UCL Graduate degrees


Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration MSc

Environmental issues such as pollution, habitat degradation, invasive species and climate change threaten the quality and sustainability of our aquatic resources. Responding to these threats, the Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration MSc equips students with an interdisciplinary scientific and applied understanding of the current aquatic conservation and restoration scene spanning ponds, lakes, rivers, estuaries and shallow seas.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2021

Modes and duration

Full time: 1 year
Part time: 2 years

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 9 November 2020
Close: 31 May 2021
Applications may close earlier if all places on the programme are filled.

Tuition fees (2021/22)

£14,300 (FT)
£7,150 (PT)
£28,500 (FT)
£14,250 (PT)

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Optional qualifications: This degree is also available as a PG Diploma and a PG Certificate with fees set accordingly.
Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applicants with relevant professional experience in aquatic science or environmental management will also be considered.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Good

Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.

Select your country:

About this degree

Students focus on integrated freshwater and coastal systems. Distinctive features include: integration of aquatic ecology with hydro-geomorphology, aquatic landscape ecology, public engagement, citizen science and science communication, analysis of sediment cores for environmental change reconstruction, design of aquatic monitoring programmes and modelling of aquatic system dynamics. Students come away with a sound and critical knowledge of current-day links between aquatic science, legislation and conservation.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of four core modules (60 credits), four optional modules (60 credits) and a research dissertation (60 credits).

A Postgraduate Diploma - four core modules and four optional modules all 15 credits (120 credits, full-time nine months, part-time two years) is offered.

A Postgraduate Certificate - four core modules only at 15 credits each (60 credits, full-time twelve weeks, part-time two years) is offered.

Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded a MSc in Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration. Upon successful completion of 120 credits, you will be awarded a PG Dip in Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration. Upon successful completion of 60 credits, you will be awarded a PG Cert in Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change.

Compulsory modules

  • Aquatic Systems: Structure and Functioning
  • Aquatic Monitoring
  • Environmental Data Acquisition and Analysis
  • Scientific Basis for Freshwater and Coastal Conservation

* modules running are dependent on staff sabbaticals

Optional modules

Students choose four of the following:

  • Coastal Geohazards
  • Environmental GIS
  • Surface Water Modelling
  • Politics of Climate Change
  • Wetlands
  • Lakes
  • Ocean Circulation and Climate Change
  • Aquatic Macrophytes
  • Biological Indicators of Environmental Change
  • Climate Proxies
  • Marine Conservation
  • Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing

* modules running are dependent on staff sabbaticals


All students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of 12,000 words. Dissertation placement positions are offered linked to external conservation bodies and research-orientated consultancies.


Planned field classes around the UK include week-long trips to the North Norfolk Coast, Scottish Highlands and Dorset. Other shorter field days also take place.

Coronavirus note: Due to COVID-19 updates, there may need to be changes to planned field trips for this programme. This will depend on travel restrictions, social distancing measures, and the availability of the relevant venues. Your department will keep you updated if any changes need to be made and on alternative options, as successfully used in 2020-2021.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical classes, laboratory sessions, case-studies, debates and residential field classes. Assessment is through coursework and the dissertation, which includes an oral presentation of the research proposal.

Additional costs

Optional module Aquatic Macrophytes (field class) - approximately £250

Dissertation poster - approximately £20

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.


For information on bursaries available, please visit www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/aquatic

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.


The MSc provides students with the science background and practical skills necessary for a career working in the aquatic conservation and environmental protection agencies, the water industry, environmental consultancies and organisations specialising in stakeholder working and citizen science. The MSc is also an ideal platform for further PhD study. 


We aim to expose students to a range of potential employers from the outset (including a substantial alumni base) and equip students with key transferable skills in project, survey and monitoring design, environmental governance and working with stakeholders, science report writing and communication, numerical analysis, catchment management, GIS and modelling approaches, conservation biology and the taxonomy of key species groups.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration MSc is run by UCL Geography, which enjoys an outstanding international reputation for its aquatic environmental research and teaching. The degree has a strong emphasis on the acquisition of key practical survey and taxonomic skills and in the development of expertise in study design, landscape-scale aquatic conservation and restoration planning, aquatic monitoring and modelling, stake-holder working and public engagement work. 

The programme is taught by world-leading researchers specialising in Recent Environmental Change & Biodiversity and Environmental Modelling and Observation and has specialist input from the Thames Estuary Partnership. The course also has a great network of past students who keep in touch with the current student cohort as part of external lectures, re-union and various course events. 

The MSc aims to bring students to the aquatic science cutting edge, while also passing on important practical conservation and restoration knowledge. External speakers from environmental organisations including the Environment Agency, the Rivers Trusts, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the UK Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and Natural England lecture on the programme and take part in fieldwork. By bringing together students (present and past), researchers and practitioners, a vibrant and informal academic environment is created encouraging mutual discovery, ongoing debate and much associated fun.

Department: Geography

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

This programme requires two references. Further information regarding references can be found in our How to apply section.

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at: ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught/application.

Who can apply?

The programme is particularly suitable for students with a first degree in environmental science, geography, oceanography, biology, chemistry or engineering who wish to develop the skills necessary for further research in the field, or for a career in environmental protection and aquatic conservation. Other backgrounds are considered, however, based on recent practical experience.

Application deadlines

All applicants
31 May 2021

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration
  • why you want to study Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to this programme
  • how your academic and/or professional background meets the demands of a challenging academic environment
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

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Page last modified on 28 August 2021