About the course
The Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in Ecological Survey Techniques is a one year, part-time course providing the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to conduct effective ecological field surveys and data analysis for a range of key taxa.
The course can be completed in one year (though two years is possible), and uses a mixture of online, face-to-face and experiential learning, including an independent field survey project, and is led by experienced academics and practitioners.
The PGCert provides the high standard of training needed to design, plan and implement effective ecological field surveys from beginning to end, including handling data and reporting results. The course supports research and professional development in the field, providing students with the skills needed to effectively assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems across all biomes.
The face-to-face week in September includes classroom and field work based teaching, as well as practical exercises including the use of GIS software, this is followed by core and option modules taught online and an independently-researched project with field work.
The PGCert comprises:
- one five-day core face-to-face module, 'Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques in Oxford' consisting of classroom and field-based teaching;
- two online core modules in plant biodiversity and in data analysis;
- a choice of two out of four online option modules specialising in mammals and reptiles, bird, fish and amphibians, and invertebrate biodiversity. These online modules are five weeks in duration and will take no more than 100 hours to complete. Module tutors usually engage online for 6 hours per week distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics, questions and activities. There are no live lectures or set times to log in to accommodate students in different time zones; and
- a core field project which consists of one month preparation time, one-two weeks full-time (or equivalent) field work and one month project writing for submission in September
Further details regarding the face-to-face week, online modules and field project, including indicative dates, are available via the course page on the department's website (see Further Information and Enquiries).
Students are expected to spend around 10-15 hours per week in private study in addition to time spent in classes or participating in on-line learning. This may require careful scheduling at times to fit in with your other commitments. Good organisational and time management skills should contribute to successful completion of the course.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and this role will usually be performed by the Course Director.
It is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department for Continuing Education.
In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.
The course is assessed on a modular basis, with assessments reflecting the learning objectives of the course. During the course, after each module, you will be required to submit:
- one formative assignment, which will be marked with feedback but will not contribute credit towards formal course results;
- four assignments, up to two of which may be submitted as a PowerPoint poster or presentation depending on which option modules are chosen (10 CATS points each); and
- one field project and an online journal (20 CATS points).
The course is ideal for both UK-based and international students who wish to follow a flexible programme of study leading to an Oxford qualification. A choice of modules enables students to explore areas of interest and specialism, and areas which are relevant to their professional needs. Drawing on a rich pool of expertise, teaching is conducted by a highly knowledgeable and diverse team of practitioners and academics engaged directly with ecological issues.
The course page on the department's website contains further information on key IT requirements for undertaking the course and spotlights on past students from the course.
The course is designed for a wide range of professionals needing to up-skill in environmental management, assessment and biodiversity monitoring, including consultants, environmental managers and educators, as well as volunteers and those looking to make a career change, that are seeking flexible study combined with expert training. The course provides excellent opportunities to network and share practical experience and ideas.
Current and past students have included rangers and environmental managers at wildlife trusts and NGOs, tutors in higher and further education, research scientists, ecological consultants, officers for statutory bodies, as well as students successfully making career changes.
Participation has helped to boost students' professional practice, enhance career prospects, helped to secure promotions, and enabled students to progress onto further graduate studies, including doctoral research. The course is international in its use of case studies and examples, and past students have joined the PGCert in Ecological Survey Techniques from the UK, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours. Candidates with a degree in environmental conservation, ecology, biodiversity or other life sciences subjects will be given priority; however, candidates with degrees in other subjects who can demonstrate field experience or science skills will also be considered.
Applicants who do not meet this requirement will also be considered if they are able to demonstrate considerable experience in the field of environmental conservation practice.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Applicants should have some first-hand knowledge and/or experience of field work or conservation issues.
- Evidence of training or volunteering in ecological field work or conservation issues may be an advantage. Evidence of research, training and professional experience in ecological field work or conservation issues may also be an advantage.
- The ability to demonstrate career development intentions and/or future career plans (such as a career change) with the course may be an advantage.
- Please note that written work and/or publications are not requested and such work cannot be considered as part of the selection process.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
Candidates whose written applications appear to suggest that basic requirements for entry to the course have been fulfilled will be invited to participate in an interview. All shortlisted applicants will therefore be expected to participate in an interview with the Course Directors. The interview will be conducted via Microsoft Teams or by telephone.
Interview arrangements will be arranged with you at a mutually convenient time. The interviews typically take place within three weeks of the application deadline.
