Image representing Biological Anthropology

Biological Anthropology - MSc

2019

This programme places a strong emphasis on critical thinking and understanding of both the broad field of Biological Anthropology and the specialisms within. Core to the programme is the development of research methods, culminating in a piece of original research, written up in the form of a publication-ready journal article. 

2019

Overview

The MSc in Biological Anthropology is a perfect foundation for PhD research: it provides theoretical background, discipline specific knowledge and advanced, quantitative research methods.

Taught by one of the UK’s largest group of biological anthropologists with a demonstrated record of world-class research in human and primate behaviour, human evolution and skeletal biology this innovative one-year MSc allows you to focus your studies through one of two routes:

  • The Human and Primate Behaviour route combines principles of evolutionary anthropology and the behaviour of human and non-human primates, with aspects of evolutionary social, cognitive, and forensic psychology (formerly MSc in Evolution and Human Behaviour).
  • The Human Evolutionary Anatomy route focuses on the skeletal biology, functional morphology and evolution of humans and non-human primates. 

Both routes emphasize the development of original thinking, training in advanced research methods, and the production of original research. It provides students with transferable skills in data collection, oral and written dissemination of information and professional development opportunities. The MSc in Biological Anthropology provides the theoretical background, discipline-specific knowledge and advanced quantitative research methods necessary to embark on doctoral projects or a wide range of professional careers.

Why study with us?

  • Dedicated mentoring with an expectation that students will develop and conduct a publication quality research project as part of their degree
  • Dedicated professional development seminar for biological anthropology post-graduate students with topics including (but not limited to) grant writing, interview skills, analytical methods, work/life balance, professional conduct
  • Biological Anthropology research seminar series featuring UK and international scientists
  • Additional School research seminars in the School of Anthropology and Conservation and School of Psychology 
  • Access to cutting edge laboratory facilities, and training in the latest methods for addressing questions in biological anthropology
  • Potential opportunity to work directly within the research programmes of world-leading academics
  • Focused on providing a strong foundation for future PhD research: theoretical background, discipline-specific knowledge and advanced research methods. 

Think Kent video series

In this talk, Dr Tatyana Humle, Senior lecturer in Primate Conservation, summarises some of the main challenges faced by people and chimpanzees in West Africa and highlights the key drivers putting at risk co-existence between them.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Anthropology and Conservation was ranked 10th for research power and in the top 20 in the UK for research impact and research power.

An impressive 94% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Course structure

Outlined below are the compulsory and recommended optional modules for each route.  Optional modules may be chosen from the compulsory modules of the other route, other school and other faculty programmes.  Both routes involve a quantitative methods module which you must normally pass in order to receive your degree.  The teaching assumes that you are already familiar with basic quantitative or scientific methods.

Your programme is made up of  at least 180 credits. 60 credits are allocated to your research project.  The remaining credits are obtained through taught modules.

Human and Primate Behaviour route

SE992 - Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology (15 credits)

SE994 - Advanced Topics in Human Behaviour (15 credits)

SE993 - Advanced Topics in Primate Behaviour (15 credits)

SE855 - Research Project (60 credits)

Plus one of the following modules (SP801 is preferred for this pathway)

SP801 - Statistics and Methodology (40 credits)

SE812 - Research Design and Advanced Analytical Methods  (15 credits)

Recommended optional modules - at least 15 credits from the following list

SE821 - Advanced Topics in Anthropology (15 credits)

SP829 - Advanced Topics in Cognition in Action (20 credits)

SP851 - Advanced Topics in Cognitive Development (20 credits)

SP854 - Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychopathology (20 credits)

SP813 - Advanced Topics in Intergroup Relations (20 credits)

SP827 - Current Issues in Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology (20 credits)

SP844 - Groups, Teams and Organisations (20 credits)

SP860 - Political Psychology (20 credits)

SP853 - The Psychology of Eyewitness Testimony (20 credits)

Human Evolutionary Anatomy route

Additional compulsory modules

SE992 - Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology (15 credits)

SE8011 - Advanced Topics in Palaeoanthropology (15 credits)

SE8013 - Skeletal Functional Morphology (15 credits)

Plus one of the following modules (SP801 is preferred for this pathway)

SP801 - Statistics and Methodology (40 credits)

SE812 - Research Design and Advanced Analytical Methods  (15 credits)

Recommended optional modules - at least 30 credits from the following list

SE814 - Advanced Human Osteology and Anatomy (15 credits)

SE821 - Advanced Topics in Anthropology (15 credits)

SE994 - Advanced Topics in Human Behaviour (15 credits)

SE993 - Advanced Topics in Primate Behaviour (15 credits)                          

SE817 - Growth and Disease of the Human Skeleton (15 credits)

Modules

Please note that modules are subject to change. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.

