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MRes Primatology and Conservation


Department of Social Sciences

The MRes in Primatology and Conservation is a research-intensive programme that combines the expertise of anthropologists and biologists. You will join an international and multidisciplinary forum, where we aim to understand ecology, evolution and or conservation issues and promote effective action or make leading advances in research topics. Whether working in the lab, with zoos, museums or NGOs, or in the field, you will find yourself in a collaborative and supportive environment, working with international scholars in primatology, biological anthropology and primate conservation and gaining first-hand experience to develop advances in the fields of primatology and primate conservation.

This course combines self-directed development of knowledge and skills with collaborative learning and a strong emphasis on conducting research. Regular contact with tutors and feedback from assessed coursework are important features of the course, and you will be encouraged to raise issues for discussion and consider the views of others. The taught modules prepare you for an extended period of original research, including data collection, analysis and write-up.

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: MSc: normal expected duration full-time 1 year, maximum possible duration 3 years. PGCert: normal expected duration 1 semester

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • The aim of this programme is to help you to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to make a difference, by helping to arrest and reverse the devastating destruction of natural habitats and the loss of the species that live in them.
  • Our research is recognised internationally for excellence. Oxford Brookes University hosts the Nocturnal Primate Research Group as well as the Oxford Wildlife Trade Research Group and ACCEnD (the Anthropological Centre for Conservation, Environment and Development).
  • Since the primate conservation programme was launched, our students have undertaken practical projects in some 50 countries. Their research has contributed to the knowledge and understanding of the threats facing non-human primates, and strives for practical ways to overcome those threats, leading towards the sustainable use of wildlife resources.
  • We have welcomed students from over 30 countries, including a large number of primate native range countries. Many students bring first-hand knowledge of practical problems and a sense of realism that is shared with other members of the course, and frequently contribute to the implementation of effective conservation practices and policies after they graduate.
  • The primate conservation programme developed out of staff research and teaching expertise in three neglected research areas; nocturnal primates (owl monkeys, tarsiers, African and Asian lorisi forms, and lemurs), human-wildlife interactions (crop-raiding, ecotourism, zoo management and welfare, etc.) and wildlife trade.

The MRes programme is made up of two components, with the first semester containing the taught elements of the course. This means that you will gain a high level of background knowledge in primatology, conservation, and the theories, methods, and practices that are used in the contemporary study of primates and their environments. The second part of the course gives you a chance to use this knowledge in practice, through an extended research project.

Compulsory modules

The first compulsory module, ‘Primate Diversity and Conservation’, is designed to develop a broad understanding of the theories, the methods and practices in primatology, primate conservation and welfare. This module must be successfully completed before you can progress onto the second part of the programme.

The second compulsory module is ‘Supervised Independent Study – Primatology and Conservation’. This module has a research methods component and will allow you to focus on the methodologies that you will need to apply in your final research project.

You will also take one module from the following selection:

  • ‘People-Primate Interactions’
  • ‘Conservation Education’
  • ‘Advanced Study of People and Other Animals’
  • ‘Advanced Study of Primate Adaptation and Evolution’
  • ‘International Legislation’
  • ‘Humans and Wildlife’


Research Project

In order to complete the MRes, you will undertake a significant research project that runs over the second semester and summer break.

Post-graduate Certificate in Primatology and Conservation

If you choose to take the PgCert in Primatology and Conservation, your compulsory modules will be ‘Primate Diversity and Conservation’, ‘Supervised Independent Study – Primatology and Conservation’ and one from the following selection:

  • ‘People-Primate Interactions’
  • ‘Conservation Education’
  • ‘Advanced Study of People and Other Animals’
  • ‘Advanced Study of Primate Adaptation and Evolution’
  • ‘International Legislation’
  • ‘Humans and Wildlife’

Teaching and learning

Key teaching methods used are as follows:

  • Lectures, which are designed to introduce students to the main themes, key theoretical approaches and significant research findings relevant to the module content
  • Tutorials with lecturers to discuss recent developments in the relevant fields.
  • Seminars and workshops, which encourage students to engage in discussion with tutors and peers in order to further develop their knowledge and understanding of the module content, apply ideas and develop a range of transferable skills.
  • Laboratory-based classes, these are a common feature for the modules concerning primate diversity
  • Field trips, including visits to the Oxford natural history museum, nature reserves, zoos and primate sanctuaries.

