2024 Award Winner’s Spotlight: Higher Education Programme of the Year award

MSc Ecological Survey Skills with Placement

University of Reading

This award was sponsored by:

The MSc Ecological Survey Skills with Placement programme at the University of Reading stands out for the curriculum’s strong focus on employability, providing students with practical skills highly sought after by ecological consultancies and related sectors.

The programme’s structure is designed to offer a blend of academic learning and hands-on field training, culminating in a 6-month paid industry placement. This combination ensures that students gain both theoretical knowledge and practical experience, aligning with CIEEM’s emphasis on linking theory to practice in ecology and environmental management.

Developed in collaboration with industry partners, the programme was launched in response to the challenges outlined in CIEEM’s report “Closing the Gap: Rebuilding ecological skills in the 21st Century.” Since its inception in 2011, the programme has produced over 200 graduates well-prepared for careers in ecological, conservation, and consultancy sectors, with ongoing growth expected through continued partnerships with ecological consultancies.

Students enrolled in the programme benefit from a curriculum that prioritises professional and practical skills relevant to the commercial industry. They receive comprehensive training in various aspects of ecological consultancy, including wildlife legislation, development planning, ecological impact assessment, and biodiversity assessment. Moreover, students acquire proficiency in conducting botanical, animal, and habitat surveys using the latest industry guidance and analytical techniques, as well as presenting their findings to industry standards.

The programme’s unique structure enables graduates to seamlessly transition into ecological consultancy roles upon completion. Exceptional graduate outcomes, demonstrated by the government’s Graduate Outcomes surveys, indicate that 100% of graduates are employed within 15 months of completing the programme. Additionally, surveys conducted internally show that placement providers often offer permanent positions to placement students, reflecting the program’s quality and the value it brings to consultancy partners.

Furthermore, students appreciate studying at a university that prioritises sustainability, as evidenced by the University of Reading’s ranking in the People & Planet University league table. The university’s commitment to teaching sustainable principles aligns with the values of students, empowering them to address environmental challenges proactively.

In summary, the MSc Ecological Survey Skills with Placement programme at the University of Reading offers students a comprehensive skill set and practical experience essential for success in ecological consultancy and related fields. Its recognition as the CIEEM Higher Education Programme of the Year is well-deserved, highlighting its significant contributions to the field of ecology and environmental management.