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The factors affecting the wider environment are constantly increasing and range from agriculture and forestry to recreation, urban development and population growth. These in turn have knock-on effects such as climate change, water and food shortages, habitat and species loss and the impact of non-native species.

One of the areas where these factors come together is in the field of countryside management where the public use of the countryside interacts with professional land managers and can result in conflict.

In the context of this programme and the degree programme from which it has developed the term countryside management encompasses a broad range of topics and land uses ranging from conservation management to rural land use planning and interpretation to land use history.

Students are expected to have a broad knowledge of how the countryside that we see around us has developed in a historical context and how this relates to factors such as climate, ecology and soils. This in turn helps to determine current land use practice whether it be for agriculture or forestry, conservation management or recreation.

Inevitably these land uses are interlinked in complex ways and the countryside manager is expected to be able to identify the potential conflicts and to arrive at appropriate management options.

Of course there is rarely a simple answer in such situations and the resulting decisions have to be based on an understanding of the competing claims and an awareness of how to work with individuals, interest groups and communities to ensure that stakeholders' views have been taken into account.

Course Content

There are eight taught modules providing for the development of a range of technical, practical and professional skills. Residential study weekends are also used as a vital tool in delivering some of the practical aspects of the course.
In the modules an element of student choice is often built in through the use of essay and other course work topics that cover areas of potential interest. The modules will be of value individually to those in employment who are looking for Continuing Professional Development.

Taught modules are:

Planning and the Legal Framework

This module will provide a background to the legislation and policy framework within which the countryside is managed. This will include planning, biodiversity and landscape and will focus on the role of EIA and SEA. The planning system is prone to conflicts between interest groups and students will look at case studies that highlight some of the main issues that arise.

Habitat and Species Management

Habitats and species have been the subject of management for centuries but only comparatively recently has there been a focus on their management for conservation reasons. In practice species management relies on appropriate habitat management although there are times when more specific prescriptions are appropriate. This module will look at management through a number of case studies which will be examined in detail. The case studies will include both desk studies and field visits and students will be encouraged to research appropriate examples in their own areas.

Visitor Management

Visitor management is a crucial part of countryside management and should be integrated into area and site management plans. An understanding of visitor management and the opportunities for education, interpretation and marketing, is a requirement for senior countryside managers. Students will look at the full range of visitor management issues from visitor profiles and motivations to site design and the impacts on wildlife and the wider environment.

Species Identification and Familiarity

The ability to accurately identify a range of species is crucial to aid in species conservation and to properly evaluate an area for its biodiversity. Central to species identification is the use of field keys and identification guides. This course will be based around a week long, intensive series of practical and laboratory based sessions to provide participants with the necessary skills to implement habitat and species survey techniques. Training in computer recording packages will also be provided to ensure best practice in species recording is maintained

Project Management for Countryside Professionals

Countryside Managers need to be able to effectively manage their own as well as the work of others. The skills of project planning/reporting/acquisition of funding and the proper upkeep of work related files and paperwork is fundamental to effective management. A strong component of this module will also involve the development of team management skills as well as health and safety awareness.

Integrated Planning Management

Multifunctional land use is a well recognised term. It is part of the planning system at differing scales and with multi-partnership and stakeholder involvement. The module will define both the industry organisations commonly involved in multifunctional land use planning and the other likely stakeholders. The land use changes proposed will take account of the historical and cultural aspects of the landscape.

Integrated planning management is undertaken at different scales ranging from individual project management plans and environmental statements to strategic planning at regional, national or European level. The module will look at how the production of these plans and strategies might be expected to integrate with other planning policy and legislation. Integrated management systems are collective.

Methods and Delivery

This course is studied part time through on-line distance learning. This allows those in continuing employment or with family commitments to participate. With the exception of several weekend schools and a short study tour, the learning is carried out in the student's home or work place.

The PgDip is a high level learning course taught at university post-graduate level. Students are required to complete all taught modules detailed above. Typically a student will study 4 modules per year and complete the PgDip in two years. This would normally take an average of 12 to 15 hours study time a week.

The study weekends and short study tour are an integral part of teaching delivery and students are strongly recommended to attend these if they are to succeed in this course.

Visit the Countryside Management MSc page on the SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College website for more details!





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