The course is designed to provide students with an understanding of how traditional and advanced techniques from archaeology and physical anthropology can be applied in the forensic context.

At a glance

  • Start dateOctober
  • DurationMSc: 11 months year full-time, up to 3 years part-time. PgDip: Up to 11 months full-time, up to 2 years part-time
  • DeliveryBy written and practical examinations, continuous assessment, project presentation and oral exam.
  • QualificationMSc, MSc by Research, PgDip
  • Study typeFull-time / Part-time

Who is it for?

The course offers students a wide range of different experiences with unique facilities available to no other university in the UK. The course is highly practical and hands-on, aiming to produce forensic experts with a strong background to later enter the field and be capable of giving expert witness testimonies in a courtroom situation and elsewhere.

Students come from a wide range of backgrounds, usually with a science or forensic science first degree. Many students come from abroad, especially Europe, Africa and North America.

Why this course?

The MSc Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology course is part of the MSc Forensic Programme which has been formally accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

This course is designed to give a broad introduction to the subject, rapidly advancing into the understanding of cutting-edge research and the latest methodologies. Students have access to our purpose-built outdoor research facility - the Forensic Fieldwork Facility one of only two in the country. The facility has been specifically designed to enable research into animal decomposition, taphonomy, search, location and excavation of buried remains.


The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences logo

The Forensic Modular Masters Programme at Cranfield Forensic Institute is accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

Course details

Students are required to take eight core modules and choose three elective modules based on their particular background, future requirements or interests. This is followed by a four-month research project and thesis.

Individual project

The individual project takes four months from April to July. The student selects from a range of titles, or may propose their own topic. Most are practically or experimentally based using Cranfield’s unique facilities.


By written and practical examinations, continuous assessment, project presentation and oral exam.

Core modules

Analytical Techniques

Module Leader
  • Dr David Lane
    • Laboratory accreditation and standard operating procedures
    • Specimen collection and sample preparation
    • Mass/volume of interaction
    • Materials identification by X-ray diffraction
    • Special techniques used in X-ray diffraction
    • X-ray fluorescence
    • Electron microscopy and micro-analysis
    • Optical microscopy
    • Spectroscopic methods: Infrared and Raman spectroscopy
    • Mass spectrometry
    • Chromatographic and other separation methods: GC, HPLC, CE
    • Hyphenated techniques
    • Isotope ratios and carbon dating
    • DNA profiling.
    • Hardness measurements (micro- and nano-hardness)
    • Radiography.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Describe the fundamental principles of a wide range of analytical techniques
  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of different analytical techniques and apply them to the identification and characterization of materials
  • Practically apply analytical techniques and interpret their results with appropriate regard to experimental uncertainty
  • Critically assess experimental data and evaluate through comparison to other samples and reference materials
  • Present analytical results in a clear and concise written report.

Courtroom Skills

Module Leader
    • Role and legal responsibilities of the forensic expert
    • Civil and criminal procedure rules
    • Excellence in report and statement writing
    • Presentation of evidence in court
    • Preparation for examination-in-chief and cross-examination.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Define the role and responsibilities of the expert witness
  • Construct an effective expert witness report
  • Develop the skills to present oral evidence in court effectively and respond successfully to cross-examination.

Forensic Archaeology: Mass Grave Excavation

Module Leader
  • Wessling, Mr Roland R.R.

    Day 1         Classroom based teaching

    Day 2         Site assessment and setup

    Day 3-6       Site excavation

    Day 7          Site closure and exercise debrief.

    • Basic principles and structure of mass grave investigations
    • Methodology of mass grave excavations
    • Operational and logistical challenges in mass grave investigations
    • Recovery of surface evidence at mass grave/mass killing sites
    • Recovery of human remains in a mass grave context
    • Recovery of buried evidence associated with human remains.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

  • Adapt their methodologies to a single or mass grave environment
  • Understand the role of the forensic archaeologist and anthropologist within a forensic and criminal investigation team in a mass fatality investigation framework
  • Recover surface and buried evidence as well as human remains as part of a wider forensic investigation
  • Interpret non-material, forensic archaeological evidence in mass grave structures, such as tool marks
  • Interpret the site history in order to reconstruct the series of events that lead to the existence of the grave and the positioning of the victims and evidence.

