Student at the Natural History Museum

Duration: 1 year full-time or 2 or 3 years part-time
Start date: October 2017
LocationSouth Kensington and the Natural History Museum
ECTS: 90 credits

This course is now open to applications for 2017 entry.

Taxonomy and systematics provide the foundation for studying the diversity of the living world. This course will give you a broad background in these disciplines and their power for our understanding of biological diversity. 

About the course


This taught course is based mainly at the Natural History Museum, where you will attend lectures, together with computer and laboratory-based practicals. The Natural History Museum is in South Kensington, just a five-minute walk from Imperial's main campus.

The programme will equip you with quantitative and analytical skills in computing, morphological and molecular techniques in systematics, taxonomy and biodiversity research.

As well as a one-week field course at Imperial’s Silwood Park Campus, you will also have the opportunity to specialise in your chosen subject during an independent four-month research project, based either at the Museum or the Silwood Park Campus.

You may choose to undertake fieldwork carrying out biodiversity surveys, work in the molecular laboratories, or use the Natural History Museum’s world-renowned collection of natural history specimens.

The unique location of this course enables you to attend regular seminars given by top researchers and to have important networking opportunities for future PhDs and careers.


Modules shown are for the current academic year, and are subject to change depending on your year of entry.

The MSc course comprises a number of taught modules including a field course, spread over two 11-week terms. This is followed by a four-month research project. There are no optional modules.


  • Taxonomy of major groups and the Tree-of-Life: An introduction of major branches of the Tree, including identification exercises, presented by NHM experts
  • Statistics and Computing: a two-week intensive module at Silwood Park
  • Field course: trapping and collecting techniques for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
  • Phylogenetic Reconstruction: the principles of building phylogenetic trees
  • Molecular Systematics: generating and analysing molecular data; model-based phylogenetics
  • Phylogenomics: genomic techniques for studying evolutionary processes and biodiversity
  • Biodiversity (Concepts): speciation, radiation, macroevolution
  • Biodiversity (Applied): measuring biodiversity, geospatial analysis, collection management and biodiversity informatics
  • Palaeobiology: studying the fossil record and what we can learn for biodiversity

Visit the Natural History Museum's website for a description of the taught modules listed above, including the field course and the four-month research project.

Entry requirements

Minimum academic requirement

2:1 Honours degree in any area of biology or related science-based subject (e.g. palaeontology, geology, marine biology, anthropology, environmental sciences).

International qualifications

The academic requirement above is for applicants who hold or who are working towards a UK qualification. 

We also accept a wide variety of international qualifications. For guidance see our Country Index though please note that the standards listed here are the minimum for entry to the College.

If you have any questions about admissions and the standard required for the qualification you hold or are currently studying for then please contact the relevant admissions team.

English language requirements

All candidates must demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency for admission to the College.

For admission to this course, you must achieve the standard College requirement in the appropriate English language qualification. For details of the minimum grades required to achieve this requirement, please see the English language requirements for postgraduate applicants.

Fees and funding

Home and EU students

2017 entry:
  • £9,600 full-time
  • £4,800* per year for part-time students (2 year course)
  • £3,200* per year for part-time students (3 year course)

Islands and overseas students

2017 entry:
  • £19,600 full-time
  • £9,800* per year for part-time students (2 year course)
  • £6,533* per year for part-time students (3 year course)

* Please note that the tuition fee amount you will pay may increase each year.

Government funding

The level of tuition fees you pay is based on your fee status, which we assess based on UK government legislation.

If you are a Home or EU student who meets certain criteria, you can apply for a Postgraduate Master’s Loan of up to £10,000 from the UK government for programmes beginning in October 2016. The loan is not means-tested, and you can choose whether to put it towards your tuition fees or living costs. 

Funding from Imperial


We offer a range of scholarships for postgraduate students to support you through your studies. Try our scholarships search tool to see what you might be eligible for.

For more information on the Postgraduate Master's Loan scheme and other funding opportunities that are available, please visit our Fees and Funding website.

How to apply

All applicants must apply online.

You can usually apply for up to two courses, although your second choice will only be considered if your first-choice application is unsuccessful.

Most courses don't have a formal closing date, but popular courses close when they are full, so you should apply early to avoid disappointment. There may also be funding deadlines that apply to you.

You will need to upload documents with your applications, which may include transcripts and degree certificates.

Offer holders will need to pay a deposit to secure your place. This will be deducted from the balance of your tuition fees.

For full details on the online application process, or to start your application, please visit the How to Apply section of our website.

ATAS Certificate

An ATAS certificate is not required for overseas students applying for this course.

Further information

Find out more about the MSc Taxonomy and Biodiversity, including more detailed course content.