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Primate Conservation - Apes in the Anthropocene

MSc or PGDip or PGCert

Key facts

Start dates

September 2021 / September 2022



Course length

Full time: MSc: 12 months; PGDip: 8 months; PGCert: 4 months

Part time: MSc: 24 months; PGDip: 16 months; PGCert: 8 months


Our MSc Primate Conservation - Apes in the Anthropocene course is ideal for students with a particular interest in great apes and gibbons. It is a pioneering programme providing scientific and professional training and accreditation to conservation scientists.

The course covers the challenges and research opportunities around Apes in the Anthropocene. This includes a tailored module allowing you to focus on your chosen topic within conservation, ecology and cognition.

Coursework is innovative and varied. It will provide you with direct training to work in conservation or ecology as a practitioner, advocate or academic.

You'll work with international scholars in primatology, biological anthropology and primate conservation. And gain the experience to research great apes and gibbons, and where relevant, to enact positive change.

You will benefit from our links with organisations and NGOs relating to apes, which include:

  • the Jane Goodall Institute
  • Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
  • Sumatran Orangutan Society
  • Fauna and Flora International
  • Conservation International.

How to apply

Entry requirements

Specific 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. 

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. 

Please also see the University's general entry requirements.

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.

International qualifications and equivalences


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.

Pathways courses for international and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you meet the entry requirements for your postgraduate course and also familiarise you with university life in the UK.

Take a Pre-Master's course to develop your subject knowledge, study skills and academic language level in preparation for your master's course.

If you need to improve your English language, we offer pre-sessional English language courses to help you meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s course.

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.

Application process

Tuition fees

Please see the fees note
Home/EU full time
£8,000 (Masters); £7,000 (Diploma); £4,000 (Certificate)

Home/EU part time

International full time

Home (UK) full time
£8,200 (Masters); £7,200 (Diploma); £4,100 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International / EU full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

2020 / 21
Home/EU full time
£8,000 (Masters); £7,000 (Diploma); £4,000 (Certificate)

Home/EU part time

International full time

2021 / 22
Home (UK) full time
£8,200 (Masters); £7,200 (Diploma); £4,100 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International / EU full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Fees quoted are for the first year only. If you are studying a course that lasts longer than one year your fees will increase each year.

Financial support 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:

For general sources of financial support, see our Fees and funding pages.

Additional costs

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 below.

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.

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.

The published course and module descriptions were accurate when first published and remain the basis of the course, but the University has had to modify some course and module content in response to government restrictions and social distancing requirements. In the event of changes made to the government advice and social distancing rules by national or local government, the University may need to make further alterations to the published course content. Detailed information on the changes will be sent to every student on confirmation in August to ensure you have all the information before you come to Oxford Brookes.

Learning and assessment

The course consists of:

  • two compulsory modules
  • four elective modules
  • the final MSc Primate Conservation project.

Full-time students take three modules per semester plus the final project. The course lasts one year.

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. The course takes two years.

The course starts with an induction session. Classes take place on Mondays and Wednesdays for ten weeks (but this may be subject to change in the future).

Two females studying

Study modules

The modules listed below are for the master's award. For the PGDip and PGCert awards your module choices may be different. Please contact us for more details.


Semester 1

Compulsory modules

People-Primate Interactions (20 credits)

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.

Primate Diversity and Conservation: Theory, Methods and Practice (20 credits)

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.

Supervised Independent Study (20 credits)

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.

Optional modules

Conservation Education (20 credits)

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.

Advanced Study of Humans and other Primates (20 credits)

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).

Advanced Study of People and Other Animals (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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.

Semester 2

Optional modules

Primate Conservation - Research Methods (20 credits)

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.

Genetics and Population Management (20 credits)

This module 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.

Captive Management and Rehabilitation (20 credits)

This module 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.

Final project

Compulsory modules

Final Project (60 credits)

Students are encouraged to build on their strengths and interests throughout the course, culminating in the production of a Final Project that has a tangible outcome of use to the broader public and conservation and primatological 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, however, to produce work that has a more lasting impact. Examples include the production of a film or exhibition, one or more articles/chapters for publication, a proposal for a major grant, a broadcasting project, an education handbook, web-based materials or design of a practical project relating to primate conservation (e.g. eco-tourism, habitat management, or conservation education.)

Please note: As our courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you can choose from may vary from that shown here. The structure of the course may also mean some modules are not available to you.

Learning and teaching

You use a combination of teaching methods, including:

  • lectures
  • research seminars
  • training workshops
  • tutorials
  • case studies
  • seminar presentations
  • site visits
  • computer-aided learning
  • independent reading
  • supervised research.

An important feature of the course is your contribution towards an outreach project that brings primate conservation issues into a public arena. Examples include:

  • a poster
  • display
  • presentation

These could be at a scientific meeting, university society or school.

You may choose to write your dissertation specifically for scientific publication.

You will take part in round-table discussions, which form a regular aspect of the course. Closely examine conservation issues, through sharing perspectives as a whole group.

Field trips

All students across the Primatology and Conservation courses are invited to take part in field trips to:

  • Apenheul in the Netherlands
  • the Monkey Sanctuary
  • Cotswold Wildlife Park.

These trips are optional, or are part of optional modules and therefore not included within the course fees. Please see the Additional costs section of this page for details.


Assessment methods used on this course

You will be assessed in a range of ways, including:

  • written coursework
  • oral presentations
  • quizzes
  • practical assignment or project

Your coursework assignments reflect your interests and strengths. You will hand them in at the end of the semester and receive written feedback before the start of the following semester. You will receive your final marks after an examinations meeting at the beginning of December.

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


Our vibrant research culture is driven by a thriving and collaborative community of academic staff and doctoral students.

Our Research clusters include:

  • theNocturnal Primate Research Group (NPRG)
  • Environment Research Group
  • the Oxford Wildlife Trade Research Group (OWTRG)
  • the Europe Japan Research Centre
  • the Human Origins and Palaeoenvironments.

Research in the department is carried out 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.

Students visiting museum

After you graduate

Career prospects

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. Graduates work 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.  

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.