The purpose of the interview is to:
- ensure that you are fully informed of the standard of achievement and level of commitment required by the course of study; and
- establish your level of interest, motivation, enthusiasm and potential to benefit from the course of study.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The department is committed to supporting you to pursue your academic goals.
The Rewley House Continuing Education Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, is situated in Rewley House. The department aims to support the wide variety of subjects covered by departmental courses at many academic levels. As well as housing a large collection of around 73,000 books, the library assists students who are taking online courses and who require access to electronic resources. The Bodleian e-book and e-journal collection covers a vast range of subject areas and supports students who need to study and conduct their own research via the internet.
The Graduate School provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for the department's graduate students, fostering intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe. The Graduate School will help you make the most of the wealth of resources and opportunities available, paying particular regard to the support and guidance needed if you are following a part-time graduate programme. The department’s graduate community comprises over 700 members following taught programmes and more than 80 undertaking doctoral research.
The department provides various IT facilities, including the Student Computing Facility which provides individual PCs for your use. Many of the department's courses are delivered through blended learning or have a website to support face-to-face study. In most cases, online support is delivered through a virtual learning environment.
Depending on the programme you are taking with the department, you may require accommodation at some point in your student career. Rewley House is ideally located in central Oxford; the city's historic sites, colleges, museums, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes’ walk away. The department has 35 en-suite study bedrooms, all with high quality amenities, including internet access.
The Rewley House dining room has seating for up to 132 people. A full meal service is available daily. The department operates a Common Room with bar for students.
Department for Continuing Education
The need for new learning opportunities throughout life is now recognised throughout society. An intensive, initial period of higher education is not always enough in times of rapid social, economic and technological change. The Department for Continuing Education is known worldwide as a leading provider of extended learning for professional and personal development.
The department provides high-quality, flexible, part-time graduate education, tailored for adults. Students can undertake graduate-level certificates, diplomas and taught master’s degrees in a wide range of subjects. Increasing numbers of courses are delivered in mixed mode, combining intensive periods of residence in Oxford with tutored online study.
The department recruits adult students of all ages on a regional, national and international level. Many courses are offered jointly with other academic departments around the University. Courses are offered in the following areas:
All postgraduate students on the department's courses are members of its Graduate School. The Graduate School aims to provide a stimulating and enriching environment for learning and research. It also fosters intellectual and social interaction between students coming from different disciplines and professions. Interdisciplinary research seminars, training opportunities and other events are offered by the Graduate School in support of this goal.
All masters' and DPhil applicants are considered for Clarendon Scholarships. The department is committed to seeking scholarship support for other students wherever possible.
For details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information on external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources. We would suggest that you review this information carefully, as not all funding opportunities are available for students applying to postgraduate diploma and postgraduate certificate courses.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Please note that this course requires that you attend in Oxford for teaching, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. This includes a residential session in Oxford. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a field project or a thesis topic. Depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
Matriculation confers membership of the University on students. Students who enrol on this course will not be matriculated and will not become a member of an Oxford college. Although not formally members of the University, non-matriculated students are expected to observe the same rules and regulations as matriculated students. Further information about matriculation is available on the Oxford Students website.
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
If you have any questions about the course, they should be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Three overall, at least one of which must be academic
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group. At least one of the referees must be academic, and therefore qualified to comment on academic ability, achievement and potential; the remaining references may be professional.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for this course. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
A maximum of 800 words
Please include the following in your statement:
- reasons for applying for the course
- previous experience in the environmental conservation sector (professional, voluntary or otherwise)
- previous relevant academic and vocational study or practical experience
- evidence of skills in critical analysis, wide contextual knowledge, and effective time management
- career plans or aspirations.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Your statement will be assessed on how well it demonstrates the following:
- desire and commitment to learn, for example by discussing how the qualification will benefit you professionally or in your voluntary work, and to provide a vision of your future environmental activities;
- an awareness of the time commitment, as you will need to demonstrate that your employment and personal circumstances are appropriate and sufficiently flexible to meet the course requirements - where appropriate, you should have already discussed this time commitment with your employers and family before applying to the course;
- enthusiasm for the subject, as demonstrated by prior experience and involvement with relevant activities; and
- the ability to work alongside fellow students and tutors as part of an online community and independently, which may be assessed by asking you how much you work collaboratively or independently in your professional or voluntary work, or in prior experiences of study.