PGCert in Ecological Survey Techniques FAQs

Course and structure

Who is this course for?

The course (taught part-time, normally over one year) is designed for a wide range of both students and professionals needing to up-skill in: Environmental management; Environmental assessment; Biodiversity monitoring.

Many of our PGCert students are professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, educators as well as volunteers and those looking to make a career change. The course suits those looking for flexible study combined with expert training.

The techniques covered are universal using international case studies and examples. Past students have joined from the UK, the USA, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.

What is the aim of this course?

The course aims to equip students with the techniques to survey, measure, quantify, assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems in the field. It is essential for conservation practitioners and volunteers worldwide to make evidence-based decisions about a site or species. Equipping environmental conservation practitioners with the capacity to collect and analyse field survey data in order to understand, interpret and, therefore, make informed decisions in environmental conservation is critical to the future of ecosystems and ecosystem services in all biomes.

In particular, the course aims to create a hybrid programme of experiential and online learning in environmental conservation practice for practitioners and volunteers worldwide, that will:

  • Focus on the use of survey techniques for measuring, quantifying and monitoring biodiversity; Develop a critical understanding of how to analyse field survey data to answer particular research or management questions;
  • Enable conservationists to make informed decisions on, and assess the status of, a species or habitat;
  • Enable conservationists to evaluate which field techniques to use for measuring and monitoring the impacts of environmental change on biodiversity;
  • Build capacity and communities of practice among environmental conservationists worldwide;
  • Prepare students to progress onto a Postgraduate Diploma or Masters programme.

How can a part-time course be of benefit to me?

The course is flexible and designed to be compatible with people who have ongoing careers and commitments. The modules take place at specific times in the year and students will be expected to attend short intensive study weeks, with further work done independently while away from Oxford.

Students will be able to communicate with tutors and connect with other students online whilst undertaking such independent work.

The course is also available as standalone modules which can be taken separately.

When does the face-to-face teaching fall in the year?

The Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques face-to-face week usually falls during the first week of September.

Do I need to attend the in-person week?

It is expected that students on the programme attend the initial in-person Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques as this is a core module with a formative assignment due after the module has finished.

How many modules are there to complete the PG Cert in EST?

Students take four tutor-led online modules with two of them being the core modules Plant Biodiversity and Habitat Assessment Methods and Data Analysis in Ecology: Statistics for Ecologists & Field Biologists. The remaining two modules will be chosen out of the four other modules on the programme.

How long does it take to complete the course?

The course can be completed in one year although two years is possible. Agreement by the Course Directors is required if a student opts to study over two years.

How many hours a week?

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.

Do I have to live in Oxford?

Students are not expected to live in Oxford. The Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques is mainly taught online with the exception of the Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques face-to-face week in September.

Will I be affiliated to a college?

The Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques is a non-matriculated programme which means that it is not associated with one of the University of Oxford’s colleges.

What resources are available to students?

Students will have access to the Bodleian Libraries, particularly the Department for Continuing Education Library. You can find more information about resources available to students at

Can I take another course alongside this course?

We generally discourage students from taking more than one course at a time due to the intensity of the study weeks, but it is ultimately at the admission panel’s discretion. More information about the Department’s policy on concurrent study can be found at


What is the application fee?

The application fee is £75 per course application, unless you're eligible for an application fee waiver.

If you are resident in a low-income country in the list of eligible countries and you are not able to pay the application fee, you can request a waiver of this fee. Further information can be found here:

What are the deadlines to apply?

There are several across the academic year. The core admissions cycle runs from September to March, and all candidates are advised to apply as early as possible.

The University of Oxford operates a number of ‘Gathered Fields’, and fields that apply for this course fall in November, January, and March. However, should places still remain beyond March, we may keep the applications window open (indication will be given on our website: The Graduate Admissions website will be updated to show one week notice of closure (green: open / amber: closing in one week /red: closed).

How will my application be 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 will be considered as part of the assessment process.

What combination of referees is acceptable?

The required number of references is three. Two of the referees should be able to talk directly about your academic ability. This is required as it helps to gauge whether or not you have the academic ability to study at this level at the University of Oxford, and complete your PGCert.

We recognize that it can sometimes be challenging to seek the support of an academic referee, so do get in touch if you experience any particular problems. We’ll try to help you by suggesting an alternative that might work for you. It is usually acceptable for candidates to ask senior professional colleagues to comment on relevant research projects and written management reports. The third reference might be from a client.

We are aware that individual situations will differ, so drop us a line if you would like further advice: We do need academic referees to enable the academic team to assess your academic ability to undertake the course.

Your application will be deemed complete by the system once all application requirements are met and 2 out of 3 references have been received. If you are selected for interview we will require the third reference to be submitted in advance.

English is not my native language. What do I need to do?

English is the language of instruction for all programmes offered at Oxford and all assignments and the field project for this PGCert need to be written in English.

This PGCert requires a higher level of  English. See for more information.

Please note that if English is not your native language, you may need a recent certificate proving you have met or exceeded the higher level of proficiency in the English language.

If you have completed a full-time degree, of a minimum of 9 months, taught and assessed in English within the last 2 years, you may request an English language test waiver at the time of application. Those with extensive professional experience in countries in which English is widely spoken may also submit a waiver request via the application form, detailing level and extent of usage (both verbal and written English).

Should any candidate need more help or information about language requirements or a waiver request, please email

Can you provide a visa letter for this course?

We normally issue a letter to support a visitor visa for students to attend the Introduction Week. Further information about visas can be found on the Student Immigration website

What is the required grade in relation to my undergraduate degree and entry to this course?

The normal minimum qualification to be eligible for admission as a graduate student is the completion of a Bachelor’s degree with First or Upper Second Class Honours (or equivalent). For guidance on how international degrees compare, please see the National Information Centre (UK ENIC)

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.

The academic team will also take relevant knowledge and experience into account.

Please check the Graduate Admissions website for more information on the entry requirements for the PGCert

The second tab on the application form asks for a project proposal outline and field of study (150 words). How should I fill this in as I haven’t chosen a final project yet?

It is not essential to have a final outline for your project proposal at the time of applying. In fact, you will have time and support on course to finalise this but the Course Team are keen to hear any initial ideas you may have.

Fees and funding

Are there scholarships available, and what is the process to follow?

Funding options can be  found on the Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques webpage or via the Continuing Education funding page:

Information on application deadlines and entry criteria for the Ghana and Nigeria Ecological Survey Techniques Scholarship can be found at

Is accommodation included in the course fee?

There is an Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques week where students on the course are expected to attend otherwise study for this programme is entirely online. Accommodation and travel fees are not included in the course fee.

Does the course cost need to be paid upfront or can it be paid in instalments throughout the year?

The Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques can either be paid in full or apayment plan can be arranged. Both payment in full and the first instalment payment need to be made prior to the programme begins.

Successful applicants will be required to complete a financial declaration as one of their conditions of offer, where they will need to demonstrate that they are able to afford the Year 1 course fees in full. You can find more information about the financial declaration at Once an applicant has met all conditions of their offer and has received a confirmed offer for the course, we will issue a fees invoice (usually during June or July, for entry in September). At this point, we usually offer students a choice of payment options for that invoice: either pay in full as per the standard terms (normally 30 days), or request one of our payment plans. These plans are popular with students, and are there to help spread the cost of study.