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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  Existing Content - 5 JULY 2016 15:18  /  Admissions  /  Masters  /  MSc Conservation

MSc Conservation


Landscape mosaic of cropland, natural grassland and forest plantations, Inner Mongolian Plateau, Changing Landscapes fieldclass

The MSc Conservation at UCL is widely recognised as the leading course for aspiring nature conservation professionals. This highly successful interdisciplinary degree programme engages with environmental, social and policy dimensions. It saw its first students graduate in 1960, and more than 75% of its graduates have gone on to secure posts related to nature conservation.

The MSc Conservation is an interdisciplinary programme, focussing on principles (conservation biology and ethics), policy (socio-economics, law and governance) and practice of conservation in relation to the inter-related driving forces of globalisation, demographic trends, invasive species, climate change, habitat degradation and the loss of biodiversity resulting from these forces.


All students take four core conservation modules in Term 1 and choose a further four modules from a range of options in Term 2. Students also undertake a piece of original research leading to a dissertation of up to 12,000 words with the support of an academic supervisor.

The following modules are generally offered. Due to sabbaticals and staff changes, not all modules are available every year, and module availability is subject to change. Please contact the course convenor for any questions relating to the modules available in the forthcoming year.


Module code Module title UCL Credit value
GEOGG104 Scientific Basis for Freshwater and Coastal Conservation

15 credits


Environmental Data Acquisition and Analysis

15 credits


Conservation and Environmental Management

15 credits


Rural Matrix

15 credits


Module code

Module title

UCL Credit value


Marine Conservation 15 credits


Changing Landscapes* 15 credits


Changing Landscapes* 15 credits



15 credits


Aquatic Macrophytes

15 credits


Biological Indicators of Environmental Change

15 credits


Non-biological Indicators of Environmental Change

15 credits


Coastal Change

15 credits


Environmental GIS

15 credits


Politics of Climate Change

15 credits


Conservation fieldclass1. Leadership in the field of nature conservation

The MSc Conservation was established as a vocational degree in 1959 by UCL’s Departments of Botany, Zoology and Geography in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy. It is the oldest British degree programme in nature conservation and has an extensive network of alumni who regularly occupy key positions in conservation NGOs, government organisations and at universities. The degree programme has kept its vocational orientation, and conservation professionals are strongly involved in the delivery of the course. Accordingly, our recent graduates have been extremely successful in securing positions with nature conservation organisations both in the UK and abroad, as well as at leading research institutions and universities.

Conservation fieldclass II2. Residential field classes

We strongly believe in the value of practical, first-hand experiences in the training of conservation students. We will therefore take you on two residential field classes in the first term, where one week will be spent on the North Norfolk Coast and a second week in Snowdonia. Two of our Term 2 choice modules are furthermore build around a two-week residential fieldclass in northeast China, while another Term 2 choice module is associated with a shorter residential fieldclass at a British destination.


Fieldwork of MSc Conservation students on the saltmarshes of the North Norfolk coast3. Interdisciplinary

Effective work in nature conservation requires a thorough understanding not only of conservation biology and environmental sciences, but also of governance issues and the socio-economic and cultural frameworks within which conservation work is conducted. When joining the UCL MSc Conservation, you will therefore be trained in aspects of conservation biology, but also learn about the legal framework, governance theories, ethics and socio-economic settings underpinning conservation work.


Fees and Applications

Senecio jacobaea in NorfolkApplication

Potential applicants are expected to have a first or upper second-class Honours degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. Environmental Science, Geography or Biology) from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applications with relevant professional experience in conservation or environmental management will also be considered. The department currently requires a Good level of English demonstrated by a recent IELTS Academic or equivalent qualification. We would welcome further questions about the course, so please feel free to get in touch via e-mail ( or make an appointment to come and meet the course staff.

To apply online or download an application form, please click here or contact the Graduate Admissions Secretary ( to request a Graduate Application Pack. It is possible to take the MSc course part-time. Please contact the course convener if you require details of the part-time structure.

Application for 2016-17 admission closes 29th July 2016. We will not accept any applications after this date. Applicants who require a student visa should do their utmost to submit the programme application form before the end of July to ensure that there is enough time to process all the necessary paperwork.

Snowy mountains in Hebei viewed from Donglingshan, Changing Landscapes field classFees

Current fees information is available Please note that optional choice modules in Term 2 may incur additional costs for accommodation and transport associated with residential field classes or fieldwork.


