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Postgraduate Admissions

The Cambridge Masters in Conservation Leadership is a ground-breaking course that equips students with the applied leadership and management skills needed to create positive change in conservation. A unique feature of the course is its delivery by a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and nine leading conservation organisations, which together comprise the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. The Masters in Conservation Leadership is designed for applicants with at least three years of relevant professional experience and clear leadership potential.

The curriculum of this 11 month, full time degree combines taught modules with hands-on experiential learning through a group consultancy and an individual professional placement hosted by a conservation organisation. The course aims to train students to address the challenges of biodiversity conservation in an integrated and interdisciplinary manner. The goal is not only to develop conservationists with greater awareness of the complex drivers of biodiversity loss, but to develop the ability to act and lead effectively. This includes the development of applied conservation leadership skills across three levels;  Leading Self (e.g. personal resilience, self-awareness, career planning), Leading People and Organisations (e.g. strategic planning, human resources, fundraising, project management) and Leading Systems (i.e. how to bring about change in the wider world through incentives, communication, governance and other tools). The course develops the leadership skills of its students by promoting their capacity to understand the links among the drivers of biodiversity loss, and to think innovatively about conservation solutions across organisational and political boundaries and economic sectors. All students also receive 1:1 professional mentoring from a senior conservation leader selected on the basis of their fit to the needs of each student.

In particular, the programme will:

  • Address the challenges of conservation in an integrated and interdisciplinary manner, focused on an understanding of the root causes of ecosystem change and biodiversity loss.

  • Equip conservation leaders with the strategic skills that they need for effective action by their organisations.

  • Offer professional management and leadership skills including strategic planning, finance and HR management/planning, innovation, and the management of change.

  • Develop communication skills such as advocacy, lobbying and presentation, as an integral part of the learning programme.

  • Provide participants with first-hand exposure to conservation leadership challenges in the real world by working in group consultancy and individual professional placements alongside conservation professionals.

  • Provide participants with experiential learning through interaction with leaders in conservation organisations, businesses and governments across a wide range of sectors from around the world.

The course is based in the David Attenborough Building, in which it has its own dedicated teaching space, offering students outstanding facilities and constant access to world-leading conservation practitioners and researchers.

Graduates join the highly active University of Cambridge Conservation Leadership Alumni Network, comprising alumni from over 80 countries. Alumni receive ongoing support from the course team, and a fund is available to support alumni projects. Alumni are already making a global impact for conservation.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the 11 months, students taking the MPhil in Conservation Leadership will be expected to have:

  • Applied conservation leadership skills across three levels;  Leading Self (e.g. personal resilience, self-awareness, career planning), Leading People and Organisations (e.g. strategic planning, human resources, fundraising, project management) and Leading Systems (i.e. how to bring about change in the wider world through incentives, communication, governance and other tools);
  • Communication skills required by conservation leaders, including oral presentation skills, face to face networking and advocacy skills and broadcast media interview skills;
  • The ability to innovate to create novel approaches for effective conservation outcomes;
  • Understanding of various theories of leadership relevant to conservation and how to apply them, as well as the ability to critically analyse their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Familiarity with debates across the social and natural sciences concerning the root causes of ecosystem change and biodiversity decline and alternative proposals for addressing these causes;
  • Knowledge of the structure and function of contemporary conservation and alternative conservation tools and approaches, and the ability to critically analyse their strengths and weaknesses;
  • The ability to apply theoretical insights to create practical solutions to specific conservation problems in a real-world context;
  • The ability to distinguish between different scientific perspectives that inform policy debates, and to exercise judgement in the interpretation of conflicting evidence;
  • The ability to synthesise information from across a range of academic disciplines, and to summarise this in a manner that is accessible to different audiences;
  • The ability to manage time and work to deadlines, both individually and in a team;
  • The ability to plan, execute and manage a project, both individually and in a team;
  • Hands on experience of putting the learning outcomes listed above into practice through real-world projects hosted by conservation organisations.

Continuing

Students wishing to continue to a PhD in Geography or other cognate subjects must reapply for admission to a PhD before the end of their MPhil and via the University admissions process, taking the funding and application deadlines into consideration. Applicants should bear in mind that the MPhil in Conservation Leadership is a stand-alone taught Masters degree which is not designed to prepare students for PhD study.

To be accepted for a PhD programme students must satisfy a good pass level in all the assessed units of their MPhil, with particular attention given to the level of performance in their placement component.

However, readmission is not automatic to high-performing MPhil students. In addition, a student must demonstrate suitability to undertake a PhD and make a full specification of their research proposal which allows the suitability of the topic to be assessed. They must also have the agreement of a supervisor to supervise, based on the appropriateness of the PhD proposal to the expertise of the academic staff in the department.


Open Days

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the beginning of November. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

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Key Information


11 months full-time

Master of Philosophy

Department of Geography

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Michaelmas 2022

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2021
Application deadline
Dec. 2, 2021
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2022

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Graduate Funding Competition
Dec. 2, 2021
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 13, 2021

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2022, Lent 2023 and Easter 2023.


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