Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Palaeontology and Geobiology MScR

Awards: MScR

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Palaeontology and Geobiology

We are one of the leading centres of palaeontology and geobiology research in the UK and globally.

Our MScR degree is the only such programme in palaeontology and geobiology in the UK.

Why Edinburgh

Edinburgh has an excellent public and academic presence in Palaeobiology and Geobiology.

The programme leaders Steve Brusatte and Rachel Wood are leading researchers in the field whose research focuses on key questions like the:

  • origin of major groups of animals
  • interaction between evolution and environmental change
  • genealogical relationships of living and extinct species
  • influence of mass extinctions on the history of life.

Along with being regularly published in leading journals, their work has been extensively profiled by the popular press, and they are keen science writers and communicators.

In addition, we can offer you a critical mass of staff in palaeobiology, geochemistry, geobiology and astrobiology to support your pursuit of this degree.

Our research staff have published work in high impact international journals such as Nature, Science and PNAS.


You will benefit from our strong collaborations with the National Museum of Scotland, our country’s leading natural history and cultural museum, with world renowned collections of fossils.

We are co-founders of the PalAlba Group, a consortium of scientists, conservation specialists and collectors working together to recover, record and research vertebrate fossils from Scotland.

We also work closely with geologists, biologists, astrobiologists, chemists, physicists, engineers and other scientists at the University of Edinburgh, who will be available to co-supervise your MScR research projects.

Field work

Our School of GeoSciences conducts fieldwork across the globe, from searching for fossils of dinosaurs in Romania and primitive mammals in the western United States, to studying how environmental changes helped usher in the rise of animals in Namibia, China and Russia.

We also have active field programs in Scotland. You might have the opportunity to join a team in hands-on fieldwork on the Isle of Skye, one of the best places in the world to find fossils from the mysterious middle part of the Jurassic Period, including some of the first colossal long-necked dinosaurs and primitive flesh-eating tyrannosaurs, or other Scottish fossil sites.

You will also be able to take part in annual trips to world-renowned fossil sites around Edinburgh, where the sciences of geology and palaeontology were forged in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many of the best MScR projects have a field component, and you will be encouraged to make fieldwork a part of your dissertation topic.


Our staff are world leaders in communicating science to the general public. They have written numerous books - ranging from children’s books to adult popular science tomes to textbooks - and appear regularly on television and radio.

Their work is profiled often by the popular press, so keep your ears tuned when the radio is on, and your eyes peeled when reading the newspaper or science blogs, because you will probably hear about our work.

A major highlight of this degree is that it combines research with scientific outreach.

You will gain skills in communicating your research through print, online and digital means, learning directly from scholars who are keen popularisers of science and well-known science writers.

Learn how to promote public awareness and understanding of key 21st century issues that relate to palaeontology and geobiology, such as extinctions, climate change and biodiversity.

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
MScRPalaeontology and Geobiology1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

You will work closely with one or more faculty members on an intensive Master’s level research project.

Typically the supervisor and research project are assigned before you are accepted onto the course, through one-on-one communication with a potential supervisor over email or phone.

Therefore, you need to make contact with your potential supervisor(s) before applying.

Training is particular to each research project, and is conducted both one-on-one with the supervisor(s) and in larger groups.

Methods training is therefore diverse and might involve understanding how to describe skeletal anatomy from CT scans, to employing geochemical methods using the School of GeoSciences unique instrumentation.

You will also receive a more general experience in field palaeontology and scientific communication.

The Masters students form a cohort, which is part of the larger Edinburgh palaeontology group of faculty, postdocs, and PhD students.

We take considerable pride that our group is diverse in terms of background, nationality, ethnicity and gender, and is typically social and collaborative.

There are a wide range of facilities available to University students. To undertake your individual research project, you will have access to world-class analytical facilities, including:

  • SEM
  • CT scanners and CT image processing software
  • Palaeontological conservation laboratory
  • Fossil preparation equipment
  • Bone histology and thin sectioning equipment
  • Electronmicroprobe
  • Diverse geochemical facilities

  • Learn more about our facilities

This programme will provide you with a strong background for independent research to PhD level or for an applied career in museums, libraries, management or the media.

On successful completion of the programme, you will know key concepts and methodological approaches concerning your chosen research topic.

You will gain experience in, and knowledge of:

  • key debates appropriate to your particular research interest
  • how theoretical concepts ‘translate’ into methodological and hypothesis-testing frameworks
  • research design principles and their practice
  • practical training in the use of specific theoretical, modelling, analytical and experimental methods.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject such as geology, biological sciences, environmental sciences, archaeology, anthropology, or a related discipline.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Additional programme costs

This programme has additional costs.

  • minimum £1000 per year (for full-time students)

Further research costs may be required, depending on your project requirements.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScRPalaeontology and Geobiology1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScRPalaeontology and Geobiology2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

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
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Grant Institute
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • West Mains Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3JW
Programme start date Application deadline
9 September 2024 25 August 2024

Due to high demand, we operate a number of selection deadlines for this programme. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024/25:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 15 January 2024 26 February 2024
2 13 May 2024 10 June 2024

Please contact if you have any questions.

You must submit two references with your application.

Please see our step-by-step guide to applying for a research degree in the School of GeoSciences. Applications that do not follow application guidelines will be placed on hold and eventually rejected as incomplete:

For programme application enquiries, please contact the Postgraduate Research Team on:

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

Further information

  • Grant Institute
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • West Mains Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3JW