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Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation


World-leading expertise

Learn from staff who are pioneers in their field

Interdisciplinary approaches

Cross disciplinary boundaries and benefit from our global networks

Engage in international research projects

Join a global network of specialists

Stoke-on-Trent campus
Study option:
Full-time, distance learning
13 Months
Start date:
School of Law, Policing and Forensics
Book onto a Virtual Open Event Enquire about this course Apply now

Course changes for 2020/21

We are changing the way we deliver our courses from September 2020 to ensure a great student experience within a COVID-secure environment.

Find out more

Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation represents an important and relevant area of study. On this course, you learn about the causes and effects of genocide, the evidence that genocide and mass violence leaves behind, and the cutting-edge forensic techniques used to identify it.

The MA Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation (Distance Learning) is a diverse and versatile programme of study which offers the opportunity to:

  • Gain detailed knowledge about forensic archaeological investigations of genocide.
  • Gain detailed knowledge of the different acts of violence and genocide perpetrated in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the landscapes connected to them
  • Identify and critically evaluate the legal, ethical, religious, political and cultural issues related to the investigation of conflict and genocide in range of different locations and environments
  • Complete a detailed research project relating to a range of topics concerning genocide and mass violence.
  • Undertake interdisciplinary sessions alongside academics and specialists in Archaeology and Genocide Studies, History, International Relations, Geography, Media and Film, Computer Games Design and Visualisation

The course provides a solid foundation for doctoral study and an opportunity for a career in archaeology, conflict and genocide studies, forensic investigation, Holocaust studies, international relations, and a range of other associated fields. The course offers a unique opportunity to gain a wide range of analytical skills.

On successful completion of study, we will issue the following award: MA Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation

Part-time study

Part-time study is available over a two-year period.

Work placements

N/A – although you will get the opportunity to work with staff from the Centre of Archaeology on active casework and field investigations.

Course content

This course combines core modules with a dissertation in order to explore contemporary issues connected to the detection and prevention of homicide, conflict and genocide.

Module 1: Introduction to Genocide and Mass Violence.

Knowledge brings awareness, understanding and tolerance. On this module, you will be introduced to the history and evolution of genocide, its definition, and the legal aspects of mass violence and atrocity.  You will study acts of genocide from across the globe to develop an understanding of the events and the legacies that such acts left behind. Taught by active forensic archaeologists and genocide investigators, this module represents an important step in your development towards a career in conflict and forensic investigation.

Module 2: Archaeologies of Genocide and Mass Violence

Understand the past to build a better future. On this module, you will study the wide range of acts of violence and genocide perpetrated in the 20th and 21st centuries and learn to identify the types of evidence that such acts leave behind. You will be tasked with thinking critically about how complex landscapes are formed and how they evolve due to the actions of perpetrators, victims and bystanders in a variety of contexts. The module will challenge you to analyse sites of genocide from many disciplinary perspectives and it will equip you with the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to identify and interpret a wide range of physical evidence. 

Module 3: Methodological Approaches to Genocide Investigation 

Develop your competency through methodological practice. This module provides understanding and practical experience of the wide range of desk-based methodologies used to investigate sites of genocide and mass violence. It also introduces a range of state-of-the-art technologies and field techniques used by forensic archaeologists and explores how they are applied within a range of scenarios and settings. You will participate in online practical workshops that will teach you how to analyse a range of digital data utilised in genocide investigations.

Module 4: Aftermaths of Genocide and Mass Violence

Learn about the legacies of genocide and develop strategies for post-conflict recovery. On this module you will examine the repercussions of genocidal acts on societies, communities and individuals as well as the impact that these have upon the ability of forensic archaeologists to investigate them. This focus on the aftermath of mass violence will also allow you to critically evaluate how war crimes investigations, searches for missing persons, memorialisation and education may all be affected by the nature and extent of genocide and human rights abuses in the short, medium and long term, and how they too can influence understandings of traumatic events. 

Note: Students who generally prefer a distance learning course but who wish to gain practical field experience in forensic archaeology, have the option to substitute module 4 for the Field School: Practical Skills in Genocide Investigation module that features on our MSc Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation (face-to-face course).

Please note this is subject to a top up fee to cover the costs of accommodation, flights and other travel costs. If you are interested in this option, please contact one of the course tutors for details.

Module 5: Dissertation

Design and complete your own research project in forensic archaeology and genocide investigation. A dissertation is probably the longest piece of academic work you will complete. It will require effective project management, research, academic writing and data collation and analysis skills to complete on time. It is the one piece of work that is truly your own. Therefore, it will help you develop an in-depth understanding of a particular topic of genocide investigation whilst acquiring transferable skills in inter-personal communication, data collection and analysis, systematic analytical writing to present findings, and effective time-management. 

These modules enable you to:

  • Study and understand the wide range of acts of violence and genocide perpetrated in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the landscapes connected to them
  • Explore the ethical issues and challenges associated with forensic and archaeological investigations at sites of violence, conflict and genocide
  • Understand and critically reflect upon the role and contribution of archaeologists in the investigation of conflict and genocide worldwide
  • Critically evaluate the methods that can be employed by archaeologists working on sites related to past and current conflicts and genocide, especially intelligence gathering, remote sensing, geophysics and excavation 
  • Apply desk-based methods to specific case studies in order to locate and analyse a range of evidence connected to genocide and mass violence
  • Evidence your understanding of the complex ways in which genocide and mass violence affects societies, communities and individuals in the short, medium and long-term
  • Critically reflect on the various approaches to evidence gathering, narrative creation and memorialisation efforts in the aftermath of genocide and mass violence
  • Apply appropriate research skills and demonstrate communicative and evidencing skills [for individual assignments] appropriate to master’s level

The dissertation will enable you to:

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of research methods including project planning, data collection and research ethics   
  • Evidence the integration of elements of your learning from the programme as a whole to research a theme or topic associated with forensic archaeology and genocide investigation 
  • Display competence in applying research skills to collect and analysis primary and/or secondary data and sources 
  • Demonstrate cognizance of methodological approaches to forensic archaeology and genocide investigation, focusing particularly on desk-based evidence and data integration 

Honours degree of 2:1 or above, or relevant professional experience, in a related area.   

Language level must be at least IELTS 6-6.5 or equivalent. However, you will be considered if you have a level of fluency to meet the needs of the course.  



After completing the Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation, you’ll be equipped with transferable skills attractive to employers. These can be adapted to a range of professions including: 

  • Archaeology
  • Forensic Investigation
  • Human Rights Work
  • Law Enforcement
  • Academia
  • Armed forces
  • Security services

Eager for more knowledge? Upon completion, you will be ideally placed for further academic study at PhD level.

Teaching and assessment


The course delivery is supported by an academic team that has very wide experience of innovative approaches to curriculum development, teaching, learning and assessment. The team’s expertise is the culmination of many years’ involvement with a variety of postgraduate and undergraduate awards at a number of different institutions, and departments at Staffordshire University.


Learning is done through a process of step-by-step, self-instructional study that is delivered weekly from a virtual learning environment called Blackboard. Students will learn via a combination of pre-recorded and livestreamed lectures, practical exercises, debates and engagement activities. Tutors will provide supporting materials and formative and summative assessments to help them. Discussion and engagement with peers and course tutors will be encouraged via Blackboard and a number of different media types will be used throughout the course to allow students to engage with the subject matter. Self-directed study also makes up an important part of the course that will enable students to become more independent learners and help prepare for doctoral study or employment. 


We provide:  

  • Around 30 copyright cleared articles and book chapters [embedded in Blackboard]
  • Additional hyper-links to web materials
  • Availability of academic journals subscribed to by the University including the JSTOR back-collection
  • A growing collection of e-books accessible to students 


Students will experience a range of assessment types across the course and these are delivered in such a way that the assessment load is as even as possible throughout the duration of their studies. As an assurance of quality, another member of the teaching team also second marks the assignments.  Specimens of submitted work are also scrutinised by the external examiner for the Award.


