MSc Conservation and Biodiversity 2018/19 entry

Duration Full time 1 year
  • Biosciences
LocationCornwall (Penryn)
Start date September


MSc Conservation and Biodiversity video

Find out more from staff and students about the MSc Conservation and Biodiversity programme. View full size.

  • Designed in consultation with multiple external agencies to ensure relevant training that maximises graduate employability
  • Offers substantial field work opportunities in the UK and overseas
  • Provides opportunities to connect with external agencies and organisations to further enhance your training
  • Delivered by leading international researchers in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation
  • Offers access to excellent facilities including state-of-the-art research laboratories, greenhouses and controlled environment rooms
  • Comprises modules that target both research and practical conservation skills

This one-year full-time Masters programme is taught at our Penryn Campus in Cornwall by staff at the renowned Centre for Ecology and Conservation. The course boasts a significant research component, with substantial fieldwork opportunities in the UK as well as a field course in Africa. A distinctive and integral feature of our MSc is the high degree of input from conservationists in collaborating governmental and non-governmental organisations. This participation takes a variety of forms, including guest lectures, field visits and specific training courses, but may also include providing research projects in their organisations. Collaborating organisations include: Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Marine Conservation Society, Natural England, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Zoological Society of London.

This applied degree provides excellent employability, with our recent alumni moving onto ecological consultancy work, government conservation programmes, NGO conservation projects and fully funded PhD positions in ecology and conservation.

I have always been interested in the natural world, environmental issues, sustainability and conservation. After travelling for a while following my undergraduate degree I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the environmental field, and the MSc Conservation and Biodiversity at Cornwall sounded really interesting.

There have been many valuable aspects of the programme, most notably the high level of external speakers and experts who have come in to speak to us regarding local and national conservation issues and programmes; this included talks about the conservation implications of development at Falmouth docks, and speakers from Natural England, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Atlantic Whale Foundation and many more. This made a change from lectures and showed us the practical side of what we were learning. It also gave us a chance to have lively debates and question sessions with these experts. Another valuable aspect of the course was the diversity and number of field visits. The Kenya field trip was by far the most rewarding learning experience of the course.

I found the staff to all be really approachable and down to earth, and the modules mean that you learn a huge variety of new information and skills, from statistics and GIS to marine conservation. What’s more, the Penryn Campus is in a great location surrounded by nature so we were able to do many local field trips including the national seal sanctuary, the lobster hatchery and Plymouth aquarium. It also means you don’t have to travel far to carry out research for your dissertation since there is a lot of wildlife right on the doorstep.

Katie Goodman, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity.

Programme structure 2018/19

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.

Learning and teaching

The taught component of this programme is delivered in the first five months. During this time, you will also familiarise yourself with the scientific literature on the topic of your research project, to which you will devote the remainder of the academic year.

Teaching and learning methods

All material is designed for Masters level and will involve fieldwork, seminars and group discussion. Within modules there is considerable scope for you to direct your learning towards fields of particular interest, especially through your choice of research project.


Taught modules will be assessed through formal oral presentation, written reports and discussions, during or upon the immediate completion of these modules. A significant proportion of the assessment is based on the research project and associated literature review and oral presentation. Modules run by other departments may have formal exams.

Advice and 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.

My absolute favourite part of the year was undertaking my research project. For this I studied the feeding ecology of giraffe, conducting three months of fieldwork in a South African game reserve. This was an unforgettable experience which taught me many practical field skills.

Vicky Ratcliffe, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity.


Kenya field course

Join staff and students on their MSc field course in Kenya from the University of Exeter where they are focusing on the biodiversity and conservation of this exciting region. View full size.

The census research projects will see you spending a considerable amount of time in the field collecting data at several key research sites in West Cornwall and interacting with local NGOs (Cornwall Wildlife Trust, South West Lakes Trust).

This programme includes a two week field course in Kenya, during which you will visit some of Africa’s largest and most important game reserves, and receive an introduction to some of the day-to-day problems faced by conservation biologists in developing nations. You will study the behaviour of a variety of wild animals, focusing particularly on large mammals, birds, and insects. Travel and subsistence costs for this part of the programme are included in the programme fee.

Find out more about our field course modules.

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

I decided on a career in conservation after enjoying the conservation modules as part of my degree at Durham University and completing my thesis project in Indonesia. I was then involved with various conservation projects in Fiji, Costa Rica and a 12 month placement in Madagascar; but found that in order to progress in the conservation sector a MSc was almost essential. I chose the MSc in Conservation & Biodiversity as it incorporated a significant research component. The taught modules were interesting and relevant and there was always scope to tailor the course to your interests. For my project I returned to Madagascar to conduct a socio-economic project assessing the role of poverty on the use of marine resources. The report has been submitted for publication in Fisheries Management and Ecology.

