Marine Ecosystem Management (MSc) 2019 entry

This MSc provides students with a superior understanding of marine systems, exploring the interconnections between the physical environment, biodiversity and the impacts of human activities. Taught by leading experts from the Scottish Oceans Institute, it is designed to prepare students for professional careers in research and management.

Apply now

Course type

Postgraduate; leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 9 September 2019
  • End date: 30 September 2020

If you started this programme in 2018, you can find information about 2018 entry on the 2018 Marine Ecosystem Management page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive

Course duration

One year full time

Entry requirements

A first or upper 2.1 (Honours) undergraduate degree in a relevant natural science. Applications are welcome from students with backgrounds in biology or marine science, and also from students of physics and engineering. Please contact the School if you are unsure about your qualifications. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.

Training in advanced mathematics and statistics (at least to UK school AS/A-level, Higher, International Baccalaureate or equivalent).

Very good baseline IT skills including word-processing, spreadsheet use, email and internet.

English language proficiency. See English language tests and qualifications. If you require a visa to study, see visas information.

In addition to the above minimum requirements, it is highly desirable for applicants to have:

  • relevant field or lab experience from previous employment, project or volunteer work.
  • further IT skills, e.g. programming, database software and statistical packages for analysing (such as MATLAB, SPSS, SAS or R).
  • dedicated calculus or statistics modules at university level.

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.

Apply now

Tuition fees

UK and EU: £9,000
Overseas: £21,990

Application deadline

Monday 12 August 2019. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes. However, please note that Marine Ecosystem Management applicants should not submit a cover letter, CV or writing sample with their applications.

Course information

The MSc in Marine Ecosystem Management is a one year taught programme run by the School of Biology. The programme takes a holistic approach to understanding ecosystem function and services, and draws on the quantitative and diverse academic expertise within the University's Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI)


  • Modules include intense training in quantitative techniques (for example, statistical modelling and GIS).
  • Students have the exciting opportunity to conduct fieldwork and practical boat-based training, locally as part of the core module (included in course fee), and further afield as part of optional field courses (extra cost applicable) in Antarctica (polar ecology) or Indonesia (scientific diving).
  • The combination of core modules and a selection of specialist and advanced optional modules allows students to tailor the programme to their individual interests.
  • Stimulating, small class sizes with a focus on student-led, experiential learning.

Teaching format

The course consists of two taught semesters followed by an independent research project culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation and poster presentation. The research project takes place during the entire year with particular focus during the last three months from June to August. 

The modular curriculum is designed to be coherent, providing integrated training for future careers in scientific research, management or conservation. Teaching takes the form of:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • debates
  • workshops
  • tutorials.

Practicals involve lab work, field work, modelling and computer-based data analysis.

Class sizes range from 5 to 30 students, depending on the module. There is a strong focus on small-group teaching so that students are individually supported and can ask for help when it is needed.  

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 2018–2019 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2019 entry.

During Semester 1 students follow a coherent course of modules that provide sound training in essential skills for the management of marine ecosystems. The first semester combines two compulsory modules with a choice of one of four further optional modules.

  • Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning: provides core biological and methodological classes covering marine biodiversity and ecosystem function, their importance and evaluation; module involves local boat-based data collection and analysis.
  • Mathematical and statistical modelling for Biologists: applies mathematical ideas to questions in biology, introduces methods for fitting models to biological data mainly using R software.

In addition, students choose one optional module from the following:

  • Environmental Drivers of Marine Habitats: gives an overview of the different environmental drivers of marine ecosystems, including shorter-term processes in the ocean and atmosphere, as well as climatic processes that define marine habitats.
  • Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Management: provides an introduction to GIS and its use in environmental problem solving. 

Semester 2 combines one compulsory module with a choice of three optional modules.

The following module is compulsory:

  • Ecosystem-based Management of Marine Systems: introduces the concept of 'Ecosystem-based management', exploring its development from more simplistic, single-species approaches.

Students choose three optional modules from the following:

  • Current Issues in Biologging: presents an introduction to the theory and practice of logging and relaying physical and biological data using animal-attached tags.
  • Estimating Animal Abundance: introduces the main types of survey method for wildlife populations, taught by CREEM and the School of Mathematics and Statistics.
  • Fisheries Research: provides an introduction to the utilisation of fish stocks in a sustainable way.
  • Introduction to Global Environmental Change: provides students with the scientific background to past, present and future climate change and its consequences, globally, taught by the School of Geography and Sustainable Development. 
  • Population Biology: reviews the fundamental concepts of population dynamics and how these are interpreted in the light of the various life-history strategies adapted by different species of marine mammals.
  • Predator Ecology in Polar Ecosystems: field course located in southern Argentina and Antarctica (requires payment of expedition fee).
  • Scientific Diving: field course located in Indonesia (requires suitable diving qualifications and payment of expedition fee).

Throughout the academic year, students complete a research project which will culminate in a 15,000-word dissertation and the presentation of a poster at the MSc student conference. Projects may involve some fieldwork but will be primarily focused on the analysis of existing data. Students can choose from a range of projects suggested by supervisors and also take an active role in designing their own project plan.

If students choose not to complete the dissertation 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 2019 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.


Visit St Andrews

If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at an open day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.


Upcoming visiting days:

  • Wednesday 13 November 2019

Sign up

Conferences and events

The MSc is enhanced by a busy programme of conferences, seminars and visiting speakers from universities in the UK and abroad. This includes regular departmental seminars in the Scottish Oceans Institute, the Centre for Research in Ecological and Environmental Modelling and the St Andrews BioNetwork, a great social and academic forum bringing together PhD and Masters students at different stages of their training.

Check out the Marine Ecosystem Management Masters blog for programme news and highlights as well as the research blog for up-to-date information and events.


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

After successful completion of the taught Masters component in Marine Ecosystem Management, students can change from the MSc degree route to a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree, which requires a further year of dedicated research.

Many MSc graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews or elsewhere. PhD students at the School of Biology at St Andrews have the opportunity to undertake a research degree in their chosen subject area where research interests span the breadth of biological science.

PhD studentships are offered by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

PhD in Biology


The aim is that graduates of this course will be part of the next generation of managers and marine scientists delivering integrated ecosystem management around the world. 

Graduates of the course have undertaken careers in government agencies, environmental consultancies and the commercial marine sector both within the UK and abroad. 

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

Contact information

General inquiries
Biology postgraduate taught secretaries
Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI)
University of St Andrews
St Andrews 
KY16 8LB

Course organiser
Dr Lars Boehme
Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2677 

Biology website

On 14 December 2018, the following optional modules were removed from this page:

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Tropical Marine Biology
  • Science Communication of Biodiversity and Conservation


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).