PGCert in Ecological Survey Techniques | University of Oxford
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PGCert in Ecological Survey Techniques

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 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 core face-to-face module, 'Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques in Oxford'; 
  • two online core modules in vegetation and in data analysis;
  • a choice of two out of four online option modules specialising in mammals and reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians, and invertebrates; and
  • a core field project.

Further details regarding the face-to-face week, online modules and field project, including indicative dates, are available on the course website.  

The course is assessed on a modular basis, with assessments reflecting the learning objectives of the course. During the course, you will be required to submit:

  • one 2,500-word formative assignment, which will be marked with feedback but will not contribute credit towards formal course results;
  • four 2,000-word assignments, up to two of which may be submitted as a PowerPoint poster or slide presentation depending on which option modules are chosen (10 CATS points each); and
  • one 5,000-word field project and a 1000-word 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 website comprises further information on key IT requirements for undertaking the course and spotlights on past students from the course.

Graduate destinations

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, North America, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in the field of environmental conservation, ecology, biodiversity or a related life sciences subject. For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.

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.

Applicants should have some first-hand knowledge and/or experience of field work or conservation issues.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

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 Director and another member of the academic team. The interview will be conducted either by telephone or video link. 

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.


Please note that written work and/or publications are not requested and such work cannot be considered as part of the selection process.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

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.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Department for Continuing Education to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and 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.

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 sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

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 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. 


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£5,143

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 likely increases 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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

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.

Living costs

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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.


This is a non-matriculated course and students studying non-matriculated courses do not become members of an Oxford college. More information about matriculated and non-matriculated courses can be found on the Matriculation page.

How to apply

It is not necessary for you to make contact with the academic team prior to submitting an application. Any course-related queries should be directed to

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

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 all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Personal statement:
Up to 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.

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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