Opportunities for one-to-one interaction with members of staff (for instance during ‘office hours’ where members of staff are available for one-to-one sessions during set times), where students can receive individual help or personalised feedback on their progress, are available throughout the year. Contact time may also take a virtual rather than face-to-face form, through the use of email, email discussion groups, virtual learning environments and other technology-aided means.

Approach to assessment

Assessment methods include: written essays, critical reviews and short reports, annotated bibliographies, individual and group presentations, self and peer assessment of work components.

You will have the chance to receive feedback on your work prior to formal assessments. This includes one-to-one assessment guidance, feedback on outline plans for coursework essays, and assessment preparatory activities. An on-going feedback dialogue forms an essential component of the Research Project module.

In addition to the assessed coursework, you may be assigned regular tasks on topics that are critical to each module. The tasks ensure that all members of the class have carried out relevant reading each week and prepared work that will feed into class discussions. Round-table and small group discussions form a regular aspect of the course and enable closer examination of conservation issues by giving you an opportunity to share perspectives within the classroom.

Specialist facilities

You will have access to a range of fantastic resources, both within Oxford Brookes University and in Oxford itself.

Our facilities include:

  • A molecular genetics laboratory

  • Dry laboratory for analysis of bones and environmental samples

  • Primate Conservation laboratory, with access to specialist computer programmes

  • The Tess Lemon Memorial Library, on behalf of the Primate Society of Great Britain.

Students on this course also have access to the world-renowned Bodleian Libraries, and Oxford University Natural History Museum.

Field trips

All students across the Primatology and Conservation courses are invited to participate in field trips to Apenheul in the Netherlands, the Monkey Sanctuary, and the Cotswold Wildlife Park - with whom we have special links. These trips are optional, or are part of optional modules and therefore not included within the course fees.

There is an optional visit of the Apenheul Primate Sanctuary in Apendhorn, Holland.

You will be responsible for your own accommodation, transport, and living costs. Please bear in mind that costs can vary depending on the GBP-Euro exchange rate. On average, the cost for this trip runs at £160 including transport, 2 nights bed and breakfast, and two days entry to the primate park.

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 our graduate 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.

View past copies of Canopy.

Extra costs

Students are expected to consider and manage the cost of their own research and fieldwork, whether this is abroad or at home. As well as carrying out projects across the globe, our students have carried out research in museums and zoos closer to home, as well as laboratory and library-based studies. Research has been undertaken either in the field (Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua; Morocco, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Uganda; Madagascar; India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan), in rescue centres (Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa), zoos (UK, Netherlands, Italy) or in our primate lab in Oxford.

There is guidance throughout the taught element of the course on opportunities for external funding and funding applications. This also includes the chance to practice writing funding applications, and to receive feedback on this from your tutors.

Attendance pattern

You will take the ‘Primate Diversity and Conservation’ module on Monday from 13:00-16:00 in the first semester. This allows you to attend the general information session that runs on Monday’s from 12:00-13:00, and to attend our primate conservation seminar series from 18:00-19:00 on the same day. This seminar series is a brilliant opportunity for you to network and socialise with the speakers, staff, and your fellow students - including those that do the ‘traditional’ MSc and those that follow different specialised pathways.

Please be aware that the date and time of all modules and seminars are subject to change.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £5,200 (MRes) £2,600 (Certificate) 2020/21: £6,950 (MRes) £3,475 (Certificate)

International - full time: 2019/20: £13,530 2020/21: £13,900

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

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

Funding and scholarships

There are opportunities to apply for a scholarship which covers the fees for a student from a primate habitat country. Applicants must indicate on their application that they would like to be considered for this scholarship.

Because of the urgent need for the study of conservation, some private agencies offer scholarships with very particular eligibility criteria relating to gender, age, nationality, and domicile. Ask your local librarian for a guide to funding within your country. You could also try the following agencies:

Entry requirements

You will normally be required to have, or be expecting, a good 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. 

