The course

Full-time, Part-time, Per course
Course type
Entry date



Traditional and emerging maritime industries place increasing pressure on marine ecosystems and challenge the use of space in our oceans and seas. The ambition for the ‘Blue Economy’ is high with the aim to create jobs and economic growth. New industries such as offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, renewable energy (wind, wave and tide), seabed mining and biotechnologies add to the traditional activities of shipping and fisheries. At the same time we struggle to assess and learn more about the marine ecosystem and how it works. Ecosystem based management and marine protected areas (MPAs) are just two of the important responses to the increasing pressures. This programme follows a multidiscipline approach to management encompassing the technical, economic and social effects of marine resource exploitation.

Orkney is at the heart of marine resources that support whole communities and beyond. Graduates will gain a comprehensive knowledge of the marine and coastal environments and the communities that depend on them. Employment prospects include posts with industry, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, conservation bodies, research institutions and academia.

Read more in this guide to Studying in Orkney.

Programme duration

  • MSc - 12 months
    This is a 12 month full-time MSc degree course taught at our Orkney Campus.

Course content

   Detailed course guide

The MSc involves studying eight taught courses. If you can demonstrate that you have already mastered the subject, you may apply for an exemption from one of the taught courses and undertake a Design Project instead. The MSc programme is completed with a research dissertation equivalent to 4 taught courses.

Semester 1

A11MP Introduction to Marine Planning

Introduces students to the emerging policy and practice of marine planning (global and regional). It examines political, jurisdictional and rights issues in the introduction of economic activities into the marine commons (the ‘Blue Growth Agenda’). The framework of marine legislation is explained and methods of conflict resolution are explored. A series of international case studies will identify the various tools and techniques being used around the world to manage human activity and balance conservation interests with demands for economic growth.

A11OC Oceanography and Marine Ecology

Designed to give an understanding of the science of waves and tides, and how this affects efforts to exploit energy from these resources and to develop other maritime industries. Marine ecosystems are also studied and how these may be impacted by human activities and about the challenges and impacts associated with carrying out engineering operations in the marine environment.

A11DM Marine Resource Development

Examines the exploitation and use of marine resources (including oil and gas, fisheries, shipping, marine renewables, aquaculture and tourism), issues associated with development in the marine environment (including pollution and waste) and how these activities are regulated. You will learn about marine technologies in the Blue Economy and the challenges of developing and deploying technologies to exploit resources in the marine environment.

A11CS Conservation, Sustainable Development and Resource Management

This course takes a broad look at the principles of sustainability and sustainable resource use, including environmental ethics. You will explore the challenges faced by policy makers and marine managers when incorporating these broad principles into policy and practice. You will learn about how sensitive habitats and the species they support are managed and protected, and how impacts from development are mitigated. The course gives an introduction to biodiversity conservation and the biodiversity action planning process, as well as examining issues around the relationship between conservation and science.

Semester 2

A11PK Environmental Policy and Risk

This course explores the legal and policy context of marine governance. You will gain an understanding of international law, particularly the Law of the Sea, property rights and how these relate to different energy resources. The course also looks at regulatory issues at the international, European and UK level, which affect how energy developments are taken forward, as well as risk assessment and management in the context of marine developments. A practical EIA exercise is undertaken.

A11GI GIS for Marine and Environmental Scientists

Geographic Information System mapping is a tool which is now widely used by both developers and regulators in the management and development of marine resources. Within the context of Marine Spatial Planning the use of GIS has rapidly become the standard means of collating and analysing spatial information regarding resource use. This course will explain the principles and provide hands-on experience of applying state of the art mapping software in project based case studies.

A11DA Development Appraisal

Looking at what happens when renewable energy technologies are deployed, this course examines development constraints and opportunities: policy and regulatory issues (including strategic environmental assessment, environmental impact assessment, landscape assessment, capacity issues and the planning system). It also looks at the financial aspects (valuation of capital asses, financing projects and the costs of generating electricity) and at project management.

A11 DP Development Project (Option 1 or:)

This is a team project, where students have the opportunity to apply what they have learned through the other courses in relation to a hypothetical project. You have to look at a range of issues including resource assessment, site selection, development layout, consents, planning and economic appraisal, applying the knowledge and tools you have studied.

A11VY Practical Marine Survey (Option 2)

A practical field study course into the methods and techniques of marine survey. The opportunity for dive study if suitably qualified.

Additional information

This MSc is based at our Orkney Campus. By studying in Orkney you will benefit from a number of activities including field trips, guest lectures and practical activities, which help to develop your skills and knowledge in your field of study, and offer opportunities to meet developers and others involved in the renewable energy industry.