Tammy Davies, Research assistant for Asian Elephant Conservation, North of England Zoological Society

The Africa field course was one of the most amazing trips I have ever undertaken and it was not only brilliant fun but also a good opportunity for honing my international conservation knowledge.

Nick Phillips, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate, now a Biodiversity Policy Officer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds


Through integral collaboration with key external agencies, this MSc ensures that the training you receive links directly to relevant employment opportunities within the UK and abroad. The programme also prepares you for research and it is expected that a significant proportion of graduates will go on to PhD study.

Graduate destinations

Find out more about what our students have gone onto after graduation with our alumni gallery.

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of our MSc Conservation and Biodiversity. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey (2011-2016). Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Consultant in a Marine Protected Area Project
Assistant Reserve Officer
GIS Analyst
Research Analyst
Environmental Consultant and GIS Specialist
Research Assistant
Marine Wildlife Observer
Field Ecologist
Environmental Consultant
Turtle Project Scientist
Endocrinology Intern
Project Coordinator
Freelance Ecologist
Sea Turtle Monitoring Assistant
Associate Marine Research Fellow
Cetacean Research Co-ordinator
Residential Warden
Assistant Ecologist
Research Technician
Science Officer
Conservation Assistant
Programme Manager
Editorial Assistant
Marine Mammal Rehabilitator
Idependent Consultant
Surrey Wildlife Trust
Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Cook Island Turtle Project
Explore Learning
The CARIBSAVE Partnership
SAFE Project
Chester Zoo
National Seal Sanctuary
Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum
University of Exeter
SLR Consulting Ltd
Michael Woods Associates Ltd
Cambridge University
Avon Wildlife trust
Leopard Ecology and Conservation
ANSR Source
Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
University of Oxford
Cotswold Farm Park
Mammal Research Institute
Ahern Ecology
Natural History Museum
University of Exeter
Gardline Environmental Sciences
National Scientific Research Centre, France

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from our MSc Conservation and Biodiversity. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates of our Masters programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey (2011-2016). Please note that, due to data protection, the subjects of study and institutions are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Subject areaInstitution
PhD Biological Sciences
PhD Biology
PhD Disease Dynamics
PhD Microbiology
EngD Engineering and the Environment
University of Oxford
University of Exeter
University of Cambridge
University of Southampton
Durham University
University of Sheffield

Further information

Find out more about our career support schemes for postgraduate students.

I looked into a number of Masters courses, but this one in particular caught my eye. There was a strong balance between teaching, individual research and practical fieldwork, with the additional bonus of a two-week fieldtrip to Kenya. I found the breadth of the conservation modules inspiring, and the external practitioner input was an excellent link to real-world conservation. Furthermore, the key skills I learnt, such as using GIS and creating a website, I use weekly in my current job.

Jodene Williams, Data officer, Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS)

Entry requirements 2018/19

Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in Biology or a relevant science subject is required, although a 2:2 with relevant experience will be considered.  Applicants from non-science backgrounds will be considered, provided that the first degree contained an empirical component, and/or if the applicants have had work experience in the field of conservation/wildlife management.

I am indebted to the Canon Collins Trust and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chevening programme for the combined scholarship award that made it possible for me to enrol on this course at this University. This scholarship is a dream come true and a real lifetime opportunity, which I remain to cherish for rest of my life. The University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus has excellent research and training facilities. The department of Biosciences in particular, has strong links for research with well known conservation organisations and universities within the UK and internationally. This link facilitates interactions between students and researchers from key conservation related organisations. The lecturers are world class, friendly, helpful, approachable and contactable even during after-work hours. Located in a beautiful countryside, near the coastal town of Falmouth, the campus is perfectly placed for postgraduate training.

Lackson Chama, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity student.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding 2018/19

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

  • UK/EU: £13,500
  • International: £22,500 full-time

The fee includes costs of all field trips including 2-week residential course to Africa.

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

University funding

The Funding website has information on all available options for funding open to prospective students of taught Masters programmes. You can also use the searchable database of all Scholarships and Bursaries to find funding for which you are eligible.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2018.

Thanks to a full fee MSc Scholarship from the University of Exeter, I completed the MSc Conservation and Biodiversity at Falmouth in 2008. This MSc was a natural choice for me due to the work of the Marine Turtle Research Group.

My research project (supervised by Professor Brendan Godley) involved a global synthesis of sea turtle satellite tracking data and is now published in the journal “Global Ecology and Biogeography”.

After completing the MSc course, I secured a position with the Seychelles Island Foundation to help monitor/conserve a range of species on the remote Aldabra atoll! Upon my return from this incredible place, I gained experience conducting boat-based marine mammal and sea bird surveys on board a variety of boats/dedicated research vessels and employment as a boat-based wildlife guide.
Read more.

Dr Rebecca Scott, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity (2008), Postdoctoral Researcher, GEOMAR Research Center.

Contact us

We welcome enquiries about the course. For further information contact:

Web: Enquire online 
Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801

The Programme Director is Professor Brendan Godley.