MSc in Conservation Studies


Program Description

The MSc Conservation Studies is a one-year interdisciplinary Masters degree. It provides a scientific understanding of data collection and analysis, environmental governance, and conflicts between conservation and societies.

The MSc Conservation Studies offers an interdisciplinary approach to conservation theory and practice. It brings together students and academic staff from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, but with a shared passion for conservation.


  • Explore conflicts between different human agencies, engage with conservation policy and governance at different scales (local, national, and international), and consider the relationship between the public, science, and policy.
  • Research ecological case studies and examples from a range of habitats in aquatic and terrestrial systems and gain a scientific understanding of data collection and analysis.
  • An interdisciplinary approach means you can explore a range of methodological approaches to conservation – ecological, economic, historical, etc.
  • Your summer research project can (subject to availability) be undertaken in collaboration with an external organisation involved in conservation practice.

Our growing understanding of ecosystems, ecosystem services, and biodiversity suggests that conservation of the environment is crucial to humankind's survival. However, there are significant challenges to effective conservation.

Firstly, there is a need for further advances in scientific understanding and data collection. The MSc Conservation Studies provides advanced training in data collection and analysis and the design of ecological studies with the opportunity for you to develop fieldwork, mathematical computing, and experimental skills.

Secondly, there is a need to inform and engage the public, managers, and decision makers. On the MSc Conservation Studies, you will explore conflicts between different human agencies, engage with conservation policy and governance at different scales (local, national, and international), and consider the relationship between the public, science, and policy.

The degree is distinguished by its interdisciplinary character and you will be encouraged to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate current debates in conservation with a view to mediating what can appear to be irreconcilable differences. The core modules comprise seminars led by subject experts drawn from across the University and speakers from conservation-related organisations who provide a professional perspective.

Teaching format

The MSc degree is a one-year full-time programme. Students complete one core module in Semester 1 (September to December) and a second core module in Semester 2 (January to June). Students take one or two optional modules in each semester. The period from June to August is used to complete the summer research project.

The MSc degree involves both independent and group study, and teaching methods include seminars, workshops, and practical exercises. Most modules are assessed through coursework, including written assignments, social media assignments, and presentations.


The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment.


Each semester is organised around core modules exploring the theory and methodologies needed to complete the summer research project.

Semester 1

  • What is Conservation?: explores the concept of "conservation" as well as questions about what should be conserved, why, and how.

Semester 2

  • Case Studies in Conservation: addresses conservation policy and management, biodiversity and ecosystem function, methods for estimating population size, and digital tools for conservation.


Optional modules allow you to shape the degree around your own personal and professional interests.

The optional modules available vary each year but will normally cover topics including:

  • environmental change
  • environmental economics
  • environmental history
  • Geographical Information Systems
  • green information technology
  • population biology

In Semester 1, all students will normally take an optional module in quantitative methods.

Optional modules require a minimum number of students to be offered and are subject to change.

Research project

The final module of the MSc degree is the summer research project. The project takes the form of a period of independent supervised research where you explore a conservation topic in depth. Through the project, you will apply the theory and analytical methods learned in the core modules.

You can choose to present your research project as:

  • a written policy project that emphasises your ability to critically assess policy issues,
  • a multi-media portfolio that emphasises your ability to present conservation concepts in formats suitable for different audiences,
  • a written dissertation that demonstrates your ability to plan and execute academically rigorous research.

If students choose not to complete the project requirement for the MSc, there are exit awards available that allow suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Certificate or a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PG Cert or PGDip instead of an MSc.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2019 entry.


The MSc Conservation Studies provides the subject knowledge and general skills needed for conservation-related careers in government and public bodies, non-governmental organisations and charities, and the private sector. You will:

  • be trained in the evaluation of scientific evidence,
  • have the opportunity to develop fieldwork, mathematical, computing, and experimental skills,
  • develop your broader transferable skills in areas such as project management, team working and communicating academic concepts to mixed audiences.

Alongside your studies, you will be able to complete the M-Skills programme, a programme of face-to-face and online workshops and training materials for Masters students. M-Skills will help you develop the broader personal and professional skills you need to succeed in your degree and enhance your employability.

Additionally, the Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of career development events.

Entry requirements

  • A good 2.1 Honours undergraduate degree. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies welcomes applicants from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including, but not limited to:
    • anthropology
    • biology
    • computer science
    • history
    • mathematics
    • sustainable development
  • You should have a keen interest in conservation and the scientific methods that underpin conservation policy, and be able to demonstrate this through one of the following:
    • an A-Level, AS-Level, Scottish Higher, International Baccalaureate or equivalent qualification in a science or environmental disciplines such as geography or biology,
    • undergraduate modules in ecology, biology or environmental sciences,
    • relevant professional experience.
  • You must also be prepared for the demands of working across disciplinary boundaries – for example, those from a mathematical background should demonstrate good literacy and an awareness of the social context of conservation issues. Those from a humanities background should demonstrate numeracy and logical thinking.
  • An AS-Level, Scottish Higher, International Baccalaureate or equivalent qualification in a subject such as physics, maths, or engineering will be advantageous if you are intending to take a more quantitative route through the programme.
  • English language proficiency.

The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé (one page).
  • personal statement explaining.
    • why you have applied for this course,
    • how it relates to your personal or professional ambitions,
    • how your academic and professional background show you have the skills needed to work effectively at a postgraduate level.
  • two original signed academic references on headed paper.
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates.
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).



Scholarships are designed to help students support themselves during their studies.

Postgraduate loans

Loans are available for students who meet the residency and other criteria.

Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Last updated Oct 2019

About the School

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coas ... Read More

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, students may find themselves crossing golf-courses on their way to class, or jogging along the beach after dinner. Not only does the University have a world-class reputation, but it also offers a diverse range of social activities, including over 140 student societies and 50 sports clubs. Historic buildings are juxtaposed against the modern facilities, and the many student traditions truly make studying at St Andrews an unforgettable experience. Read less
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