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Training at Uni debate
Huge debate happening on Facebook just now about whether or not Universities are training archaeologists or educating graduates.. who will then have to go on to become archaeolgoists

it is here:
(you may have to join!!)

and here

Don Henson, has kindly allowed me to post his reply... to stimulate debate.. and it is an important debate... what are we producing.. andis it fair?

"Don Henson (from the CBA... but this is a personal view) has allowed me to post his anwer to this to stimulate more debate...

Quote:quote:"Let's distinguish between education and training. Education is provided to enable people to achieve their potential and give them possible pathways for their future life. This is what most university undergraduates degrees do. Training is developing particular skills and knowledge to achieve certain tasks, usually job related.

A good archaeology education could include the AS/A level Archaeology, a university degree or a part-time certificate/diploma in the subject. It will give people an understanding of archaeology and of the past, as well as the opportunities to progress into it for a career if they wish (and most who study it do not wish this - the degree quite rightly equips them to enter a range of careers outside archaeology).

Training is something that occurs at various stages from career entry to CPD, and is not a fixed qualification. Who should provide training in archaeology is a long-standing topic of debate. The university degree is not designed to train a fully-fledged archaeologist. It does enable graduates to progress into the profession if they wish, but then their future training should be part their personal development through CPD.

Increasingly, employers in general see training and CPD as part of their responsibilities, as do professional bodies.

We need a clear understanding of the difference between education and training.


"Gie's a Job.."
Prof. 'Dolly' Parton
For really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he
Thomas Rainborough 1647
I agree. If archaeology was a vocational (biblical sense!) degree like divinity, medicine, vetrinary medicine etc, then the degree would have to provide 'training to practice'. The vast majority of archaeology degrees offered are aimed, like most other disciplines, at grounding the individual in the broader subject often with the opportunity to specialise. Post-graduate degrees are offered in some UK institutions in order to form a specialisation for Field/Commercial Archaeology, then there are assorted bursary schemes and NVQ's. Perhaps the need to go beyond the undergraduate degree as a qualification to 'do' archaeology is here? To 'do' academic archaeology requires extra training and qualifications. I don't want to sound harsh but I don't think this topic has been raised recently so I'll put my neck on the block...[gulp]

To my knowledge archaeology degrees offered in the UK do include field skills and an introduction to the commercial sphere to a greater or lesser extent. This forum has recently discussed at length CPD and training, and whilst partly a personal task, it is clearly in the interests of employers to train their staff, no matter the length of their contract so as to invest in the discipline. In this developing downturn I imagine this will be one of the first things to go.

Thanks for bringing this topic here, Hosty, as always very supportive. I'll nip over to facebook and take a look...

I see this problem but am confused as to why it it still seems to be a major problem with graduates moving into sprecifically field archaeology. I recieved next to no field training at uni but what i did get was a good educational qualification based in theory with skills that could have been well transported away from archaeology towards other graduate jobs. I can no see why universities are unable to provide better training to people so they can move into field archaeology with the skills needed. What they need to do is be stricter with the minimum requirement of fieldwork the student has to undertake in the 3 years at uni, but also they need to provide the facilities to allow this and also provide an environment that mirrors the style of development controlled archaeology. Send them out on fieldwalking whrere they might not find anythink, get them digging test pits at their halls of residence, get them to shaddow real archaeologists in their day to day jobs (from WB's to Excavation) esp. if the university has an in-house unit. I certainly am not a big fan of students 'volenteering' on commercial digs but noone could argue people coming and observing what we do out there. I just feel the university courses are not at all orientated to provide anywhere neat a fully fledged archaeologist at present
I have to agree with points made in both the previous posts. I also think that a degree is not neccesarily enough to 'do' any job, not only archaeology. Nothing beats practical experience, in any profession.

I did my one and only degree at Glasgow from 2001-2005. It was a four year honours course and to pass required something like 12-15 weeks of fieldwork. It didn't have to all be digging, post ex and other work counted as well. On the good side, we had to find this work ourselves, which encouraged the keen students to undertake a wide range of activities and weeded out those who already sort of knew that they did not intend on archaeology as a career. On the bad side, some of the work we found may have been of dubious quality! However, I still feel oddly grateful that i was made to find it, as I have since found out that some degrees require far far less fieldwork to complete.

Since then I have worked in commerical archaeology, held an IFA bursary and at present am working in a university. Three very different roles but I'm not sure that it was my degree that truly helped me be good at any of them. I think rather that is has been experience and a willingness to keep teaching myself (cheesy as that sounds - sorry!) all the way through. I only did the degree in the first place because I had to, it was the only way in. I'd of course rather not have the huge amount of student debt that I do, but I did enrol knowing how badly archaeology paid compared to other degree needing work. (!eaLXbeX is an interseting link here)

Another point is that Universities these days are also businesses, and whilst the staff may yearn to train future archaeologists, uni bureaucracy dictates that many have to bite their tongues and educate graduates. You just have to hope that you can spot the keen ones, and encourage them to pursue archaeology - although that itself may get harder in the current climate :face-huh:.
My reply on Facebook was :

Absolutely Don, the concepts are indeed defined - where education AND training are different aspects of the 'learning process' -

In answer to a couple of points you make,

> Who should provide training in archaeology?
The debate is now not who, but how... with companies aware that without trained graduates, the profession is weaker, and offering apprentice schemes is a potential route...

>The university degree is not designed to train a fully-fledged archaeologist.
This might come as a bit of a disappointment to many students... even if you are right ... as one might ask... (for those that take archaeology as a a degree course, and mount up a huge debt in the process) -- if I intend to become an archaeologist... why would I go to University for 3-4 years, if at the end of it, I am actually not actually a fully fledged archaeologist... indeed, I now have to learn (or should I say train) to become one..

Employers may see CPD as part of the responsibility, but a quick look at the adverts still says either a degree OR relevant exp. If - as you suggest - an individual with a degree is not a fully fledged archaeologist... the degree element should not be an either or... as they are not actually prepared for the profession yet. Sadly, and it is sadly, the untrained graduate is put straight out into a commercial world, without the skills (there are a number of notable exceptions) that the companies require.

I do agree that Training and Higher Education are different.. however, they are both Learning... whether through CPD, Lectures, On-site training, Education etc... The worry for those that do want to become archaeologists is that, from what you are saying... at the end of a degree course, they are not yet archaeologists, all they are is graduates .. and they still have to train to become archaeologists.

My argument is that this is not an option in today's climate, where every month I spend in a learning environment , every pound I mount up as debt in that process ... I would want to see a job at the end. By merging Higher Education and apprenticeships, we could equip graduates with a rounded Learning experience, that means they are fully fledged archaeologists.

Just my thoughts, but when listening to recent graduates, and to companies who employ, the skills gap is a great concern, and perhaps we have to think in a different way, where the distinction is blurred, and education AND training are on offer.

"Gie's a Job.."
Prof. 'Dolly' Parton

Arts/humanities graduates in general it appears have poorer prospects for renumerating their debt than other kinds of graduates, not just archaeologists. Clearly it's made worse by the fact that out of all of them archaeologists are paid significantly less. But I don't think this is the fault of the universities, is it?

One thing I have noticed whilst currently working in a Geography dept (as an Archaeologist I hasten to add), is that in order to competitively work in the commercial sphere of environmental monitoring etc, a Master's degree specialisation is required (they also get paid more, and have similarly high levels of personal responsibility and broad skills base). The dept runs a couple here, with high levels of employment afterwards.
Obviously the major difference is that their field work does not always require as high staffing levels, but they do have high post-ex and infrastructure costs.

Having said all that, my undergraduate degree at Edinburgh (99-03) required over 12 weeks of field work in 4 years to pass, not to get a first or anything, just to pass (doesn't mean however that I'm a good field archaeologist...I'll freely admit that now). It could be museums, excavation, surveys...anything that could be considered relevant experience for archaeological work and done in the vacations. Once passed as suitable by the dept it was up to you to follow your interests. It also helped that at the time the dept had a unit attached, which subsequently went private. Having spoken to close friend who have attended the most illustrious archaeology dept set near the fens in the SE they only required 1 week of field work, although I suspect in his case the rest of the time was spent discussing tautologies of Something with a well-buttered crumpet in one hand! I think I was lucky at Edinburgh (similarly in Glasgow it seems, both you'll note have/had archaeological units attached presumably helping to drive this requirement). Again this forced people to find out what aspect of archaeology they really enjoyed. This may have changed in subsequent years but the differences between field work between depts is wide

On this issue I agree, David, closing this gap in practical experience/training is hugely important. Perhaps a way to link apprenticeships and commercial experience back into academic depts. Regaining the closer links across the board between academic depts and units would be beneficial for both I think.
Of course not every archaeologist is, or has to be, a commercial digger and I'm not convinced that it's the uni's job to churn out trained diggers for the units. That's the principle, which of ocurse breaks down on the point that the huge majority of archaeologists are indeed field archies in the commercial sector (correct? - from memory from P the P). But an academic background is I believe important - or do we go down the route of having "excavation technicians"?

Archaeology's problem (well one of them) is that it falls between two stalls of acedemia and practicality. This certainly applies to other fields - architecture, medicine etc - but perhaps not with the extremes so far apart.

The Bradford solution is an excellent one, where undergards MAY take a placement year out between the 2nd and 3rd years to gain experience. The big drawback of course is finding enough placements: if every uni did it, where would they all go? Even at Bradford a large number of students spend at least part of the placement in the uni itself.

I would however agree that the practical component at most unis is woefully inadequate, both in quality and quantity.
Collated the suggestions for 'what a student should know about fieldwork"

is this good enough? too much? not enough
remember this is just for fieldwork

1 Basics of stratigraphy and how this relates to how you dig.
2 How to take a level, how to set it up and how to find a benchmark - plus how to reduce levels!
3 Laying out a trench with tapes
4 Locating your site and grid coordinates both site and national
5 setting up a section line (using a level and using a bubble level)
6 Proper use of each tool and when to use them
7 Directions for a JCB driver
7) an understanding of scale when drawing
:face-thinks: an understanding of how a matrix works, though not necessarily the experience to draw one.
9) knowledge of the basics of recording cuts, deposits and structures. Not full knowledge but, for example, understanding what a cut is as opposed to a deposit or layer. 7) an understanding of scale when drawing
:face-thinks: an understanding of how a matrix works, though not necessarily the experience to draw one.
9) knowledge of the basics of recording cuts, deposits and structures. Not full knowledge but, for example, understanding what a cut is as opposed to a deposit or layer.
10) Basic site formation process:
a)how a posthole is formed, and what the parts are called
b)how stakeholes are formed and why they rarely have cuts
c)how open cut features fill up
d)how walls decay, are robbed out etc
e)treebowls (NEVER boles, that's the trunk) and tree throws
f) the origins of deposits (erosion, floor, fluvial, aeolian etc.)

11) how to set up photographic scale & board, what's supposed to be in a photograph and what not (random buckets, tools, feet), and how to take a picture that isn't blurred, over- or under-exposed

12) lay out a site grid either by tapes, right angle prism, and/ or total station

13) be able to identify different kinds of material culture (pot/ brick/ stone tool) and ROUGHLY place them chronologically (Roman/ Medieval/ Post-Medieval/ from outer space)

14) how to take environmental samples for different types of analysis (bulk for botanics/ charcoal for C14 etc.) and from where

15) use of common/ standardized language when filling in context sheets
16) I would definitely advocate the photographic to take a useful photograph with a fully manual camera using ranging rods, takes practice.

17)I would also add understanding the difference between a geomorphological feature and an archaeological one
Seriously though, I would suggest teaching people how to approach excavating a site given that in commercial archaeology we are given a percentage of features to excavate. Careful planning and thought first and not digging the hell out of anything that looks like fill and then worrying about it afterwards.
general etiquette for behaving around heavy machinery onsite,
Health and safety training
Being able to dig like a JCB is no use if you're dead at the bottom of a 3 metre-deep unshored section (I won't name the unit, but I was there and they were stupid enough to take working shots). Not unique as I've now seen at least two other units put photos of 2m plus standing sections that have obviously been trowelled/had ranging rods put up against them/got a section line pinned into them into reports. One of them even consisted of 2m of loose brick and concrete rubble overlying colluvium at the botom of a 45% slope.
19) Having some idea what the report will look like aferwards. It often helps in realising why you have to record all that detail.....
b) Follow a process showing the field record, the site archive, how the site archive is used, how illustrations are produced and the report. (a bit of duplication of oldgirls) One thing I often enjoy is understanding the process from start to finish, so if I am in the office I understand the process of how the information was gathered, and if in the field I understand the information the person in the office needs.
having a simple understanding of the whole developer-funded process would be really useful. Like... what is PPG16 and how did it come about? what is a curatorial archaeologist and how does he/she set the brief? what is a desk-based assessment? how do you know where to put the trenches? why is the developer paying for this? who has which powers to say and do what - curator, contractor or client? what is the broader planning framework? what happens next? what happened before? what is competitive tendering?

