heritage
  • A Level 4 module offered by the Department of Archaeology (subject to approval)


Your course learning is delivered through a highly structured mix of taught lectures and tutorials given alongside practical classes. 

Lectures identify the main areas for discussion and debate in the museum sector with tutorials, seminars and workshops then providing you with opportunities for discussion and debate.

The practical classes, including placements and curating an exhibition or developing an educational programme for the university museums or both, will give you hands-on experience of relevant practical and interpretive skills.

In Terms 1 and 2, you will typically attend 6–8 hours a week of lectures, up to four hours of tutorials or seminars, in addition to two workshops and 4–6 hours of practical sessions working with artefacts or museum environment-related matters as well as taking part in field trips and a placement.

In Term 3 the emphasis moves from learning the basic skills, to applying them within a real-life museum environment in the Museum Communications module where you will work in groups on a specific project.

The move towards greater emphasis on independent research and research continues in Term 3, where the research skills acquired earlier in the course are developed through the dissertation or the research paper.


The assessment regime for this course reflects the structured choice of learning directions that you can take, these include a combination of essays, reports, surveys, portfolios, group projects  and exams.

With supervision, you will carry out a detailed study of a particular area of interest that creates a significant piece of independent research as a 10,000-word dissertation or a 5,000-word research paper based upon the accurate use of research data and methods.

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to be awarded, a 2:1 Honours degree or an international equivalent, such as a GPA of 3.3 or above.

The ability to demonstrate established interest or previous experience in museums, such as a placement, internship or a voluntary role, would be an advantage.

IELTS 7.0 or above with no component below 6.5; TOEFL IBT (Internet Based Test) 102 or above (with no component below 25).

PLEASE NOTE: This programme is no longer accepting applications from China for entry in September 2024 due to high demand and competition for places. The programme will reopen to applications from China in September, for entry into the September 2025 cohort.

Application deadlines

There is no specific deadline for applications although applications for any given academic year must be received before the start of that academic year (i.e. applications for the 2024-25 academic year must be received before October 2024).

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 Home applicants if an offer of a place from the Department of Archaeology is accepted.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £11,900 per year
EU students £25,500 per year
Island students £11,900 per year
International students £25,500 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,600 per year
EU students £14,100 per year
Island students £6,600 per year
International students £14,100 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


The Department of Archaeology is home to one of the largest postgraduate communities in Europe who benefit from world class academic teaching and leading-edge facilities to be able to pursue their passion for studying the past, interpreting the present and understanding the future.

The wide-ranging courses are research-led and delivered by staff who are recognised experts in specialisms that span world, European and British archaeology from the last ice age to the post-medieval period.

Our taught courses provide the ideal grounding for further academic research at a higher level but also offer essential preparation for entering a professional career.

They include MA Museum and Artefact Studies, MA International Cultural Heritage Management, and MA Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects, all of which have strong vocational themes. The MSc Bioarchaeology and MA Archaeology offer ideal preparation for research careers and specialisation and our unique MSc Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology and MSc Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology are ideal for postgraduates nurturing both academic and professional aspirations.

We welcome applications from researchers seeking MRes and PhD qualifications tailored to specific interests, and we offer strong developmental support.

With our expertise in a wide range of archaeological disciplines and significant research activity across the globe, our aim is to create a top-class learning environment that is vibrant and supportive and enables you to make a difference in your chosen field.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 10th in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Archaeology 2023
  • 1st in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2024


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)


The Department of Archaeology has a reputation for excellence and connections across the world.

We are home to state-of-the-art laboratories, specialist technology and some of the best library resources in the UK. We have project rooms with interactive technology, teaching laboratories, a computer suite, a photographic studio and scientific research laboratories in DNA, conservation, isotopes, environmental archaeology, luminescence dating, palaeopathology and bone chemistry, many of which are used as learning resources for out postgraduate community.

Taught courses and researchers alike benefit from our status as co-owners of a UNESCO World Heritage site and the extensive range of library, museum and artefact collection resources on offer at Durham.

The Department of Archaeology can be found in the Dawson Building, which is ideally situated at the heart of the Durham city campus, next to the Bill Bryson Library and the Palatine Centre.

More information on our facilities and equipment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

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

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
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