About this course
MSc Human Evolution employs cutting-edge approaches drawn from a diverse range of fields – including biology, engineering, genetics, data science and more – to advance your understanding of human evolution.
- Study a course developed and delivered by leading researchers
- Taught in state-of-the-art facilities, including specialised osteology and imaging laboratories
- Includes a minimum of two weeks spent on placement excavating an archaeological site*
- Placements include the rare opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field by getting involved with excavation and bioarchaeological analysis of real human remains at a medieval cemetery - the Poulton Project, Cheshire
- Additional opportunities to take part in excavations with members of the programme team at Palaeolithic archaeological sites abroad
- Undertake advanced training in state-of-the-art research methods, through the collection and statistical analyses of your own discoveries and data in our osteology laboratories
- Offers excellent career prospects in a broad range of disciplines
The study of human evolution offers fundamental insights into questions that humans have asked for millennia: ‘Who are we?’; ‘Where did we come from?’; ‘What makes us human?’; and ‘What makes us different from other animals?’. The programme modules contain a blend of hands-on practical applications and provide the basis for understanding how behaviour relates to skeletal form in modern humans, and thus how morphology provides a window on past behaviours in fossil hominins.
* Practical and field activities underpin all programmes in the school. PPE and access to specialist facilities are provided for all necessary practical work. There are no additional costs for any day field trips.You will be required to meet other potential costs, such as field clothing, visas and immunisations if required. Locations may be subject to change and also subject to national and international travel restrictions.
MSc Human Evolution focuses on studying the human animal through:
- Advanced training in human osteology and dental anthropology to understand our bodies as they are today
- Close examination of the fossil record, which comprises palaeoanthropological, palaeontological, environmental, archaeological and genetic datasets
- Cutting-edge research on ancient DNA and Proteomics (protein-based analyses) to understand the genetic underpinnings of the variation we see today and in our distant past
You will be taught in new human osteology laboratories, which house world-class osteology collections and specialist equipment for digital radiography and 3-dimensional imaging, such as laser scanners and microscribes for advanced morphometric studies.
You will study in our imaging laboratory which houses the latest equipment, including: advanced computer technology; a state-of-the-art Artec 3-D handheld scanner; multiple 3-D printers; an up-to-date and comprehensive cast collection of human fossil remains; and a comparative collection of primate skeletal material. Facilities also include cutting-edge, ancient DNA laboratories, a state-of-the-art GIS suite and laboratories for environmental analyses containing a TOC (total organic carbon) analyser, laser granulometer, chromatographic and spectrometric equipment.
Our staff are research active and are members of LJMU's Research Centre for Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology.
Fees and funding
There are many ways to fund postgraduate study for home and international students
The fees quoted at the top of this page cover registration, tuition, supervision, assessment and examinations as well as:
- Library membership with access to printed, multimedia and digital resources
- Access to programme-appropriate software
- Library and student IT support
- Free on-campus wifi via eduroam
Although not all of the following are compulsory/relevant, you should keep in mind the costs of:
- accommodation and living expenditure
- books (should you wish to have your own copies)
- printing, photocopying and stationery
- PC/laptop (should you prefer to purchase your own for independent study and online learning activities)
- mobile phone/tablet (to access online services)
- field trips (travel and activity costs)
- placements (travel expenses and living costs)
- student visas (international students only)
- study abroad opportunities (travel costs, accommodation, visas and immunisations)
- academic conferences (travel costs)
- professional-body membership
- graduation (gown hire etc)
There are many ways to fund postgraduate study for home and international students. From loans to International Scholarships and subject-specific funding, you’ll find all of the information you need on our specialist postgraduate funding pages.
Please be aware that the UK’s departure from the EU may affect your tuition fees. Learn more about your fee status and which tuition fees are relevant to you.
Further your career prospects
LJMU has an excellent employability record with 96% (Graduate Outcomes, 2018/19) of our postgraduates in work or further study 15 months after graduation. Our applied learning techniques and strong industry connections ensure our students are fully prepared for the workplace on graduation and understand how to apply their knowledge in a real world context.
Students will develop a wide skill set, such as data collection and statistical analysis, scientific writing, public presentations and working as a team member. Therefore, graduates will have access to a broad range of career prospects, including multiple areas of natural and social sciences, cognition and psychology, genetics, forensic science, archaeological science, zoology, primatology, animal husbandry, veterinary science, museum management and academic research. Some graduates may wish to further their study by doing a PhD.
Discover the building blocks of your programme
Your programme is made up of a number of core modules which are part of the course framework. Some programmes also have optional modules that can be selected to enhance your learning in certain areas and many feature a dissertation, extended report or research project to demonstrate your advanced learning.
Advanced Osteology and Skeletal Pathology
This module provides students with an advanced knowledge of the human skeleton and the ability to identify animal bones, methods of curation of skeletal collections and understanding of pathological processes and how these relate to identification issues or population studies.
This module is designed to cover key issues and topics in palaeoanthropology, ranging from the origins of the earliest hominins to modern humans, the biomechanics of bipedalism and our distinct growth pattern and life-history.
This module provides extensive training in generic research knowledge and statistical techniques for the Natural Sciences as part of the preparation for the dissertation.
