Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 89

Submission from the Archaeology Training Forum


  This document demonstrates that the historic environment sector, including archaeologists, is a profession that requires substantial training and access to further qualifications in order to meet its professional requirements. We argue that the removal of ELQ funding will hit archaeological degrees disproportionately and will hamper the implementation of the forthcoming Heritage Protection Reforms as a result. A recommendation for exemption of the profession is made with an alternative position that there should be a delay of five years if exemption is not granted.

  1.  This document has been prepared for the Select Committee of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills' inquiry into the Government's decision to phase out support given to institutions for students taking second qualifications of an equivalent or lower level (ELQs) to their first qualifications. It has been written by Dr Roger White of the Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham, on behalf of the Archaeology Training Forum whose chair is Dr Mike Heyworth.

  2.  The Archaeology Training Forum (ATF) is a delegate body which represents all those organisations which have an interest in the issues of training and career development in archaeology. These include the Council for British Archaeology, Institute of Field Archaeologists, Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, English Heritage (and the cognate bodies of Historic Scotland and Cadw), the Standing Committee for Archaeology, which is the representative body of all Further and Higher Education Institutions offering archaeology programmes, the Standing Conference of Archaeology in Continuing Education, and other institutions.

  3.  The ATF was constituted in 1998 to review the present provision of training in archaeology and to co-ordinate future strategies to meet the profession's training needs.

The Forum exists to:

    —  keep current training provision by member bodies and others under review

    —  seek to ensure that funding for training from whatever source is distributed according to need within a framework of priorities

    —  work towards the alignment of existing and proposed training sessions and units, sponsored or run by bodies represented, into a series of related programmes accessible to all members of the profession and to interested amateurs

    —  work towards agreement on the validation of training units and their integration within a widely accepted professional career structure.

  4.  Archaeology is a relatively small profession of approximately 5700 individuals[138] but is increasingly viewed as part of a much larger grouping of "Historic Environment professionals" that includes Conservation Officers, Museum Curators, Conservation Architects, Curators of Historic Houses and Gardens, National and Regional Park authorities, and many others. What unites this diverse group is an interest in, and active engagement with, the Historic Environment in all its forms. This approach reflects the recognition by government of the need for a more holistic approach to the historic environment that will be enshrined in the draft Heritage Protection Bill to be published during this parliament.

  5.  The Historic Environment professional has to undergo training that is similar in character to that of an architect, engineer, lawyer or medic, ie it involves engagement with a very broad range of theoretical material allied with practical knowledge and skills leading to a course of training that can last a number of years. Where it differs from these professions is in the relatively low level of remuneration that practitioners generally receive. This may be linked to the fact that archaeological work in particular can be carried out by people not necessarily employed in the sector but who work to professional standards. It is this aspect that marks out archaeologists in particular from the related professions noted above.

  6.  Evidence for the need for further training after a first degree in archaeology is forthcoming from the Archaeological Labour Market Intelligence Survey carried out in 2002-3 (it has been repeated recently and shall report in spring 2008). This found that over 50% entering the profession had a first degree yet 74% of these individuals required "considerable or very considerable" amounts of training as 53% of the intake were considered to be poorly or very poorly equipped with skills (Aitchison and Edwards 2003, 57[139]). Archaeology is, therefore, a profession that requires a great deal of workplace training both to ensure that those entering the profession are quickly and efficiently trained to become independent field workers and that those who have existing skills are able to continuously develop their skills in the workplace through CPD programmes.

  7.  Archaeology is thus unusual in that it is a profession in which a first degree rarely equips the individual to undertake archaeological work unsupervised. Further, it requires considerable training to ensure that its workforce is able to take advantage of scientific advances in technologies and techniques that are developed in the archaeological world or that are adopted from other professions or disciplines and that are deemed to have applicability in archaeology. The use of Geographical Information Softwares, for example, is a technology adopted from Earth Sciences that has a wide application in archaeology and requires considerable training to achieve proficiency. However, the greatest skills shortages needs identified in 2003-4 were in more generic areas such as information technology (67%) or in specific areas of archaeology such as artefact and ecofact research, (53%), geophysical survey (another earth science technology—52%) and artefact or ecofact conservation (48%; ibid, 53-4).

