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Course details

Study options

Full-time: 1 year, Part-time: 3 years

UK/EU fee

£875 per 20 credits* (2020/21)

International fee

£14,700 for the full programme (2020/21)

Course level




Start dates

January, September


Kedleston Road, Derby Campus

Course description

As the number of species facing extinction continues to grow at an alarming rate, conservation biologists are in greater demand than ever before. This MSc is your pathway to a worthwhile career tackling one of society’s most pressing concerns.

Institute of Environmental Sciences Accreditation Logo

If you have your sights set on a career in conservation, habitat management or environmental consultancy, this MSc offers an excellent grounding in the skills and knowledge you need.

Expertise to make a difference

Over 15,000 species are now threatened with extinction, according to the World Conservation Union Red List. In fact, current extinction rates are estimated to be up to 10,000 times higher than they would naturally be. There is an urgent need for skilled, forward-thinking conservation biologists who can help reverse this trend.

Our MSc Conservation Biology combines strong theoretical knowledge and practical abilities. You’ll explore the reasons why so many species are endangered and develop vital skills in the management of wildlife and environments. Building on a firm understanding of theory, you’ll find practical solutions to environmental management problems.

The course is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES), which means that it reflects the high standards, ethics and values expected of environmental professionals.  

Practical challenges throughout

In the field and the laboratory alike, you’ll have the chance to hone your practical skills in everything from species identification to ecological surveys, sampling methods to statistical analyses.

Our facilities have recently been modernised to offer a first-rate learning environment. They include a glasshouse featuring plants from diverse habitats, an insectary housing many different species, and specialist laboratories. The latest addition to our facilities is our Aquatic Research Facility, which has been developed in collaboration with the Sealife Centre, Birmingham. We also have a student research lab where you will have a dedicated space to pursue your independent studies.

Exciting fieldwork in great locations

We bring theory to life with fascinating fieldwork opportunities. You’ll take full advantage of studying close to the stunning landscapes and diverse habitats of the Peak District National Park.

Conservation is a global priority so some students have ventured overseas to conduct their investigations. Groups taking our Tropical Conservation Biology module have, for instance, explored the primary rainforest, mangrove communities and seashore wildlife of Singapore.

Placement opportunities

To enhance your employability, the MSc includes an optional training-based placement. You’ll work with a host organisation such as a local authority, environmental consultancy, zoo or educational institution to experience ‘real world’ scenarios.

The focus of your placement will be on linking theory with practical investigations and problem-solving. You could find yourself exploring issues such as biodiversity, conservation, flood defence, or environmental contamination and remediation.

Our experienced teaching team

You’ll be taught by a highly qualified team who are supportive, friendly and approachable – keen to pass their knowledge on to you. They include active international researchers whose work has heralded important new approaches to conservation biology and environmental management.

They publish influential papers, speak at global conferences, serve on the editorial boards of scientific journals and are in demand as media commentators. In just one example, our Programme Leader Prof. Karim Vahed gave a Key-note lecture at the first European Conference on the Conservation of Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) and has featured on TV programmes such as the BBC documentary Spider House

Zoom-in of the earths biocrust in Australia

How an army of microbes protects the earth

Dr David Elliott is investigating how a tiny army of microbes, moss and lichen do the job of plants in places in the world where plants cannot survive.

Read moreRead more

Our Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

We have an Environmental Sustainability Research Centre which confronts the issues resulting from climate change, amongst other areas.

In a new venture, our Nature Connectedness Research Group, a multidisciplinary team working with Natural England and national conservation groups, helps to foster enthusiasm for the environment, promote wellbeing and encourage conservation action. A highlight of its work so far was the Nature Connections Festival, described by BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham as “a brilliant, imaginative, innovative and intelligent project”.

an iceberg

Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC)

Specialising in securing clean environments, nature recovery, and resilience to natural hazards, we work collaboratively to safeguard our planet for future generations.

Learn more about our research Learn more about our research

A vibrant scientific community

We pride ourselves on a learning community which sparks curiosity and nurtures active minds. You’re encouraged to pursue your own specialist interests and, as part of the MSc, you’ll undertake a major independent project to produce a piece of original research which contributes to the world of conservation.

The University hosts an exciting range of special events and talks by leading scientists which will give you insights into latest research and developments within conservation. Subjects have covered everything from the threats facing our bumblebee populations to the evolutionary origins of the dodo. We also have wide-ranging academic collaborations with national and international partners which could open doors for you.

What you will study

This course is made up of three stages: Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, and MSc. Some modules are available in a distance learning format - if you study through distance learning, you will have access to the course notes and assignment details online.