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 with 6.0 in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Please also 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

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

The MRes in Primatology and Conservation will prepare you for a research-oriented career in primatology, conservation biology, anthropology, and resource management.  It provides excellent preparation should you wish to progress onto further education (MPhil and PhD), as well as for working in environments where critical thinking and analytical skills are highly valued.

It provides the skills, knowledge and confidence to enable you to contribute to arresting and reversing the 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. Our graduates work in a range of 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 gone on to run their own conservation-related NGOs.

Typically about ten to twenty percent of our MSc graduates continue their studies by enrolling on a PhD programme in the UK or abroad.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Our student support coordinators 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.

Research highlights

Our vibrant research culture is driven by a thriving and collaborative community of academic staff, post-docs doctoral students. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 93% of research activity by Anthropologists at Oxford Brookes University was judged to be of international significance, originality and rigour, with 8% of this world leading. Our strong performance in the REF, along with our expanding consultancy activities, have enabled us to attract high quality staff and students and helped to generate funding for research projects.

Staff within the department work on a wide range of taxa, including African and Asian great apes, gibbons, Neotropical primates, Old World monkeys, African and Asian lorises, and the lemurs from Madagascar. While some of this research is theoretical in nature, we strive to make it relevant for managers and conservationists in primate range countries, and for those in charge of captive populations. Increasingly we have come to the realisation that the conservation and welfare of primates cannot be seen in isolation from that of the humans that live side by side with them, and a large part of our research focusses on the interface between humans and primates.

All lecturers are active in research and publish in a wide range of journals including ones in primatology (Primates, American Journal of Primatology), anthropology (Evolutionary Anthropology, American Journal of Physical Anthropology), biodiversity conservation (Biological Conservation, Biodiversity and Conservation), animal welfare (Animal Welfare, Applied  Animal Behaviour Science), and general science (PLoS One, Science). In addition, several of the lecturers are editors or are on the editorial board of scientific journals (e.g. Folia Primatologica, Contributions to Zoology, Journal of Anthropological Sciences, Indonesian Journal of Natural History, Endangered Species Research).

Over 50 students have published the results of their research in scientific journals, including Folia Primatologica, American Journal of Primatology, Primates, Animal Welfare, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Oryx, Biodiversity and Conservation, and Diversity and Distributions. Building upon this we strive for a significant proportion of our MRes students to be able to submit the results of their research to international scientific journals.

Research areas and clusters

Our research is recognised internationally for excellence. Oxford Brookes University hosts the Nocturnal Primate Research Group as well as the Oxford Wildlife Trade Research Group and ACCEnD (the Anthropological Centre for Conservation, Environment and Development).

Staff research interests

Professor Vincent Nijman

Key interests: primate conservation, Asian Apes, human-primate interface and wildlife trade, Asia and Africa. Twenty years of teaching experience at universities in the Netherlands, UK and Asia. Editor of Contributions to Zoology

Professor K Anne-Isola Nekaris

Key interests: primate conservation, slow lorises and other nocturnal primates, human-primate interface, Asia and Africa. Twenty years of teaching experience at universities in the USA, UK and Asia. Editor-in-Chief of Folia Primatologica and editor of Endangered Species Research

Professor Catherine Hill

Key interests: human-primate interface, African Great Apes, Africa and UK. Twenty years of teaching experience at universities in the UK.

Dr Giuseppe Donati

Key interests: primate conservation, lemurs and other nocturnal primates, human-primate interface, Central and South America and Madagascar. Fifteen years of teaching experience at universities in Italy, UK and Central America.

Dr Kimberly Hockings

Key interests: human-primate interface, African Great Apes, Africa. Five years of teaching experience in the UK and Portugal.

Dr Matthew Mcclennan

Key interests: primate conservation, human-primate interface, African Great Apes, Africa. Five years of teaching experience in the UK.

Dr Susan Cheyne

Key interests: primate conservation, orangutans and gibbons, human-primate interface, Asia. Ten years of teaching experience at universities in the UK and Indonesia.

Mrs Magdalena Svensson

Key interests: primate conservation, nocturnal primates, human-primate interface, South America and Africa. Five years of teaching experience in the UK.

Course downloads

  • MSc Primate Conservation
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