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Archaeology Matters

Community Archaeology Bursaries Project


From 2011 to 2015, the CBA Community Archaeology Bursaries Project provided year-long workplacements for 51 community archaeologists across the UK.

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through its Skills for the Future programme, with additional support from English Heritage, Cadw and Historic Scotland. The project enabled the CBA to offer year-long workplace learning bursaries designed to equip would-be community archaeologists with the skills, experience and confidence to work with voluntary groups and communities.

Our project succeeded in developing a wide-reaching network of highly skilled community archaeologists, and in demonstrating the effectiveness of workplace learning. It enhanced relationships between community groups and professional archaeologists across the UK, demonstrating the many benefits of community archaeology and showing that there is an ongoing need and demand for specialist community archaeologists.

Big Dig excavation team excavating test pit in Ochil Gardens, Dunning, August 2012
‘Professional on-the-job training in community archaeology’

Council for British Archaeology workplace learning bursaries

Project aims

Community archaeology in the UK is thriving. Community archaeology enables a wide range of people to get directly involved in the preservation, investigation and enjoyment of their local heritage in a constructive and meaningful way. Community groups will play an increasingly important role in the future of archaeology and, as such, it is vital that the archaeological community develops the skills needed to work closely with this growing body of individuals.

A 2010 survey conducted by the CBA (which can be downloaded from, identified a significant increase in new community archaeology groups across the UK. Many of the new groups drew in a diverse set of people who were full of enthusiasm but often had no formal academic or practical training in archaeological theory and method. This was compounded by a lack of consistently good community collaboration from archaeological organisations and a reduction in archaeological education opportunities across the UK. Our research showed that these groups and individuals were often unsure where to go to get the support, information and training they wanted. This is particularly important in the light that archaeological heritage is a finite resource: any investigation, particularly excavation, must be carefully recorded and the information archived and shared.

In order to enable the development of community archaeology in a more strategic way, and provide the archaeology sector with an appropriately skilled workforce to lead this development, the CBA set out to provide training that re-defined the way in which the profession looked at community archaeology.

Our first cohort of Community Archaeology trainees, December 2011

Workplace learning

Bursary holders learned by directly working with line managers, training providers and mentors at their host organisations in order to acquire the skills needed to run and support effective community archaeology projects.

The skills developed were those that are needed when working with the voluntary sector and young people in particular. These included:

  • Interpersonal skills, for example: social skills, empathy, listening skills and coping with authority
  • Organisational skills, such as: personal organisation, and the ability to order and prioritise
  • Analytical skills, such as: the ability to exercise judgement, manage time or solve problems
  • Personal skills, for example: insight, motivation, confidence, reliability and health awareness

Placements were structured and monitored with an Independent Learning Agreement; this set out objectives for the year and was driven by the needs of the individual and the opportunities available within the host organisation. Reflective learning was reinforced throughout the placement with completion of monthly journals, an ongoing learning log and submission of a portfolio of the trainee's work for the NVQ in Archaeological Practice

Bursary cohorts

Executed in five cohorts over a three-year period, the project provided a total of 51 paid bursary placements; of these, half had a specific focus on developing ‘youth-engagement’. 

Placement line-managers and mentors receiving recognition, March 2012

Placement hosts

Placements were hosted by strategically identified heritage organisations across the UK that had existing experience of delivering strong and effective community archaeology programmes. A wide range of organisations took part including archaeological and heritage trusts, commercial units, local and national park authorities, university departments and national museums.

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