Ancient DNA and Proteomics
This module is designed to provide a solid understanding of the key findings in the Ancient DNA and Proteomics fields and covers the kind of information that can be obtained from Ancient DNA and issues and limitations surrounding DNA preservation and recovery.
Archaeological Field Skills
The aim of this module is to immerse students in archaeological fieldwork methods and post-excavation analyses. By the end of this module, you will have a thorough understanding of excavation and field research design, the interpretation of archaeological landscapes, site surveying techniques, interpretation of site formation processes, best excavation practices and writing up final reports for research and commercial excavations. Sampling strategies and post-excavation analyses for archaeological and environmental materials will also be taught.
This module aims to provide the theoretical knowledge and practical experience required by a bioarchaeologist or forensic anthropologist to identify and examine human teeth, and to use them to characterise and compare both samples and individuals. In addition, the ability to discuss, appraise and assess the results is obtained.
This modules aims to enable students to conduct independent scientific research in an appropriate manner under the guidance of an academic tutor. You will have the opportunity to make a major contribution in a chosen subject area through a supervised programme of individual study. The findings will be presented in the form of a written report.
An insight into teaching on your course
The programme is composed of modules that contain a blend of hands-on, practical applications and the relevant theoretical underpinnings to the analysis of the human fossil record.
Semester 1 focuses on anatomy and the genetic basis of the variation seen in the fossil record (Ancient DNA and Proteomics), providing students with an overview of the latest work in this ever-expanding field. Anatomy is studied through both intense training in modern human skeletal remains (Advanced Osteology and Skeletal Pathology), and a broad but focused study of the human fossil record (Palaeoanthropology).
You will learn through a combination of interactive lectures, workshops, seminars, literature reviews, extended essays, portfolios, oral presentations, exams, directed supervisions and project work.
Dissertation research and data collection will be conducted in museums or in our laboratories. The programme team works closely with Poulton Trust, Cheshire, and students have the option of working at that site. Students can also choose their own site and will have help from our Placement Learning Support Unit and academic staff in securing the placements. The placement costs for Poulton are included in the fees, however, other costs for work at other sites will not be covered.*
Semester 2 covers data collection and analysis (Research Methods), which will provide the backbone of cutting-edge skills needed to both collect data (e.g. 3-D approaches) and analyse it (e.g. multivariate statistics), with a specific focus on the most often-recovered elements in palaeoanthropology that provide insights into both hominin taxonomy and diet: teeth (Dental Anthropology). In addition, this semester will provide hands-on training in archaeological fieldwork (Archaeological Field Skills), including excavating human remains, which is rare in similar programs across the UK. The final element of the programme is a c.15,000-word dissertation on a topic in human evolution including original analyses.
How learning is monitored on your programme
To cater for the wide-ranging content of our courses and the varied learning preferences of our students, we offer a range of assessment methods on each programme.
Assessment methods include: a combination of seen/unseen exam papers with essay and interpretative style questions and coursework featuring: laboratory reports, essays, case studies, oral exams, poster presentations, scientific paper production, e-portfolio, problem solving exercises and the dissertation.
Dr Mark Grabowski
Dr Grabowski has an MA and PhD in Biological Anthropology and is a biological anthropologist and paleoanthropologist. His research focuses on size and its consequences – specifically how evolutionary changes in body size, brain size and other morphological traits both reflect and drive major adaptive transitions in human biology and behaviour. Dr Grabowski’s research interests integrate palaeoanthropology and functional anatomy with evolutionary biology – through quantitative genetics, evolutionary modelling and phylogenetic comparative methods. His recent fieldwork has included searching for Miocene fossil apes in Creu Conill. He is also Associate Editor of the Journal of Human Evolution.
“Seeing students progressing from a basic knowledge of human evolution through to describing behaviour from the remains of our fossil ancestors and presenting their own research projects is the most rewarding aspect of my role”
You will need:
You will need:
- a minimum 2.2 honours degree in biological anthropology, archaeology or a related field
- students who do not meet the normal entry requirements but do hold a nationally recognised higher qualification (HNC/HND) and relevant industrial experience are interviewed to assess if they have the necessary skills to complete the programme. Applicants not holding an honours degree in a relevant subject will be considered on their individual merits in relation to the proposed programme. Professional experience, publications, written reports, CPD activities and other suitable evidence of accomplishment will be taken into account. All such applicants may be interviewed by the Programme Leader and, like their counterparts with relevant honours degrees, must provide a satisfactory reference from a suitable person such as their employer or line manager.
Application and selection
Securing your place at LJMU
You will apply for the majority of postgraduate courses using our online application form. You should complete the form thoroughly and provide a detailed personal statement which reflects your suitability and aptitude for the programme.
Applications are considered by the programme leader and at least two course tutors. They are assessed on: your application form, references, and interview.
You will need to:
• demonstrate sufficient knowledge to embark on the programme
• display the potential to develop high level research skills
• identify a research area which fits staff supervision capability (contact admissions for details)
• demonstrate the ability and commitment to work at postgraduate level
The University reserves the right to withdraw or make alterations to a course and facilities if necessary; this may be because such changes are deemed to be beneficial to students, are minor in nature and unlikely to impact negatively upon students or become necessary due to circumstances beyond the control of the University. Where this does happen, the University operates a policy of consultation, advice and support to all enrolled students affected by the proposed change to their course or module.