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Postgraduate Taught

MSc Conservation and Biodiversity

Please note: The below is for 2025 entries. Click here for 2024 entries.
UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
2 years part time
Entry year 2024
Campus Penryn Campus
Discipline Ecology and Conservation
Typical offer

View full entry requirements

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

Contextual offers


  • Designed in consultation with multiple external agencies to ensure relevant training that maximises graduate employability and targets both research and practical conservation skills
  • Offers substantial fieldwork opportunities in the UK and overseas, including a field course in Africa. Please note, a low-carbon alternative programme is also available – see variants section.
  • Provides opportunities to connect with external agencies and organisations to further enhance your training
  • Delivered by leading international researchers in Ecology and Conservation
  • Offers access to excellent facilities including state-of-the-art research laboratories, greenhouses and controlled environment rooms

Due to the high demand for this programme we highly recommend that you apply early.  Applications can be made from September 2023. If we experience high demand it may be necessary for us to operate waiting lists or close the programme.

Apply online

View 2024 Entry

Fast Track (current Exeter students)

Open days and visiting us

Get a prospectus


Programme Director: Dr Kimberley Hockings

Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

Top 20 in the UK for world-leading research in Biological Sciences

REF 2021, based on 4-star research

9th in the world for Ecology

ShanghaiRankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2022

90% of our Biological Sciences research is internationally excellent

Based on research rated 4* and 3* in the Research Excellence Framework 2021

High-quality research supervision, with access to excellent facilities

Entry requirements

A 2:1 degree or above in a relevant science subject* is normally required. We will be happy to consider applicants with a non-scientific background who have a strong academic profile and/or significant relevant work experience of 2+ years, on individual merit. 

*Relevant subjects include: Biology, Biosciences, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Geography, Marine Biology, Natural Sciences, Zoology.

Entry requirements for international students

English language requirements

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile B2. Please visit our English language requirements page to view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

I've really enjoyed the flexibility and variety of module choices on the programme and the amount of skills I developed in each one. I’m learning about current marine scientific research and getting to meet founders of conservation NGOs and science-communication organisations. I have found the teaching to be excellent.

The lecturers promote discussion-style lectures so I really feel I am engaging with the topics taught, and am never afraid to ask questions or talk about ideas. The academics are genuinely supportive, and are very happy to talk and help whenever it is needed. My personal tutor has been particularly helpful, not only academically, but also on personal matters and has given very useful career advice.

The University of Exeter has a fantastic reputation, especially for Biosciences! The idea of studying at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall really appealed to me because of the natural beauty of the area and the wide range of career possibilities within my field (wildlife conservation).

I have really enjoyed meeting people from different backgrounds, of different nationalities and ages, and with very different interests and styles. I feel part of a big, friendly and very inclusive community.

After I graduate I would like to pursue a PhD and then work in science communication or education. Meeting academics and scientists at Exeter has made me realise what a broad range of options I actually have, and I’ve already made some connections.

The MSc Conservation and Biodiversity programme is excellent, whether you have an interest in marine or terrestrial wildlife, want to go into academia or gain skills in ecological consultancy; there are so many options!

Read more from Sarita


MSc Conservation and Biodiversity

Course content

This 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 field work 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 TrustButterfly ConservationMarine Conservation SocietyNatural EnglandPlymouth Marine LabRoyal Botanic Gardens Kew Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) 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.

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.


2024/25 entry

UK fees per year:

£15,700 full-time; £7,850 part-time

International fees per year:

£29,500 full-time; £14,750 part-time

MSc Conservation and Biodiversity with UK field course

UK fees per year:

£14,500 full-time; £7,250 part-time

International fees per year:

£28,300 full-time; £14,150 part-time


We invest heavily in scholarships for talented prospective Masters students. This includes over £5 million in scholarships for international students, such as our Global Excellence Scholarships*.

For more information on scholarships, please visit our scholarships and bursaries page.

*Selected programmes only. Please see the Terms and Conditions for each scheme for further details.


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

Please note, in line with our commitment to tackling the global climate emergency, the University of Exeter offers a variant of this programme which provides a low-carbon UK field course destination. This allows you to make an alternative choice when applying for this course. The alternative programme also offers lower tuition fee costs. For more information about this alternative, please see the fieldwork section.

When participating in field courses, where necessary, you will be required to cover any visa costs and purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations.

You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, e.g. walking boots, rucksack, mosquito net, sleeping bag, binoculars. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen.

Read more

I was ecstatic to receive the Global Excellence Scholarship because my financial situation at the time and the expense of international tuition fees meant I would never be able to do a Masters degree without this scholarship, which greatly improved the likelihood of me being in a career I dreamt of.


