Primate Conservation - September 2014

MSc/ PGDip/ PGCert

This course is run by the Department of Social Sciences

This award-winning programme combines the expertise of anthropologists and biologists to examine primate conservation biology in a broad context, with particular emphasis on the relationships between humans and wildlife in forest and woodland environments. It provides an international and multidisciplinary forum to help understand the issues and promote effective action.

Whether working in the lab, with local conservation groups (including zoos and NGOs), or in the field, you will find yourself in a collaborative and supportive environment, working with international scholars in primate conservation and gaining first-hand experience to enact positive change.

Why choose this course?

  • A pioneering programme providing scientific, professional training and accreditation to conservation scientists 
  • Awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2008
  • Opportunity to work alongside leading academics for example Professor Anna Nekaris, Professor Vincent Nijman and Dr Kate Hill
  • Excellent learning resources both at Brookes and through Oxford’s museums and libraries including the Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Science Library, and the Museum of Natural History
  • Links with conservation organisations and NGOs, both  internationally and closer to home, including Fauna and Flora International, TRAFFIC and Conservation International
  • Field trips for MSc students to Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands as well as to sanctuaries and zoos in the UK
  • A dynamic community of research scholars undertaking internationally recognised and world leading research.

This course in detail

The course runs for one year (two semesters) for full-time students and for two years (four semesters) for part-time students. The break periods (winter, spring and summer) are used to work on the final research project.

If you register on the MSc in Primate Conservation you will take the six taught modules mentioned below and the final research project.

If you register on the PGDip in Primate Conservation you will take six taught modules but not the final research project.

A PGCert in Primate Conservation is awarded upon successful completion of three taught modules.

Taught modules:

  • Primate Conservation and Diversity reviews the variety of primate species, together with their distribution, ecology and conservation status. Taken in the first semester by all students, this module emphasises the differences between primate species and factors that make them more or less vulnerable to extinction. Methods of rainforest biodiversity assessment are explored. Successful conservation projects are highlighted and future options discussed.

  • People-Primate Interactions provides an overview of the many ways that humans and wildlife (both primates and other animals) interact and impact on each other in primate habitat countries. This module examines examples of conflict between humans and wildlife in relation to crop raiding, hunting, biomedical research, tourism, and the design and management of national parks and wildlife reserves. The course introduces students to the diverse attitudes of different cultures or different levels of society towards primates, and to the way that these attitudes will influence primate conservation initiatives. As an example, the course looks at cross-cultural contrasts in the way primates are perceived and treated, and the problems of promoting primate conservation if these are ignored.

  • Primate Conservation - Research Methods gives students a basic understanding of how to conduct a field study of primates in the wild, in captivity, or in a museum. The focus of this module is on the primates themselves rather than the humans who play a role in their environment. Methods dealing with humans (such as interviews and education) will be covered in other modules. Instruction is given on the best ways to collect and analyse data for different kinds of research or investigation suitable for the final project, giving students opportunities to compare the methods they intend to use and to learn of their strengths and weaknesses. The course covers planning, data collection, analysis and interpretation of results relevant to research on primate conservation, including training in programmes such as SPSS, DISTANCE, Ranges and ArcView. Extended visits to one or more collaborating institutions are undertaken to learn practical techniques such as museum studies, behavioural observation techniques and botanical sampling in situ. The major aim of this course is for each student to write a research proposal suitable for submission to an appropriate funding agency.

  • Genetics and Population Management leads to an advanced understanding of the genetic and demographic management of both small captive populations and those that have become isolated in the wild. The principles of molecular and population genetics are placed in a practical context, and students will learn about the latest techniques of DNA sequencing and the use of micro-satellites and random sequencing techniques to assess genetic relationships between individuals, populations and species. The course explores the relevance of genetics to primate conservation, including its use in studbooks and the management of metapopulations.

  • Captive Management and Rehabilitation reviews good practice in the management and welfare of captive primates, and the implications for the survival of declining populations in the wild. Emphasis is given to the effects of the captive environment on behavioural traits (stereotypy, genetic selection) and breeding success; veterinary care, housing and enclosure design, display, and environmental enrichment are also considered. The role of cryogenics, and the pros and cons of reintroduction and rehabilitation into the wild are covered in detail.

