Conservation Studies (MSc) 2018 entry

The MSc in 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. Over the summer, students research a conservation-related topic in depth.

Applications for 2018 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

Course type

Postgraduate; leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

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

Course duration

One year full time; part-time study is not currently offered

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 georgraphy 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 are intending to take a more quantitative route through the programme.

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

English language proficiency. See English language tests and qualifications.

The qualifications listed are indicative 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.

Tuition fees

UK and EU: £8,500
Overseas: £20,980

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 for 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 postgraduate level
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

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 field work, 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.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.


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.

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

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.

Optional modules require a minimum number of students to be offered and are subject to change (see the University’s position on curriculum development).

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 modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2018 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.


The Graduate School

As a wholly postgraduate unit, the Graduate School is dedicated to understanding and meeting the needs of Masters students. To help you adapt to life as a postgraduate and make the most of your degree, the Graduate School will offer a programme of events and activities exclusively for Masters students. Bringing together students from each of the Graduate School’s programmes, these are an opportunity to meet fellow postgraduates, make new connections, and foster interdisciplinary contacts. Scheduled at key points over the degree, the programme provides advice and guidance as you need it and provides a welcoming and supportive framework.

You will also be part of a much wider community of postgraduates across the University. All postgraduates are members of St Leonard’s College. St Leonard’s College brings together Masters students and research students and, working with the Postgraduate Society, aims to promote a vibrant and intellectually rich postgraduate community.


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.

Find out more about postgraduate scholarships. 

After the MSc

Research degrees

St Andrews offers a vibrant and stimulating research environment. One of the great strengths of our research degrees is the collegiate atmosphere which enables access to expertise beyond your formal supervisors and the ability to conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research students are supported by a supervisory team throughout their studies and are assessed by means of a substantial thesis of original research.

Research degrees


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 field work, 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.

Contact information

The Graduate School
University of St Andrews
Bute Building
Queen's Terrace
St Andrews
KY16 9TS

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2032

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Admission to the University of St Andrews is governed by our Admissions policy.

Curriculum development

As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online. (PDF, 72 KB).

Tuition fees

The University will clarify compulsory fees and charges it requires any student to pay at the time of offer. The offer will also clarify conditions for any variation of fees. The University’s approach to fee setting is described online. (PDF, 84 KB).