Students will be assessed during this course in a number of ways including digital poster presentations, written assignments, debates and engagement, and a dissertation on a topic of their choice.


Formative assessment does not count towards module grades, but it is an important element of undertaking a distance-learning course.  Information in the weekly activities directs learners to undertake many tasks that are not assessed – this is part of the ‘active learning’ approach that is fundamental to the way in which we have approached the design of the course.

Learning support

Your course tutors will provide lots of support. But you can also take advantage of our Academic Skills team, who can help you with:

  • Study skills (including reading, note-taking and presentation skills)
  • Written English (including punctuation, grammar)
  • Academic writing (including how to reference)
  • Research skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Revision, assessment and exam skills (including time management)

Additional support

If you have additional needs like dyslexia or a sensory impairment, then our AccessAbility Services are here to help make sure nothing stands in your way.


We know that it is important for you to be able to evaluate your progress. Your tutor will give you feedback on any practice assessments you do.

We usually give you feedback on formal assessments within 20 working days, but the format will vary for each module.


The course is taught by staff from the Centre of Archaeology, a cutting-edge research centre based in the Humanities and Performing Arts Department at Staffordshire University.

The Centre of Archaeology is directed by Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls – Professor of Conflict Archaeology and Genocide Studies – alongside Associate Professor Kevin Colls. Both are practicing forensic archaeologists and investigators.

Our research team consists of specialists in Forensic and Conflict Archaeology, geophysical methods, archaeological excavation, photogrammetry and laser scanning, and ethical approaches to genocide investigation.

The Centre is dedicated to developing research excellence and professional practice with a particular focus on the application of novel techniques to the investigation of recent and historic crimes, guided by the unique ethical challenges posed in these circumstances. As part of this research, we have completed the first archaeological surveys of the former extermination camp at Treblinka (Poland), the sites pertaining to the slave labour programme in Alderney (the Channel Islands), the former Semlin camp (Serbia), killing sites in Ukraine and Poland, and Bergen-Belsen (Germany; in collaboration with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation).

Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls
Professor Caroline Sturdy CollsProfessor Of Conflict Archaeology

Prof. Sturdy Colls' pioneering research focuses on the application of interdisciplinary approaches to the investigation of Holocaust landscapes. Caroline is the Course Leader for the Forensic Archaeology masters.

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Kevin Colls
Kevin CollsAssociate Professor

Kevin has directed and published archaeological projects throughout the United Kingdom and Europe and holds over 20 years' experience in research and professional archaeology.

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William Mitchell
William MitchellLecturer

William has worked on a number of forensic research projects throughout Europe, including sites of the Holocaust in Germany, Ukraine and Poland. Using non-invasive geophysical techniques, he has developed his specialism in the search and recover…

Read full profile

If you would like to know more about the fees listed and what this means to you then please get in touch with our Enquiries Team.

Alumni discount

If you've previously completed a Staffordshire University undergraduate degree (excluding HND and foundation degrees) you may be entitled to a discount of up to 25% off your course fees for any subsequent postgraduate taught course (terms apply, see the alumni discount page for details). If you have any questions about how this relates to you, please contact


William Shakespeare: archaeology is revealing new clues about the Bard’s life (and death)

Read William Mitchell's latest piece for The Conversation

Our students

Thaleia Marioli
Forensic Archaeology (Module)

We got involved in the full archaeological procedure, we applied our knowledge on the interpretation of an archaeological field and finally, we experienced the satisfaction of finding buried artefacts which strengthen the initial hypothesis.

Daria Cherkaska
Forensic Archaeology (Module)

The Holocaust is one of the darkest pages of modern history and we have to understand that lesson. It’s all about tolerance and about learning hard lessons and as a researcher I could help the understanding and to investigate true stories and pay some respect to the victims.


Applications are not currently available for this course.

Rules and regulations

If you are offered a place at Staffordshire University, your offer will be subject to our rules, regulations and enrolment conditions, which may vary from time to time.

Students of Staffordshire University enter into a contract with us and are bound by these rules and regulations, which are subject to change. For more information, please see: University Policies and Regulations.

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