Countryside Management PgDip

Level: SCQF 11

Available at these campuses: Distance Learning

About the Course

Countryside Management Students (croped)The factors affecting the wider environment are constantly increasing and range from agriculture and forestry to recreation, urban development and population growth. These in turn have knock-on effects such as climate change, water and food shortages, habitat and species loss and the impact of non-native species.

One of the areas where these factors come together is in the field of countryside management where the public use of the countryside interacts with professional land managers and can result in conflict.

In the context of this programme and the degree programme from which it has developed the term countryside management encompasses a broad range of topics and land uses ranging from conservation management to rural land use planning and interpretation to land use history. Applications are accepted from those both with or without specifically related previous qualifications - previous students have included graduates of History, Education, Business Management and Engineering, as well as Biological and Natural Sciences. Non-graduate entrants have included students with significant experience in aspects such as countryside rangering, town & country planning and ecology.

Students are expected to have a broad knowledge of how the countryside that we see around us has developed in a historical context and how this relates to factors such as climate, ecology and soils. This in turn helps to determine current land use practice whether it be for agriculture or forestry, conservation management or recreation.

Inevitably these land uses are interlinked in complex ways and the countryside manager is expected to be able to identify the potential conflicts and to arrive at appropriate management options.

Of course there is rarely a simple answer in such situations and the resulting decisions have to be based on an understanding of the competing claims and an awareness of how to work with individuals, interest groups and communities to ensure that stakeholders' views have been taken into account.

Completion of 4 modules will result in the PgCert. A further 4 modules will complete the PgDip. Additional completion of the MSc Project will complete the MSc.

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Entry Requirements

A degree or evidence of equivalent academic competence and /or extensive work experience in a relevant sector. Evidence of English language of IELTS 6.5.

Course Content

For more information please download our course leaflet.

There are eight taught modules providing for the development of a range of technical, practical and professional skills. Residential study weekends are also used as a vital tool in delivering some of the practical aspects of the course.

In the modules an element of student choice is often built in through the use of essay and other course work topics that cover areas of potential interest. The modules will be of value individually to those in employment who are looking for Continuing Professional Development.

Taught modules are:

Species Identification and Evaluation Techniques

The ability to identify, survey and evaluate the ecological importance of species and habitats is a key skill, fundamental to the appropriate management of sites and decision making in the planning process. The module uses technical guidance material to ensure it introduces students to the industry standards. It will also develop core skills such as GIS, mapping and accessing data sources.

Principles of Interpretation and Education for Sustainability

Interpretation has been identified as important management tool which contributes to sustainable tourism through enhancing visitor experience and managing behaviour to protect site resources. Effective interpretation follows a plan incorporating key principles and communicates good practice alongside recognised psychological theories. Often interpretation by countryside professionals is aligned with delivery of education for sustainable development through such topics as Earth Education, Outdoor Learning and Forest Schools. However important distinctions between interpretation and education for sustainability will be highlighted, particularly regarding policies, learning theories and initiatives behind the practice of delivering education programmes.

Planning and the Legal Framework

This module will look at the origins of the planning system including the importance of both the historical and cultural heritage of the landscape and the reasons for its designations. The module will also cover the present structure of the planning system and the differing scales at which the system operates. The module will provide an opportunity to understand how the need for policy arises, how policy is tiered at international, European, UK and national level and thus where the drivers for legislation are.

Farming, Forestry and the Environment

This module will enable students to understand the potential impacts of a range of agricultural enterprises on different aspects of the environment, comparing systems such as conventional farming with organic farming and High Nature Value Farming and the use of farming in managing conservation sites. Land management measures to redress these impacts will be investigated such as agri-environment schemes. Forestry systems ranging from commercial to amenity will be assessed along with the impacts of new policies for forest expansion.

Professional Leadership & Management

This module will develop key skills required for professional practice in Countryside Management, including communication skills, facilitating meetings, presentation skills, networking, customer relations and dealing with the media. It will also focus on professionalism, leadership and management skills and will include personal development planning through the setting of personal goals for career progression and identifying relevant CPD opportunities. Participants will be encouraged to identify and display appropriate professional attitudes, behaviour and values for their own situation.

Managing the Outdoors for People and the Natural Environment

Urban greenspaces and rural landscapes are increasingly used as multi-functional resources for education, leisure, recreation, fitness and tourism. Protected areas in particular experience both the benefit and cost of their status which makes them highly marketable for tourism that brings economic benefits at all levels. However the fragility of many such areas renders them extremely susceptible to the varied impacts of such activities. This module examines the various visitor management techniques used to provide an enjoyable visitor experience while not compromising protection of the natural resources.

Topical Issues in Countryside Management

In this module students will engage in constructive debates on topical issues in Countryside Management and their impacts on wider society. This will develop a broader understanding of their professional area and build on their existing knowledge. The module is designed to develop students’ critical and evaluatory skills whilst dealing with complex issues and making informed judgements.

Conservation Management

Conservation management planning is at the heart of the work of a Countryside Manager. This module approaches conservation management using multiple scales. This includes: species focussed approaches (e.g. protected species management), habitat management (e.g. peatland action) and landscape scale projects. Management planning is however not simply a list of activities. By evaluating importance and constructing work programmes, managers are able to prioritise, budget and control staff and volunteers.


MSc Project

In this module, students will undertake a research project related to Countryside Management which will be agreed in consultation with the Module Leader and project supervisor. This will build upon the knowledge and skills gained in the earlier aspects of the course. The students will design their project, using appropriate aims, objectives and time-scales to a pre-determined deadline. Analysis will be undertaken using appropriate methods and the use of statistical skills, as well as critical analysis of literature. It is expected this module will aid students in gaining skill sets required for careers in research, consultancy and management.

Course Format

This course is studied part time through on-line distance learning. This allows those in continuing employment or with family commitments to participate. With the exception of several weekend schools and a short study tour, the learning is carried out in the student's home or work place.

The PgCert/PgDip is a high level learning course taught at university post-graduate level. Students are required to complete all taught modules detailed above. Typically a student will study 4 modules per year and complete the PgDip in two years. Completion of 4 modules will complete the PgCert though not all modules run each year. This would normally take an average of 12 to 15 hours study time a week.

The study weekends and short study tour are an integral part of teaching delivery and students are strongly recommended to attend these if they are to succeed in this course.


Progression is available via the MSc Project which can be taken by eligible students following successful completion of taught modules. The project provides an opportunity for in-depth individual research on a topic related to countryside management.

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