Forensic Archaeology: Recovering Buried Remains

Module Leader
  • Dr Karl Harrison
    • The development of Forensic Archaeology in both UK and international contexts
    • The science and study of deception
    • Search and location
    • Grave digging practical
    • Principles of geophysics
    • Police search techniques
    • Cadaver dog use
    • Principles of surveying
    • Stratigraphy and recording
    • Scatter scenes
    • Scavenger behaviour
    • Running a forensic excavation
    • Recording and planning.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

  • Evaluate and critically assess the development of forensic archaeology and its current application on UK and international crime scenes
  • Understand key concepts in forensic taphonomy and consider how these may effect the nature and response of human remains
  • Identify the main techniques used in the location of buried objects and evaluate their usefulness in different terrains and against different target types
  • Discriminate between different features that appear on geophysical surveys and deduce their likely archaeological causes
  • Recognise the importance of stratigraphy and be able to use simple archaeological recording techniques to accurately describe that stratigraphy and interpret how it might have been caused
  • Recognise the practical aspects of setting up a forensic excavation and their implications.

Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology: Osteology

Module Leader
  • Marquez-Grant, Dr Nicholas N.
    • History of forensic anthropology
    • The place of forensic anthropology in a criminal investigation
    • Types of information that forensic anthropology reveals and an assessment of its reliability
    • Determining human from non-human bones
    • Identifying minimum number of individuals
    • Basic human skeletal anatomy
    • Determination of age and sex of an individual from juvenile and adult skeletal remains
    • Determination of stature from whole and fragmentary remains
    • Assessment of ethnic ancestry
    • Basic dentition
    • The limitations of skeletal analysis.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Explain the role of biological anthropology in forensic science
  • Recognise, name and accurately describe any human bone
  • Distinguish human bones from the most common animal bones
  • From a (nearly) complete skeleton, distinguish between sexes and determine approximate age, stature and ethnic ancestry
  • Combine a series of different bone identifications and draw conclusions as to possible identities of an individual
  • Appraise and defend the possibilities and limitations of the techniques.

Further Forensic Anthropology: Identification

Module Leader
  • Beckett, Dr Sophie S.
    • The legal and social need for a positive identification of individuals
    • Pathology: identification and characterisation of disease visible on the skeleton
    • Cause and manner of death
    • Identifying trauma and injuries from skeletal remains
    • The use of trauma in positive identification
    • Fractures and fracture healing
    • Characteristic wounds left by weapons
    • Dental pathology.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Identify the need amongst the relatives and friends of a victim, in addition to society as a whole, for accurate positive identification of remains
  • Apply theoretically and practically the various techniques for positive identification
  • Identify some of the most common pathologies and diseases evident on bone
  • Draw conclusions about the lifestyle of an individual from the pathology evident on the bone
  • Identify trauma and draw justified inferences as to manner of death
  • Categorise the injuries caused by various different sorts of weaponry
  • Identify the most common examples of dental pathology.

Investigation and Evidence Collection

Module Leader
  • Dr Karl Harrison
    • Construction of the forensic strategy
    • Evidence selection and collection
    • Scene photography
    • Digital photography
    • Sample integrity and contamination issues
    • Assessment of evidence
    • Packaging and transportation
    • Scene reporting
    • Handling intelligence – assessment and communication.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Analyse and evaluate various different strategies of major scene investigation to consider the various effects of different approaches
  • List and define the range of evidence collection and investigation techniques available to the crime scene investigator
  • Describe and evaluate the relative merits of the range of systematic crime scene procedures vital to successful investigations
  • Evaluate which of these procedures are appropriate to a particular crime scene and apply these procedures appropriately during a crime scene exercise
  • Generate a crime scene report which objectively critiques the methodologies used and draws justified conclusions appropriate for the evidence
  • Transfer theoretical and practical knowledge of evidence identification, recording and retrieval into the various roles of forensic specialists.