  8.  Those without a first degree find it increasingly difficult to progress in the profession. This has been addressed through the adoption of National Occupational Standards in Archaeology and the launch in 2007 of the Qualification in Archaeological Practice at NVQ levels 3 and 4 (level 5 is pending but still in development).[140] The Qualification will, for the first time, enable those without a degree to have their skills assessed and benchmarked, and will also provide a framework for facilitating the archaeological training of those with a first degree but without relevant archaeological skills. At the moment, the Qualification is still seeking both students and assessors although the latter have nearly completed their training to enable them to carry out the assessment role. Once the assessors are in place, NVQ training can begin but will require the payment of fees that will presumably fall upon employees rather than their employers. Given that those seeking NVQ 3 training are likely to be at a relatively junior level (the recommended minimum salary for a Practitioner in the IFA is £14,197 as of 1/4/07) the fee of £1000-1500 is a large amount to find and grant support would be of great value here in enabling training across the profession.

  9.  There are moves among some University departments to link their skills-based undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes to the National Occupational Standards and possibly to the NVQs too. This would offer a valuable linkage between the Further and Higher Education sector and the profession, but the proposed withdrawal of HEFCE funding for those already holding equivalent or lesser qualifications (ELQs) will specifically make this provision much more difficult to provide as the institutions shall have to charge a higher fee to compensate for the lack of HEFCE subsidy to these programmes. Given the low wage culture that permeates archaeology, this will be a major disincentive for potential students, especially at the lower-paid end of the sector.

  10.  While the need for training, skills development and continuing professional development is thus widely recognized in the sector, and will become more important due to the requirement for a broader, diversified practitioner following the pending government re-organisation of the Historic Environment sector, the proposed removal of ELQ funding will make meeting this need all the more difficult. Yet it is apparent that archaeology, along with core professions like medics, lawyers, engineers, et al. have a duty to constantly revise and review their skills base. Often the only option to do so is through some form of higher qualification offered through a University. If ELQ funding is cut, this route will be largely closed to many practitioners and thus handicap the diversification of the skills base within the profession at a time when it is being asked by government to develop new areas of skill and learning.

  11.  Archaeologists and others working in the Historic Environment sector are excited by the prospect of the revised structures proposed by government in the recent Heritage Protection review. Responses informally and formally across the sector welcomed this opportunity to set the Historic Environment profession on a new courses for the 21st century. However, the key to delivery of the new regime will be the provision of sufficient resources to enable the sector to do what will be required of it in the future. We recognize and welcome the fact that we will have to undergo substantial retraining and up-skilling to fulfill the requirements of the new legislation but the potential removal of ELQ funding will make meeting this provision that much harder to do, and will disincentivise the current burgeoning engagement between the FE and HE sector and the profession. Accordingly, we would like to make the following recommendations:

  12.  The first recommendation is that those programmes offering training within the Historic Environment sector, and specifically archaeology programmes, retain their HEFCE funding in relation to those undertaking an equivalent or lower qualification. We believe it is in the public interest to do so since the protection of the historic environment is deemed by the public to be of great importance for the nation with 96% of people believing that it is important in teaching them about the past and 87% believing that there should be public funding to preserve it.[141]

  13.  If this is not acceptable, we would request that there be a delay of five years before implementation for the programmes noted above to allow sufficient time to allow the sector to adjust to the new demands of the Heritage Protection Review in practice and enable those already in post to upgrade their existing skills. Without this funding, by reducing the capacity of the sector to respond, it will render the practical objectives of the new Heritage Protection legislation less deliverable in the short to medium term.

January 2008

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139 Back

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141   Power of Place (2000), p.1 [] Back

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