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Conservation Studies (MSc)

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.

Programme unavailable for 2021 entry

This programme will not be running for 2021 entry. The information below is reflective of the programme starting in September 2020. If you are interested in applying for this programme in future years, please register your details below and we will contact you when more information is available.

Related programmes available for 2021 entry include: Sustainable Development MSc, Marine Ecosystem Management MSc, and Statistical Ecology MSc.

Register your interest

Key information

Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 6 September 2021
  • End date: 30 September 2022

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

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.

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.

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

Home: £9,900
Overseas: £24,240

Application deadline

Wednesday 11 August 2021. 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 2020–2021 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2021 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 are subject to change each year and require a minimum number of participants to be offered; some may only allow limited numbers of students (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
  • multi-media portfolio that emphasises your ability to present conservation concepts in exciting and engaging ways, or
  • 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 is an exit award available that allows suitably qualified candidates to receive 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 PGDip instead of an MSc.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2021 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

Meet us online

If you're interested in studying at St Andrews, join us on a virtual visiting day or daily information session to find out about our courses, how to apply, and to meet current students. 

The next virtual visiting day will be in November 2021.

Virtual events

Join our Admissions team for one of our upcoming virtual events. During these events, you can find out more about studying at St Andrews and what it will do for your future.

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The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies

The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies was established in 2017 to foster interdisciplinary postgraduate education and scholarship.

The ability to work across subject boundaries is now recognised as an essential skill. The Graduate School’s Masters degrees will help you to develop a more rounded, interdisciplinary understanding of your subject and to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate your studies.

As well as their interdisciplinary character, the Graduate School's Masters degrees are distinguished by an emphasis on the development and application of practical skills. In addition to broadening your subject knowledge, you will develop your skills of critical thinking and creativity, analysis and appraisal, problem-solving and decision-making, and project management and personal leadership.

One of the most appealing aspects of joining the Graduate School is the welcoming interdisciplinary community. The Graduate School is a place where you can make social and intellectual connections across subject boundaries and where students form close networks within and across their Masters degree groups.


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.

However, your Masters degree is just one part of your personal and professional development during your time at St Andrews. The Professional Skills Curriculum is the University's programme of skills development activities for all students.

Comprising evening lectures, workshops, and online presentations, the Professional Skills Curriculum will help you develop your personal and professional capabilities and gain skills that you need to succeed in your studies 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
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).

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