MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy

Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 120)

The current environmental changes affect both natural ecosystems and civil societies. 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 longterm changes in our land, air and water requires advanced scientific knowledge in measurement, modelling and prediction. This joint international MSc course between the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science and Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany is the response to these challenges. 

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

Download the course 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 offcies, 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 a host instiutions. 
  • 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 acquired, particularly through the completion of the minor thesis provides a strong foundation for PhD research.

Prospective employers include the Environmental Protection Agency, Governmental Departments, European Commission; European Environment Agency as well as various international organisations (e.g. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; United Nations Environment Programme; International Union for the Conservation of Nature, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation).

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.

You can download here a powerpoint presentation on the structure and list of core as well as optional modules available at both institutions. 


MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy (F038) Full Time
EU          fee per year - € 8145
nonEU    fee per year - € 24800

***Fees are subject to change

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

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.

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

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  • 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 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.

Graduate Profiles


Elena Barth, Germany, MSc Global Change graduate 2015. Currently working for GIZ 

During my undergraduate studies in Environmental Management I learned a lot about ecosystem science and project management. However, I felt that my education lacked an important part on policy processes if I wanted to make my plans of working in international cooperation come true. This is why I chose the master´s course Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy. It gave me the possibility to deepen my understanding of international environmental policy and science communication. For my thesis I went to Colombia and investigated on a coral reef restoration project in the Caribbean. The knowledge I had gained during the master´s course enabled me to do research not only on the ecological dimension of coral reef loss, but to also highlight social-economic and political aspects of the issue. 

Currently, I am working as an intern for Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German federal agency for international cooperation. I support the team of Blue Solutions, a project that is dedicated to the protection and conservation of the world´s marine and coastal biodiversity.

Rebecca Kutzner, Germany, MSc Global Change graduate 2014. Currently working at the Postdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Germany

 During my under-graduate studies as a geoscientist I learned about past climates and inter-connections within the earth system. But I could not understand what hinders decision makers to do something about it. During my Masters in “Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy”, I increased my knowledge of many ecosystems, some I didn’t know about like peatlands, but gained also insight into the political and economic realm and into the benefits gained by many stakeholders. This helped me greatly during my first employment at a transdisciplinary institute in Germany (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies). 


Aggrey Ntakimanye, Uganda, MSc Global Change graduate 2014. Currently advising the Uganda Government and working as a forestry consultant, Uganda

The MS in Global Change had the best “packaging” that suited my career aspirations and interests. The most stimulating and valuable aspect of the course was the work placement, where I learned work-related skills through excellent professional mentoring. Also, living in both Ireland and Germany was enriching both on a professional and a personal level.

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
Rolling *

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