Reasoning for Forensic Science

Module Leader
  • Rogers, Professor Keith K.D.
    • Experimental design
    • Interpretation and assessment
    • Effective framing and rebutting of arguments
    • Problem solving
    • Evidential types
    • Use of relevant statistics for design and interpretation
    • Courtroom statistics.

    The syllabus will follow the general course of a generic investigative process from the appropriate framing of a question to the critical interpretation of data and information. The appropriate use of data in well constructed arguments will be considered in order to distinguish between fact, opinion and speculation. Intellectual rigour will be challenged, and the ability to identify weakness in argument will be developed. Data will be examined for reliability and reproducibility with a focus on the distinct features of forensically related data. Appropriate use of descriptive and hypothesis testing statistics will be practised and the ‘prosecutor’s fallacy’ explored. Bayes’ Theorem will be considered and rehearsed through case studies

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Recognise the fundamental features of effective experimental design
  • Explain how confidence may be secured through effective reliability and reproducibility assessments
  • Frame and defend an effective argument concerning quantitative information
  • Understand the minimum requirements for presenting scientific evidence in court
  • Distinguish between evidential types used in court and research environments
  • Apply appropriate statistics to forensic evidence for analysis and interpretation
  • Explain the statistical processes to the layman
  • Apply Bayes’ Theorem to forensic evidence.


Fakes and Forgeries

Module Leader
    • Introduction to the art world
    • Collectors, auction houses and museums
    • Object and material types
    • Stone, ceramic, glass, metal, pigment, organics
    • Scientific versus stylistic analysis
    • Special considerations of sampling
    • Quasi non-destructive and non-destructive techniques
    • Relative and absolute dating
    • Provenancing.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

  • Describe the basic functioning of the art market
  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the legal roles of various players and the part that science can play
  • Critically assess the various scientific and non-scientific techniques
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how sampling strategies are applied and which techniques are of most use
  • Be able to apply their knowledge to specific investigation of art objects to successfully come to a reasoned and balanced conclusion.

Fires, Explosions and their Investigation

Module Leader
    • Fire initiation
    • Spontaneous ignition and thermal explosion
    • Fire spread in gases
    • Dust explosions
    • Pool fires
    • Anaerobic fires
    • Fire spread in solids
    • Anatomy of a fire
    • Effects of fire on the human
    • Condensed explosives
    • Forensic examination of fires and explosions
    • Consideration of case studies.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Understand the fundamental principles of fire science theory and fire modelling and demonstrate a critical awareness of the limitations of current theories and modelling processes
  • Identify the various physical and mechanical processes and mechanisms leading to the initiation of fire and of explosion
  • Analyse the principles involved in the spread of fire and the development of vapour, dust and condensed explosions
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the forensic techniques used in the examination of suspicious fire and explosive incidents.

Introduction to Firearms Investigations and Forensic Ballistics

Module Leader
  • Shackel, Dr James J.
    • Introduction into weapon functioning and performance
    • Introduction into ammunition construction and materials
    • Introduction into bullet/case matching.
    • Provide an overview of the 1968 Firearms Act (as amended)
    • Introduction to internal and external ballistics
    • Introduction to gunshot residue analysis.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Assess and evaluate how small arms work and operate
  • Appraise the science behind bullet/case matching
  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the construction of small arms ammunition
  • Assess the use of different sections of the 1968 Firearms Act (as amended)
  • Compare and contrast the science underpinning internal and external ballistics
  • Evaluate the science behind gunshot residue analysis.

