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Having completed his undergraduate Law degree, Matt Fittock quickly realised that his real passion lay outside of the courtroom, in detecting the buried secrets of our past.

He approached the Open University, where he was able to study modules which broadly mixed history and archaeology. With the completed credits from these modules added to his Law degree, he was offered a place to study a master's degree in Archaeology at the University of Reading.

"I chose to study Archaeology at Reading after a lot of investigation into universities in terms of research and quality. Reading stood out for many reasons: its excellent prehistory and Roman contingent; the breadth and scope of its research; and its international reputation."

Why archaeology at the University of Reading?

Professors Richard Bradley and Hella Eckardt were strong draws for Matt. Both are internationally respected, with British Archaeologymagazine commenting that Bradley (now Professor Emeritus) is one of the best respected archaeologists in the field.

"With Reading's wide module choice from theory to medieval studies, the opportunity is there for a very broad spectrum. The Department of Archaeology is appealing for its academic quality and for the range of its resources. The geographic location is excellent; well connected to London with all its internationally renowned research institutions."

After completing his MA Archaeology, Matt was encouraged by the Department of Archaeology's Professor Hella Eckardt to continue his research. With her support, he received valuable funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which supports high-quality PhD students working in the best research and training environments.*

Matt now enjoys a sought-after role with the prestigious Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is run by the British Museum and the National Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru). Here he works to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.

* The University of Reading is part of the AHRC-funded South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership 2 (SWW2), a strong consortium of ten leading Universities, an independent research organisation, and multiple arts, heritage, cultural and creative economy partners.

Flexibility and career support

Matt praises the Department of Archaeology's flexibility and encouragement as he changed from full-time to part-time at master's level. The real game-changer for Matt came with his PhD funding, for which he credits Professor Hella Eckardt's unwavering support.

"During my master's, I studied a Roman module with Hella. She was very pleased with an essay I wrote and became my mentor. She encouraged me to continue to a PhD, which I hadn't previously considered, and urged me to apply for the funding programme. I was delighted to receive this award, not just in terms of it being quite an achievement, but in the practical sense, as it provided an income that covered living and tutoring expenses, which was obviously a huge help."

Preparing students for their future career

The support offered by the Department is broad-based. Matt notes that while his own passion and future career lay purely in archaeology, it is a practical and hands-on degree that leads to a huge breadth of other options, using the highly transferable skills embedded in the course.

"The Department of Archaeology was great in terms of providing all the necessary skills and resources for career planning. Whatever route you decide to follow, archaeology is very competitive. The Department arranges associated projects that provide valuable links with industry and opportunities for global networking. These international communities of archaeologists are tight-knit and Reading's academics are very well connected with all the major institutions."

By this stage, Matt knew where his future lay and his placement with the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the British Museum was ideal. It saw him working through an assemblage of 3,780 Roman artefacts and coins recovered from River Tees at Piercebridge, County Durham with Dr Philippa Walton of the University of Reading, helping lead him to his current role.

Doorway to a fascinating career

Working for the Portable Antiquities Scheme has proved rewarding. In his role as Finds Liaison Officer, Matt receives objects from members of the public, such as gardeners, farmers and metal detectorists.

All findings within Matt's area must be reported to him. If an item or group of coins is deemed treasure by virtue of being gold or silver and over 300 years old, he will report the find to the coroner and the British Museum.

The University of Reading stands out for Matt in terms of enhancing career opportunities:

"The vast majority of people I studied with have gone on to find specialist jobs through the Department of Archaeology's connections. The Department provides strong links with international industry and ensures its students have the opportunity to get embedded within these communities, where contacts for future careers lie."

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