MSc Conservation and Biodiversity

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
  • Fieldwork
  • 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.

Read more


This programme includes a two-week field course in Africa, during which you will visit some of Africa’s largest and most important game reserves, and be introduced 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; however there may be some additional costs such as equipment - see the Fees section for more information.

In line with our commitment to tackling the global climate emergency, the University of Exeter offers this programme with a low-carbon UK field course destination. This allows you to make an alternative choice when applying for this course. For more information about this alternative, please see the variants section.

This field course presents the philosophy, sociology, ecology and practice of large-scale conservation. You will develop a practical understanding of these issues through visits to some of Africa’s most important protected areas, as well as by an introduction to some of the day-to-day problems faced by conservation biologists in developing nations.

We study the behaviour of animals in a natural ecological setting with a focus on large mammals, birds and insects, while guided by input from local practitioners. Practical work is conducted in part during a safari through contrasting African ecosystems and you'll acquire techniques for monitoring populations and communities.

We will see an amazing wealth of biodiversity, from mountains and forests to lakes and savannahs, meet a range of conservationists and develop a deep understanding of the complicated nature of conservation in the developing world.

In the field, with tutoring from experienced academic staff, you will develop skills in taxonomy, ecology, biogeography, conservation and evolution while collecting data on the abundance and behaviour of a variety of species across a range of different habitats. Safari observations are reviewed, synthesised and analysed during small group seminars in structured discussions of the ecological, sociological, political and economic issues relating to conservation in Africa. After returning to the UK, you will present a poster that discusses one of the major conservation themes observed during the trip.

Amongst the many skills you'll develop during the field course is the ability to describe, systematically and critically, current problems and new insights in conservation and biodiversity. You will also develop the confidence and skill to deal with complex issues in a rigorous but creative manner, make sound judgements in the absence of complete datasets, and communicate conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

In line with our commitment to tackling the global climate emergency, we offer this programme with a low-carbon UK field course destination. This allows you to make an alternative choice when applying for this course. This programme also offers lower tuition fees.

The MSc Conservation and Biodiversity with UK field course offers the alternative field course option and allows you to consider the meaning of the word “wild” in the UK. You will learn the political, regulatory, economic, scientific, ecological and social opportunities and constraints that affect all attempts to conserve biodiversity in our changing world.

This residential field course will perform a transect through the United Kingdom’s hotspots of marine and terrestrial biodiversity, human-wildlife conflict and ecological restoration. You will see the endangered wildlife of the UK, and meet the people who are stakeholders in their management or their conservation: National Park authorities; farmers; Natural England employees; conservation charity managers; people delivering species translocations; researchers; ecological consultants; tourism operators and the general public.

Read more about the alternative field course module

When participating in field courses, you may be required to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, e.g. walking boots, rucksack.


Employer-valued skills this course develops

This programme will provide you with a diversity of skills that will equip you for a range of sectors of work and further study. Skills include:

  • Scientific writing and poster preparation
  • Grant writing
  • Public speaking
  • Short film production
  • Press release and the professional use of social media
  • Data analysis
  • Writing scientific information for a lay audience
  • Use of “R” and GIS.

Career destinations

The programme prepares students for careers in environmental NGOs, government conservation agencies and ecological consultancy companies in the UK and overseas. The degree also offers a thorough training in research skills and methods so provides an excellent basis for an academic career, with many students progressing directly to PhD positions.

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.

Read more

After working for several different organisations, I now work for the Joint Region Marianas Office (at the Guam National Wildlife Refuge) as the Conservation Resource Program Manager. Through my 10-plus-year career since graduating, I would say that all of the coursework we studied in the MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity has surfaced at one time or another. 

During the MSc, I gained some really invaluable basic skills that are rarely covered in most Masters programmes such as: how to design and present oral and poster presentation, preparing a quality CV, writing a grant proposal, etc. I still have the instruction and templates from when I was a student and have referenced them several times during my professional career.

Read more from Jennifer


MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate

Graduate School of Environment and Sustainability

You will become part of Exeter's Graduate School of Environment & Sustainability - a vibrant and supportive postgraduate community based here on our Penryn campus in Cornwall. The Graduate School brings together experts from across the spectrum of earth and life sciences, engineering, humanities, social sciences and business. You will interact with students from other MScs and have the opportunity to explore issues from a range of perspectives, benefiting from a truly interdisciplinary experience. All our programmes are designed with a focus on developing solutions to global challenges and creating a better future for our planet and its people.