School of Biological and Marine Sciences

MSc Marine Conservation

The impact of human activity on our marine ecosystems has become more evident and high profile in recent years, such as from overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, coastal development, plastics and climate change. So what do we do about it – how can we preserve and recover marine habitats and species populations while also allowing sustainable use and exploitation of our seas?

Employer partnership

The only marine conservation masters programme in the UK to be delivered in partnership with a suite of regional, national and international marine conservation practitioners.  

Key features

  • Ranked top 15 in the UK and top 100 globally for Earth and Marine Sciences in the QS World University Rankings 2023
  • We are ranked #1 in the world for the impact of our marine research in support of ocean global sustainability goals (Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021). 
  • The only UK MSc programme in existence to focus on marine conservation in practice, delivered in partnership with a suite of regional, national and international marine conservation practitioners. 
  • The only such programme where all students, if they wish, can directly gain experience working for their masters project embedded within these potential employers. 
  • Taught by the leading experts in the field. Draw on the cumulative knowledge and expertise of one of the largest concentrations of marine conservation researchers in Europe.
  • Taught modules are designed to feature dynamic and contemporary content based on both state-of-the-art marine conservation research and current experience and practice of implementing marine conservation in the 'real world'.
  • The 60 credit masters project is not specifically a typical research project resulting in a scientific paper, but allows a diversity of options depending on collaborative work with the partner (e.g. policy review, option appraisal, etc).
  • Unusually for such a programme, there will be a true integration of natural and social science underpinning and skills. 
  • Students can choose between two career destinations, policy and advocacy, through taught components, working with relevant partner(s) and option module choice. All students will cover aspects of both themes, however.
  • The programme provides opportunities for students to work on marine conservation projects in the UK and abroad.
  • MSc Marine Conservation does not have any exams within its range of assessments.

Course details

  • Programme overview

  • The programme starts in the first semester with background information on research methodology and the science behind marine conservation, while also focusing on marine conservation in practice through a module that spans 2 semesters. This will involve day workshops, often with external conservation organisations, to gain experience of the hurdles, issues and barriers faced in the 'real world' and solutions to marine conservation issues that our external partners are developing. We will also be exploring key methodologies from assessing the health of sea floor ecosystems to how marine conservation charities are run and you get the opportunity in teams to develop and present issues and solutions for a topic of your choice. In semester 2 we will also look more closely at how we manage marine ecosystems, and you have a choice of modules either focusing on environmental economics or conservation of small populations. The final semester is spent with an external partner undertaking your marine conservation project, which you have developed with the partner over the previous two semesters.

    Core modules

    • Research Skills and Methods (MAR513)

      This module aims to equip students with the practical skills and contextual framework for conducting high quality research. Emphasis is placed on workshop opportunities to acquire and practice research planning, analysis, communication, writing and oral presentation skills.

    • Managing Marine Ecosystems (MAR530)

      The module will provide students with an understanding of marine ecosystems and their vulnerability to anthropogenic threats. Anticipatory and responsive management measures will be discussed, including relevant marine conservation agreements, legislation and policy.

    • Marine Conservation Practice (MAR532)

      This module focuses on how organisations undertake marine conservation in practice, the hurdles to this and how they are overcome, It allows direct interaction between practitioners and students through all-day workshops and field visits.

    • Marine Conservation Project (MAR533)

      The student will complete a research project typically in collaboration with, and hosted by, an external course partner. The project can be submitted in the format of a consultancy report, journal article, technical paper or dissertation, The write-up will communicate the project aims, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, synthesis and conclusions.

    • Marine Conservation Theory (MBIO505)

      This module provides the science and social science theory underpinning marine conservation practice. The module will be delivered using a series of "podules" covering several key "hot topics" that enables the theoretical background to be explored along with fast-moving conservation priorities and evidence.

    Optional modules

    • Small Population Conservation (ANIM5007)

      The principles and problems of managing small populations of animals are explored both in situ and ex situ. The methods by which species can be conserved are explored and critiqued. In particular this module addresses obstacles and considerations for captive wild animal population management for conservation using a range of perspectives including reproductive, genetic, behavioural and practical considerations.

    • Economics of the Marine Environment (MAR507)

      This module will provide students with a clear overview of the problems associated with economic activity in marine environment and the potential solutions to these problems.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MSc Marine Conservation programme specification_6469

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Candidates will require an appropriate background in primarily a biological, marine and environmental sciences degree to honours level at good 2:1 or above. Applications are also considered from well-qualified graduates in other disciplines with relevant experience or interests. Please refer to institution for additional advice: or telephone +44 1752 585858
All applicants are required to present a personal statement on what their career aims within marine conservation are, plus a short written piece around marine conservation priorities in the UK (see proforma in 'How to apply' that needs completing). CV as standard. 
English Language: IELTS 6.5 with scores of 5.5 in all elements.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £11,500 £12,000
International £18,000 £19,800
Part time (Home) £640 £670
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.
  • 10% or 20% discount on tuition fees for home students 
  • For 2024/2025 entry, a 20% discount on tuition fees for international students (International alumni who have applied to the University through an agent are not eligible to receive the discount)

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

How to apply

Applications are through the usual system for application to masters degrees within University of Plymouth, with the Programme Leader or nominated deputy acting as admissions tutor and making all decisions.
However, as there are limited places available on the programme due to the collaboration with partners, a modified application process will be followed for this programme.
As part of the generic PG application criteria, all applicants are generally required to present a personal statement. However, for this MSc Marine Conservation we would instead like applicants to provide a short written piece around what they see as the pressing marine conservation priorities and their motivations for undertaking the programme.
This additional information is to be provided using the additional application form.
Please attach this completed proforma in the section of the online application form entitled personal statement/proposal. 
This is a competitive degree with limited places. Early applications from exceptional candidates are encouraged.
Applications for 2025 entry will open in November 2025.
MSc Marine Conservation

Employer partnership

We will uniquely be working in partnership across the programme with a suite of leading external marine conservation and management organisations from the UK and internationally, including government bodies, NGOs, environmental charities and global foundations. You will work directly with one of these partners during your degree, getting true hands on experience of the issues, hurdles and complexities they face, and be part of the solutions they devise, in order to create for the future healthier oceans and a sustainable livelihood for the humans dependent on them. 

Our research

The Marine Conservation Research Group investigates the consequences of human activity on marine biodiversity and its ecosystem services in order to provide scientific evidence and management advice for the benefit of marine ecosystems and society.
Man fishing in small boat above coral reef. 


Meet our school technical staff   

Our technical staff are integral to the delivery of all our programmes and bring a diverse range of expertise and skills to support students in laboratories, workshops, and the field.