Postgraduate study

Marine Systems and Policies MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Marine Systems and Policies

Rapid climate change and the global expansion of human activities threaten the world’s oceans. The QS World University Rankings 2019 placed the University 18th in the world, and our unique Marine Systems & Policies programme stands out from others. Our core courses and skills development opportunities truly embrace integrated approaches to understanding the science, policies and practice of achieving sustainable ocean development.

For 2019/20, the programme has been re-designed to ensure students are equipped with a fully interdisciplinary understanding and the skills needed to develop science, policy and in-practice solutions to the challenge of changing oceans.

The programme breadth spans three spheres of marine systems:

  • Marine ecosystems – exploring marine ecosystems, their socioeconomic importance, and their conservation across marine biomes, habitats and species, spanning islands, coasts, estuaries, continental shelves, polar seas and the deep and High Seas;

  • Marine policy – examining different systems of ocean governance from codes of conduct to legally binding regional to international policies, marine planning, area-based management tools, to customs and traditional knowledge;

  • Marine built systems – exploring how the ‘blue economy’ including resource exploitation and infrastructure development affect marine species and ecosystems, and the practical management frameworks that aim for sustainable ocean development including marine spatial planning.

This programme involves two semesters of taught courses, a field trip and dissertation research project with room for optional courses for a more bespoke experience.

Core Courses

Marine Systems and Policies; Corals in a Changing Ocean; Marine Infrastructure and Environmental Change; Marine Field Methods in Research and Practice; Research Project in Marine Systems and Policies.

Example Optional Courses

In consultation with the Programme and Deputy Director, you can choose from a range of optional courses including: International Law of the Sea; International Law of the Marine Environment; Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability; Ecology of Ecosystem Services; Ecosystem Values; Analysing the Environment; Environmental Valuation; Foundations in Ecological Economics; Applications in Ecological Economics; Water Resource Management; Principles of Geographic Information Science; Principles and Practice of Remote Sensing.

Dissertation Research Project

Students will undertake a research project on a topic of his or her choice to fulfill degree requirements. Students have the flexibility to choose a research topic from marine science, practice or policy, and there will be several opportunities to meet with potential local and international hosts and agencies to exchange ideas and receive project supervision.

Examples of past MSc projects include:

  • Spatio-temporal Distribution of Blue Sharks (Prionace glauca) in the North Atlantic Ocean: an Analysis of Population Structure, Habitat Preference and Fishing Pressure Vulnerability
  • Community-based management of the Artisanal Octopus Fishery in Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique
  • Pile Driving Noise during Wind Farm Construction: Comparative Analysis of Noise Mitigation Technologies and Alternative Piling Techniques and Their Applicability in Deep Offshore Developments in Scotland
  • An Analysis of the Complexities faced by Small Island Marine States (SIMS) in Adapting to Climate Change-Induced Sea Level Rise
  • Marine Tourism in the Sea of the Hebrides: Regulation in a Mobile Species Marine Protected Area

Field Trip

An international field trip to a tropical marine system is part of this programme’s Marine Field Methods in Research and Practice compulsory course. The field trip will take place in early January 2019. The trip has previously been to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and we anticipate this to remain the same for 2019/20.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScMarine Systems and Policies1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScMarine Systems and Policies2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2019/20

This MSc provides a strong foundation for work within international agencies, academic research, marine sectors of government bodies, industry, marine focused think-tanks, and NGOs. These employers tell us they seek candidates with an integrated understanding of marine ecosystems, marine planning, regional to international policies, and real-world practice. Our students have gone on to get jobs with UNEP-WCMC, WWF, IUCN and Pew, with many others now studying for their PhDs.

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 natural sciences or social sciences, but with clear evidence of experience and interest in marine topics.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: 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

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fee deposit

If you receive an offer of admission, either unconditional or conditional, you will be asked to pay a tuition fee deposit of £1,500 to secure your place on the programme.

Any applicants who are required to pay will receive an offer with full details. (If there is no information on your offer about the deposit then you are not required to pay.)

  • If you receive an offer before 1 March, you must pay your deposit by 31 March.
  • If you receive an offer between 1 March and 30 June, you must pay your deposit within 28 days.
  • If you receive an offer on or after 1 July, you must pay your deposit within 14 days.

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScMarine Systems and Policies1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScMarine Systems and Policies2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre Scholarships

The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) are offering two fully funded scholarships for the 2019-2020 academic session. The successful recipients must undertake their dissertation project with one of the SAIC’s consortium partners and meet the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) residence eligibility criteria as a Scottish/EU student. Application deadline: 17 July 2019.

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Programme Administrator, Kathryn Will
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 2624
  • Contact:
  • Programme Director, Dr. Lea-Anne Henry
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 5425
  • Contact:
  • 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 one reference with your application.

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

Further information

  • Programme Administrator, Kathryn Will
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 2624
  • Contact:
  • Programme Director, Dr. Lea-Anne Henry
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 5425
  • Contact:
  • School of GeoSciences
  • Grant Institute
  • James Hutton Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE