Archaeology and Ancient History

Hear from our PhD students

Archaeology and Ancient History at Leicester has a thriving community of graduate students from the UK, Europe and overseas. Some study on campus at the University, while a diverse group of distance learning students are scattered across the globe. Below some of our students talk about their experience as research students in Archaeology and Ancient History. You can also read a list of all the current research topics of our PhD students.

Emma Stockley

Funding: Midlands4Cities Collaborative Doctoral AwardEmma Stockley

"After graduating with a degree in British Archaeology from UCL, I spent a decade raising my children before pursuing a career in archaeology and heritage within the UK national parks sector.

Returning to university was a daunting prospect but the support I've received from my funder and supervisory team has been outstanding. I'm lucky to have three supervisors: Dr Laura Basell, UoL; Prof Henry Chapman, UoB; and Dr Lee Bray, Dartmoor National Park. They offer me the guidance I need as a mature student whilst acknowledging that I bring a range of additional skills and experience to the project.

Undertaking my PhD at Leicester has opened up many opportunities. The university's coaching programme ensured that the transition from working full-time to being a student was a smooth one, and the sessions gave me the time to think about my future career and direction post-PhD. In 2022, I won the university's Three Minute Thesis competition, and progressed to the national semi-finals - this led to invitations to speak at other events across the UK. I've gained teaching and fieldwork experience and have access to the department's incredible range of excavation kit, survey equipment and 4x4 vehicle to assist with my own fieldwork on Dartmoor.

My PhD research, which is focused on lithic scatters and the Mesolithic period, is in partnership with Dartmoor National Park Authority. This adds an exciting dimension as my research outcomes will inform land and heritage management within the national park. Knowing that my work has a real-world practical application is hugely satisfying."

Matthew Selheimer

"I completed a BA in Classics at The University of Pennsylvania in the late ‘90s and chose to pursue a business career afterwards. Archaeology and ancient Matthew Selheimer, PGR student history, however, remained passions and I decided in 2013 to further my education with the MA programme in The Classical Mediterranean at The University of  Leicester. I was immediately impressed by the quality and diversity of the faculty. The guidance provided through the MA modules and especially during my Master’s thesis, which investigated spatial use in two Pompeian insulae, was first-rate.

With the encouragement of my thesis advisor, I decided to pursue the PhD, which I successfully defended in January 2024. I am grateful that The School of Archaeology and Ancient History provides the opportunity for part-time distance learning at the postgraduate level, without which I would not have been able to pursue my academic interests.

During my PhD research, I found the academic environment and faculty supervision to be both encouraging and supportive. It is difficult to manage full-time employment while researching for a doctoral degree, yet my supervisors regularly made themselves available at times which were convenient for me six hours difference from the UK. The discussions on my research, which investigated how space was used at street intersections in Roman urban environments, were both stimulating and challenging in a positive way.

The hands-on guidance and detailed feedback provided during my thesis writing were immeasurably valuable. I also benefited greatly from the assistance my supervisors gave in securing the necessary permits from the archaeological Soprintendenze in Italy as well as coaching and advice for writing book reviews and giving conference papers. I even made a connection to another Leicester PhD graduate which enabled me to excavate in the Roman Forum, truly a life goal realized."

Kai Francis

"In 2018 I completed my postgraduate studies and received an MA in Ancient History at the University of Liverpool. Initially, I intended to use my degree work in the administrative sector and not attempt to find a career in academia. However, the combination of my inquisitive nature and words of encouragement from friends and lecturers guided me towards the University of Leicesters’s Graduate Teaching Scheme in Ancient History and Archaeology.
Applying for a PhD during the peak of COVID-19 was a challenging experience, unlike any I have faced before, or since. Yet, I was immediately impressed by the consistent support from my PhD supervisors throughout the application process. With their invaluable guidance, I was able to write a clear, persuasive PhD proposal which emphasised my aptitude and the importance of the topic. My application was successful, and I began my tenure as a PhD student at the University of Leicester in January 2021.PhD Student Kai Francis
I am grateful that the University of Leicester offers the opportunity for students to undertake a PhD with the opportunity to also get teaching experience. As a GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant), I lead seminars on topics related to Ancient Greek and Roman History. Since 2021 the seminars for the undergraduate modules ‘Introduction to Greek History’ and ‘Introduction to Roman History’ have been my responsibility. I have made a consistent effort to plan seminars which are encouraging, interesting, and helpful for every student. Moreover, I am offered observations by more experienced lecturers from SAAH who can provide invaluable feedback on better ways to engage undergraduate students. These efforts led to me being nominated for the University of Leicester’s award for ‘Best Graduate Teaching Assistant.’ in 2022. A nomination for this award shows that the University of Leicester is an institution which credits those who excel.
Pursuing a PhD has been an amazing experience here. The academic culture has been warm and encouraging from the moment I started. The supervisory team are always attentive and offer me regular meetings to check on my well-being and ensure that the project is on track. The School of Ancient History and Archaeology (SAAH) are filled with friendly staff who will do their utmost to involve you in social activities. The life of a PhD student can be very isolating, but interactions with the other members of this department have alleviated that feeling greatly. My time as a PhD student has also given me the opportunity to conduct research thousands of miles from the David Wilson library. In 2022 I spent the summer in Ulaanbaatar, and the following summer I participated in an intensive language course at the University of Cologne. All these experiences have consolidated my career aspirations; I am confident in my skills as an academic because of my time here as a PhD student at the University of Leicester."

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