You’ll study modules such as:

  • Conservation Biology in Principle and Practice - You’ll look at the current state of the biosphere and the reasons why conservation biology is needed. You’ll study the wide range of problems that conservation biology needs to address from a theoretical perspective and contrast this with the realities of conservation biology in practice
  • Ecological Surveying - You’ll explore different approaches to surveys for ecology and conservation, including Phase 1 habitat survey, GPS surveying, GIS mapping, and the analysis and classification of freshwater and terrestrial habitats. You will also look at sampling methods and census techniques for a range of freshwater and terrestrial plant and animal groups
  • Identification for Conservation Biology - In this module, you will examine the importance of individual species identification to conservation biology. You’ll consider the relative importance of different species to the conservation of ecosystems, exploring concepts including keystone species, indicator species and flagship species
  • Analytical Methods for Ecologists - During this module, you’ll become confident and proficient at applying basic univariate statistical analyses and basic multivariate visualisation and analysis methods. Towards the end of the module, you’ll learn about more sophisticated univariate analysis techniques to cope with more complex data structures. The module will also introduce you to the widely used analysis software ‘R’

You’ll also choose two modules from the following:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Environmental Policy and Law
  • Environmental Pollution Management Strategies
  • Habitat Management
  • Tropical Conservation Biology

Optional module:

  • Practical Training-Based Placement Module - This placement module is an opportunity for you to work with a host organisation, experience real world scenarios, and gain experience towards future employment. The module provides links between theory and problem-solving through practical applications. This will be achieved through investigation of current aspects of the environmental sector in a range of areas such as biodiversity, conservation, flood defence, and environmental contamination and remediation
  • Independent Scholarly Activity in Biosciences - In this triple module, you will plan, conduct, and present a piece of original research on a topic of your choice within the area of Conservation Biology. This is a major part of this course and can be designed to suit your individual interests. You will have the flexibility to research into a topic of your choice, so you can tailor it to meet your career aspirations. Previous students have researched areas such as ecological tipping-points of woodland butterflies, the effect of the diversity of hedgerow plants on insect diversity, the effects of urbanisation on bat ecology, and impacts of human habitation on lion distribution in Kenya.

Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.

Side-on black and white portrait of a young student looking to the sky for inspiration with bokeh lights

Postgraduate Live Online Events

While we’re not able to welcome you in person to our campuses at the moment, we’re not going to let that stop us showing you all the great things about studying at Derby.

We’re currently planning our autumn Open Events to bring you the best possible online and on-campus experience.

Book your Live Online EventBook your Live Online Event

How you will learn

You’ll be taught through lectures, guest lectures, workshops, practical sessions in the field and laboratory, and tutorials. There is also the opportunity to go on site visits.

The majority of modules are assessed by coursework rather than by exams. A wide range of assessment methods are used, from oral presentations and poster displays, to scientific and professional reports.


During this course you'll have the opportunity to go on fieldtrips, allowing you to gain first-hand practical experience and learn new skills, such as site surveying and species identification.

Work placements

Our course also gives you the opportunity to apply the theory you learn to a working environment. If you take the optional module 'Practical Training Based Placement Module, you will have the opportunity to complete work placements. Examples of organisations you might work with include: local authorities, industry, businesses, HE institutions, zoos, or environmental/ecological consultants.

Learn from an expert teaching team

Special interests include:

Who will teach you

Karim Vahed observing a scaly cricket on a stone he's holding

Professor Karim Vahed
Programme leader

Karim is a Professor of Entomology and a Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences.

View full staff profileView full staff profile

Entry requirements

You will need an undergraduate degree (lower second or above) or equivalent in a relevant subject.

International students should have the above or an international equivalent. If English is not your first language, you will need to hold IELTS 6.0 or above.

Fees and funding

2020/21 Fees (August 2020 - July 2021)


£875 per 20 credits*

£875 per 20 credits*


£14,700 for the full programme


*Note – at postgraduate level, you’ll need to gain the following number of credits in total to obtain the awards below.

Postgraduate Certificate60 Credits
Postgraduate Diploma120 Credits
MA or MSc180 Credits

This means you will gain 180 credits in total to complete the full MA or MSc. If you are studying part time you will normally complete your studies over two or three years, depending on the course structure.

Please note that all fees may be subject to annual increase.

Additional costs and optional extras

Students chatting to each other

International student scholarship

We're offering a £2,000 scholarship for all eligible international students studying a full-time postgraduate taught programme (PGT). Terms and conditions apply.

Find out if you're eligible for an international scholarship Find out if you're eligible for an international scholarship

How to apply


Our MSc equips you with a wide range of skills and knowledge in both biological conservation and environmental management. It could pave the way for rewarding roles in habitat management or environmental consultancy, with conservation agencies or with local or national government.

There are also opportunities to move into industry in roles which bridge environmental management with broader conservation issues – so you could pursue a career in areas such as waste management, energy efficiency or recycling.

This programme is an ideal stepping stone to an academic research career too. You could undertake a PhD to advance knowledge in this critically important field.  

Contact us

If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.

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Additional information about your studies

Download programme specification

Teaching hours

Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.

Additional costs and optional extras

We’re committed to providing you with an outstanding learning experience. Our expert teaching, excellent facilities and great employability prepare you for your future career. As part of our commitment to you we aim to keep any additional study costs to a minimum. However, there are occasions where students may incur some additional costs.

The information below is correct for entry in the academic year September 2020 - August 2021 only. Entry for future academic years may be subject to change.

Included in your fees

Mandatory costs not included in your fees

Optional costs not included in your fees

Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.

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