Archaeological Market Survey 2016

The report on the Archaeological Market Survey 2016, undertaken by Landward Research Ltd on behalf of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers and Historic England, is now available.

Download Archaeological Market Survey 2016.

 Executive Summary

This Archaeological Market Survey report is on the State of the Market for Archaeological Services in the United Kingdom in 2015-16. It has been prepared by Landward Research Ltd on behalf of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, FAME (Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers) and Historic England.

The overall aims of this survey are to provide:

  • a unique analysis of the archaeological sector as part of the overall UK economy;
  • statistics that allow estimation of total value of sector to the economy;
  • data on indicative numbers of employed professional archaeologists;
  • data for analysis of long-term sustainability for the sector;
  • an indication of social benefit through outreach;
  • data that can enable informed lobbying to help protect the UK’s heritage; and
  • to support planning effectively for the future so that the profession is sustainable and results in a benefit for society

In financial year 2015-16 commercial archaeology grew in terms of the number of employees working in the sector, with increased levels of financial turnover and profit. However, the sector was not as confident as it had been a year earlier, with concerns over the result of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union a contributory factor.

The sector generally does not have confidence in planning policy frameworks, or that local planning authorities are being provided with sufficient professional advice.

One respondent commented “We must seize the opportunity that HS2 and the government infrastructure programme offers us as a catalyst for change within the market place, so professional salaries/fees can be raised, and profits generated to create a sustainable future for applied archaeological practice in the UK. This will require working together and not devaluing our own profession by under-cutting or inappropriately costing up tenders.”


  • It is estimated that the applied archaeology sectoral workforce grew by 9.9% in financial year 2015-16. The workforce in this sector has now returned to levels last experienced in 2009.
  • In comparison with the previous year, growth has slowed; the sectoral workforce expanded by 20.8% in 2014-15.
  • Over a comparable period, the number of archaeological staff providing expert advice to local planning authorities decreased by 13.5%.
  • Together, these changes combine to result in the net number of people working in professional archaeology in the UK growing by 5.2% in financial year 2015-16 to an estimated total of 5,736 individuals.

Financial Performance

  • The average (mean) reported UK turnover for an applied archaeology company in 2015-16 was £2.7m, an increase of 44% over the year since March 2015, with an additional 2% above that being generated from non-UK work. However, the financial turnover dataset was skewed by unevenly distributed responses.
  • It is estimated that, in total, UK commercial archaeology generated total revenue of between £60m – £167m in 2014-15.
  • Profit (or ‘surplus’) levels remained low – an average of 5.2% – but had increased since 2015, when the figure was 2.5.9%.
  • Salaries at most respondent organisations rose by above inflation in 2015-16.
  • Charge-out rates rose by 3.2% on average.
  • Many of the largest employers are constituted as not-for-profit organisations.

Market Sectors

  • The overwhelming majority of income (79%, an increase from 75% in 2014-15) came from private sector clients.
  • The most important market sector continued to be residential development, which provided over 50% of income, followed by commercial and industrial development.

Business Confidence

  • While the sector in 2016 was confident, the March 2016 results were the first time that the level of confidence in future market conditions had declined since September 2011.
  • Many respondents completed the survey after the June 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, and commented on the result as having a negative effect on their future plans and expectations.
  • Respondents in 2016 reported the best ever expectations of maintaining or increasing staffing levels, exceeding even the 2015 results.
  • While there was overall confidence that market conditions would not deteriorate in 2016-17, the sector was not as confident about the future as it had been one year before.
  • More respondents expect there to be no business failures in the sector than expected some, but sentiment was not as positive as it had been in 2015.
  • Respondents generally expected to expand their business in 2016-17, but the level of expectation has been declining year-on-year from a 2014 peak.

Skills, Training and Qualifications

  • Fieldwork skills continued to be those most commonly reported as being lost.
  • As was the case in 2015, artefact and ecofact conservation was rarely reported as a skill being lost by employers, nor was it often identified as being a priority for in-house training, because it had become very much the norm for this to be provided by subcontractors.
  • The areas where training was focussed continued to match reasonably closely to the areas where skills were being reported as being lost (as they had been in 2015 and 2014) – so these skills gaps (skills that existing staff needed but lacked) were being tackled by investment in training.
  • Employers’ interest in the NVQ in Archaeological Practice appears to be declining, which may be related to the end of HLF funding to support candidates, but many respondents would consider taking on an Apprentice in Historic Environment Practice.
  • One respondent commented that “We are predicting that post-ex specialists (particularly finds and pottery) might quickly prove a bottleneck on delivery. These people do not just drop out of a university course so we have to find innovative ways to train and retain.”

Forms of Contract

  • Respondents typically use a range of Forms of Contract; ICE standard Forms are not used as often as contractors’ or clients’ own standard terms and conditions.


  • Respondents considered that the economic climate for development would improve in the next year (2016-17), but they were less confident of improvement than they had been a year previously.
  • Typically, they thought their heritage teams would grow, but were less confident of this than they had been in 2015.
  • Respondents did not present a strong view on whether late payment of bills was a significant problem for their business; in 2014-15, this had been seen as more of a problem. The sector as a whole considered non-payment to not be a significant problem.
  • Respondents were unsure about, the assertion that “current national planning policy frameworks are making it easier to justify heritage work and revenue levels”; equally, they were unsure about the statement that “current national planning policy frameworks weaken the case for heritage work and revenue levels”. Sentiment in both cases had become more negative since 2015.
  • They agreed that a shortage of heritage staff in local planning authorities was a major constraint on heritage projects (which could affect income generation), and this feeling has increased since 2015 (when it had also increased on the year before).

Response Rate

  • Response levels were good. In terms of absolute responses, there was an increase on 2015, although the survey population of organisations had increased, and so there was actually a decline in the percentage of organisations providing data (56% declining from 60% in 2015).

Future Work

This study will continue to be repeated annually, with the next survey taking place in early summer 2017. It will collect data from the end of the previous financial years on a cyclical basis until 2017-18 when it is intended that this will form part of the quinquennial Profiling the Profession project which gathers comparable data from the entire archaeological profession in the UK.

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