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PGDip Primate Conservation - Apes in the Anthropocene


Department of Social Sciences

The award winning PGDip Primate Conservation, following the Apes in the Anthropocene pathway, allows students with a particular interest in great apes and gibbons to focus on their chosen topic within conservation, ecology, cognition, etc. The PGDip allows students to choose modules relating to the challenges and research opportunities revolving around Apes in the Anthropocene, including a tailored module to meet the student’s interests. The innovative and varied coursework provides students with direct training to work in conservation or ecology as a practitioner, advocate or academic. The PGDip allows individuals working with apes to further their knowledge without the need to complete an entire MSc.

Whether working in the lab, with local conservation or ecology groups (including zoos and NGOs), or in the field, you will find yourself in a collaborative and supportive environment, working with international scholars in primatology, biological anthropology and conservation biology and gaining first-hand experience to research great apes and gibbons, and where relevant, to enact positive change.

This course is also available as an MSc and a PGCert. You could also choose to follow a specific pathway in the Human-Primate Interface, Lemurs and Nocturnal Primates, or follow the central Primate Conservation programme.
Apply with the UCAS postgraduate course code shown below, specifying this pathway in the written section of your application.

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: 8 months
  • Part time: 16 months

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

  • A pioneering programme providing scientific, professional training and accreditation to conservation scientists 
  • Opportunity to work alongside leading academics, including Professor Anna Nekaris, Professor Vincent Nijman, Professor Kate Hill and Dr Giuseppe Donati
  • 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
  • Optional field trips for 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.

The course runs for two semesters for full-time students and for four semesters for part-time students.

Taught modules:

Semester 1

Compulsory module: Primate Diversity and Conservation: Theory, Methods and Practice

This module reviews the variety of primate species, together with their distribution, ecology and conservation status. It 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.

Compulsory module: People-Primate Interactions

This module provides an overview of the many ways that humans and wildlife (primates and other animals) interact and impact on each other in primate habitat countries. Topics covered in this module include ‘conflicts about wildlife’ in relation to crop damage, hunting, tourism, and the design and management of national parks and wildlife reserves.

Choose 1 module from:

Conservation Education

This module 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 the effectiveness of different strategies and media are considered.

Supervised Independent Study - available in either the first or second semester

This module provides an opportunity to undertake a study of your own choosing related to the conservation, socioecology and ecology of all species of apes (gibbons, orang-utans, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas) in the context of the Anthropocene. You will select a piece of individual work on an appropriate topic or set of topics to be conducted under suitable supervision and strictly subject to the approval of the module leader.

Advanced Study of People and Other Animals

Humans and other animals have a long history of interacting with each other. In this module we use ideas from biological and social anthropology to examine the complexities and contradictions evident in people-animal relationships through topics such as animals as food, animals as entertainment, companion animals and animals as ‘nature’.

Advanced Study of Cognitive Evolution

This module will adopt a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on recent developments in fields such as evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, linguistics and primatology. The students will explore the nature of human intelligence, charting and evaluating the evidence for the development of key cognitive traits such as language, culture, tool use and symbolism. We will also assess the cognitive abilities of other animal species, evaluating the evidence for differences between human and non-human minds.

Advanced Study of Primate Adaptation and Evolution

This module explores the similarities and differences between humans and other primates using a broad comparative approach to examine structure, physiology, molecular biology and evolutionary history. The hallmarks of humanity emerge against a background of detailed knowledge of other species (the questions What, When and Where) to help trace our history of inheritance and to explore the reasons for our unique specialisations (the questions How and Why).

International Legislation, Humans and Wildlife

On a global scale many species and communities are threatened by exploitation or conflicts with the human population via development and conflicting space and resource requirements. A thorough understanding of the causes and consequences of these human activities and an analysis of ways of resolving these at an international scale is essential for maintaining biodiversity. The module analyses the importance and roles of legislation, trade and conflict resolution in resolving the biodiversity crisis.

Semester 2

Choose 3 modules from:

Primate Conservation - Research Methods

This module gives you a basic understanding of how to conduct a field study of primates in the wild or in captivity. 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, and ArcView. Extended visits to collaborating institutions are undertaken to learn practical techniques such as behavioural observation techniques and botanical sampling in situ.

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 pros and cons of reintroduction and rehabilitation into the wild are covered in detail.

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. You 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.

Advanced Study of Primate Societies

More than 600 species of primates, other than humans, are recognised and this module explores the diversity of their social behaviour as a background for a better understanding of our own. Primate social systems can be defined as the product of interaction and compromise between the adaptive strategies (gene survival) of individuals, within a population through time. This module uses a broad comparative approach to identify patterns of social interaction among primates in relation to ecology, energetic, phylogeny, demography and tradition.

Supervised Independent Study - available in either the first or second semester

This module provides an opportunity to undertake a study of your own choosing related to the conservation, socioecology and ecology of all species of apes (gibbons, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas) in the context of the Anthropocene. You will select a piece of individual work on an appropriate topic or set of topics to be conducted under suitable supervision and strictly subject to the approval of the module leader.

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.

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.

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

Work towards the PGDip 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. 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).

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 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 (but this may be subject to change in the future).

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, you will be assigned regular tasks on topics critical to each module. These tasks ensure that all members of the class have done relevant reading and prepared work that will feed into class discussions.

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 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.

View past copies of Canopy.

Additional 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.

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, the MRes, 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: £6,500 2020/21: £7,000

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

This unique postgraduate programme trains new generations of conservation biologists, anthropologists, animal welfare specialists, 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 researchers at institutes of higher education. Many of our students have even 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 and 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.

Research areas and clusters

Conservation Environment and Development, comprising several research clusters:

The Nocturnal Primate Research Group (NPRG) specialises in mapping the diversity of the nocturnal primates of Africa, Asia, Madagascar and South 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. 

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. 

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. 

The Europe Japan Research Centre (EJRC) organises and disseminates the research of all Oxford Brookes University 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, focused on evolutionary anthropology and environmental reconstruction and change. 

Research in the department is 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.

Course downloads

  • MSc Primate Conservation
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  • Conservation Ecology