Material Culture & Artefact Studies MLitt

students in the hunterian

Prestigious Scottish Funding Council Awards are available to high calibre applicants for this programme. The SFC has selected this programme in recognition of the high demand for students with these qualifications. The awards cover all tuition costs; for further information, please see: funded places.

Material culture and artefact studies combines the archaeological recovery and specialist examination of an object with its presentation, management and understanding within a cultural context.

Key facts

  • MLitt: 12 months full-time; 24 months part-time
  • PgDip 9 months full-time; 18 months part-time
  • Contact: Dr Nyree Finlay:

Why this programme

  • This MLitt in Material Culture & Artefact Studies will prepare you to participate at both a practical and theoretical level within the field of specialist artefactual analysis.
  • You will be able to undertake a work placement to gain valuable work experience in a museum, archaeological unit or other cultural institution.
  • You will benefit from the involvement of staff from Glasgow Museums, National Museums Scotland and other institutions within Scotland, and will have the opportunity to work with collections from local museums, including the University’s own Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.

Programme structure

The taught component consists of core courses and optional courses, running over two semesters.

Assessment is normally focused on written performance, but oral presentation skills and other modes of assessment allow you to develop your writing skills in a number of formats. This is in addition to the practical emphasis on developing your ability to interpret and analyse artefacts.

For the MLitt you can opt to do either a dissertation or an extended work placement (assessed by student diary, portfolio and either a research report or a student exhibition design).

Core courses

  • Material culture in context
  • The process of artefact studies.

Optional courses include such topics as

  • Lithic analysis
  • Working with pottery 
  • Critical themes in the display and reception of objects
  • Early medieval artefacts 
  • Viking and late Norse artefacts (AD 750-1350). 
  • Optional courses drawn from another archaeology programme or from other programmes across the University can be taken by agreement with the programme convener.

Core and optional courses

Core Courses

The core courses introduce you to the theoretical and practical demands of material culture studies and artefact analysis:

Research Training Course

This course is designed to give students training and support in a wide variety of research methods tailored to your individual requirements with a focus on transferable skills, including archive research, humanities computing, writing and presenting papers, etc

Material Culture in Context

Material Culture in Context introduces current theoretical and methodological perspectives in interdisciplinary Material Culture studies. Key themes include changing perspectives on the meaning of objects in different academic disciplines, craft skills, the presentation, display and management of cultural objects and understanding modern material culture.

The Process of Artefact Studies

This looks at the treatment, analysis and interpretation of objects from archaeological recovery in the field through specialist examination and conservation to museum display and long-term curation.

Optional courses

The optional courses offer you the opportunity to explore and develop particular areas of more detailed study. These courses draw upon the particular interests and expertise of the contributing staff and therefore the options available may vary slightly depending on staff availability and are also subject to a minimum number of students. Please contact us to confirm likely availability of optional courses in any given year.

You need to choose three options, of which at least two are selected from the following core options:

  • Lithic Analysis
  • Working with pottery
  • Science-based Analysis of archaeological materials
  • Early Medieval artefacts
  • Viking and Late Norse Artefacts (AD 750-1350)


You may also choose one of the following options:

  • Acquiring Professional Skills, an opportunity to develop a suite of skills or experience within a particular area of interest, perhaps through an extended study of a corpus of material, or a period of learning specific skills such as artefact illustration, dating techniques, experimental replication, or petrology or chemical analysis. It may also involve working directly with an expert or specialist.
  • Critical Themes in the Treatment and Display of Objects, a series of museum visits and gallery and exhibition fieldtrips during which you consider the presentation of an array of different material and develop your analysis through a semester-long advanced project.
  • A module drawn from other MLitt Archaeology courses by agreement with the course convenor.
  • A History of Art module such as Scientists, Antiquarians and Collectors or Collecting and Display: viewing Art in 18th century China.
  • A module offered by the Humanities and Advanced Technological and Information Institute, for example: Multimedia Analysis and Design or 2D Digitisation.


Work placement

A work placement may be undertaken by the Masters students, which will enable you to gain valuable work experience in both the commercial and heritage sectors, which in the past have included, GUARD Archaeology Limited, Glasgow Museums, National Museums Scotland, and the Hunterian Museum. The duration of work placement is usually 10 weeks (40 days) with an additional period of self-study if developing a research report or exhibition proposal on material within the institution.

