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MSc International Marine Science

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    Key information

    Mode of delivery
    Start date
    September, January, May


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    This Online International Marine Science degree offers students from a variety of backgrounds, including marine biology, geology, geography, Law and Policy and others, the opportunity to integrate their expertise in the wider marine science context.

    The highly interdisciplinary field of Marine Science aims to understand the biology, chemistry, geology and physics of this dynamic system so central to all our lives. It also considers the overarching influence of climate change and how policy can be brought to bear on managing the resources of the ocean as part of the Blue Economy.

    Degree duration

    Students choosing to study their MSc online have up to eight years to complete their studies. PGDip students will have up to 6 years to complete their studies.

    Industry links

    Throughout the degree, students are provided with internal expert supervision as well as opportunities to work with external partners, both in the UK and internationally. Examples of partners we have worked with in the past are  Marine Conservation International, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and 5 Oceans (5OES). The attached list shows examples of other industry partners.  

    Course content

    Year 1

    Heriot-Watt Online students on International Marine Science MSc undertake eight taught courses and a dissertation. There are five core taught courses with three further taught courses that can be chosen from a list of online options. Students must first take exams in two courses of the degree, Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation and Environmental processes. Based on the results from these courses students continue on the degree at MSc or at PG Diploma level.

    Students will also have access to an optional free short course, 'Introduction to Digital Study and Academic Skills', to help prepare for postgraduate study.

    The majority of courses have written examinations and some courses have compulsory coursework elements.

    Degree structure

    • Applied Research Design and Analysis
    • Environmental Processes
    • Oceanography
    • Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation
    • GIS for Marine and Environmental Scientists
    • ILES Environment Dissertation
    • Marine Biotechnology
    • Tropical and Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management
    • Environmental Processes
    • Energy Transition Lab
    • Introduction to Marine Planning
    • Marine Renewable Energy Technology
    • Marine Environmental Monitoring
    • Renewable Technology Commercialisation
    • Diversity of Marine Organisms
    • Transition Engineering - Achieving Zero Carbon InTIME
    • Marine Ecotoxicology

    Detailed degree guide

    Understanding, Knowledge and Cognitive Skills


    • Critical understanding of the theory of marine science.
    • An understanding of the multiple users and uses of the marine environment.
    • An understanding of the legislative regime in the marine environment.
    • An understanding of how to approach and plan research, keep accurate records and present the results.


    • A detailed knowledge of marine resources and their sustainable exploitation.
    • How to use this theoretical knowledge in practical applications.
    • Knowledge of Strategic Environmental Assessment
    • Knowledge and understanding of policy, legal, ethical and health and safety issues of concern in the marine environment

    Cognitive Skills:

    • Develop critical skills in research data evaluation.
    • Develop critical skills in research data presentation.

    Scholarship, Enquiry and Research (Research Informed Learning)

    • Develop critical skills in research data evaluation.
    • Develop knowledge and understanding of a range of research skills and methods for investigating current issues in marine science, culminating in an ability to conduct independent research and improving the ability to solve these problems.

    Approaches to Teaching and Learning

    The programme aims to teach students the theoretical aspects of marine science through formal lectures, tutorials, and individual and group assignments. 

    Students are able to select from the courses offered at Edinburgh and Orkney (and within 3-5 years also Malaysia and Dubai) to encourage them to develop an awareness of policy, management, environmental, technical and ethical issues in these disciplines. The programme will also be available in mixed-mode delivery, comprising on-campus (including campus transfers and blocked practical sessions) and online teaching (live and/or recorded lectures). 

    The practical project courses will use examples of real case studies (e.g. all teaching staff are research active and dissertations are embedded in existing research groups) and introduce students to a range of methods techniques studied in their theory courses. Students will learn how to develop and assess their research ideas and critically evaluate their data. Students will produce a range of different outputs over the duration of the programme and learn to develop their presentation and communication skills through group discussion and presentations to fellow students and staff. The research project, commencing in Semester 2/3 and extending over the summer, will bring together the knowledge and skills obtained in Semesters 1 and 2, culminating in the production of a dissertation.

    Assessment Policies

    The assessment policy for the programme incorporates a range of assessment types. There is a strong emphasis on formative assessment to provide feedback on student performance and is used to inform further development. Continuous assessment during courses and summative assessment at the conclusion of the theory courses both contribute to the overall assessment and are used to measure formal achievement in specified learning outcomes. 

