Importance and relevance of the course

Conservation Science is a rapidly growing area of interdisciplinary research, which informs policy decisions regarding the management of the biodiversity and ecosystem services upon which humans depend. The MSc in conservation science has been designed in order to give students a broad yet rigorous knowledge base that a career in this sector requires. The course is genuinely
interdisciplinary and teaches methodologies and concepts derived from both the natural and social sciences.

This course aims to give graduates the skills required for success in the highly competitive and very broad field of international conservation. About a third of recent graduates have gone on to PhDs, another third to working as programme or project managers for international and national conservation NGOs in the UK or overseas, and another third into consultancies, policy think tanks or government. The vast majority are working in conservation within 12 months of graduating.

"It was a life changing experience to be able to see my project through from conception to publication including everything in between including finding collaborators, sourcing funding, organising field logistics, launching expeditions and conducting analyses. The programme even led to the opportunity to present my research to Charles Darwin’s family! Moreover, Conservation Science has provided strong mentors, lifelong friendships and contacts in global conservation. Stephanie Hing 2012 cohort"

Course objectives and content

This unique one year full-time MSc course will give you the skills required for success in the highly competitive field of international conservation.

The course has particular focus on:

  • Interactive learning, so that you learn actively as a group, and focus on current issues and research.
  • Developing the skills needed to make it as a conservation professional; writing proposals, managing projects, facilitating stakeholder engagement, presenting posters and talks at scientific forums
  • A strong quantitative basis for conservation work, including decision theory, conservation planning, statistical computing and modelling
  • Learning to collect, analyse and use both socio-economic and biological information, to give a truly interdisciplinary understanding of the theory and practice of conservation
  • Not just an ability to analyse conservation issues, but how to put this understanding into action - implementing successful conservation projects
"The Conservation Science Masters played a major part in my getting this job! It gave me a broad knowledge of global conservation issues, theory, techniques, trends, etc. which are crucial to my role. It also gave me core skills in grant application writing and reporting, also central to my current role." David Wallis. Deputy Director, Whitley Fund for Nature

More information

Course content

The course is split into two distinct sections; the taught course elements and the students personal research project.

Taught Elements

The taught course runs for two terms. The coursework is taught interactively through seminars, workshops and discussion of the literature to stimulating active learning and critical thinking.

Course directors:

  • Dr Andrew Knight: Imperial College, Silwood Park
  • Dr Colin Clubbe: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Dr Richard Young: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Dr Marcus Rowcliffe: Institute of Zoology

A large proportion of the teaching will also be provided by other members of the Department of Life Science staff based at Silwood Park, as well as external lecturers from a wide variety of organisations, universities and institutions.

  • Framework for analysis
    This section helps students develop a broad understanding of interactions between biodiversity loss and human society including the biological and social processes leading to biodiversity loss and the spatio-temporal scale at which they occur. We also look at the difficult issues surrounding conservation, including trade-offs between the values held by different people.
  • Techniques in conservation science
  • This section you will focus on the skills needed to gather and analyse data, both quantitative and qualitative. We emphasise the skills required to use collected data in order to make defensible decisions in a rigorous manor, even when information is lacking. We will also look at new techniques that are starting to revolutionise the practice of data collection and analysis.
  • Implementing conservation action
  • Looking at the practicalities of implementing conservation action we consider how to set conservation priorities when both funding and information are limited. You will also consider how to manage the relationships between people who are affected by conservation, so that a consensus for conservation can be built.
  • Case studies in conservation
  • Case studies not only give insight but also will allow students to evaluate the progress of conservation through the steps of information gathering, problem definition, developing intervention plans, action and then monitoring, learning and adaptive management. We show how the general framework developed through the course can be adapted by students for the issue of particular interest to them.

More information about the taught course components can be found in the Conservation Science course brochure.

Research Project

Students complete a 23 week research project. The project is designed to give practical experience of desk-based or field research and provide the opportunity to learn a wide range of skiLls that build upon those taught earlier in the course. The project will be supervised by a full-time member of staff from Imperial College or one of the three partner institutions. The projects may be conducted, in part or in whole, at external research institutions or agencies in the UK or overseas. In this case, students may also have an external supervisor based at the external institution. Fully desk-based projects are also available. An archive of thesis produced during the research project can be found on the ICCS website.


The elements and components to be assessed will be weighted as follows:

  • Two written exams: total 25%
  • Course work assignments, written and oral presentations: total 25%
  • Research project: 50%

"Conservation Science opened my eyes to the world of conservation – a world that I naively thought I understood previously . I didn't. It made me realise that as much as I’d like it to be, conservation is not just wildlife research. I only spend about 50% of my time on actual monitoring work. The rest is donor reports, proposals, training, planning, assisting the enforcement team etc. The Masters prepared me for that – making me realise that conservation is not just fluffy animal work. It introduces you to all of the things that you will very quickly need to be able to do well once you get into the workplace!"
Matt Nuttall WCS Cambodia


The course is run jointly with The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, The Zoological Society of London and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

  ZSL logo

                Durrell logo


The MSc combines teaching modules at each of the three partner organisations, so that students are able to understand how the concepts and practices they are introduced to throughout the course are implemented by conservation organisations. The taught course component of the course will include guest lecturers from these organizations as well as a wide range of leading professionals from the wider conservation community. Students’ six-month research projects are linked to ongoing conservation programmes.

"The MSc broadened my horizons. I learnt that you can actually create jobs for yourself and others – and that is often more valuable than to be hired by somebody. It also helped me to build a network of contacts, and I am still applying for grants with some people I came to know in Britain. Alena Tarasova Project Officer at WWF Ukraine"

Who should apply?

The course is suitable for:

  • Conservation professionals wishing to update their skills
  • Professionals in other fields wishing to enter conservation
  • Recent graduates who want to make their career in conservation
  • Those interested in carrying on to do further academic research
  • Those wishing to improve their field or analytical skills and work with leading conservation professionals before deciding where to put these skills to use

Academic requirements

We don’t ask for specific academic qualifications in particular subjects, beyond Imperial College’s minimum academic standards for an MSc – instead we are looking for highly motivated and committed people who can show either substantial field experience in a relevant area or evidence of academic ability (or both).

In practice this means that you should have a good 2.1 plus at least 6 months of relevant work experience for the academic route, and very substantial relevant experience otherwise. See admissions procedures for further information.

How to apply

All applications to the programme must be made online through the Imperial College application site. You should read the application instructions carefully before submitting your application. If you are applying from overseas, please take note of any English requirements and the country by country guidance on which degree grades are considered equivalent to a UK second class honours.

The course is generally full by around the end of May, more information is available in this admissions procedures document.

For further information on the course please contact Dr Andrew Knight, Dr Morena Mills or Mrs Amanda Ellis (



Some funding is available from the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme, a joint initiative between the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Imperial College London to support students from developing Commonwealth countries who would not otherwise be able to study in the United Kingdom.