Teaching and Assessment

You are assessed on the coursework for each module (Stage 1 worth 50%), plus the research project (Stage 2 worth 50%). Project research can begin during the taught component.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide the opportunity to develop expert knowledge and a sophisticated understanding of particular areas of biological anthropology
  • provide the opportunity to develop advanced research, writing and oral communication skills of general value to further postgraduate training and employment
  • provide a degree of specialization in areas of biological anthropology chosen from the subject routes
  • provide students with opportunities to engage with academics and academic work which are at the frontiers of scholarship in Biological Anthropology
  • provide students with the skills to undertake supervised research on an agreed topic in their specialization, and encourage the production of research that meets the appropriate standards of scientific scholarship
  • train students in transferrable skills in preparation for entering academic or other careers
  • assist those students who are minded to pursue academic research at a higher level in acquiring a sophisticated grounding in research methods
  • satisfy the Economic and Social Research Council’s requirements for the first year of the “1+3” research training/PhD arrangements. 

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • historical and contemporary theoretical and philosophical issues underlying the discipline of biological anthropology
  • the major analytic techniques and research methodologies employed by biological anthropology
  • the principles of evolutionary anthropology, evolutionary psychology, human ecology, non-human primate behaviour and communication, human and primate cognition, and methods of primate field study (Human and Primate Behaviour route)
  • the principles of evolutionary anthropology, physiology and growth of the human skeleton, osteology, skeletal functional morphology, and the skeletal and archaeological record of prehistory (Human Evolutionary Anatomy route).

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • effectively apply the knowledge, theory and general principles of biological anthropology to a wide range of topics and situations where relevant practical or theoretical issues are under considerationGeneral learning and study skills
  • apply critical reasoning and learned analytical skillsCritical and analytical skills
  • formulate and express ideas in a coherent and concise manner through both written and oral means. Ability to express ideas in writing and orally
  • advanced communication skills; including poster or podium presentations of scientific data
  • work in groups to discuss, critically evaluate, formulate and present scientific information
  • use standard computing software for word processing, advanced numerical analysis, and high quality presentations
  • advanced ability to review and summarise scientific literature on a range of topics relevant to biological anthropology
  • recognise potential alternative arguments, and contrary evidence, to a student’s own opinion and present a reasoned justification for preference
  • reflect constructively on their learning progression.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific:

  • advanced skills to complete an empirical study in an area of biological anthropology, under expert supervision
  • advanced skills to use the major analytic techniques employed by biological anthropologists
  • advanced skills to evaluate and select appropriate methods for researching questions in biological anthropology
  • skills in advanced methods of data collection on living subjects, comprehensive statistical tools relevant to evolutionary psychology, methods of behavioural observation and recording, comprehensive statistical tools relevant to the analysis of behavioural data, and principles of ethology (Human and Primate Behaviour route)
  • advanced skills in the handling and analysis of human skeletal material, detailed analysis of casts of non-human primate and fossil skeletal material, advanced biomechanical principles of functional morphology of bone, comprehensive statistical tools relevant to the study of anatomy and functional morphology, principles of geochronology and taphonomy (Human Evolutionary Anatomy route).

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • advanced numeracy: develop the skills to analyse data and make sense of statistical materials; integrate numerical and non- numerical information; understand the limits and potentialities of arguments based on quantitative information
  • advanced communication: develop the skills to organise information clearly, write coherently and concisely about the chosen research area and other areas of evolutionary anthropology/psychology, and give oral presentations about these topics
  • working with others: to systematically review the work of others; work cooperatively in groups; understand in-depth ethical principles and the procedures for gaining ethics approval for research
  • improving own learning: critically explore personal strengths and weaknesses; develop the high level skills of time management; review scrutinise the student-staff relationship; develop specialist learning skills; develop autonomy to a high level in learning
  • specialized information technology: use computers for complex data analysis, word processing, graphical display of data for analysis and presentation, and bibliographical research and documentation; email 
  • advanced problem solving: identify and define problems; explore alternative solutions and discriminate between them.

Careers

As a School recognised for its excellence in research. Many of our students go on to do PhD research for which there are a range of Scholarship opportunities available. Others use their Master’s qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments, supporting abused women, working in HR and business to teaching and consultancy work overseas.

Higher degrees in anthropology create opportunities in many employment sectors including academia, the civil service and non-governmental organisations through work in areas such as human rights, journalism, documentary film making, environmental conservation and international finance. An anthropology degree also develops interpersonal and intercultural skills, which make our graduates highly desirable in any profession that involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School has a lively postgraduate community drawn together not only by shared resources such as postgraduate rooms, computer facilities (with a dedicated IT officer) and laboratories, but also by student-led events, societies, staff/postgraduate seminars, weekly research student seminars and a number of special lectures.