For information on UCL scholarships, please visit

Further funding sources

Other sources from which UCL MSc Conservation students have secured funds in the past:

  • Laurence Attwell Charity: Skinner's Hall, 8 Dowgate Hill, London EC4R 2SP
  • The Ian Karten Charitable Trust: The Mill House, Newark Lane, Ripley, Surrey GU23 6DP
  • The Mercers' Company: Educational Grants Secretary, The Mercers' Company, Mercers' Hall, Ironmonger Lane, London EC2V 8HE
  • The Richard Newitt Fund: The Correspondent, The Richard Newitt Fund, Trustee Department, The Lawn, Speen, Newbury, Berks. RG13 1QN
  • The Radley Trust: Philip Radley, The Radley Trust, 53 Sherlock Close, Cambridge CB3 0HP
  • The Percy Sladen Memorial Fund: The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1V 0LQ
  • The Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust: 1 York Street, Baker Street, London W1H 1PZ


Further Information

Programme Aims

Painted Lady on VerbenaThe UCL MSc Conservation is an interdisciplinary programme, covering the principles, policy and practice of conservation. From this background, the specific aims of the programme are:

  • To engage with current thinking about the ecological and environmental concepts underpinning nature conservation.
  • To acquire knowledge of the ecology, assessment and management of ecosystems.
  • To develop an understanding of the planning and regulatory framework relevant to conservation.
  • To appreciate the implications of different approaches to implementing conservation polices.
  • To acquire an understanding of the practices of institutions engaged in conservation.
Students taking the MSc will thus:
  • develop an understanding of contemporary debates in ecology, conservation ideas and practices through critical review of research.
  • engage with debates on key conservation issues in discussions and seminars held with conservation professionals.
  • develop identification skills of a range of taxa during field projects.
  • gain insights into biological and physical processes operating in a variety of ecosystems.
  • develop an understanding of methods to evaluate conservation importance of sites and ecosystems.
  • acquire transferable skills in project design, management, report production and presentation through the conduct of independent projects and presentations.
  • complete an independent study based on the collection and analysis of primary data that demonstrates advanced knowledge and application of research skills and has practical relevance to conservation.
MSc Conservation Flyer MSc Conservation Handbook

A short brochure can be downloaded here.

A more detailed course handbook can be downloaded here.

Destinations of our graduates

DESTINATIONS CONS.jpgMore than 75% of our graduates are known to have gained a post in the conservation sector or in conservation-related research. Many potential employers have themselves graduated from the course over the last 50+ years. Overall, the record of graduate employment shows that the course equips students very well for the following areas (% for years 2005-2010).

The following list provides some examples of initial MSc Conservation student destinations:

  • DEFRA (Project Support Officer, Environmental Permitting Programme; Policy Advisor, Marine & Freshwater Biodiversity Division)
  • Natural England (Government and Conservation Adviser)
  • Environment Agency (Planning Technical Assistant)
  • Local Boroughs and Councils (e.g. Conservation Park Ranger; Biodiversity Project Officer; Environmental Information Support Officer)
  • Local Wildlife Trusts: (Project Officer, Living Landscapes Programme; Design for Biodiversity Officer)
  • Wildlife Protection Society of India (Projects Manager)
  • ECOMAR (Brazilian marine conservation NGO) (Executive Director)
  • Blue Ventures, Madagascar (Science Intern, Marine Conservation Project Coordination; Research Development Manager)
  • Environmental consultant, Dubai (EIAs for marine oil and gas projects)
  • IUCN (Internship, Freshwater Biodiversity Unit)
  • UNEP-WCMC (United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre) (Internship, developing rare species (crocodile) database)
  • CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) (initially Internship, Project Research Assistant, subsequently Project Research Officer)
  • ZSL (Zoological Society of London) (e.g. Development and Events Coordinator; various Internships)
  • Kew Gardens (Internship, Sample Red List Index Project; botanical horticulturalist)
  • RSPB (Communications Officer)
  • Various ecological/conservation/sustainability consultancies (Consultant Field Ecologist; Consultant Ecologist; Graduate Ecologist; Administrator)
  • Waste Watch NGO (recycling advisor)
  • Broadview Energy Ltd (assistant project manager on wind farm projects)


Research dissertation

three norfolk students.jpgApart from forming an essential part of the degree with a contribution of 36% to the overall degree result, the dissertation can provide students with a variety of benefits. These might include the acquisition of new skills, the establishment of key contacts / employment opportunities in the conservation community, or the publication of dissertation results in scientific journals as a great starting point for a research career. It is important that these potential benefits are carefully considered during the planning stages of the dissertation.

Generally, dissertations can take the following form:

  • self-designed project: A good project of this type demonstrates considerable self-initiative, allowing greatest flexibility in relation to topic and approach. Your UCL dissertation supervisor will constructively critique your ideas as a means of ensuring that they are workable and appropriately focused.
  • project aligned to research projects run by academics within the department: This type of project is most likely to lead to a published paper, and the work will be clearly manageable as an individual project. Contributing to a larger overall effort, students are likely to acquire new research skills and be able to go into considerable depth in their study. There may be some financial support available for these projects.
  • commissioned project: Each year, MSc dissertation projects are offered as “commissions” from conservation agencies, conservation NGOs or relevant research groups. These allow students experience of real-world situations, contacts and insights into the working of potential employers and the opportunity to directly contribute towards practical conservation work. There may again be some financial support for such projects. Please note: a report is distinctly different both in style and format from an MSc dissertation, and a strong scientific grounding of the thesis needs to be ensured.

We always expect students to demonstrate initiative in developing their projects, and routine studies following an established methodology will need to be accompanied by a substantial section in the dissertation evolving from the student’s own, independent ideas.