Note: I originally wrote this post a few years ago in order to outline the available human osteology/bioarchaeology postgraduate courses in the United Kingdom as a guideline for the degree fees and topic availability. However since then a number of substantial national and international changes have occurred. These include, but are not limited to, the increase of undergraduate tuition fees to £9000.00 per academic year; the general increase of the price of Masters degrees; the new availability of student loans for Masters students; changes to Disabled Students Allowance from the 16/17 academic year onward; the transfer of some Student Finance grants to loans; the Government White paper released in May 2016 outlining challenges and changes needed in higher education, etc.
One of the more important changes was the outcome of the referendum in the United Kingdom whether it to remain or not a part of the European Union, this resulted in a very tight result in which the majority voted to leave the European Union. This process will take many years, but the Government of the United Kingdom recently stated that it would guarantee European Union funding for projects signed before the Autumn Statement until 2020. Doug, of Doug’s Archaeology, has an interesting and somewhat depressing post on what Brexit could mean for archaeology as a sector more generally.
Whilst I was doing some light research for another article I made a quick list of every course in the United Kingdom that offers human osteology as a taught masters (either as an MA, Masters of Arts, or as an MSc, Masters of Science) or offer a distinctive human osteology module or component within a taught masters degree. Human osteology is the study of human skeletal material from archaeological sites. Human osteologists study bones to identify age, biological sex, pathology and pre- and post-mortem trauma alongside other avenues of research in human behaviour and activity, such as investigating diet and mobility of post populations. The subject is generally only taught as a Masters level within the United Kingdom.
Within the list England as a whole is well represented within the universities highlighted, Scotland only comes in with two entries whilst Wales and Northern Ireland, as far as I know, offer no distinctive osteological courses at the Masters level. Further to this the reader should be aware that some universities, such as the University of Leicester, offer commercial or research centers for human and animal osteology yet run no postgraduate courses that provide the training in the methods of osteoarchaeology. Thus they are excluded from this list.
This information is correct as of September 2016, but please expect at least some of the information to change, especially in relation to course fees for United kingdom, European Union, and international students. It should be noted here that the education system in the United Kingdom is internationally well-regarded and the educational institutions are often in the top 10% in world league tables; however it can be very expensive to study here, especially so in the consideration of prospective international students. Please also take note of the cost of renting (especially in London and the south of the country generally) and the high cost of daily living compared to some countries. The list is not an exhaustive attempt and I am happy to add any further information or to correct any entries.
Other Sources & Prospective Student Advice
As well as the list below, the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology also have links to human osteology and bioarchaeology courses in the United Kingdom. You check the list out here. The British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR) site, ran by David Connolly, also has a plethora of useful resources to check as well as an active Facebook group which is a great place to ask for advice. I’ve also wrote a second post to compliment this one which entails what you, the prospective student, should keep in mind when looking at degree courses to pursue. You can check out that post by clicking the title here: Questions to remember when considering a postgraduate course in human osteology.
Courses in the United Kingdom, please note that the fees stated are for full time students. For part time students the price is normally halved and the course carried out over two years instead of the usual one year that is common for Masters within the United Kingdom.
MA/MSC Degrees in England
- MSc Forensic Osteology (UK/EU £5500 and International £13,500, from 17/18 UK/EU £5750 and International £14,000).
- MSc Biological Anthropology (UK/EU £5750 and International £14,000, from 17/18 UK/EU £6000 and International £14,500).
University of Bradford:
- MSc Archaeological Science (UK/EU £5990 and International £15,600).
- MSc Forensic Archaeology and Crime Science Investigation (UK/EU £5990 and International £15,600).
- MSc Human Osteology and Palaeopathology (UK/EU £5990 and International £15,600).
University of Cambridge:
- MPhil Human Evolution (amazingly there are 18,000 skeletons in the Duckworth Collection!).
- MSc Forensic Investigation (UK/EU £9000 and International £17,500).
- MSc Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology (UK/EU £9000 and International £17,500).
- MSc Forensic Anthropology (UK/EU £6300 and International £12,950).
