Sustainable Development and Archaeology BA (Hons)

Course code D44A

What is special about this course?

The world is facing the prospect of a climate emergency, with decision-makers grappling with how to understand and respond to the pressures on our environment and society. BA (Hons) Sustainable Development and Archaeology presents you with situations from local to global and from past to present. Inevitable changes to our immediate future will impact on every facet of society, culture and the economy: this is a critical moment to study sustainability. 

On this course, you will learn the facts about climate change, explore the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and consider potential and emerging solutions such as the Green New Deals, the concept of ‘degrowth’ and the transition to wellbeing economies. By looking at long-term perspectives, you will explore how past cultures have adapted to changing climates, successfully and otherwise, and you will be ideally placed to influence or become one of the decision-makers guiding the future of our society. 

The degree also focuses on how communities can shape more sustainable forms of development, particularly in rural settings. Most of the teaching team are located in the Western Isles or Northern Isles, where communities are leading the way in community-based development, land reform, community empowerment and community energy projects, which can all contribute to this more sustainable future. 

To develop a critical understanding of the three pillars of sustainability (social, environmental, economic), you can study modules drawn from a range of social science and humanities disciplines, including geography, economics, politics, sociology, and environmental studies, as well as developing practical skills in fieldwork, research and working with communities. The modules take a critical approach to examining the historical context to development, whilst looking firmly to the future, drawing examples of change in action from around the globe. 

Delivered entirely online and available to study from anywhere in the world, you will benefit from collaborative discussions and activities with colleagues from a range of diverse backgrounds and experiences, facilitated by tutors with many years of experience in delivering online education. 

Please see our FAQ sheet for further information on this course.

Special features

  • Delivered by tutors with years of experience of teaching at a distance, and can be studied from home, full or part-time to suit your circumstances. The core archaeology fieldwork module will require participation in an excavation, but there is considerable flexibility in date and location 
  • Recent graduates have careers in community economic development, managing rural development initiatives, working for UN agencies, and working on international renewable energy projects 
  • Optional archaeological fieldwork, work placement and residential weekend are available. These usually take place in the Highlands and Islands, and although they have cost implications for students attending, they are an ideal opportunity to meet fellow students and staff in a relaxed and natural environment


We offer modern student accommodation at a number of our locations.

Entry requirements

  • 3 Scottish Highers at grades BBC or above or
  • 2 A levels at grades BC or above
  • At least 2 should be from the list of required subjects
  • Additional qualifications and experiences will be considered on an individual basis

Advanced entry

  • HNC Social Science (12 SCQF credits) with 3 additional SCQF credits at level 7, which is equivalent to 120 degree credit points, and at least grade C in the Graded Unit, will be considered for direct entry to year two

Year 1 - CertHE

You will study the following modules: 

Sustainable Development

  • Archaeological theory and method (S1)
  • Exploring economics in a changing world (S2) 
  • Understanding sustainable development (S1) 


At least one of the following:

  • European prehistories (S1)
  • Historic landscapes (S2)
  • Science and archaeology (S2)
  • World archaeology (S2)

You will also choose two further option modules from archaeology, sustainable development, or our range of humanities subjects. 



Year 2 - DipHE

You will study the following modules: 

Sustainable Development

  • Approaches to economic development (S1) 
  • Empowering communities (S1) 
  • Excavation skills (2 week residential field school)


At least one of the following:

  • Digital heritage (S2)
  • Managing archaeology for contemporary society (S1)
  • Scottish archaeology (S1)
  • Wetland archaeology (S2)

You will also choose two further option modules from archaeology, sustainable development, or our range of humanities subjects.  



Year 3 - BA

You will normally study the following modules: 

Sustainable Development

  • Globalisation and sustainable development (S1)
  • Sustainable Tourism and the Environment (S2)
  • Advanced social research methods (S1) OR Climate change (S1) 


Three of the following modules:

  • Archaeology and interpretation (S2)
  • Archaeological project (S2)
  • Archaeological science (S1)
  • Archaeology work placement
  • Practical environmental archaeology (2 week residential based at Orkney College)
  • Prehistory of the Highlands and Islands (S1)

Year 4 - BA (Hons)

You will complete a double credit dissertation in either Sustainable Development or Archaeology (S1 and S2). 

You will also study at least one module from your chosen dissertation subject, and at least two modules from the other subject, for a total of 6 modules.

Sustainable Development 

Modules may include:

  • Geo-political development issues (S1)
  • The consumerist society (S2)
  • Social enterprise and the social economy (S1)


Modules may include:

  • Biomolecular archaeology (S1)
  • Iron Age Scotland (S1)
  • Landscape archaeology (S2)
  • Neolithic Scotland (S2)
  • People, plants and animals (S2)
  • Sustainability past and present (S1)
  • Viking and Norse in the North Atlantic (S2)

How will I study my course?

  • Full-time
  • Part-time (structured)
  • Part-time (unstructured)
  • You will learn through a combination of video-conference lectures and tutorials, and online study via the university's virtual learning environment (VLE), with support from your tutor
  • You will also undertake practical archaeology fieldwork and have the option to participate in other practical, residential modules

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 4 years @ 40 hours per week
  • Part-time (structured): 8 years @ up to 20 hours per week
  • Part-time (unstructured): variable

Number of hours per week indicates the total number of hours you should dedicate to the course, which includes time spent in lectures and your own time spent on individual study and research.

Where can I study my course?

  • Argyll
  • North, West and Hebrides

Students based near to one of the listed campuses may choose to apply to, and be enrolled and supported by, their local campus. All other students should apply to, and will be enrolled and supported by, UHI North, West and Hebrides.

Start date

  • September


Find out more about fees, fee waivers and funding options.


UHI has a number of scholarships, bursaries, awards, and discretionary fund opportunities available to new and current students. Please use the A-Z of funds or use the filter to see which ones may be relevant to you. All students are welcome to apply.

Further information on funding your studies is also available, please see the attached link or contact the relevant UHI partner.

Additional costs

Excavation skills is a compulsory, 2-week, residential field school, normally taken during summer at a site location off-campus. You will be responsible for covering the costs of your travel and subsistence.  There is considerable flexibility with dates and locations.

If you wish to attend practical or placement modules, optional residential weekends, or other field trips, student contributions will be required towards the overall costs incurred. The cost will vary depending on the event, your location and the amount of other funding available towards the event (eg HISA contributions to the Student Society Residential weekend may reduce costs for individual students). Attendance at such face to face events is optional and not essential for completion of the course.  

What can I do on completion of my course?

Once you have successfully completed your BA (Hons) Sustainable Development with Archaeology course, you might like to consider careers in: 

  • Government departments and development agencies 
  • Economic development departments of local authorities 
  • Cultural heritage management
  • Commercial archaeology
  • Community enterprises and community energy groups 
  • Community land initiatives 
  • Natural and rural heritage organisations 
  • Voluntary sector development posts 
  • International non-governmental organisations 
  • Independent consultancy on sustainability 
  • Tourism 
  • Further postgraduate study or research 
  • Teaching

Apply for Sustainable Development and Archaeology BA (Hons)

  • Applications to this course are now closed for September 2023 entry. Applications for September 2024 will open in September 2023. Please revisit this page then to apply.

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.