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Conservation Studies (MSc) 2020 entry

On the MSc in Conservation Studies you will explore the theoretical and practical aspects of conservation. You will develop an interdisciplinary understanding of conservation questions and concepts as well as learn applied skills needed for conservation careers.

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Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Master of Science (MSc).

Course dates

  • Start date: 7 September 2020
  • End date: 30 September 2021

Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

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.
  • The MSc in Conservation Studies welcomes applicants from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including, but not limited to:
    • anthropology
    • biology
    • economics
    • geography
    • history
    • sustainable development.

As well as a keen interest in conservation, you should have some background in the scientific and mathematical methods that underpin conservation practice – ideally, through previous study in a scientific subject involving quantitative analysis. This might be through:

  • A secondary school or high school level qualification (such as a Scottish Higher, A-Level, or International Baccalaureate) in a scientific discipline such as biology, environmental science, geography, or mathematics, or
  • Undergraduate-level modules in relevant subjects, or
  • Relevant professional experience.

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: £9,450
Overseas: £23,090

Application deadline

Applications should be submitted as early as possible and no later than 12 August 2020. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

  • A CV or résumé. This should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment to date.  
  • A 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 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).

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

Course information

The MSc in Conservation Studies explores the theoretical and practical aspects of conservation. You will develop an interdisciplinary understanding of conservation questions and concepts as well as learn applied skills needed for conservation careers.


  • Aimed at students intending to follow a career in conservation.
  • Introduces key questions and concepts in conservation studies, providing a comprehensive overview of the field.
  • Explores conservation practice and applied skills needed in conservation roles and research projects may be undertaken with a conservation organisation.
  • Interdisciplinary character allows you to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate your studies.
  • Integrated training programme connects your academic learning with the development of professional competencies that enhance employability.

The MSc in Conservation Studies is distinguished by its emphasis on learning and skills which address the significant challenges facing effective conservation practice.

Firstly, there is a need for further advances in scientific evidence and understanding. The degree provides training in data collection and analysis and the design of ecological studies. You will explore ecological case studies from a range of habitats in aquatic and terrestrial systems and develop fieldwork, mathematical computing, and experimental skills. Additionally, the research project has a strong practical focus. Students are encouraged in their project to address an applied aspect of conservation work or policy and may collaborate with a conservation organisation. In this way you will have the opportunity to gain first-hand professional experience.

Secondly, there is the need to inform and engage the public, organisations and businesses, and decision makers. The degree explores conflicts between different human agencies, engages with conservation policy and governance at different scales (local, national, and international), and considers the relationship between the public, science, and policy. Coursework components are, in part, intended to help you develop and demonstrate skills in communicating conservation concepts to different audiences.

The degree is also distinguished by its interdisciplinary character. You will be encouraged to develop a more rounded, interdisciplinary understanding of conservation questions and concepts and to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate your studies. The core modules bring together subject experts from across the University, providing different disciplinary perspectives on key topics. The optional modules allow you to further develop the interdisciplinary character of your studies.

The degree includes an integrated training programme. The training programme connects your academic learning with the development of professional competencies that enhance employability. The training programme brings together postgraduates from all Graduate School Masters degrees, helping you to make new interdisciplinary connections and providing a supportive social aspect to the Graduate School community.

Teaching format

The MSc in Conservation Studies is a one-year full-time degree. You will complete one compulsory module in Semester 1 (September to December) and a second compulsory module in Semester 2 (January to May). Alongside the compulsory modules, you will complete one or two optional modules in each semester.

You will use the period from June to August to complete a supervised research project.

The MSc involves both independent and group study, and teaching methods include seminars, workshops, and practical sessions.

Most modules are assessed through coursework, including essays, reports, and presentations.

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 2019–2020 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2020 entry.

Each semester is organised around compulsory modules exploring conservation theory and practice.

Semester 1

  • What is Conservation?: introduces key concepts in conservation as well as questions about what should be conserved, why, and how.

Semester 2

  • Case Studies in Conservation: explores applied skills needed in conservation roles including functional analysis of ecosystems, policy development, and the use of digital tools.

All students will normally take an optional module in quantitative methods (semester 1). This module complements the core modules.

Alongside the compulsory modules and the quantitative methods module, you will complete one or two other optional modules in each semester. Optional modules allow you to shape the degree around your own personal and professional interests.

Optional modules are expected to be offered in the following areas: 

  • environmental history
  • GIS and environmental management
  • population biology
  • qualitative research methods
  • sustainable development
  • sustainable fisheries.

You can also take the field methods in conservation and eco-tourism module - a week-long residential field skills module hosted in conjunction with AfriCat at the Okonjima Nature Reserve in Namibia. An additional fee is payable for this module which takes place over the spring break.

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

The final module of the MSc is the research project. The project takes the form of a period of supervised research where you will explore a conservation topic in depth. Students are encouraged to undertake their project in collaboration with an organisation involved in conservation work.

You can choose to present your research project as:

  • A policy report that emphasises your ability to critically assess conservation policy and make convincing recommendations for policy changes, or
  • A multi-media portfolio that emphasises your ability present conservation concepts in exciting and engaging ways, or
  • A written dissertation that emphasises 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 PGCert or PGDip instead of an MSc.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2020 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

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The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies

The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies is the University of St Andrews’ newest academic school and has been established to foster interdisciplinary postgraduate education and scholarship.

The Graduate School’s interdisciplinary programmes and community provide postgraduates with a stimulating environment in which you can:

  • Learn across subject boundaries and expand your knowledge base, allowing you to maximise the intellectual and professional value of your time at St Andrews.
  • Develop and apply practical skills relevant to academic and professional contexts, enhancing your employability.
  • Benefit from being part of a vibrant and welcoming postgraduate community and a Graduate School that is wholly focused on understanding and meeting the needs of Masters students.


Scholarships are designed to help students support themselves during their studies. Find out more about postgraduate scholarships

Postgraduate loans
Loans are available for students who meet the residency and other criteria. Find out more about postgraduate loans

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 the Recent Graduate Discount.

After the MSc

Research degrees

St Andrews offers a vibrant and stimulating research environment. One of the great strengths of a St Andrews research degree 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 University of St Andrews’ global reputation makes its graduates highly valued by employers. The MSc in Conservation Studies provides the subject knowledge and applied skills needed for conservation-related careers in government and public bodies, non-governmental organisations and charities, and the private sector.

On this MSc you will: 

  • Learn applied skills needed for conservation careers.
  • Have the opportunity to undertake a research project in collaboration with a conservation organisation and gain first-hand professional experience.
  • Demonstrate professional competencies including critical thinking and creativity, analysis and appraisal, problem-solving and decision making, project management and personal leadership, team working and interpersonal communication.

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

Additionally, the Careers Centre provides advice and support to help you plan your professional development and achieve your career goals. As well as online resources the Careers Centre offers one-to-one appointments to discuss any career-related matters.


The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies
University of St Andrews
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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).

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