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    School of GeoSciences Logo
  • Study Type

    Full time & Part time available

  • Subject Areas

    Environmental Sciences


  • Start Date


  • Course Duration

    1 year full-time or 2-3 years part-time

  • Course Type


  • Course Fees

    Tuition fees vary between degree programmes. Find the specific fees for your chosen programme on our website.

  • Last Updated

    04 October 2019

Programme description

Rapid climate change and the global expansion of human activities threaten the world’s oceans. How do we realistically balance the demand for development with the need to protect the environment?

The MSc in Marine Systems and Policies is unique from other marine programmes. It enables you to truly embrace the integrated approach needed to tackle the complex issues facing our oceans.

You can explore diverse marine ecosystems, understand the tensions between conservation and marine development, and examine the policies in place to protect our coastlines and global ocean.

The programme approaches these challenges through three intrinsically linked areas:


Explore 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.


Examine the built systems of a ‘blue economy’ such as resource exploitation and infrastructure and how they affect marine species and ecosystems. You’ll learn to develop robust practical management frameworks that aim for sustainable ocean development such as marine spatial planning, and environmental impact assessment.


Investigate different systems of ocean policies and governance, from voluntary codes of conduct to legally binding regional and international policies. You’ll also review marine planning, area-based management tools, as well as the impact of local customs and traditional knowledge.

  • This innovative programme is taught by world-leading experts in key fields of marine science and policy. It also has excellent relationships with a variety of organisations from local communities through to government, industry and academia. This network ensures that you not only have access to employers and decision makers who may be able to provide employment opportunities or research projects, but also help you gain valuable real-world experience and effect real change.

Programme structure

This MSc programme is comprised of:

  • 4 Compulsory courses
  • 2 Option courses
  • Field trip
  • Dissertation

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

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking. Courses can be delivered through a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, practicals, laboratory work, short field trips and longer field courses.

Part-time study

As we are committed to helping people into education whilst continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.

Work placements/internships

You can choose to undertake a research project as an intern for more work-based experiences, and these opportunities are advertised in November each year.

These include working with governments, advisors and NGOs and are great ways to network with industry and decision-makers for future employment.

For even more work-based experience, there are two scholarships covering full tuition fees available for Scottish or EU students to conduct a research project dissertation with the aquaculture industry, and topics can range from animal welfare, to disease and pollution control, to environmental monitoring and regulation.

Please review the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) funding details on our School of GeoSciences Scholarships page.

Career opportunities

Employers tell us that they seek candidates with real-world skills and an integrated understanding of marine ecosystems, development and planning as well as regional and international policies.

Our unique MSc programme provides you with this foundation so that you can work in a wide range of settings from grassroots community groups to universities and governments.

You can also seek a career within marine industry, NGOs, and international agencies.

Examples of the organisations our graduates have gained employment include the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Coral Cray Conservation Philippines, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps USA, Royal Society for the Protection of Nature Scotland, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Pew Foundation.

Field trips

Field trips are an excellent way in which to explore the factors and forces that shape our world and enable you to put valuable skills into practice.

During your field course, you will have a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the intersection of environment, development and social issues within a tropical marine setting.

Here, you will explore the many challenges of a small island that face a range of issues including climate change and are trying to balance both conservation and sustainable development goals.

Our field course takes place in distant locations in a tropical setting. It enables you to meet with a range of people from government, development agencies, NGOs, grassroots organisations, research institutions and local communities who will introduce you to a variety of projects and practices.

For example, on a prior trip to the Maldives, students undertook biological surveying and designed experiments to understand the key stressors on the reef. They were also introduced to the various economic, social and cultural dynamics of the islands.

Throughout the programme, you will also benefit from local field trips in Scotland to experience a variety of marine settings. For example, we visit the Berwickshire Marine Reserve about an hour east of Edinburgh, which is an excellent example of a locally managed marine area voluntarily set up by local communities, and is where students can undertake research projects at the new St. Abbs Marine Laboratory.

  • We are pleased to advise that we do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips. Travel and accommodation costs are covered by your programme. Students will be expected to provide their own snorkel and dive gear.
  • Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons. In any given academic year, the main destination of the field course will be announced as soon as possible.

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





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