Some universities offer an alternative entry method in the form of a foundation year. A foundation year is equivalent to the second year of A levels/Scottish Advanced Highers but is often specific to the broad subject area of the course you want to progress onto. eg Science Foundation Year for BSc Archaeological Sciences. Passing the foundation year at university will usually allow you to progress onto the degree scheme as normal.
Do I need specific qualifications?
There is no definitive answer to this – it depends on each course, and each candidate, but in general most archaeology admissions tutors are looking for candidates with an enthusiasm for the subject and some proof of academic ability. Beyond this an AS or A level (or equivalent) in the humanities is preferable, particularly history, geography or geology. As archaeology can be both a science and an arts-based subject (and many universities offer both types of degree) to do a science-based archaeology degree you will normally need to have a science A level (or equivalent). For degrees where archaeology is combined with a language you will probably be expected to have an A level equivalent (or be fluent) in that language, although courses which combine archaeology and ancient Greek or Latin may teach these from scratch in the first year – but another language would be useful.
What other things can I do to improve my chances of getting a place?
Getting a place on a course is about more than just your qualifications. Just as you are more than your qualifications, so your application to university should be more than just qualifications and getting a place!
Firstly, as mentioned before, archaeology is a very broad subject so reading about and taking part in archaeology can help you define what areas of archaeology really interest you. You should use the application form to show the development of your interest in archaeology. To do this you could mention how you are currently involved in archaeology.
So what should you mention? Membership of clubs related to archaeology is a good start, especially if you are or were a member of the Young Archaeologists’ Club. Any experience with archaeology that you have through volunteer excavations, pay-to-dig excavation schools or through volunteering with local groups, museums or the Portable Antiquities Scheme would be useful and if you haven’t already done any of these, mention any you have signed up for between now and the beginning of the degree you are applying for. Admission tutors know that it can be hard to find places on volunteer excavations and that these usually take place in the summer so if you are just waiting for the holidays to start before you can do some volunteering that’s OK.
In addition you can mention subscribing to British Archaeology or Current Archaeology magazines (and if you don’t already subscribe yet, you can always start now) as these are good ways to find out about and keep up to date with archaeology within Britain. They are also excellent ways of finding out what sorts of archaeology you like – if you always skip the Roman archaeology or the Industrial archaeology articles and scan the contents page for anything Anglo-Saxon and read those first, then you know that early medieval archaeology might be your thing! Basically, admissions tutors are far more interested in applicants who are enthusiastic and seek to expand their knowledge on their own, than they are in purely what exam results you get. You do need to show that you are academically capable, but the students who do best at university are those with a passion for the subject, and universities want to attract those.