I think that if graduates were given a far more realistic idea of commercial archaeology, the contracts and conditions you will experience and the difficulties in finding work then they may not be so disheartened and dissilussioned with the proffession quite as quickly.

units should rightfully expect graduates to be aware of the process and the skills involved with a basic understanding of field principles but that full training occurs onsite, at the coalface.

However, back to the main point, it is not fair to educate students and to just leave them high and dry at the end of their studies with little idea of how the next bit works.

ability to laugh at inclement weather,

the ability to obtain next job from new employer with a single phone call,

ready supply of crisps/doughnuts/fags depending on site hut colleagues,

ability to run/fuel/tax/insure a car, pay for rented accommodation, go to pub every night and still pay off that pesky student loan on measly amounts of wages,

a liking for ex-army surplus,

- Bradford University have been running an integrated 9month placement scheme (although many people worked the summers holidays either side as well) in their undergrad courses for years.

CPD… why and how

At the end of the day, these are all SKILLS, which take time and practice to develop. If we're all honest, how many of us were decent at everything that came up during our first commercial excavations?

I think most graduates do short or very sporadic excavation during a degree and universities vary widely in their requirements for this. It is probably unreasonable to expect everyone to be adept in all aspects of basic fieldwork following on from a few weeks digging spread thinly over 3 to 4 years. For example, during my degree, but I only ever once got the opportunity to excavate a pit or a posthole, there were either few of these features to go around or it was always walls!

"Gie's a Job.."
Prof. 'Dolly' Parton
I think you could divide the requirements of a good archaeologist into three groups:

- academic knowledge (periods, names, dates, site types, the principles of stratigraphy, etc etc etc)

- academic skills (how to do research, how to write reports, etc)

- practical skills (how to dig, how to record, how to survey, etc).

A good archaeologist needs quite a bit of all three, although the content of each and the balance between them will vary according to the kind of archaeological work you do.

The easiest way to aquire the first two is through doing an academic degree course. It can be done other ways, but a degree is easiest and quickest, to reach a certain defined level. That is why most people that want to work as archaeologists start by doing a degree.

However, there is a lot to pack in to your 3 years (4 in Scotland), and the more practical work you do the less academic work you will do. Universities are not, in any case, well placed to provide a great deal of practical training that reflects the realities of the workplace, while the majority of their archaeology students don't need that training because they don't intend to be archaeologists.

So, the third component (training in practical skills) is best obtained through on-the-job training in the workplace. That isn't a problem, and is comparable with other professions, as long as you recognise that your new graduate isn't (and shouldn't expect to be) a fully-trained archaeologist.

In my company, we employ dozens of new graduates each year - engineers of all sorts, town planners, ecologists, landscape architects, architects, and numerous others, including an occasional archaeologist. None of them are assumed to be fully trained, even if they come in with a Masters degree as well as their BA, and they all go on a 3-year Graduate Development Programme within the company to enable them to complete their training.

In some professions (architects, for example), the 1st degree has to be followed by a year of practical experience and two further years of study before the individual is considered to be 'trained'. Those who stop after the 1st degree aren't even allowed to call themselves architects.

So, perhaps we should stop expecting the Universities to produce fully trained archaeologists, and instead the profession as a whole should face up to its responsibility to finish the job after graduation.

In relation to Mr Hosty's list - some of it is academic (or partly academic), and I would expect a new graduate to at least understand the principles. Much of it, however, is practical, and in many cases I wouldn't expect University training to do much more than make their students aware of the existence of those skills/tasks and the circumstances in which they are applied.


to let, fully furnished
I don't disagree with a single word that 1M1D says....and his idea of a three-year graduate training programme seems a great way both to deliver and monitor skills acquisition. But where was the last time that anyone saw a 3-year contract dangled in front of an archaeologist of the 'old lag' variety let alone a newly-graduated field archaeologist. Present ciumstances suggest that even some graduates who are on schemes such as 1M1D outlines may be in for a difficult time (although of course in a multi-task environment, they are perhaps luckier to have access to other work options).

In the real world of commercial archaeology, we all know that 3 year contracts with a single employer, especially 3 year contracts with a significant training provision are like turkey-teeth. So maybe what the industry needs is some kind of scheme that commits the industry as whole to keep newly graduated staff employed, to gain the experience needed to acquire the skills needed. A kind of apprenticeship if you like with indentured committment from both the individual and the industry. Such schemes are not impossible, although it seems unlikely that they could manage to employ even the small percentage of archaeology graduates that actually want archaeology as a carreer. So would that mean quotas? Probably.....


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