Mass Fatality Incidents

Module Leader
  • Marquez-Grant, Dr Nicholas N.
    • Types of mass fatality incident and their implications
    • Natural disasters
    • Man made disasters
    • Acts of terrorism, crime and war
    • Management of a mass fatality incident
    • Roles and responsibilities on the site
    • Techniques for victim identification
    • Humanitarian Assistance and management of the bereaved
    • Ethical and social concerns
    • Role and responsibility of the media.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

  • Categorise the different types of mass fatality incidents and confront the different problems and procedures associated with each
  • Describe the UK mass disaster management systems in both national and international incidents and distinguish the responsibilities of the key roles
  • Recognise the requirements of the bereaved, and recognise good practice for humanitarian assistance and management
  • Critically assess current methods of disaster victim identification and mortuary practice
  • Accurately complete and reconcile Interpol standardized Ante-Mortem and Post-Mortem forms.

Practical Archaeological Excavation

Module Leader
  • Wessling, Mr Roland R.R.
    • Planning an excavation
    • Logistical practical and health and safety issues
    • Practical excavation skills
    • Man management and organisation skills
    • Drawing, planning and recording an excavation
    • Small finds
    • The care of human remains
    • Press, the public and other partners.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Explain how an excavation is planned and run
  • Transfer theoretical knowledge of excavation techniques into practical use
  • Recover safely and record rigorously material uncovered in the excavation
  • Critically assess the most important features of an excavation and determine appropriate techniques
  • Communicate results to other persons both archaeological experts and lay member of the public.

Radiographic Investigations in Forensic Science

Module Leader
    • Physics of X-ray production and utilisation
    • Radiographic equipment and complimentary imagining modalities - computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound
    • Analogue and digital image recording media
    • Radiation protection and legislation
    • Medical imaging techniques and their application in the forensic examination of human subjects; ballistic trauma, narcotics trafficking, abuse, assault, homicide, unexplained sudden death, human identification
    • Virtopsy ® and the virtual post-mortem
    • Radiographic techniques applied to art work and counterfeit objects
    • Industrial radiographic techniques for engineering components including weapons, missiles and improvised explosive devices.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Explain the fundamental principles of a wide range of imaging techniques
  • Identify current ionising radiations regulations and interpret them so as to be able to apply appropriate radiation protection measures when employing radiographic imaging techniques
  • List and critically assess the advantages and disadvantages of different imaging techniques and their use in the individualization of human remains and characterisation of trauma and/or disease states
  • List and critically analyse the advantages and disadvantages of imaging techniques and their use in the identification and characterisation of components and component failure
  • Practically apply appropriate imaging techniques for defined situations and interpret the results.

Trace Evidence

Module Leader
  • Dr David Lane
    • Trace evidence concepts, direct and indirect transfer, retention time, transfer diagrams
    • Fibre and hair construction
    • Fibre and hair microscopy for identification and comparison
    • Glass construction and forensic examination
    • Paint characterisation
    • Soil analysis
    • Blood spatter
    • Finger prints
    • Marks as evidence.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Investigate a wide range of physical evidence using the concept of ‘trace’ evidence
  • Project manage a systematic trace evidence search using appropriate detection and collection techniques to recover trace evidence of different types
  • Justify the categorisation of trace evidence by identifying and measuring their most important features using appropriate analytical techniques
  • Assess the number and distributions of different types of trace evidence and use
  • Appraise different categories of trace evidence and synthesise a model for how trace evidence transfer has occurred
  • Present a case for physical contact between two (or more) objects or persons using a transfer diagram
  • Report on a trace evidence investigation in a clear and concise manner.

Forensic Exploitation and Intelligence

Module Leader
    • Role of communication and information sharing
    • FORINT in long term policing strategy
    • Exploitation and military intelligence
    • Pattern analysis, GIS and mathematics in forensic intelligence
    • Technical exploitation
    • Forensic exploitation
    • Planning and direction of forensic intelligence
    • Collection, processing, production, management and dissemination of FORINT
    • Forms of output and report from FORINT.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Distinguish evidential types for use in court and for intelligence purposes
  • Evaluate the levels and range of forensic exploitation techniques
  • Manage and prioritise the exploitation of forensic intelligence derived from people, places and vehicles
  • Critically assess how forensic intelligence interfaces with other intelligence sources
  • Establish and maintain a FORINT exploitation policy within the frameworks of forensic best practice and the recognised intelligence cycle.

