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Course content

This programme is unique in Europe and beyond. It embraces a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to understanding the roles of humans and their connection to marine ecosystems for survival and prosperity.

This MSc approaches marine systems as an integrated socio-ecological system through focusing on three spheres of marine systems:

  • Marine natural systems – exploring diverse scales and functions of key marine biomes, habitats and species, spanning islands, coasts, estuaries, continental shelves, polar seas and global oceans.
  • Marine policy systems – examining different approaches to marine spatial planning and governance of marine ecosystems and services, through formal policies, laws and informal customs and practices.
  • Marine built systems – exploring ‘blue growth’ opportunities e.g. the ingenuity and impact of human built environments in marine settings, from reshaping coastlines for cities, travel and trade, to the urbanisation of ocean environments through innovations in energy infrastructure.

Applicants who applied after 12 December 2016 receiving an offer of admission, either unconditional or conditional, may be required to pay a tuition fee deposit. Please see the fees and costs section for more information.

Programme structure

This programme involves two semesters of classes followed by an individual research project. The curriculum consists of compulsory and optional taught courses followed by a period of individual dissertation project work. There will also be local and international field trips.

Compulsory courses typically include:

  • Marine Systems and Policies
  • Marine Infrastructure and Environmental Change
  • Marine Field Methods in Research and Practice
  • Research Project in Marine Systems and Policies
  • Dissertation

Option courses:

Through consultation with your Programme Director you will choose three option courses from areas such as:

Policy/society:

  • International Law of the Sea
  • International Law of the Marine Environment
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability
  • Foundations in Ecological Economics
  • Applications in Ecological Economics
  • Global Environmental Politics
  • Energy Policy and Politics
  • Energy and Society

Environment:

  • Ecosystem Dynamics and Functions
  • Ecosystem Values and Management
  • Water Resource Management
  • Values and the Environment

Analytical:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Principles of GIS
  • Fundamentals for Remote Sensing

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

Field trips

Our field trips provide site-based learning of both natural and social science practices, a key dynamic of this MSc. The core field trip has historically taken place in tropical locations such as Jamaica and the Maldives.

Career opportunities

This MSc provides a foundation for work up to international level, for government bodies, think-tanks, consulting firms and NGOs where an integrated understanding of marine ecosystems, policies and practice is required.


Visit the Marine Systems & Policies - MSc page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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