Conservation and Rural Development - MSc

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Understand the issues we face when conserving the natural habitats and ecosystems upon which human communities depend on, and gain the practical and methodological tools you need to achieve success at the interface between conservation and rural development.


Study different natural and social science approaches to conservation through formal academic training and practical field conservation. Benefit from our links with The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), a leading research centre, that develops highly employable graduates within government, NGOs and the private sector.

Reasons to study Conservation and Rural Development at Kent

What you'll learn

You will gain an interdisciplinary perspective on conservation issues drawing on over 30 years of DICE expertise on what it takes for effective conservation where local communities also rely on natural resource use. You’ll have the chance to specialise in managing protected areas, ecotourism and rural development, population and evolutionary biology, and international wildlife trade.

About The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE)

Conservation programmes offered by the School of Anthropology and Conservation are delivered by members of DICE.

DICE is Britain’s leading research centre dedicated to conserving biodiversity and the ecological processes that support ecosystems and people. It pursues innovative and cutting-edge research to develop the knowledge that underpins conservation, and sets itself apart from more traditionally-minded academic institutions with its clear aims to:

  • Break down the barriers between the natural and social sciences in conservation
  • Conduct research that informs and improves policy and practice in all relevant sectors
  • Disseminate knowledge and provide expertise on conservation issues to stakeholders
  • Build capacity in the conservation sector through research-led teaching and training
  • Strive for sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation that benefits people

Our staff have outstanding international research profiles, yet integrate this with considerable on-the-ground experience working with conservation agencies around the world. This combination of expertise ensures that our programmes deliver the skills and knowledge that are essential components of conservation implementation.

Entry requirements

A first or second class honours degree in a relevant subject; a good honours degree in other subjects together with relevant practical experience.

In exceptional circumstances, DICE admits applicants without a first degree if their professional career and experience shows academic achievement of a high enough standard.

Please note that if you are interested in multiple pathways for this programme, you only need to apply to one. We offer flexibility in switching between pathways before and after starting the programme. Please contact if you are undecided and we will be happy to provide further guidance.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.


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Course structure

Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time

The MSc consists of six months of coursework and five months of research. The optional modules allow you the flexibility to devise a pathway that suits your specific interests, with an appropriate balance between natural and social sciences.


Please note that not all modules necessarily run every year. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.

Compulsory modules currently include

DICE1001 - Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Conservation (15 credits)

This module is designed to provide students from a diverse range of disciplinary backgrounds with a broad overview of different natural and social science approaches to conservation. It will introduce students to the fundamental concepts that underpin biodiversity management, as well as facilitating the development of professional skills that will enable them to work successfully with individuals/organisations operating across the environmental and conservation sectors. The focus will be on understanding how different disciplinary perspectives can contribute to problem-solving in practice.

Find out more about DICE1001

DICE8760 - Research Methods for Social Science (15 credits)

The module will begin with a broad overview of social science approaches to research, highlighting contrasts with standard natural science techniques and focusing on the qualitative-quantitative divide. Subsequent sessions will introduce individual methods such as qualitative interviewing, questionnaire surveys and focus groups. Sessions will also be devoted to processing and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. Towards the end of the module, we will examine the principles of integrated research design and mixed-methods approaches.

Find out more about DICE8760

DICE8800 - Conservation and Community Development (15 credits)

This module explores the relationship between conservation and community in the context of rural development. It considers the role conservation agendas play in the development of rural communities and how rural development processes might, in turn, underpin conservation goals.

Principal issues to be covered are as follows:

• The changing status and role of local communities conservation agendas

• The changing idea of 'development' and its implications for community-based conservation

• The linkages between conservation and ideas of poverty alleviation, rural livelihoods, and human wellbeing

• Integrating conservation and development goals into the management of protected areas.

The module places these concerns in a theoretical and applied context and draws examples from a range of geographical and cultural contexts.

Find out more about DICE8800

DICE8840 - Research Skills for Natural Sciences (15 credits)

The curriculum will review the approaches used by natural scientists in the design and analysis of research projects. The principles of experimental design and how these can be applied to field projects will be explained, together with the nature of both quantitative and qualitative data. An introduction to sampling strategies and the role of probability in inferential statistics will lead into the role of descriptive statistics and measures of variability in data exploration. This will be complemented by consideration of the application of both parametric and nonparametric statistics in data analysis (i.e. t-tests, ANOVA, regression, correlation and their nonparametric equivalents), coupled with training in the use of a statistical package to carry out such analyses. Finally, the rules underlying the appropriate presentation of statistical data in research reports will be discussed.

Find out more about DICE8840

DICE9930 - Research Project Skills (4 credits)

To provide students with an understanding of academic research and an ability to identify and utilise appropriate strategies and techniques for the purpose of individual investigation, research and practice within a subject specific area of their course route. This module will prepare students to undertake the dissertation module in Stage 2 of their course.

Find out more about DICE9930

Optional modules may include

DICE8360 - Integrated Species Conservation and Management (15 credits)

Tackling conservation problems at the species level of organisation is both attractive and popular. In order to achieve this, it is important to understand how 'species' are defined and how they have evolved and gone extinct over evolutionary time scales. Certain species may be used to provide political or financial leverage in conservation programmes, while others may play fundamental roles in ecological systems – students will evaluate the different criteria used to assign species into these categories. This will lead into an appraisal of the role of conservation genetics in conservation planning, and how genetic and population parameters can be used to build predictive models of extinction risk. Islands provide special challenges for practitioners of species conservation – these will be discussed and illustrated with the aid of case studies. Assigning priorities in species conservation is essential to the planning process when resources are in short supply, and various quantitative and qualitative methods of achieving this will be presented, including the IUCN Red List system. The role of organisations such as NGOs and zoos will be discussed and evaluated, and current protocols for captive breeding, health monitoring, translocation and reintroduction presented. The module will draw together the various approaches to species conservation by appraising the structure, function and implementation of species recovery programmes.

Please note that this module includes a residential field-trip (subject to availability).

Find out more about DICE8360

DICE8410 - Managing Protected Areas (15 credits)

Protected areas are a mainstay of global conservation policy, with more than 17% of the terrestrial realm and 8% of the marine realm under some type of protection. In this module students will be introduced to the key concepts needed to understand protected area management and policy at the national and international level. The following indicative topics will form the basis of lectures, seminars and field trip around which the module will be taught: the history of protected areas and relevant international policies and commitments; current definitions of protected area based on management categories and governance types; management planning and measuring protected area management effectiveness; economic issues relating to protected areas; designing protected area networks to form representative ecological networks.

Find out more about DICE8410

DICE8710 - International Wildlife Trade - Achieving Sustainability (15 credits)

Wildlife trade and use contributes on the one hand to peoples' livelihoods but on the other may threaten species. Management of such trade relies on a number of multilateral agreements including CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Such management requires an appropriate policy, legislative, management and scientific framework for its successful implementation at national and international levels. Details of each these aspects will be examined and students will have the opportunity to examine a number of multilateral organisations as well as legal aspects of eco-labelling and Intellectual property rights. This module will guide students through the steps of implementing a legal framework, from the adoption of national wildlife trade policies, prioritization of species for management intervention, making sustainability findings and providing incentives for conservation through to the multilateral governance structures. The module will be delivered through combined methods, of lecture, discussion, and practical exercises which will contribute to achievement of the module specific learning outcomes as well as developing key skills.

Find out more about DICE8710

DICE8770 - Population and Evolutionary Biology (15 credits)

This module provides an introduction to evolutionary and population biology, starting with the main evolutionary processes that influence populations and how they evolve, and leading into the established theory that underpins population biology. Associated topics also covered will include evolutionary phylogenetics, population assessment and meta-population dynamics. Population genetic mechanisms are also considered, such as natural selection, genetic drift and inbreeding, and how they interact to influence populations of threatened species, together with an understanding of molecular genetic techniques and how to interpret genetic data.

Find out more about DICE8770

DICE8850 - Ecotourism and Rural Development Field Course (15 credits)

The module will is based on a 5 day field trip and is designed to complement other modules by offering the students an opportunity to learn first-hand from local businesses and government agencies about practical aspects of rural development and biodiversity conservation. Using questionnaires and structured interviews the students will work in teams and will equip students with the analytical skills and methodologies required to effectively manage conservation projects in a manner sympatheic to livelihoods and rural development objectives The module will include daily field trips to local sites to understand environmental impacts of visitors to natural areas and heritage sites and to discuss emerging business thinking regarding conservation and livelihoods, exploring relationships between different stakeholders from cultural, policy and socio-economic perspectives and gain practical insight into different management tools to resolve conflicts. The module will therefore provide practical learning to complement theoretical issues taught in other modules. Students will become familiar with practical tools for successful management of conservation embedded in local communities, and will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of conservation in a rural development context. The emphasis throughout will be on learning from the experience of people and organisations directly engaged in conservation and economic development.

Find out more about DICE8850

DICE8880 - Economics of Biodiversity Conservation (15 credits)

Effective biodiversity conservation relies on a critical understanding of the linkages between the social, economic and ecological systems. In this module you will be introduced to key economic theories and concepts and how they relate to environmental and conservation issues. Using problem-based learning approach, we will explore the economic causes of conservation conflicts and biodiversity loss, and apply a whole systems approach to identify possible solutions. The design of this module along the principles of problem-based active learning means that a high level of student preparation and engagement is expected throughout the course. This module does not require previous training in economics.

Find out more about DICE8880

DICE8890 - Leadership Skills for Conservation Managers (15 credits)

The success of conservation projects at the species or ecosystem level is determined by the ability of those in charge to manage the teams and the individuals involved in delivering outputs. The failure of conservation projects worldwide to deliver pre-determined successes is in part due to the absence of sufficient people with these skill sets. We need to match the desire for scientific understanding about biodiversity with an appreciation of the social skills required to manage and lead conservation programmes if we are to make more efficient and effective use of the limited resources at our disposal. In this module students will begin by reflecting on the qualities required within a leader and how a leader's management style can impact on others within an organisation. Students will consider the extent to which we can apply management theory to the practice of endangered species and habitat recovery and the people involved in making it happen. They will go on to consider different approaches to managing conflict within teams and balancing organisational and individual expectations and motivations. By drawing on examples from both the business world and conservation community students will consider different models for developing and managing teams and consider how to optimise performance within an organisation.

Find out more about DICE8890

Compulsory modules currently include

DICE9980 - Dissertation - Conservation (60 credits)

The dissertation project represents a piece of independent research carried out by the student which is written up as in two reports: a review of relevant literature and a research paper. Before undertaking the research, students are trained in research design and planning, statistical analysis and writing skills. A project supervisor is allocated to each student and students are expected to produce a research plan and budget for their proposed programme of research in conjunction with the supervisor. The programme of research may consist of a literature review, analysis of existing data sets, analysis of newly-collected field or laboratory data, or a combination of these approaches. Students are provided with training in the writing-up of the dissertation which should be submitted in mid-September. The topic of the dissertation must be directly relevant to the programme of study.

Find out more about DICE9980


Teaching and assessment

Assessment is carried out primarily through coursework with written examinations for some modules. The research dissertation is written up in the format of a paper for publication.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • produce postgraduates equipped to play leading roles in the field of international conservation and biodiversity management
  • develop new areas of teaching in response to the advance of scholarship and practice
  • provide you with opportunities to gain a interdisciplinary perspective on conservation issues through collaborative exchange between DICE and the wider University
  • develop your competence in applying theoretical and methodological skills to the implementation of conservation practice and biodiversity management
  • develop your critical and analytical powers in relation to policy formulation and data analysis and interpretation
  • provide you with the skills to adapt and respond positively to change
  • develop critical, analytical problem-based learning skills and the transferable skills necessary for professional development
  • enhance the development of your interpersonal skills
  • assist you to develop the skills required for both autonomous practice and team-working.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • fundamental ecological concepts and how they apply to conservation biology and biodiversity management
  • conservation at the species, population, community and ecosystem levels
  • fundamental social science perspectives on conservation, and the principles of interdisciplinarity
  • principles and significance of resource economics
  • biodiversity law, policy and legislative frameworks
  • principles and practice involved with sustainable resource use
  • principles and practice involved with managing protected areas for conservation
  • principles of conservation research design, implementation and analysis, including problem-led interdisciplinary approaches
  • principles and practice in conservation, business and rural development.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the ability to marshal ideas and examples into well-organised written and oral presentations
  • critical analysis of case studies
  • reflective evaluation of theoretical and methodological frameworks
  • design, implementation, analysis and write-up of a substantial research project (your Master’s dissertation)
  • linking theory to practice in conservation science and social science.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • field biology skills
  • social science methodologies
  • experimental design and statistics
  • methodologies for analysing and appraising conservation case studies
  • population assessment and assessment of threat status
  • methodologies for estimating sustainable wildlife management
  • methodologies for protected areas management and planning.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • IT: Word, Excel, statistical and modelling programmes, email, bibliographic and web searches
  • presentation skills
  • writing reports and funding proposals
  • time management
  • using a library
  • working in groups
  • the skills to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
  • independent learning skills required for continuing professional development.


The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £14200
  • EU full-time £17300
  • International full-time £23100
  • Home part-time £7100
  • EU part-time £8650
  • International part-time £11550

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


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Independent rankings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 100% of our Geography and environmental studies research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Following the REF 2021, Geography and environmental studies at Kent was ranked 14th for research in the UK in the Times Higher Education.


Research areas

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in peer-reviewed journals, conference proceedings and books. Articles have recently been published in prestigious periodicals including: Nature; Science; Biological Conservation; Conservation BiologyConservation Letters; Journal of Applied Ecology; Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesEcological Economics and Human Ecology.

Worldwide research

Recent or current projects cover topics such as:

  • Ecology of flagship Amazonian species – red Uakari monkeys and giant river otters
  • Monitoring population trends in tigers and their prey in Kirinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra
  • Chameleon trade and conservation in Madagascar
  • Global biodiversity hotspots and extinction risk
  • Conservation genetics of the critically endangered Seychelles paradise flycatcher
  • Traditional knowledge, intellectual property rights and protected area management
  • Collaborative wildlife management and changing social contexts in Amazonian Peru
  • The economic value of mammals in Britain
  • Estimating extinction dates of plants, birds and mammals
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation at different scales across Europe
  • Mapping the Falklands: facilitating systematic conservation planning and implementation


The School has a very good record for postgraduate employment and academic continuation. DICE programmes combine academic theory with practical field experience to develop graduates who are highly employable within government, NGOs and the private sector.

Our alumni progress into a wide range of organisations across the world. Examples include: consultancy for a Darwin Initiative project in West Sumatra; Wildlife Management Officer in Kenya; Chief of the Biodiversity Unit – UN Environment Programme; Research and Analysis Programme Leader for TRAFFIC; Freshwater Programme Officer, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Head of the Ecosystem Assessment Programme, United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC); Community Based Natural Resource Manager, WWF; Managing Partner, Althelia Climate Fund; and Programme Officer, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School has a lively postgraduate community drawn together not only by shared resources such as postgraduate rooms, computer facilities (with a dedicated IT officer) and laboratories, but also by student-led events, societies, staff/postgraduate seminars, weekly research student seminars and a number of special lectures.

The School houses well-equipped research laboratories for genetics, ecology, visual anthropology, virtual paleoanthropology, Animal Postcranial Evolution, biological anthropology, anthropological computing, botany, osteology and ethnobiology. In addition to various long-term study sites around the world we maintain an ecology field trials area and a field laboratory on the University campus.

The DICE postgraduate student body is global. Since 1991, there have been over 500 taught MSc graduates from 75 countries, most of whom now have successful full-time conservation careers. The PhD research degree programme has produced over 90 graduates from 27 different countries. Several graduates have gone on to win prestigious international prizes for their outstanding conservation achievements.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.

Apply now

Learn more about the application process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

You will be able to choose your preferred year of entry once you have started your application. You can also save and return to your application at any time.

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