    Understanding, knowledge and subject-specific skills are assessed by a variety of means such as coursework assignments, group and individual project work and presentations.  Personal abilities are reviewed by interviews based on individual personal development portfolios, self-assessment, performance review sessions and appraisal interviews which provide feedback on performance and assessment.  Approaches to assessment are continually reviewed. Specific details about methods of assessment are provided in the individual course descriptors.

    Fees and funding

    Tuition fees

    Tuition fees
    Status Per course [footnote 1] Dissertation/Project [footnote 1]
    UK / EU / Overseas GBP1235 GBP1750
    1. The tuition fees listed are for courses starting between September 2023 and August 2024. Fees normally increase annually. Find out more about our tuition fees.

    Additional fee information

    The fee for optional courses, Practical Skills in Marine Surveying and Marine Resource and Sustainability, is £1,660. The fee for the optional course Tropical and Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management is £2,260.

    It's important to note that the indicated fee represents the total cost of each respective course. The fees for these particular courses are higher due to the inclusion of field trips. For all other courses and the dissertation, the fees are as specified in the table above.

    Financial support

    Tuition fee loans are available to Scottish distance learning students on some taught postgraduate courses. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

    Scholarships and bursaries

    We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Each year, hundreds of students enhance their educational experience through a variety of Heriot-Watt and externally funded scholarships, including opportunities funded by the University's generous alumni community, based all over the world.

    View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

    Entry requirements

    Applicants to the MSc programme will normally:

    • have a good undergraduate degree (minimum 2:2 honours or equivalent) in engineering or a relevant science discipline, or
    • demonstrate equivalent academic ability based on industrial experience or membership of a professional institution

    As part of the eight taught courses on the International Marine Science MSc, Heriot-Watt online students must first take exams in two courses of the programme, Climate Change and Environmental Processes. Based on the results from these courses students continue on the programme at MSc or at PG Diploma level.

    English language requirements

    Applicants will need a good English language ability to succeed in their programme. If English is not your first language, you should have

    • achieved a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent, or
    • successfully completed courses (of 1 year or more in duration) delivered in English.

    Additional information

    Recognition of Prior Learning

    We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Online Admissions Team (egis-idl-apps@hw.ac.uk) ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study. 


    Our Marine Environment and Climate Change degrees prepare our graduates for a career in Marine Environmental Consultancy, Basic Research and Marine Conservation. Employers include Industry, Government Agencies, Universities and NGOs.

    The International Marine Science MSc takes this approach a step further and will equip our graduates with the skills to operate on an international stage, as marine environmental issues increasingly require attention on a global scale.

    Recent student publications

    These publications result from MSc research projects (student co-authors are highlighted):

    • Gore, M., Abels, L., Wasik, S., Saddler, L., Ormond, R., 218. Are close-following and breaching behaviours by basking sharks at aggregation sites related to courtship? , 1-13.
    • Brash, J. M., Cook, R. L., Mackenzie, C. L. and Sanderson, W. G. (217). The demographics and morphometries of biogenic reefs: important considerations in conservation management. 1-1.
    • Blumenröder, J., Sechet, P., Kokonnen, J. and Hartl, M. G. J. (217). Microplastic contamination of intertidal sediments of Scapa Flow, Orkney: a first assessment. Mar Pollut Bull. 13, 293-32.

    See our full list of student publications.

    Why Heriot-Watt?

    Flexibility and affordability

    Study at a time and pace that suits you, and even while you work. HW Online offers pay-as-you-study courses and fees inclusive of exams and study materials, meaning you can focus on success, not extra costs.

    Your career

    Employers around the world actively seek out our graduates because they are work-ready. All our degrees are career-focused and relevant to the needs of industry. Around 95% of our students are in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

    Online events

    We host online events throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to speak to our academic teaching staff, meet students, find out what it is like to study using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and discover how to enrol.

    Lifelong connections

    Upon completing your studies you will automatically join the UK's oldest alumni association The Watt Club, with 147k members worldwide.

    Study options Orkney - International Marine Science

    Our MSc in International Marine Science is also available to study at our Orkney campus.

    Study options Edinburgh - International Marine Science

    Our MSc in International Marine Science is also available to study at our Edinburgh campus.

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