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 allow sustainable use and exploitation of our seas?

This new MSc programme, taught by leading experts in the field, focuses specifically on marine conservation in practice and is targeted at producing the next generation of ocean guardians with the skill set to address this question. The MSc Marine Conservation programme does not have any exams within its range of assessments.

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.  

Application deadline

Please note that applications to this course for 2020 entry has now closed. Applications for 2021 entry will be open from 1 November 2020. Please see further details under 'How to Apply'.

Key features

  • 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.
  • 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.   

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
    • MAR513 Research Skills and Methods

      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.

    • MAR530 Managing Marine Ecosystems

      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.

    • MAR532 Marine Conservation Practice

      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.

    • MAR533 Marine Conservation Project

      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.

    • MBIO505 Marine Conservation Theory

      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
    • ANIM5007 Small Population Conservation

      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.

    • MAR507 Economics of the Marine Environment

      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 01752 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

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

New Student 2020 2021
Home/EU £9,800 £9,950
International £14,800 £16,200
Part time (Home/EU) N/A N/A
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of 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. For more information about fees and funding please visit

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

The University applies a discretionary alumni reward where alumnus meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • a 20 per cent discount on home/EU tuition fees
  • or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.
  • a 10 per cent alumni discount is available on the following programmes: MSc Advanced Psychology, MSc Clinical Psychology, MSc/PgDip Psychology, MSc Physiotherapy (Pre-Reg) and MSc Occupational Therapy.

PGCE programmes, Master of Architecture, MChem, MEng, MGeol, MPsych, MSci, ResM, MSc Environmental Consultancy, MSc Sustainable Aquaculture, MSc Environmental Geochemistry and postgraduate research degrees are not included in this reward.

Please note that students must have applied directly to be eligible.

For further details, and contact information, please review our alumni discount policy.

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

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

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

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 template and word limits. Please attach this completed proforma in the section of the online application form entitled personal statement/proposal.  

The application process for 2020 is currently open and applications will close early (7 May 2020), by which time students will have been offered a place, a reserve place or rejected (directed towards an alternative University of Plymouth programme). Early applications from exceptional candidates are encouraged, and applications will be processed as they arrive with most applications passing the course criteria likely to be kept on hold for decisions on places near the closing date. Those given an offer will be expected to formally accept by June 2020 at the latest and will then be processed by the university for accommodation, etc where relevant.

Our programme partners

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.

Find out more about our research

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

The University applies a discretionary alumnus reward where alumni meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • A 20 per cent discount on home/EU tuition fees.
  • Or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.
  • A 10 per cent alumni discount is available on the following programmes: MSc Advanced Psychology, MSc Clinical Psychology, MSc/PgDip Psychology and MSc Occupational Therapy.

PGCE programmes, Master of Architecture, MChem, MEng, MGeol, MPsych, MSci, ResM, MSc Environmental Consultancy, MSc Sustainable Aquaculture, MSc Environmental Geochemistry and postgraduate research degrees are not included in this reward. 

Please note that students must have applied directly to be eligible. 

For further details, and contact information, please see our alumnus discount policy.