Qualifying for entry

There are several mechanisms which different professions adopt to control entry. These include:

Neither of these are particularly relevant models to British archaeology. Our profession is certainly not large enough to support the elaborate system of entry qualifications and control of practising doctors exercised by the General Medical Council, and though there may be many benefits about a professional organisation which operates a monopoly there are also drawbacks, and certainly, even if it were desirable, the professional climate in archaeology is not favourable. Both these approaches need to be supplemented by monitoring of life-long learning, or the wide range and differing nature of skills and knowledge of the subject required by the different sectors. They are based on 'one-off' sets of qualifications, and they can be monopolistic and static, so most professional organisations are moving away from the 'entry-by-examination' formula. They also do not recognise the rich diversity of entry routes we have in Britain, which has brought a wide range of skills and expertise into the archaeological profession.

The equivalent at degree level would be some sort of National Curriculum - what all students of archaeology would be taught, and know on graduation. There are many academics (especially in disciplines other than archaeology) who see the agenda of the Quality Assurance Agency (another body set up by the government, this one to oversee standards in British universities) as aimed at developing professional standards and qualifications through a core curriculum, initially through 'benchmarking'. The archaeology benchmarking statement deliberately steered away from this by not being prescriptive about the contents of an archaeology degree - an archaeology student may have certain skills, or could have studied a certain type of course, but only a relatively small core was seen as absolutely essential to all archaeological degrees (Johnson 2001). Hopefully, by describing in fairly general terms what we teach in a wide range of degrees (which may be biased towards the Arts, the Social Sciences or the Pure Sciences) none of the archaeology degree courses taught in British universities will have problems in conforming to the criteria, as long as a wide enough range of archaeological topics is covered; other disciplines may not have been so wise.

As a member of the Benchmarking Committee, it rapidly became clear to me that my agenda was completely different from that of the QAA, coming, as I did, from the viewpoint of the needs of the archaeological profession. What we have is a general statement on the likely academic knowledge and skills of the average archaeology student. Hopefully this will be useful to government bodies to understand that archaeology is a good degree for students wanting a wide and general education, and that funding for laboratories and fieldwork is essential to produce the well-rounded graduate. Non-archaeological employers may find it useful to know what archaeology students can do, and so get rid of some misconceptions (prevalent even in the government institutions which fund us), but details of what students have studied should be clear from their CV, as long as this spells out the courses which have been done. The British benchmarking may also be useful to colleagues in other countries where archaeology is still seen merely as a component of a History or Art History degree without the science and fieldwork component, and help to argue for a more adequate funding and teaching of archaeology. However, for employers within the profession of archaeology it says nothing, and it is clear that if we cannot look to the QAA for help, we must produce something ourselves which will be useful.


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Last updated: Mon Jul 29 2002