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Statistical Ecology (PGDip/MSc) 2021 entry

In this course, you will learn the modern statistical methods currently used by professionals in ecology. You will learn to formulate problems, conduct appropriate analyses and effectively communicate results to a variety of audiences. To balance theory and application, placement opportunities will be available with partner organisations within the UK and abroad.

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Key information

Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) or Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 6 September 2021
  • End date: 30 June 2022 (PGDip) or 30 September 2022 (MSc)

Course duration

Ten months full time (PGDip); one year full time or two years part time (MSc)

Entry requirements

You should have the following qualifications:

  • A good 2.1 undergraduate Honours degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. biological sciences, ecology, mathematics, statistics, environmental science or computer science) or a 2.2 in a relevant discipline and equivalent work experience (for example, at least 12 months working in a relevant field).
  • You should also have undergraduate training in mathematics and statistics at SCQF Level 8, or equivalent experience.  

If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.

You must be able to demonstrate 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.

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Tuition fees

Home: £9,900
Overseas: £20,370

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

  • CV
  • personal statement (optional)
  • 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 PGDip/MSc in Statistical Ecology is a one-year taught programme run by the School of Mathematics and Statistics. 

This course aims to give you a sound understanding of the statistical foundations of modern methods in statistical ecology, to give you the skills to use these methods effectively, and to give you experience of applying them to real-world problems, under the supervision of experts, some of whom are leading researchers in this field.


  • Introduces key concepts and methods in statistical ecology and provides an overview of the field.
  • Taught by staff at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM), who have more than two decades’ experience developing, using and teaching methods in statistical ecology.
  • Core modules in Semester 1 provide a solid statistical foundation for specialist modules later in the course.
  • Optional placements with collaborators in the UK and abroad as part of a supervised summer research dissertation; connects theoretical training with real field studies and professionals.
  • Flexible dissertation format, which can include producing a podcast, web page, poster, field report, training materials, or a short film.

Teaching format

The course consists of two semesters of taught courses followed by a dissertation undertaken over the summer months. 

Modules and course material are taught through:

  • lectures
  • one-to-one discussion
  • seminars
  • small group discussion tutorials

You may be assessed on your knowledge and understanding of the course through:

  • examinations
  • coursework
  • class tests
  • presentations
  • research essays
  • research project.

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.

Students typically take the following modules. However, students with adequate statistical training or experience may be exempt from one or both of the first two modules listed below and may take other optional modules instead. 

  • Introductory Data Analysis: covers essential statistical concepts and analysis methods relevant for commercial analysis.
  • Applied Statistical Modelling using GLMs: covers the main aspects of linear models and generalised linear models, including model specification, various options for model selection, model assessment and tools for diagnosing model faults.
  • Estimating Animal Abundance and Biodiversity: introduces the main types of survey methods for wildlife populations.
  • Computing in Statistics: teaches computer programming skills, including principles of good programming practice, with an emphasis on statistical computing.
  • Modelling Wildlife Population Dynamics: introduces students to methods for constructing mathematical models of wildlife population dynamics and of fitting these models to diverse data from wildlife surveys.
  • Statistical Problem Solving: focuses on problem formulation and scientific reporting to a variety of audiences; it consists of a set of case studies covering a range of application areas.

As part of their optional choices, all students must take:

  • Any statistics-focused module at level 5000 in the School (those with module codes beginning MT57 in the module catalogue, or ID5059).
  • One additional module at level 3000, 4000, or 5000 in the School (those with module codes beginning with MT3, MT4 or MT5 in the module catalogue).

Students who have been exempted from taking one or both of 'Introductory Data Analysis’ or 'Applied Statistical Modelling Using GLMs' may instead choose other relevant modules in statistics.

All students are recommended to include one of the following two modules in their choices:

  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Advanced Data Analysis

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).

During the final three months of the course, MSc students complete a dissertation or a portfolio dissertation to be submitted by the end of August. Dissertations are supervised by members of teaching staff who will advise on the choice of subject and provide guidance throughout the progress of the dissertation.

A number of options for placements with organisations within the UK are available to work on a range of real-world problems specified by the organisations. Placements may range from a few visits to the organisation, to being hosted by the organisation for a large part of the dissertation. Students on placements will be co-supervised by scientists at the organisation and St Andrews staff. International placements will also be available, with similar supervision arrangements. International placements involve an additional cost.

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 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.

Online information events

Conferences and events

There are a number of different seminars held each week in the School of Mathematics and Statistics. These include:


Pure Mathematics

Applied Mathematics


There are many potential scholarships or support schemes available to postgraduates.

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

The MSc in Statistical Ecology prepares students for further postgraduate studies in quantitative ecology, conservation, or statistics applied to ecological problems.

The MSc is taught by members of the world-leading Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM), and graduates may continue their education by enrolling for a PhD within CREEM or within statistics, biology, wildlife, ecology or conservation departments worldwide.

PhD in Mathematics and Statistics


Statistical skills are highly valued in ecology and conservation, with modern ecological methods becoming increasingly quantitative. The course is therefore excellent preparation for a career as a scientist in:

  • government environment agencies
  • industry
  • consultancies
  • conservation organisations.

Graduates may also work as wildlife managers, using their analytical skills to better inform management decisions.

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 in building their employability skills.


School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews
Mathematical Institute
North Haugh
St Andrews
KY16 9SS

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2344

Mathematics and Statistics website


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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