  • Conservation Education reviews the knowledge base required for effective conservation action. This module centres on practical ways of conveying information about environmental decline and how primates can be used to promote public understanding. Environmental education issues are explored with particular reference to primates, and educational philosophies and the effectiveness of different strategies and media are considered. This course gives students access to a variety of techniques for the presentation and dissemination of information about conservation issues, including traditional media and, particularly, digital technology and methods. Students are introduced to productive ways of planning, conducting and evaluating educational projects by means of case studies.

NB As courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

Students are encouraged to build on their strengths and interests throughout the course, culminating in the production of a Final Research Project that has a tangible outcome of use to the broader public and conservation community. 

All projects are accompanied by a written component to integrate and explain the work and this may sometimes be in the form of a traditional thesis. 

Students will be encouraged to produce work that has a lasting impact. Examples include the production of a film or exhibition, one or more articles/chapters for publication, a broadcasting project, an education handbook, web-based materials or design of a practical project relating to primate conservation (eg eco-tourism, habitat management or conservation education).

Teaching and learning

Teaching is through a combination of lectures, research seminars, training workshops, tutorials, case studies, seminar presentations, site visits, computer-aided learning, independent reading and supervised research.

Each of the six modules is assessed by means of coursework assignments that reflect the individual interests and strengths of each student. Coursework assignments for six taught modules are completed and handed in at the end of the semester, and written feedback is given before the start of the following semester. A seventh module, the final project, must be handed in before the start of the first semester of the next academic year. It will be assessed during this semester with an examinations meeting at the beginning of February, after which students receive their final marks.

An important feature of the course is the contribution by each student towards an outreach project that brings primate conservation issues into a public arena. Examples include a poster, display or presentation at a scientific meeting, university society or school. Students may also choose to write their dissertation specifically for scientific publication.  

Round-table discussions form a regular aspect of the course and enable closer examination of conservation issues through a sharing of perspectives by the whole group.

Structure and timetabling
Course modules can be combined in various ways over one or two years to suit different exit points. It has been designed to allow qualification at three option levels:
  • Certificate 60 M-level CATS credits
  • Diploma 120 M-level CATS credits
  • MSc 180 M-level CATS credits
Pace and sequence of study
Work towards the MSc is time consuming and intensive, and requires careful planning to fit with your other commitments. It is helpful to think of your studies as the equivalent of an average working week – approximately 40 hours per week for full-time students and 20 hours for part-time.

Only a small part of this time is involved with classroom activities, or in tutorials and other meetings - the rest is used for private study. Obviously you will have flexibility over the year, with holidays (a few weeks at both Christmas and Easter) and periods of intensive study, but you will find it hard to keep up and meet assignment deadlines if you take part-time or full-time work that uses up the hours that you need for studying.
Full-time/part-time modes of study
The course runs for one year (two semesters) for full-time students and for two years (four semesters) for part-time students.

Full-time students take three modules per semester plus the final project. Part-time students take two modules in Semester 1 of Year 1, and one module in Semester 2 of Year 1 (vice versa in Year 2), plus the final project. 

Part-time students will normally take modules in the order indicated above, but they may choose to alter their programme to suit their needs. The summer period is used to complete the final project. 

The course starts with an induction session with various events during the opening week of the first semester. Classes take place on Mondays and Wednesdays for ten weeks. 

Monday modules run 1:00 to 4:00 pm and Wednesday modules from 9:00am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 to 4:00 pm. The time from 12.00 noon to 1.00 pm on Mondays is used flexibly to cover administrative aspects of the course, questions that arise and to share news or to show conservation films. It is also occasionally used for guest speakers, student talks or videos.

Approach to assessment

There is a range of assessment styles, including written coursework (essays, article reviews, scientific report writing), oral presentations, quizzes and the practical assignment or project. They are designed to test a range of competences, in both traditional and innovative ways.

In addition to the assessed coursework, students will be assigned regular tasks on topics critical to each module. The tasks ensure that all members of the class have done relevant reading and prepared work that will feed into class discussions.

Specialist facilities

The programme gives students access to a range of specialist facilities including:

  • Tess Lemmon Memorial Library of the Primate Society of Great Britain
  • Equipment lending service for field work
  • Wet lab for analysis of hormones and other biological material
  • Collection of primate skeletal material
  • Specialist sound laboratory for acoustical analyses of primate vocalisations.

