skip to primary navigationskip to content

Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS)

The Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS), formerly known as the Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) programme, aims to raise the aspirations, enthusiasm and attainment of 14-17 year-olds with regard to higher education by making a valuable contribution to current academic research at the University of Cambridge. Participants are actively engaged by carrying out their own hands-on practical investigations in small mixed-school groups, which has a positive impact on their attitudes and aspirations and helps develop transferable cognitive and personal skills. ILAFS are aimed at learners capable of applying to top-level universities and helps them to raise their educational confidence and aspirations. During the course, participants will be encouraged to discuss their ambitions for the future and to maintain contact with the University of Cambridge afterwards in order to help them realise their aims.

On ILAFS, participants spend two days running their own small (1m2) archaeological excavation within living villages, just like thousands did in TV's Big Dig in 2003 and Michael Wood's Great British Story in 2012, with the aim of applying and developing a wide range of learning skills, boosting their academic confidence and giving them a taste of life and learning at university level. They make new discoveries for and about themselves, and in the process contribute to the university's ongoing research into the development of rural communities and settlements in the past. The third day is spent in the University of Cambridge analysing the excavation results in discussive learning sessions which aim to engage and challenge participants, prepare them to produce a written analysis for assessment as well as provide an inspirational and positive experience of higher education. After the field school, learners receive detailed individual feedback on their data collection, personal, learning and thinking skills developed during the fieldwork as well as their reporting and research skills exhibited in the written assignment, which will support applications to further and higher education.

Field schools are intended for students in school years 9-12 interested in studying ANY SUBJECT at university (including those still undecided) who have achieved/are considered capable of achieving at least 8 or 8+ GCSEs at grades A*-B.

The ILFAS programme is endorsed by the University of Cambridge and the OCR exam board in recognition of the level of cross-curricular challenge it offers young people to achieve in three distinct areas (1) practical fieldwork, (2) personal, learning and thinking skills and (3) data analysis and report writing. Participants will receive feedback in recognition of their attainment in each of these areas which will be of considerable value in supporting their future application to university, enabling them to demonstrate exceptional achievement across a wide range of skills.


You can see a video of the excavation process here.