Digital Crime and Investigation

Module Leader
  • Dr Sarah Morris
    • Background and introduction to digital forensic science
    • Investigation of digital crime
    • Planning and executing a search and seizure operation in the context of a digital crime based investigation
    • Introduction to the tools and techniques used to examine digital evidence
    • Reports and statements
    • Relevant UK and European law.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to: 

  • Evaluate the impact of key concepts in digital forensic science and related legislation on the forensic workflow
  • Create an effective search and seizure plan for a digital investigation
  • Conduct a simple digital forensic examination
  • Construct an appropriate report in respect of a digital crime investigation and examination
  • Apply knowledge to act as a source of assistance and information in relation to digital evidence and crime.

Fees and Funding

Home EU Students Fees

MSc Full-time £9,000^
MSc Part-time £9,000*^
PgDip Full-time £7,200
PgDip Part-time £7,200*

  • Overseas Fees

    MSc Full-time £17,500^
    MSc Part-time £17,500*^
    PgDip Full-time £14,000
    PgDip Part-time £14,000*
    • * Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at six month intervals (i.e. the full fee to be paid over the first two years of their registration). 
    • ^ Most fees paid personally by the student or their families are eligible for a departmental bursary.

    Fee notes:

    • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017.
    • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
    • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
    • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
    • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees

    Funding Opportunities

    Departmental bursary

    Most fees paid personally by the student or their families are eligible for a departmental bursary. This is often in the order of £1,500 for UK/EU students or £3,500 for overseas students. Details will be sent in the offer letter.

    Please contact for more information on funding.

    Additional funding information is available here.

    Entry requirements

    A first or second class Honours degree or equivalent in archaeology, forensic science or scientific discipline, or the professional equivalent. Students with other degrees who can show a knowledge of and interest in the scientific elements of the subject will also be considered.

    English Language

    If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

    IELTS  Overall score – 7.0
    - (Internet-based Test)    (Total score = 100)
    Pearson PTE Academic
    – Overall score - 68
    Cambridge English Scale
    - 190
    Cambridge English: Advanced
    – Grade A or B
    Cambridge English: Proficiency
    – Grade A or B

    In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

    We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

    Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa must ensure they can meet the English language requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and we recommend booking a IELTS for UKVI test.

    Security clearance for Shrivenham

    Some Cranfield University courses are delivered at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham which is a Ministry of Defence (MOD) site. All applicants to courses that are wholly or partially delivered at Shrivenham must complete the BPSS (HMG Baseline Personnel Security Standard V4 April 2014) prior to registration on the course or must already hold a security clearance to this level or higher.

    Your application and BPSS clearance application will be shared during the application process with the MOD who have ultimate discretion over whether to admit applicants to the Shrivenham site. This information will be returned by the MOD to Cranfield University after checks are completed and no copies will be retained by the MOD.

    BPSS checks may involve confirmation of the following:

    • Identity (e.g. Photo ID)
    • Nationality and Immigration Status
    • Employment/Academic History (covering the past 3 years)
    • Criminal record (unspent convictions only)

    Additionally, applicants are required to give a reasonable account of any significant periods (6 months or more in the past 3 years) of time spent abroad.

    This may be revised from time to time dependent on national security requirements. For more details, please consult the BPSS Guidance.

    It will take additional time to process your BPSS clearance application once you have completed your course application.

    Inability to access the Shrivenham site as a result of failure to meet security clearance requirements will result in a withdrawal of offer, or, if already registered, a termination of registration.

    Your career

    Prepares you to work in the field of forensic archaeology or anthropology within forensic laboratories, police departments, government bodies, non-governmental organisations, museums, commerical archaeological companies and universities. It is also a necessary introduction that could lead into conducting research at PhD level in the subject.


    Applicants may be invited to attend an interview. Applicants based outside of the UK may be interviewed either by telephone or video conference.

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