Students also enjoy strong links with all of the University of Oxford’s museums and libraries and each year visit Oxford’s Museum of Natural History to learn curation techniques, assisting the vertebrate collection manager with identification, skeleton cleaning and the design of the primate display.

Field trips

We have special links with Apenheul Primate Park, The Wild Futures Trust and Cotswold Wildlife Park. Site visits to zoos, museums, sanctuaries, schools and the Primate Society of Great Britain meetings are a regular part of the course, providing opportunities for student research and networking.

Vist our facebook page for photos of our past field trips


Sample course materials

Sample work

Canopy is an in-house publication with contributions from staff, students and visiting speakers about their research. The aim of Canopy is to provide the wider primatology and conservation community with a representation of current and past works undertaken by MSc students. It acts as a medium for communication between past and present students, those working in primatology, and those with a general interest in the topics covered in these issues.

To view past copies of Canopy visit

Suggested reading

Each module will differ in terms of the lecturer’s teaching style and what degree of independence they expect from master’s students. Some may provide assigned readings each week. It is highly recommended that you have access to the following core textbooks for the course. Other core textbooks are listed under each module.

  • Campbell, C., Fuentes, A., MacKinnon, K., Bearder, S. & Stumpf, R. (2011) Primates in Perspective. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Cowlishaw, G. & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2000) Primate Conservation Biology. Chicago University Press, Chicago.
  • Frankham R., Ballou J.D. & Briscoe, D.A. (2002) Introduction to Conservation Genetics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Hosey, G., Melfi, M., & Pankhurst, S. (2010) Zoo Animals: Behaviour, management and Welfare. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Jacobsen, S., McDuff, M., & Monroe, M. (2003) Conservation Education and Outreach Techniques. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Knight, J. (2000) Natural Enemies: People-Wildlife Conflicts in Anthropological Perspective. Routledge, London.
  • Setchell, J.M. & Curtis, D.J. (2003) Field and Laboratory Methods in Primatology: A Practical Guide. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


Key facts


Department of Social Sciences

Course length

Full-time: MSc: 12 months, PGDip: 8 months
Part-time: MSc: 24 months, PGDip: 16 months, PGCert: 8 months

Teaching location

Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane

Start date

September 2014

UKPass code


Fees / Funding

Tuition fees

Home / EU full-time on-campus fee: £5,800

Home / EU part-time on-campus fee: £2,950

International full-time on-campus fee: £12,100

Where part-time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by approximately 4% each year.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

How to apply / Entry requirements

Entry requirements

You will normally be required to have, or be expecting, an honours degree in anthropology, biology, ecology, psychology or an acceptable related discipline.

If you are not a graduate, or if you have graduated in an unrelated discipline, you will be considered for entry to the course if you can demonstrate in your application, and at an interview, that you are able to work at an advanced level in the discipline. You may also be asked to write a short essay and/or present evidence of original work in support of your application.

We will consider appropriate credits obtained elsewhere. Accreditation of prior learning (eg a conversion course or an advanced research training course) will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the course manager. Accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) will similarly be considered. However, it must be advised that, because the taught aspect is a key component of the course, credit for prior learning will only be given in exceptional cases.

Transfer between part-time and full-time modes, transfer from the diploma to the MSc, or deferral of study may be possible in certain circumstances at the discretion of the examination committee. The programme lead is willing to discuss with international students how the programme can be adapted to their needs, especially through tutorials, study visits and distributed learning.


Please also see the university's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

Please see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements.Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

You apply for this course through UKPASS.

Conditions of acceptance

When you accept our offer, you agree to the conditions of acceptance. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Careers and professional development


This unique postgraduate programme trains new generations of anthropologists, conservation biologists, captive care givers and educators concerned with the serious plight of non-human primates who seek practical solutions to their continuing survival. It provides the skills, knowledge and confidence to enable you to contribute to arresting and reversing the current devastating destruction of our tropical forests and the loss of the species that live in them.

You will be joining a supportive global network of former students working across all areas of conservation in organisations from the BBC Natural History Unit through to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and in roles from keeper and education officer in zoos across the UK and North America to paid researcher at institutes of higher education. Some of our students have even gone on to run their own conservation-related NGOs.

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.


How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Our student support co-ordinators can give advice on the course, finance, accommodation or personal issues which may be affecting your study and will also regularly update you with information on visiting speakers, careers advice and course announcements.

