• Application Deadline
  • 9 months
The Terrestrial Ecosystems programme offered by the Open University UK considers the interactions between terrestrial organisms and their environments – that together form ecosystems, ranging from simple microbial communities to tropical rainforests.


We could even consider Earth as a whole an ecosystem. The Terrestrial Ecosystems programme offered by the Open University UK will introduce you to key ecosystem concepts, and develop your understanding of the stability and resilience of ecosystems to disturbances such as disease and pollution. You’ll learn how ecosystem function depends on exchanges of water, energy and nutrients; and gain practical experience with current research techniques, including real-time monitoring and computer modelling. Finally, you’ll gain experience in writing professional-style reports on ecological systems.

Understanding the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems is the key to explaining how life on Earth has persisted in the past and how it might respond to change in the future. Ecosystem science takes a holistic view of organisms and the environment. The module reflects that view, illustrating the importance of interactions between the elements of ecosystems in determining the properties of the system as a whole.

You’ll have a named tutor who will support your studies and mark and comment on your assignment work; you can also seek academic advice and guidance from them. Your tutor will offer support through email, telephone and online forum discussions. Additionally, there will be online tutorials. We’ll advertise tutorials before the module starts; S397 tutors will take them, but depending on the tutorial, not necessarily your own named tutor. We recommend you book online to attend these tutorials.

Vocational relevance

The module covers critical skills for environmental scientists, including key statistical analysis techniques, experience with real-time online monitoring systems and computer modelling approaches. You’ll develop report-writing skills through the assignments; the end-of-module assessment focuses on a professional-style environmental report demonstrating knowledge and understanding of ecosystem processes and functioning.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Programme intensity Part-time
    • Average part-time duration 9 months
    • Part-time variant
  • Credits
    30 alternative credits
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
    • Teacher support
      Continuous support with feedback on request, Proactive tutoring and support
  • More information Go to the programme website

Programme Structure

The module is composed of four blocks:

  • An introductory block defines what the term ‘ecosystem’ means and presents a range of examples, describing their biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components. 
  • The second block addresses the cycling of energy, water, carbon and inorganic nutrients through these systems. You’ll reflect on how these flows control the type and number of organisms inhabiting the system, and how the presence of living organisms in turn affects the cycling of energy and matter. 
  • The third block explores the stability and resilience of ecosystems to both natural and human-induced disturbances such as fire, disease and environmental change. 
  • The final block looks at our planet as a whole to investigate the interdependence of the sub-systems within it.

English Language Requirements

This programme requires students to demonstrate proficiency in English.

Academic Requirements

You must have passed one of the following:

  • Environmental science (S206 or SXF206), or the discontinued module S216
  • Questions in science (S111), Science:concepts and practice (S112), Environment: journeys through a changing world (U116), or one of the discontinued modules S103 or S104; plus an OU level 2 science module

You’ll need to be familiar with basic mathematics and statistics concepts from OU level 2 environment modules, including the basics of probability, statistical distributions and hypothesis testing. You’ll also need to be familiar with basic concepts from OU level 1 biology, notably photosynthesis and respiration. You’ll need no specific knowledge of modelling.

Tuition Fee

  • EU/EEA Applies to you

    1464 GBP/full
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 1464 GBP for the full programme and a duration of 9 months.
We've labeled the tuition fee that applies to you because we think you are from and prefer over other currencies.


You must apply for financial support by 12/09/13

StudyPortals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

The Global Study Awards: get funded with up to £10,000 to study abroad

Together with the ISIC Association and British Council IELTS, StudyPortals offers you the chance to receive up to £10000 to expand your horizon and study abroad. We want to ultimately encourage you to study abroad in order to experience and explore new countries, cultures and languages.