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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Conservation Leadership is no longer accepting new applications.


Formal coursework is concentrated in the Michaelmas and Lent terms, from October to March.

Students follow a number of substantive modules spread over these two terms. All students complete the same modules to enhance opportunities for peer-to-peer learning within the cohort. Modules will be primarily classroom-based but may include an element of blended online learning. Assessed coursework relating to these modules is completed by the start of the Easter term. The taught elements of the course offer (i) interdisciplinarity across the social and biological sciences; (ii) integration with management and leadership skills; and (iii) an emphasis on practice through engagement with conservation professionals.

Professional placements start to be developed during the first two terms in collaboration with potential supervisors. Students work on a specific placement project which addresses a carefully defined conservation leadership challenge. The professional placement is undertaken over the Easter term from April to June, and in the summer, from July to August. There is an assessed oral presentation on placement plans in May, and an assessed placement report is submitted at the end of the placement in August.

One to one supervision

Taught course modules include extensive contact time from the course team. During the placement, there are one-on-one supervisions of up to ten hours per student per year. In addition, students are assigned a professional mentor, with whom they can expect up to three 1:1 meetings to discuss their career goals and leadership strengths and weaknesses. 

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University's expectations regarding supervision.

Seminars & classes

There are daily classes and seminars in the first and second terms (approx. 12 hours per week).


There are two or three field trips (one of which is residential), networking event and media training (approx. 50 hours per year).

Small group teaching

Most teaching is for the full cohort, of around twenty students per year. However, many classes involve smaller group breakout exercises. In the Lent Term, students undertake a six-week Group Consultancy project in teams of 4-5 students. This is conducted under the supervision of a host organisation and a member of the core course team.

Literature Reviews

A literature review is a core component of the Professional Placement report.

Posters and Presentations

Students have two assessed presentations during the year. The first is a group presentation based on the Group Consultancy project they have undertaken. The second is an individual presentation of plans for the Professional Placement.


The final four months of the degree are spent on a professional placement within a conservation organisation during which students work to address a defined leadership challenge. The placements aim to: (i) give students the opportunity to develop applied conservation leadership skills, (ii) put into practice some of the ideas and methods learned during the taught component of the course, and (iii) allow students to follow their personal interests by carrying out an in-depth piece of work on an issue or problem that particularly interests them.

Students can either select their placement from a list of ideas provided by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative partner organisations and circulated in the first term or develop their own ideas and approach potential supervisors directly. Project ideas are developed during the first term with the support of the course team, so there is no need to contact potential supervisors in advance of beginning the degree. 

Placements can be within a University department or a conservation organisation and can include fieldwork away from Cambridge. Students make an assessed presentation on their proposed work to a forum during the Easter Term, and produce a maximum 10,000-word report for assessment.


Written feedback is provided on all submitted work by the course team. This includes an indication of progress against defined criteria plus narrative comments on areas to address in future work. More detailed annotated feedback is provided on a practice essay in the Michaelmas Term.

Online written reports on general progress of each individual student are provided each term.


Thesis / Dissertation

Placement report of not more than 10,000 words and oral examination.


One essay not exceeding 4,000 words in length, plus coursework which may include written work, or presentation, or other exercises. Assessments are designed to enable students to demonstrate a wide range of applied leadership skills, including but not limited to their academic writing ability. 

Practical assessment

One group presentation and one individual presentation.


A discretionary oral examination on any or all of the assessed components of the MPhil.

Key Information

11 months full-time

Master of Philosophy

Department of Geography

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Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Dec. 5, 2023
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

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

Course Funding Deadline
Dec. 5, 2023
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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