They can also help you to access other support services in the university such as ‘Upgrade’, which offers confidential advice on study skills, and English language support through the International Centre.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.


Research highlights

Our vibrant research culture is driven by a thriving and collaborative community of academic staff and doctoral students. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 70% of our work was judged to be of international quality in terms of originality, significance and rigour, with 5% "world leading".

Our strong performance in the RAE, along with our expanding consultancy activities, have enabled us to attract high quality staff and students and helped to generate funding for research projects.

Conservation Environment and Development, comprising several research clusters.

The Nocturnal Primate Research Group specialises in mapping the diversity of the nocturnal primates of Africa, Asia, Madagascar and Latin America through multidisciplinary teamwork that includes comparative studies of anatomy, physiology, behaviour, ecology and genetics. Field studies are helping to determine the origins and distribution of these neglected species, as well as indicating the conservation status of declining forests and woodlands. The NPRG has developed a widespread network of collaborative links with biologists, game wardens, forestry officers, wildlife societies, museums and zoos/sanctuaries. 2011-12 highlights include the receipt of a prestigious Leverhulme Trust research project grant to undertake research into why and how the seemingly cute and cuddly slow loris is the only primate to produce a biological venom. During this period, nine MSc students, one MRes student, ten PhD students and seven visiting scholars were part of the NPRG. NPRG members published more than 20 papers during this period.
The Human Interactions With and Constructions of the Environment Research Group develops and trains an interdisciplinary team of researchers to investigate priorities within conservation research - using an interdisciplinary framework in anthropology, primatology, rural development studies, and conservation biology. During 2011-12, this group had three MSc students, four PhD students and two research scholars, and published six papers.
The Oxford Wildlife Trade Research Group (OWTRG) aims to quantify all aspects of the trade in wild animals through multidisciplinary teamwork including anthropology, social sciences, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, environmental economics, and legislation. Their strong focus is on wildlife trade in tropical countries –as this is where most of the world's biodiversity resides and where the impacts of the wildlife trade are arguably the greatest. Recognizing that the wildlife trade is a truly global enterprise they also focus on the role of consumer countries. Highlights in 2011 and 2012 were the publication of two papers in Science, focussing on the functioning of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and two case studies giving prominence to the animal trade in Southeast Asia. During this period, four MSc students, three PhD students and two visiting scholars were part of the OWTRG.
The Europe Japan Research Centre (EJRC) organises and disseminates the research of all Brookes staff working on Japan as well as a large number of affiliated Research Fellows.
The Human Origins and Palaeo Environments Research Cluster carries out ground-breaking interdisciplinary research, focussed on evolutionary anthropology and environmental reconstruction and change. The new study published in the journal Science reports findings from an eight-year archaeological excavation at a site called Jebel Faya in the United Arab Emirates. Palaeolithic stone tools found at the Jebel Faya were similar to tools produced by early modern humans in east Africa, but very different from those produced to the north, in the Levant and the mountains of Iran. This suggested early modern humans migrated into Arabia directly from Africa and not via the Nile Valley and the Near East as is usually suggested. The new findings will reinvigorate the debate about human origins and how we became a global species.


Research excellence

Our vibrant research culture is driven by a thriving and collaborative community of academic staff and doctoral students. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 70% of our work was judged to be of international quality in terms of originality, significance and rigour, with 5% "world leading".

Our strong performance in the RAE, along with our expanding consultancy activities, have enabled us to attract high quality staff and students and helped to generate funding for research projects.

Research centres:
Anthropology Centre for Conservation, Environment and Development
Europe Japan Research Centre


Oxford Brookes Archaeology and Heritage (OBAH)

Research areas and clusters

Research in the department can be undertaken in the following areas:

  • Anthropology of art
  • Anthropology of food
  • Anthropology of globalisation
  • Anthropology of Japan
  • Basque studies
  • Culture and landscapes
  • Environmental archaeology and paleo-anthropology
  • Environmental anthropology
  • Environmental reconstruction
  • Human origins
  • Human resource ecology
  • Human–wildlife interaction and conservation
  • Organisational anthropology
  • Physical environmental processes and management
  • Primate conservation
  • Primatology
  • Quaternary environmental change
  • Social anthropology of South Asia and Europe
  • Urban and environmental studies.
  • Wildlife trade.

Find out more by browsing our staff profiles.