Qualitative inequalities research for the archaeology sector

2022 - ongoing
Funding body: 
Historic England
Funding amount: 
£13,500 to date

The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) has received funding from Historic England to conduct qualitative research amongst the archaeological profession and student population studying archaeology. This research will aim to improve understanding of the issues affecting equality of access to careers within the archaeological sector. The research will engage with people working in archaeology, people studying archaeology, and people who are aiming to enter the sector, or who have previously unsuccessfully tried to do so. The research will explore both barriers to entry and progression within the profession, and the reasons why people are attracted to careers in archaeology. 


There has been evidence that the demographic profile of people working in archaeology and the broader historic environment sector does not match the demographic profile of the UK workforce as a whole since at least 1997, when the first edition of Profiling the Profession, a report into the nature of the archaeological profession, was compiled.

This research specifically responds to an initiative led by CIfA, which began with a cross-sector meeting organised by CIfA’s Equality and Diversity Special Interest Group in July 2018. The meeting offered a forum for open discussion on issues such as harassment, discrimination, inequality, diversity and barriers to entry. The meeting indicated an appetite for change from the heritage sector, especially from lead bodies. In response to the issues raised through the cross-sector meeting, a CIfA Advisory Council working party was set up in September 2018 to advise the CIfA Board on priorities for action. The working party published a final report in August 2019. That report identified a range of issues requiring attention from the sector, including inequality, diversity and discrimination, and barriers to entry to the profession. The report recognised that further work was needed before recommendations could be made, however, but that resources were limited requiring a prioritised programme. The report also recognised that while some quantitative data existed, qualitative information would be more difficult to obtain, but was important to understand a person’s social background and influences, and the events along their journey through archaeology to try and ascertain what the barriers and incentives were to the development of their career.

Responding to the working party’s recommendations, the Board appointed an Equality and Diversity champion, to constitute a task-and-finish working group to devise a strategy and to assist in its implementation. The relevant section of the Terms of Reference which provides a context for this research is as follows:

Research into four areas: inequalities relating to ethnicity, gender, socio-economic group, disability including any barriers inadvertently created by CIfA processes and criteria:

  • What are the causes?
  • What might be the solutions?
  • What might CIfA and partners do

Research should take two forms

  • Discussion by working groups and with those with expertise in and experience of the problems and potential solutions: findings in interim report
  • Qualitative and/or quantitative survey (including CIfA LMI and member surveys) where understanding of the issues is too poor to allow for actions based on working assumptions. If this need is identified the working group should identify this in the interim report and advise on whether CIfA or others should lead on seeking or providing funding.

Outcome: sufficient understanding to devise appropriate strategies

This project design responds to the second of those bullet points, aiming to enable qualitative research which will provide an authoritative basis for future actions by CIfA. It is intended that the recommendations will focus on actions within the remit of CIfA, and areas where its strategic intervention or requirements from its members can make a difference.

CIfA has appointed Cultural Associates Oxford (CAO) to carry out the research on its behalf.

Get involved

From 20 September to 3 October we are running a short survey to ask you for your thoughts on inequality in the archaeology sector. Your responses are vital to the success of our research project that aims to ensure that we tell the stories of people who have suffered discrimination so that we can create a more equal workplace. The link to the survey is here https://cao.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/cifa-inequalities-research and by responding you could win one of three £20 high street vouchers. Your responses are vital to us. Please share with your networks if you can. 

We are also looking for individuals who would be willing to share their experiences of inequality or discrimination in archaeology to volunteer to take part in small focus groups or one-to-one conversations. Throughout this we will respect your privacy, the issues you may have experienced and how these issues may have impacted your health and personal circumstances – and rest assured, all our data will be anonymised, unless we have your permission to share your story in your own name. If you’re interested, send an email to tamsin@culturalassociates.co.uk and we’ll be in touch. Thanks for your support.