University College London:
- MSc Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology (UK/EU £9285 and International £18,670).
- MSc Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology (UK/EU £9285 and International £18,670).
University of Durham:
- MSc Palaeopathology (UK/EU £7400 and International £16,500).
- MSc Evolutionary Anthropology (UK/EU £7000 and International £15,700).
University of Exeter:
- MSc Bioarchaeology (Offers choice of one of three core pathway topics, including human osteology, zooarchaeology and, new for the 16/17 academic year, Forensic Anthropology) (UK/EU £6900 and International £15,950).
Universities of Hull and York Medical School:
- MSc Human Evolution (A very interesting course, combining dissection and evolutionary anatomy) (UK/EU £6650 and International £15,680).
University of Liverpool:
- MSc Palaeoanthropology (UK/EU £5500 and International £12,600).
Liverpool John Moores University:
- MSc Bioarchaeology (UK/EU £5750 and international £12,360).
- MSc Forensic Anthropology (UK/EU £5750 and international £12,360).
University of Manchester:
- MSc Biomedical and Forensic Studies in Egyptology (course under review).
University of Oxford:
- MSt/MSc Archaeological Sciences (UK/EU and International please inquire).
University of Sheffield:
- MSc Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology (includes human dissection) (UK/EU £8000 and International £18,750).
- MSc Osteoarchaeology (UK/EU £7000 and International £18,250).
- MSc Palaeoanthropology (includes human dissection) (UK/EU £8000 and International £18,750).
University of Southampton:
- MA Osteoarchaeology (UK/EU £7500 and International £16,990).
- MA Palaeolithic Archaeology and Human Origins (UK/EU £7500 and International £16,990).
University of York:
- MSc Bioarchaeology (UK/EU £6650 and International £15,680).
- MSc Early Prehistory (UK/EU £6650 and International £15,680).
- MSc Zooarchaeology (UK/EU £6650 and International £15,680).
- MA Field Archaeology (UK/EU £6650 and International £15,680).
- MA Mesolithic Studies (UK/EU £6650 and International £15,680).
MA/MSc Degrees in Scotland
University of Dundee:
- MSc Anatomy and Advanced Forensic Anthropology (includes human dissection using Thiel cadavers) (Both UK/EU and International cost is £15,950).
- MSc Forensic Anthropology (Both UK/EU and International cost is £15,950).
- MSc Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology (Both UK/EU and International cost is £15,950).
- MSC Human Anatomy (includes human dissection using Thiel cadavers) (Both UK/EU and International cost is £15,950).
University of Edinburgh:
- MSc Forensic Anthropology (UK/EU £10,200 and International between £19,000).
- MSc Human Osteoarchaeology (UK/EU £10,200 and International between £19,000).
The following universities offer short courses in human osteology, osteology, forensics or zooarchaeology
Short Courses in England
- A 5 day long course in Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology: Osteology (£1750).
- A 5 day long course in Further Forensic Fundamentals: Identification (£1750).
University of Bradford:
- On occasion run a palaeopathology course, please check the university website for details.
University of Sheffield:
- 3 day Human Osteology short course (£180/concessions 120).
- Understanding Zooarchaeology short course (various course choices available).
Note: I am still genuinely surprised there are not more short courses, if you find any in the United Kingdom please feel free to drop a comment below.
A Few Pieces of Advice
A piece of advice that I would give to prospective students is that I would strongly advise researching your degree by visiting the universities own webpages, finding out about the course specifics and the module content. If possible I’d also visit the department and tour the facilities available and seek advice from the course leader with regards to potential research interests. I would also always advise to try to contact a past student and to gain their views on the course they have attended previously. They will often offer frank advice and information, something that can be hard to find on a university webpage or from a course leader. Also please do be aware of the high cost of the United Kingdom tertiary education as prices have been raised considerably in the past few years and are likely to rise again, especially so in comparison to cheaper courses on the European continent.
Finally, if you know of any other human osteology or bioarchaeology Masters or short courses in the United Kingdom please do comment below or send me an email and I will add it to the list here.