Postgraduate study

Ecosystem Services

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

Programme website: Ecosystem Services

Studying how ecosystems benefit humanity and how we use and manage them, this programme assesses the trade-offs involved in our use of the environment.

This is a rapidly developing area, involving both natural and social sciences, and an increasingly common approach to environmental policy-making and management in government agencies and businesses.

On this programme you will study the complex relationships between ecosystem functions and how humanity uses and values ecosystems.

An essential element of this masters programme is a field trip, which takes place in the spring, giving you insights into methods and approaches that will be useful for your dissertation work. The destination typically will be the Cairngorms National Park, in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

The programme has been designed with a focus on building up skills that are in particularly short supply in the environmental sector. The full-time programme is divided into two semesters of taught courses, followed by a field trip at Easter before the dissertation period over the summer. We are happy to accommodate different working patterns for part-time students, including a half day a week schedule for three-year part time study.

Compulsory courses typically will be:

  • Ecosystem Services 1: Ecosystem Dynamics and Functions
  • Ecosystem Services 2: Ecosystem Values and Management;
  • Analysing the Environment
  • Ecosystem Values and Management
  • Analysing the Environment Study Tour
  • Research Project in Ecosystem Services
  • Dissertation

Option courses:

In consultation with the Programme Director, you will choose from a range of option courses^. We particularly recommend:

  • Environmental Geochemistry
  • Foundations in Ecological Economics
  • Frameworks to Assess Food Security
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability
  • Integrated Resource Management
  • Principles of Environmental Sustainability
  • Principles of Geographical Information Science
  • Encountering Cities
  • Fundamentals for Remote Sensing
  • Soil Protection and Management
  • Values and the Environment
  • Marine Systems and Policies
  • Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection
  • Understanding Environment and Development
  • Climate Change and Corporate Strategy
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Forests and Environment
  • Hyperspectral Remote Sensing
  • Integrated Resource Planning
  • Introduction to Radar Remote Sensing
  • Land Use/Environmental Interactions
  • Participation in Policy and Planning
  • Political Ecology
  • Soil Science Concepts and Application
  • Sustainability of Food Production
  • Water Resource Management
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling
  • Energy & Society
  • Novel Strategies for Carbon Storage in Soil
  • Applications in Ecological Economics
  • Research Design

Courses are offered subject to timetabling and availability and are subject to change.

Field trip

A spring field trip will develop students’ research skills and practical experience of environmental policy.

UK research councils cite the skills gained on this MSc as those ‘most wanted’ in the environmental sector. As demand for sound evidence of ecosystem services increases, so does demand for graduates who can translate complex science into policy and business opportunities.

We have strong links with businesses and key industry players who want to make use of these skills. Committed to helping you meet prospective employers and network with those active in the field, we organise careers events, and encourage dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations.

Would you like to know what it’s really like to study at the School of GeoSciences?

Visit our student experience blog where you can find articles, advice, videos and ask current students your questions.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject in the natural sciences (such as botany, zoology, ecology, biodiversity, geology, biology, geography, environmental studies, hydrology, conservation) or the social sciences (such as anthropology, political science, economics, development, resource use) or in another relevant subject.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration
  • UKVI list of majority English speaking countries
  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than two and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Find out more about our language requirements:

For detailed information on fee status, policies and payment see:

Applicants receiving an offer of admission, either unconditional or conditional, will be asked to pay a tuition fee deposit of £1,500 to secure their place on the programme.

This has to be paid by 31 March for offers made by 1 March, within 28 days for offers made before 30th June and within 14 days for those offers made from 1st July onwards.

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Grant Institute
  • James Hutton Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit a reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Grant Institute
  • James Hutton Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE