MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy

Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 120)

Global change refers to planetary-scale changes occurring in complex socio-ecological systems, which are affected by climatic and non-climatic drivers (e.g., changes in human society). Understanding the intricate, medium- to long-term changes in our land, air and water requires advanced scientific knowledge in measurement, modelling and prediction. This should in turn inform the science-policy interface.
This joint international MSc in Global Change is the response to these global change challenges and will suit graduates wishing to develop a scientific career in ecosystem research as well as those aiming to contribute to evidence-based environmental policy. Students will study at both UCD, Dublin and Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany where you will be involved in active research groups, contributing to their ongoing ecosystem and policy consultancy studies.

Visit our website to discover more about this unique opportunity to study in both Ireland and Germany and make a difference.

Download the UCD Science Graduate Taught Courses brochure (pdf)

  • The first semester is based at UCD Ireland between September and December. 
  • This is followed by a 6 week minimum internship in a company or institution of your choice (for example: Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Agriculture Organisation, UNFCCC and Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change offices, Rural Investment Support for Europe foundation, ICLEI (Local Government for Sustainability), Postdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Irish Environmental Network, European Forest Institute).
  • The second taught semester is based in JLU, Giessen, Germany between March and August.
  • The last semester is devoted entirely to an individual research project, which can be undertaken in either UCD or JLU or host institutions. 
  • You will gain expertise in global change processes (soil, air, water), plant-soil-atmosphere interactions; skills to work at the science and policy interface; environmental law and international regulations as well as specific communication skills.

Click here for Frequently Ask Questions

Careers & Employability

Graduates may pursue roles as policy advisers, scientific analysts or researchers in government, international organisations, NGOs, research institutes or consulting companies. There are also many opportunities for further studies. The skills you acquire, particularly through the completion of the minor thesis, provide a strong foundation for PhD research.
Prospective employers include the Environmental Protection Agency, governmental departments, European Commission; European Environment Agency and International organisations (e.g. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; United Nations Environment Programme; International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Food and Agricultural Organisation).

Curricular information is subject to change

Full Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

The MSc in Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy degree is aimed at individuals who intend to pursue a career in the wide field of ‘Environmental issues’ with the skills to understand the science as well as communicating policy-relevant evidence to diverse audience.


This is an international joint degree programme between University College Dublin (UCD) and Justus-Liebig-University Giessen (JLU), which provides students with a unique working environment of learning in a cross-cultural setting. The student will experience living in a different culture, make friends with students from different countries and gain increased independence and self-confidence. A key element of the programme is a learning environment that combines academic and professional approaches in an international context. The programme suits skilled and motivated science graduates wishing to develop a scientific career in researching natural and managed ecosystems, as well as those aiming to contribute to evidence-based environmental policy.

The programme combines the well-established international profiles of JLU and UCD and draws on the research and teaching expertise in those institutions as well as on national and international collaboration. This course integrates major research groups, bringing together complementary, multi-disciplinary expertise including fully-resourced ecosystem experiments and field-scale study sites. Both institutions have facilities to allow students and staff to have access to major technology platforms essential to the conduct of world-class cutting-edge research. This is also reflected in the teaching content of this programme, which is continually adapted and drawn from the latest international research projects and policy-related developments.

Graduates will benefit from the experience of world-class educators from both UCD and JLU who will train graduates in the scientific methods required to study the effects of environmental change on ecosystems around the world and to transfer the gained knowledge into policy-relevant information. The assessments undertaken represent real world applications and are constantly developed as a tool to achieve a deeper mastery of the subjects. Of great importance to the gained learning experience is the inclusion in the core curriculum of an employment-focussed work placement (six weeks contact time). In addition to providing graduates with strong scientific training in the interpretation of ecosystem science, this programme will provide students with the skills necessary to participate in environmental policy making processes.

  • Ability to use and interpret a wide range of datasets
  • Communicate policy-relevant evidence to diverse target audiences in an unambiguous way
  • Develop strategies for continuous professional development and continue self-directed learning required to enhance their career ambitions.
  • Maturity to pursue study as well as critically appraise scientific information
  • Participate in ecosystem research using the latest research methods and data management tools
  • Perform environmental work and research in a confident manner by applying relevant tools in data collection, management, analysis and reporting
  • Understand and promote the development of policy in terms of adaptation and mitigations for natural and managed ecosystems, thereby supporting sustainable livelihoods
  • Understand the ecosystem science underpinning our knowledge of global environmental change

You can download  a brochure on the structure and the taught modules (core and optional) at both UCD (winter semester) and JLU (summer semester).

UCD Core Modules Credit Points
LAW41730 Foundations of Enviro Law SBES 5
BIOL40780 Designing Global Change Research Projects 5
ENVB40130 Global Change Ecology 5
BIOL40140 Science and Policy 5
ENVB40040 Environmental Impact Assessment 5
ENVB40370 Data Anal. & Interpretation 5
BIOL40120 Work Placement (Global Change) 20
BIOL40130 Research Project (Global Change) 30
Optional module (5 CP needed)  
ZOOL40510 Conservation of Biodiversity 5
ENVB40310 Peatlands and Env. Change 5
MEEN40090 Energy Systems and Climate Change 5
ENVB40410 Management of Sustainable Fisheries (On-line) 5
ENVB30130 Ecology & its Appl. O/L 5
ENVB40540 Ecological Mapping and QGIS 5


JLU Core Modules Credit Points
BIOL40680 Global Change: Modelling and Advanced Techniques 5
BIOL40690 Adaptation to Global Change (JLU) 3
BIOL40580 Policy Consulting - Environmental Policy and Development Cooperation (JLU) 6
BIOL40230 Resource Economics and Environmental Management (JLU) 6
BIOL40160 Biodiversity Informatics (JLU) 3
BIOL40740 Sustainable agro-ecosystems  6
Options JLU (6 CP needed)  
BIOL40600 - Economic Development & World Agricultural Markets (JLU) 6
BIOL40710 Into the footsteps of a researcher (JLU) 3
BIOL40570 World Food Economy (JLU) 6
ENVB40550 Humanitarian Disasters and its Impact on Transition Management (JLU) 6
BIOL40700 Stress Ecology (JLU) 3
BIOL40750 Global Governance 6
ENVB40560 Natural Resources & Eco (JLU) 6
BIOL40660 Methods in Global Change Research 3
ENVB40560 - Natural Resources and Ecosystem Services (JLU) 6

MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy (F038) Full Time
EU          fee per year - € 9650
nonEU    fee per year - € 29100

***Fees are subject to change

The annual tuition fee is valid for the whole duration of this Master programme, that is 16 month. You will be registered at both universities for the entirity of the programme and this fee also covers for 3 semester contribution in Justus Liebig University.

Tuition fee information is available on the UCD Fees website. Please note that UCD offers a number of graduate scholarships for full-time, self-funding international students, holding an offer of a place on a UCD graduate degree programme. For further information please see International Scholarships. There is also ERASMUS mobility scholarships as well as other funding mechanisms for German students through the DAAD (please email

For more information select your country here

Internship Opportunities*

The course includes a 20 credit professional work placement (up to 10 weeks) in highly recognised international institutions. The following internships are examples of past placements: Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (Japan), Posdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany), Deltares (The Netherlands), RISE foundation (Belgium), Irish and German EPA, ENGOs: An Taisce, Sonairte, Rediscovery Centre and Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Governmental agencies.

This Masters programme is distinctive in that it offers students the opportunity to spend 6 to 8 weeks on a work placement. You will be placed in a setting that reflects your own interests. You can also ask the programme co-ordinator to review a particular internship (e.g. a company of your choice that you might be interested in working for). The work placement can be carried in any country of your choice. Placements may vary considerably but students will normally be placed in industry, government, non-government or research agencies where they will obtain a breadth of practical experience to complement their degree programme. Through this work placement, you will acquire transferable skills which will make you a sought after and effective employee. 

A Programme Internship Manager is dedicated to helping the students securing a work placement and helping them with their applications, CVs, cover letters as well as giving them mock interviews and advise on work ethics.

Click here for more information and examples of hosts/employers.

*Placements are secured through a competitive process and are not guaranteed.

This unique joint international programme has been accreditated by the German agency AQAS before it commenced and has been re-accreditated after 5 years.

  • This programme is intended for applicants with a Bachelor degree in an appropriate life sciences discipline, such as biology, agriculture or environmental science (including zoology, ecology, biochemistry, geology and physics). A bachelor degree (NFQ Level 8) with honours 2(2) (GPA 2.48 or higher) or international equivalent is required.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must also demonstrate English language proficiency of IELTS 6.5 (no band less than 6.0 in each element), or equivalent.
  • These are the minimum entry requirements – additional criteria may be requested for some programmes 

Graduate Profile

Conor Ó Beoláin
I chose this MSc in Global Change programme because it offered the best of both the world of global change science as well as the associated governance and policy implications. Personally, I found the internship period as well as the semester at JLU in Gießen to be the most rewarding experiences, but the whole course duration was made infinitely better by the care and expertise provided by all the module instructors in UCD and JLU.

In additional to all the facilities locted in UCD, especially within the Earth Institute and UCE Rosemount Environmental Research Station, students benefit from the state-of-the-art global change research and practical training campus at JLU, Giessen Germany. There is fully equiped modern research station hosting the world-wide longest running Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) facility. Moreover methodological practical training in modern climate change research are available at the research station This includes stable isotope facilities and the methods for modern global change ecology, such as modern techniques to quantify climate relevant trace gas emission from terrestrial ecosystems. 

The following entry routes are available:

MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy FT (F038)
16 Months
Full Time

* Courses will remain open until such time as all places have been filled, therefore early application is advised