Queen's Anniversary Prize 2009

Profile of the Department of Archaeology, University of Reading

The University of Reading was been awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize 2009 in recognition of the excellence of the University's Department of Archaeology, which combines ground-breaking research, enterprise and teaching.


In the Research Assessment Exercise (2008), the department was ranked as the UK archaeology department with the highest proportion of world-leading research (40% 4* research). The Department's six core areas of research cover the entirety of human history in Europe and the Near and Middle East from the last glaciation to AD1600. The world-leading research areas have a direct relevance for contemporary environmental and climatic change. They include: the development of the first complex societies in the Near and Middle East since the last glaciation; coastal and wetland archaeology and the relationship between humans and the environment in prehistory; later prehistoric societies in north-west Europe; urbanisation in the Roman World; digital data capture in the field, database development and digital dissemination and the archaeology of the medieval church and monasticism.

The multi-disciplinary character of much of this research integrates humanities- and science- based approaches to produce innovatory methodologies and original results. There is also substantial collaborative participation in research and teaching projects with other parts of the University, such as geography, meteorology, computer science and chemistry. This extends to prestigious institutions at home and overseas such as Cambridge and Durham Universities, Teheran University, Stanford and University of California.

The department has successfully bid for £4.7 million in prestigious research grants over the past 8 years from AHRB/AHRC, British Academy, Joint Information Systems Committee, Leverhulme and NERC.

Learning and training

The Department's emphasis on vocational training is unique in the UK, integrating field-based practice into all undergraduate degrees through the Silchester Field School. The inspired learning for students is unparalleled anywhere else in the UK and provides students with the field-skill set they need to go into professional practice through the experience of working on one of the UK's largest and complicated research excavations.

Research-based teaching sits at the heart of the distinctive suite of undergraduate and Masters programmes, MPhil and PhD research degrees.

In the National Student Survey 2008, 100% students on the department's programmes agreed on the quality of the teaching provision. The department is recognised by HEFCE as a Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Undergraduate Research Skills.

It has also played a major role in getting the disabled engaged with archaeology by leading the HEFC-funded initiative, Inclusive, Accessible, Archaeology

43% of undergraduates go into employment in archaeology, which is particularly high for archaeology. 44% of those on MSc in Geoarchaeology go on to work in that field.


Industry and government also benefit from the Department's expertise through the provision of advice and specialist services, especially in the areas of forensic and environmental reconstruction.

The department provides advice to the Home Office, UK Police Authorities and Forensic Science Service, particularly in the areas of human provenancing and forensic palynology . This has included expert witness testimony in high profile legal cases. Members of the department act as advisors to national heritage organisations such as English Heritage and Cadw in Wales.

Engagement with wider audiences

The department has excellent engagement with non-specialist communities and audiences and through the Silchester Roman Town Project, in particular, reaches over 5000 people in one open season, including hundreds of young people through school visits, work experience opportunities and the Public Open Days. Staff also conduct a wide range of talks, public lectures and media work.

Staff and students

The department boasts five Fellows of the British Academy (FBA) among the 17 HEFCE funded staff members, making it the only academic department in Britain to boast five FBAs. There is also a Fellow of the Royal Society on the staff.

Members of the University's Department of Archaeology who are also Fellows of the British Academy are:- Professor Martin Bell, Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Professor Michael Fulford, Professor Steven Mithen and Professor Richard Bradley. All five members of the department have progressed in their careers at Reading, having initially being appointed to more junior positions.

Staff represent the University on the executives of a number of national societies and are academic assessors to research councils and major charities.

The Department is comprised of 17 HEFCE funded staff and 4 charity funded staff, as well as 8 post doctoral research staff

Student numbers - 65 on BA Archaeology - almost 180 students on all undergraduate programmes, 14 on Masters, 13 on MSc Geoarchaeology and 47 PhD students.

The above data (e.g. student numbers and employability statistics) relate to the date of the QAP award (2009) and may have changed since then.


REF 2014 results confirm Reading Archaeology as world-leading

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published the results of its Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 on 18 December 2014. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the method for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs) held approximately every six years.

Reading has achieved the top score in Archaeology (UoA17A) for world-leading (4*) and internationally-excellent (3*) research. Expert peer review has confirmed 81% of our research as scoring in these two categories, above Oxford, Durham, UCL, York and Cambridge in a competitive field of over twenty submissions. Our grade point average was 3.08, well above the sector mean, with outstanding scores in outputs (31.9% at 4*) and environment (62.5% at 4*).

For more information on the University's results, please see: Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

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