The wealth of experience gained from the work placement will advantageously poise students upon graduation with the skills, training, and knowledge necessary to function within a commercial unit, or heritage body as a material culturalist specialist.

'At GUARD Archaeology we strongly believe in providing work placement opportunities for up and coming archaeologists. Our experience in working with Dr Nyree Finlay and the students of her Material Culture and Artefact Studies Programme has been enormously positive over the last 2 years and provided our company with a steady stream of capable and skilled young archaeologists. Each work placement has provided benefits in terms of experience of working in a commercial environment to the individual students and has also benefited our company by providing a steady stream of potential future staff members for us to train and assess prior to engaging or releasing into the commercial jobs market as better equipped individuals’.

John Atkinson, Managing Director, GUARD Archaeology Limited, October 2012

Background and aims

‌Running since 2006, this course is designed to provide a broad grounding in the fields of artefact and material culture studies. You will be introduced to the specialist skills of archaeological finds analysis and related topics pertaining to the study and care of artefact collections. In addition to a strong practical element, the course also develops a theoretical awareness of the complexities of interdisciplinary material culture studies and related professional issues in the management and curation of cultural materials. Overall, this course will prepare you for a future career in the specialist field of artefactual analysis as well as the demands of the wider heritage and cultural resource sector with respect to material culture. At MLitt level, the two strands to the course enable you to prepare for  doctoral research or further academic study whilst also providing opportunities for valuable vocational experience in a commercial environment or voluntary sector organisation.

Whether your foresee your path taking you directly into the commercial or heritage sector, or further into higher education with the application to a PhD programme, the Material Culture and Artefact Studies will allow you the ability to tailor your programme experience your ideal next career step, with the ability to choose from a wide variety of optional courses the in the spring term that will fit and compliment your goals as a postgraduate student, whatever they may be. Furthermore, all of the MLitt programmes in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow are strongly interdisciplinary and interconnected, both within and without the subject areas. Our relationships and cross- disciplinary teaching with various different subjects, including Museum Studies, Art History, and the Celtic and Viking Programme, means you will be exposed to a wealth of different strands of thought, interpretation and approaches, as well as forging linkages and relationships with a wide range of leading experts throughout many other disciplines outside Archaeology, all of whom are undertaking leading research within their fields.


Farina Sternke knappingStudents working on ceramics in the Department

Products of experimental flint-knapping8th-century pin from Tirefour broch, Lismore, Scotland

Practical class looking at pottery


Entry requirements

for entry in 2015

The entry requirement for this postgraduate taught programme is a 2.1 Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification in Archaeology or another relevant subject (for example Geography, Geology, History or Environmental Science); or suitable practical experience.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training):

  • overall score 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.5
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 22 with Speaking no less than 23
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 176
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 176
  • PTE Academic (Person Test of English, Academic test): 64; minimum 62 in writing

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses
The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the Language Centre Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:


What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's Language Centre offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office:


For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office:

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2016-17


Home and EU
Full time fee£6950
Part time 20 credits£772
Full time fee£15250


Home and EU
Full time fee£4633
Part time 20 credits£772
Full time fee£10167

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only

Funding opportunities

Career prospects

The two strands to the degree enable you to prepare for further doctoral research whilst also providing opportunities for valuable vocational experience in a commercial environment.

The wealth of experience and knowledge provided by the interdisciplinary nature and focus of the degree and the networks and relationships developed during their time here, has stood past graduates in good stead upon graduation. They have found full-time positions with Historic Scotland, Headland Archaeology Ltd, Guard Archaeology Ltd.  While others are working with various heritage organisations and some are continuing with their postgraduate studies.

Several of our international graduates have found employment working at the Smithsonian, Washington D.C and at the Pink Palace Museum, Memphis Tennessee. Others continue to work in the Cultural Resource Management sector. Several students have gone on to further doctoral research at Glasgow University and beyond, on prehistoric stone tools, Shetland lace knitting, Neolithic monumentality and human remains.

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU): 22 July 2016 
  • UK and EU applications: 26 August 2016

Classes start September 2016 and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

Please note: applications for SFC funded places are open for entry in September 2015.

Apply now