The School houses well-equipped research laboratories for genetics, ecology, visual anthropology, virtual paleoanthropology, Animal Postcranial Evolution, biological anthropology, anthropological computing, botany, osteology and ethnobiology. The state-of-the-art visual anthropology laboratory is stocked with digital editing programmes and other facilities for digital video and photographic work, and has a photographic darkroom for analogue developing and printing. Kent has outstanding anthropology IT facilities. 

Anthropology at Kent has close links with the nearby Powell-Cotton Museum, which has one of the largest ethnographic collections in the British Isles. It also houses an extensive comparative collection of primate and other mammalian material. Human skeletal material is housed at the Kent Osteological Research and Analysis Centre within the School.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology, psychology, zoology, biology or in a related discipline. This course involves a statistics module which you must normally pass in order to receive your degree. The teaching assumes that you are already familiar basic quantitative or scientific methods.

Please specify which of the two routes (Human and Primate Behaviour OR Human Evolution Anatomy) you wish to follow in your 'reason for study' statement in your online application.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.  Please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: NatureCurrent Anthropology; PeerJ; Social Science & MedicineAmerican Journal of Physical AnthropologyProceedings of the Royal Society B; Animal Behaviour; Evolutionary Psychology; Evolution, Medicine, & Public HealthPLoSONE; and Journal of Human Evolution.

Biological Anthropology

Our research encompasses a broad range of topics within biological and evolutionary anthropology, including bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, archaeological science, human reproductive strategies, hominin evolution, evolutionary public health, primate behaviour and ecology, modern human variation, and cultural. We have three dedicated research laboratories, as well as a commercial osteology unit. 

Our research takes us to many regions of the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and United States).  We collaborate with international research organisations, including the Instituto de Biología Subtropical (Argentina), German Primate Center, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and Budongo Conservation Field Station (Uganda).  Members of staff provide a wide research network offering research opportunities in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.

Members of our Biological Anthropology team are also part of the Centre for interdisciplinary studies of reproduction (CISoR).  This multidisciplinary centre nurtures the study of assisting human reproduction, variation in human reproduction and non-human reproduction.

Skeletal Biology

Our Skeletal Biology Research Centre is the only UK Centre focusing on analysis of biological hard tissues (bones and teeth). It brings together innovative research, novel methodologies and international collaborations, with expertise and resources from Physical Sciences and Biosciences at Kent, and the Powell-Cotton Museum. Research ranges from analyses of the most important human fossils, histological studies of teeth and bone, isotopic analyses and dietary reconstruction, virtual 3D analyses of the skeleton, and forensic identification that together ultimately aim to better understand humans and our evolutionary history.

Primatology

The Living Primates Research Group fosters research into the behaviour and ecology of primates. It addresses questions concerning adaptation using living primates as model species, to provide a comparative framework for the understanding of human biology and behaviour, and investigate the biological and social dimensions of anthropogenic impacts on non-human primates (NHPs). Research ranges from functional morphology to behavioural ecology and physiology, cultural primatology, and the interplay of primate biology, ecology and conservation, including primate rehabilitation and reintroduction and human-NHP coexistence. 

Research Projects

Students are allocated a supervisor to support them to the production of their research project (~5000 words). The research project will allow students to develop an idea, employ their research methods training and produce a publication-ready journal article.

 

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Sarah Johns: Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology; timing of life-history events; human reproduction, especially variation of the age at first birth and the evolved psychology of reproductive decision making.

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Dr Matthew Skinner: Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Human evolution; dental anthropology; skeletal functional morphology; growth and development of hard tissues.

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Dr Chris Deter: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Dietary reconstruction of ancient human populations, funerary practices in ancient populations and the change in pale diets of North American and Near Eastern hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists.

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Dr Geraldine Fahy: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Stable isotope analysis, physical anthropology, forensic analysis, dietary ecology, paleopathology.

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Dr Julieta Garcia Donas: Lecturer in Biological and Forensic Anthropology

Inter-population skeletal variation, biometric standards, mainly in Southern European populations, and bone biology and histology.

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Professor Tracy Kivell: Professor of Biological Anthropology

Functional morphology of the wrist and hand; extant and fossil apes; origin of human bipedalism and hand use; ontogeny; biomechanics of primate locomotion.

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Dr Patrick Mahoney: Senior Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Evolutionary developmental biology of hominoid dentition; bioarchaeology, especially prehistoric human diet; palaeopathology.

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Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher: Reader in Primate Behavioural Ecology

Evolutionary ecology and behaviour of mammals with an emphasis on primates, in particular chimpanzees, including male-female aggression and sexual coercion, hunting behaviour, social behaviour, feeding ecology and ranging patterns.

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Dr Brandon Wheeler: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Primates; behavioural ecology; socioecology; communication; predation; feeding competition; cognition.

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Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Biological Anthropology - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7500 £15700
Part-time £3750 £7850

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: