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Programme Overview
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Master of Science in Environmental Governance
with Specialization in Biodiversity

The United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) welcomes applicants for its Master of Science in Environmental Governance with Specialization in Biodiversity programme. The programme draws on UNU-IAS's long-standing reputation for excellence in policy-oriented research for sustainable development. Protecting and preserving biodiversity is one of the most important global environmental challenges we face today. With growing international interest on environmental governance and the role of biodiversity in regional and national development, there is increasing demand for biodiversity experts with empirically and conceptually grounded training. UNU-IAS provides students with the intellectual foundation and practical field experience necessary for understanding environmental governance regimes. Graduates of the programme will receive a Master of Science degree from the United Nations University and the skills necessary to forge new frontiers as researchers and practitioners with an interdisciplinary and systemic understanding of biodiversity, ecosystems and sustainable development.

Approaching Biodiversity from Multidisciplinary Perspectives

Biodiversity has gained momentum with the creation of an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which will provide science-based information to biodiversity policy processes at different levels.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners also launched the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which details the economic costs of biodiversity destruction and postponement of actions to reduce biodiversity loss. The 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10) also produced significant outcomes, such as a Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and a new strategic plan that includes action plans at the local level. 2011 marks the beginning of the UN Decade on Biodiversity as well.

These recent events and developments indicate the need for qualified professionals to implement and manage biodiversity programmes from a multidisciplinary standpoint. Tackling biodiversity-related challenges such as expanding world population, urban growth and ecosystem destruction calls for experts who understand the science but who also have a comprehensive training in the social sciences. UNU-IAS is a leader in biodiversity research and policy initiatives and is strategically positioned to educate and train students to understand the political, economic, legal, cultural and social implications of environmental governance regimes.

Why Choose UNU-IAS?
The value of obtaining a degree from the United Nations University

The United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) has a history of extensive work in the area of international environmental governance. UNU-IAS made important contributions to the Millenium Ecosystem Asssessment, a comprehensive landmark study for assessing the consequences of ecosystem changes on human well-being. The faculty at UNU-IAS also works closely with leading experts in biodiversity from other UNU institutes and UN organizations such as the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, UNESCO and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as several universities in Japan and around the world. Accepted students will become part of the UNU-IAS international network of leading academics, policy makers and practitioners, and have the opportunity to experience the dynamism of the UN. Graduates of the programme go on to careers in multilateral international agencies, academia, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and other professions in the field of biodiversity.

Learning and Living Environment

Classes are held at both UNU-IAS facilities in Yokohama, 30 minutes from central Tokyo by local train, and at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo. The Institute has an international environment with researchers from all across the globe. Students will have access to the UNU Library in Tokyo and the UNU electronic library to keep up with the latest research and policy publications. UNU-IAS also believes that quality of life is a key factor in ensuring steady research and will assist students in finding accommodations.


The programme starts in the beginning of September. If all courses are completed, including electives, students will be able to graduate in 18 to 24 months. Part-time students must finish the programme in 36 months or less and take at least 15 credits per semester.

Tuition and Scholarships

Tuition is USD 10,000 per year for full-time students. Limited scholarships are available for low-income students from developing countries on a competitive basis. The application form includes further information on scholarships.

As UNU-IAS scholarships (tuition waivers) and research assistantships (stipends) are very limited, it is highly recommended that applicants seek outside funding. The following link contains a list of suggested funding sources. However, information provided in this list may be inaccurate or obsolete due to changes made by the scholarship organizations; please visit the organizations' websites for accurate and up-to-date information.

Download scholarships and funding list


The UNU-IAS master's programme in Environmental Governance - Specialization in Biodiversity is offered in collaboration with the Secratariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), which provides support through curriculum guidance, course materials and access to its experts during the course and for the master's thesis.

Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, then Executive Secretary of the CBD, delivered the inaugural lecture for the first class of UNU-IAS's postgraduate students in Environmental Governance in October 2011. A video podcast of the inaugural lecture is also available here.

Download the
2012-2013 Prospectus
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