Postgraduate taught

MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology - 2021 entry

Please note: The below is for 2021 entries. Click here for 2020 entries.
UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
Entry year 2020

Programme Director: Professor Michael Cant
Web: Enquire online 
Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801 

Entry requirements

Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject

View full entry requirements

Campus Penryn Campus
Discipline Biosciences


  • Develops knowledge and critical awareness of current problems and new insights in evolutionary and behavioural ecology
  • Designed to prepare you for a future research career with excellent graduate employment opportunities
  • Offers a behavioural ecology field course in Kenya
  • Provides extensive training in current research techniques, delivered by leading researchers in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation
  • Offers access to excellent facilities including state-of-the-art molecular and genetics labs with a full range of microscopy equipment, greenhouses, and controlled environment rooms
Apply for Oct 2020 entry

Apply online

View 2020 Entry

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Top 10 in the UK for world-leading and internationally excellent research

Research Excellence Framework 2014 based on the percentage of research categorised as 4* and 3*

7th in the world for Ecology

ShanghaiRankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2019 

10th in the UK for Biological Sciences

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020

High-quality research supervision, with ongoing research worth more than £50 million

Entry requirements

Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject is required, although a 2:2 with relevant experience will be considered.

Applicants from non-science backgrounds will be considered, particularly where applicants have had work experience in the field of conservation/science/policy management.

Entry requirements for international students

Please visit our entry requirements section for equivalencies from your country and information on English language requirements.

Course content

At the University of Exeter we host one of the largest and most active groups of behavioural ecologists in the world. Our academics are at the forefront of research on animal behaviour in the lab and in the field, and work on animal populations around the globe.

This Masters degree is taught by the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC), whose evolutionary and behaviour research groups are amongst the most dynamic in the UK. You will be integrated into these groups and conduct cutting-edge research projects that can make genuine contributions to the field of evolutionary and behavioural ecology and prepare you for a career in research.

The Centre is the fastest growing institute of its kind in the UK. Research is almost exclusively organismal, with particular emphasis on social mammals, birds, turtles and insects. We also specialise in modelling animal behaviour and species interactions and see this as essential and complementary to our whole approach. The other area of emphasis which underpins much of our work is quantitative and molecular genetics, which is fundamental to the evolutionary process and to conservation biology and policy issues.

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

"Natural selection has historically been viewed as a nakedly selfish process, so it is an interesting irony that the evolution of life is now recognised as a story of cooperation. My research aims to uncover general principles that explain patterns of social behaviour across a wide range of organisms from insects to humans, and to understand how different types of animal society evolved."

Professor Michael Cant

Programme Director and Professor of Evolutionary Biology


UK/EU fees per year:

£13,500 full-time

International fees per year:

£23,400 full-time

The fees include costs of all field trips including a 2-week residential course to Africa.

Teaching and research

The taught component of this programme is delivered in the first five months. During this time, you will also compile and read scientific literature on the topic of your research project, which you will pursue during the remainder of the academic year.

How will I learn?

  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Field work
  • Group discussion
  • Independent study

There is considerable scope for you to direct your learning towards fields of particular interest, especially through your choice of research project. Research seminars will see you interacting with a diversity of top academics and get to know about their ongoing research.

Research project

A large number of University of Exeter academics will be involved with this programme and they will offer a great diversity of research topics within their projects in the UK and overseas. There is also the option to work with an external collaborating organisation as a placement student during your research project, which could be located anywhere in the world.

Tutorial support

Each student is allocated a personal tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. There is also a postgraduate tutor available to help with further guidance and advice.


Taught modules will be assessed through formal oral presentation, written reports, essays and discussions, during or upon the immediate completion of these modules. The research project makes up a significant proportion of the assessment and is mainly based on the dissertation write up.

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This programme includes a two week field course in Kenya, during which you will go on safari in areas of incredible biodiversity, allowing you to study the behaviour of a variety of wild animals. You will have an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of pioneering evolutionary biologists, visiting their field sites, observing their study species, and discussing their ground breaking research. These experiences will allow you to develop your own research questions and undertake a short project while in the field. Travel and subsistence costs for this part of the programme are included in the programme fee.

You can also keep up to date and share the experiences of our students in the field on our Global Field Course website.


On this field course you will have an opportunity to visit sites where many of the leviathans of behavioural ecology conducted some of their most iconic research. At beautiful locations such as Samburu, Lake Nakuru, and Amboseli, we observe fascinating animal behaviours and consider the evolutionary processes that have shaped traits such as communication systems, mate choice, and cooperation.

Whilst exploring Kenya’s biodiverse Afro-tropical habitats, we encounter an array of species ranging from widowbirds and sparrow-weavers to hyaenas and lions. You'll even have an opportunity to get up close and personal with a troop of habituated baboons at the Twala Cultural Centre. 

Tutored by our experienced academic staff, you will learn how to develop hypotheses, make predictions, collect and analyse data, and interpret their findings in order to explain the world around them. By conceiving, designing, and executing a research project, you'll gain a better understanding of the scientific process, a firmer knowledge of field techniques, and a greater sense of independence. You'll also hone your skills in describing and effectively communicating the practical and theoretical issues surrounding animal behaviour and ecology, and in applying theory to practical problems in the field.

These skills are evaluated during the field course through assessed project discussions and presentations. After returning to the UK, you will performs a statistical analysis of data collected during the trip, and create a poster presentation sharing the results and conclusions of this work.

The field trip was a fantastic experience. Kenya is bursting with wildlife and was the perfect setting to learn and discuss how this fascinating diversity evolved. The highlight of the trip was the research project: I spent four days studying zebra social behaviour in a National Park – amazing! It really sparked my enthusiasm to pursue life as a scientist.


MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology


Our MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology programme ensures the training you will receive links directly to relevant employment opportunities within the UK and abroad. The programme is designed to prepare you for research; indeed the majority of our students go on to study for PhDs.

Careers services

Our careers teams at the Career Zone can help guide you through a wealth of information to match your skills and interests to a career that will suit you. Our staff work with regional, national and international employers to develop new work placement, project and graduate opportunities.

Supporting your career

Being part of a large research intensive department such as the Centre for Ecology and Conservation means there are multiple extracurricular research seminars per week and frequent on-campus symposia and employability focused seminars involving invited external stakeholders offering extensive networking opportunities.

Graduate destinations

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of our Biosciences postgraduate programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17. Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Recent graduates are now working as:

  • Assistant Ecologist
  • Ecological Planning advisory intern
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental consultant
  • GIS and Social Technician
  • Junior Researcher
  • Research Assistant
  • Science Researcher
  • Technical Assistant

Recent graduates are now working for:

  • Biosphere Magazine
  • Blackdown Environmental
  • Devon Wildlife Trust
  • Field Studies Council
  • Gibraltar Vet Clinic
  • Institute of Zoology
  • IUCN John Wenman Ecological Consultancy Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI)
  • RSPB
  • Somerset Wild Life Trust
  • Stark Ecology

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from our Masters programmes. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17.

  • PhD investigating the effects of species interactions on species distributions
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • PhD Institute for Bee Health
  • PhD Ontogeny of foraging behaviour in grey seals
  • PhD Diversity and Evolution of Wasps and Bees Along an Altitudinal Gradient in NW Ecuador

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