Course information

The MSc in Conservation Studies is a one year interdisciplinary Masters degree that brings together students from a range of backgrounds but with a shared passion for conservation.


  • The interdisciplinary approach means you can explore a range of methodological approaches to conservation – ecological, economic, historical, etc.
  • You will gain a scientific understanding of data collection and analysis and engage with issues in conservation policy at different scales.
  • An ideal opportunity to research ecological case studies and examples from a range of habitats in aquatic and terrestrial systems.
  • Students complete a practically orientated summer research project which can be undertaken in collaboration with an external organisation involved in conservation work.

The 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 the 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 MSc Conservation Studies is distinguished by its interdisciplinary character and involves academic staff from the following Schools:

  • Biology
  • Classics
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Geography and Sustainable Development
  • History
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Philosophical, Anthropological, and Film Studies.

You will be encouraged to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate present day conservation debates with a view to mediating what can appear to be irreconcilable differences of opinion.

Teaching format

The MSc degree requires two semesters of full-time coursework, normally equivalent to six modules.

The course involves both independent and group study. Modules have different methods of delivery, including:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • practical classes.

Assessments include:

  • written assignments
  • practical work
  • presentations
  • creating podcasts.


The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2017–2018 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2018 entry.


Each semester is organised around a core module exploring the theory and data methods needed to complete the end of programme 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: estimating population sizes and biodiversity; using landscape reconstruction software to explore and conserve historical sites; understanding conflicts between human communities associated with the exploitation of biological and mineral resources.


Semester 1

You should take one of these introductory-level quantitative modules:

  • Data Analysis: provides coverage of essential statistical concepts, data manipulation and analysis methods and introduces commercial analysis packages.
  • Quantitative Methods for Biology: provides the basic numerical and computational skills necessary for visualising and summarising data sets with examples based on ecological literature.
  • Quantitative Research in Social Science: provides a user-friendly introduction to the fundamental concepts of quantitative analysis.

You should also take one of the following:

  • Geographical Information Systems for Environmental Management: provides an introduction to GIS and its use in environmental problem-solving.
  • Environmental History: Nature and the Western World: Explores the history of human interaction with the natural world.
  • Statistical Modelling: covers statistical modelling techniques using an environmental impact assessment case study with reality-based research objectives.
  • Statistical Modelling of Biological Data: introduces methods for fitting models to biological data and considers the difficulties that can occur in modelling biological data sets.

Semester 2

  • Economics for the Environment: introduces the contributions that environmental economics can make to helping us understand and manage a wide range of environmental problems.
  • Fisheries Research introduces the utilisation of fish stocks in a sustainable way.
  • Environmental History: Nature and the Western World: Explores the history of human interaction with the natural world.
  • Introduction to Global Environmental Change: provides the scientific background to past, present and future climate change and its consequences globally.
  • Qualitative Methods in Social Research: offers a theoretical and practical introduction to the collection, analysis and writing of qualitative social science research.
  • Green Information Technology: investigates the ways in which technology contributes towards global emissions as well as its potential to enable a positive, sustainable future.

Research project

Over the summer you will research a conservation-related topic in depth.

The project combines the theory and data methods learned in the core modules. The topic may be researched individually or with other students as part of a group. Each student then produces a written report and presents a project poster at a conference-style session.

Projects can be based on lab work or field work, which may include the collection of biological, environmental or socioeconomic data. Projects can be undertaken in collaboration with an external organisation – such as a public body or an environmental consultancy – potentially leading to a policy-focused project. This allows students to gain first-hand professional experience and will be of particular value to those looking to gain practical experience of working in conservation policy.

If students choose not to complete the dissertation 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 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.

Course dates

  • Start date: 10 September 2018
  • End date: 30 September 2019

Entry requirements

A good 2.1 Honours undergraduate degree. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.

Depending on your intended focus, your undergraduate degree might be in a scientific or numerate discipline, such as:

  • biology
  • oceanography
  • geosciences
  • physics
  • computer science
  • applied mathematics
  • statistics
  • economics.

Applicants with a degree in any of the following disciplines will also be considered:

  • sustainable development
  • conservation
  • history
  • philosophy
  • international relations
  • anthropology
  • sociology.

You should have a keen interest in conservation and the scientific methods that underpin conservation policy. This may take the form of:

  • an A-Level, AS-Level, Scottish Higher, International Baccalaureate or equivalent qualification in a science or environmental discipline such as geography or biology, or
  • undergraduate modules in ecology, biology or-or environmental sciences, or
  • 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 intend to take a more quantitative route through the programme.

All students should be IT literate and familiar with standard word-processing and spreadsheet packages.

Postgraduate English language requirements

The University of St Andrews welcomes postgraduate students from many countries. To enter the University of St Andrews as a postgraduate student, you must be able to provide evidence that you meet our minimum English language requirements. Your evidence should be one of the following:

  • a first or an upper second-class UK Bachelor's degree in an appropriate subject OR an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard from a recognised higher education institution
  • proof that you are from a majority English-speaking country

a valid English language test from this list:

  • IELTS Academic (International English Language Testing System - Academic version)
  • PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English - Academic version)
  • CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English)
  • CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced)
  • TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based test)
  • Trinity ISE (Trinity Integrated Skills in English)

Application deadline

Applications should be submitted as early as possible and normally by early June. However, applications will continue to be accepted until early August 2018 (applicants from outside the EU) or early September 2018 (applicants from the UK and EU). You should also apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and international visa purposes.

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, and how your academic and professional background show you have the skills needed to work effectively at the postgraduate level
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • English language requirements certificate.

Tuition fees

  • UK and EU: £8,500
  • Overseas: £20,980

Program taught in:
Last updated February 5, 2018
This course is
Start Date
Sept. 2019
1 year
8,500 GBP
UK and EU: £8,500; Overseas: £ 20,980
By locations
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Start Date
Sept. 2019
End Date
Sept. 30, 2019
Application deadline

Sept. 2019

Application deadline
End Date
Sept. 30, 2019