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Holistic Science (MSc, PG Cert)

Schumacher College    Master Programs

Full time & Part time September PGCert, MSc 1 year

About the course

Western science is dominated by ‘reductionism’ – the idea that natural phenomena can be Stephan Harding, Head of Holistic Science at Schumacher Collegefully explained in terms of their component parts. Although it is a useful tool in certain circumstances, reductionism as a world view is incomplete and can be dangerous on its own since it suggests that by analysing the ‘mechanical’ workings of nature we can fully predict and manipulate it entirely for our own benefit.

Holistic Science integrates the useful aspects of reductionism and mainstream science by developing a more comprehensive basis for seeing and knowing. At the heart of this is Goethe’s rigorous and systematic way of involving the imagination in an appreciation of nature’s qualities, complexity and intrinsic value. Holistic thinking is stimulated by exercises using phenomenology and in tackling challenges related to physics, earth system science, ecology, evolutionary biology, organisational development and health studies. Since 1998, when the programme was pioneered at Schumacher College, it has developed a coherent methodology of holistic enquiry, providing a rigorous and ethical framework for a mature science.

The MSc takes you into a profound personal transformative learning journey helping you to join a growing group of international alumni contributing positively to ecological, economic and social change.

“Interactive, experiential and participatory learning encourages novel approaches to scientific investigation. Various non-traditional teaching formats, learning experiences and assessments are facilitated. Investigations are holistic in the sense that they are embodied as well as rational/intellectual and often result in different outcomes to traditional styles of research and reporting.”

- Philip Franses, Senior Lecturer of Holistic Science

Programme Overview

Develop an understanding of the pros and cons of using western science as a tool for gaining reliable knowledge about the world.
Learn how contemporary sustainability issues have come about and how we can successfully address them by combining rational and intuitive ways of knowing.
Gain an understanding of the importance of sensing, feeling and intuition for an expanded science.
Learn about a range of cutting edge alternative methodologies which integrate qualitative experience and quantitative measurement.
Develop an understanding of the emergent properties of whole systems through the lenses of chaos, complexity and Gaia theories, and discover how these approaches can help us deal with ecological, social and economic problems.
Understand how Holistic Science is being applied in the worlds of business, economics, health and mainstream science in the creation of a more sustainable world.
Develop a clear understanding of your own rational and emotional states and processes in the study of nature through experiential and reflective group enquiry.

Our Teachers and Guest Contributors Have Included:

Rupert Sheldrake
Patricia Shaw
Satish Kumar
Craig Holdrege
Mike Wride
Shantena Sabbadini
Jules Cashford
Bruce Lipton

Career Opportunities:

Our graduates from around the world have used their skills and knowledge for sustainable change to become eminent and important contributors to many fields, including climate change advocacy, education, scientific research, ecological design, healthcare, green business, protection of indigenous cultures, ecological restoration and sustainable agriculture. Working in in public, private and NGO sectors, many have set up their own projects or organisations.
What Past Participants Have Said:

“What I learnt and experienced from the MSc is that everything is ever changing. Working with the concepts of holistic science I experienced living with complexity and change as a way of life rather than as a stage I had to survive. For me, the gift of holistic science was to learn to appreciate the inherent potential in all situations. This has taught me to more effectively think, act and live with the tension of transitions through multidisciplinary approaches.”
- Anne Solgaard, Green Economy for UNEP/GRID-Arendal

“During my MSc in Holistic Science I learned a comprehensive qualitative approach to science that binds natural and cultural phenomena. It was a unique experience that transformed my own inner way of relating to complex circumstances and empowered me with the tools necessary to develop the way of life I’ve always dreamed of.“
- Sebastian Eslea Burch, founder of Gaia y Sofia

“The MSc certainly opened my eyes to new ways of doing business in a complex world. Both the formal teachings and the tremendous networking potential of the College have helped me in forging a professional life that I feel reflects my ideals.“
- Sophia Van Ruth, co-founder Urban Edibles
Read more about this course

Entry Requirements

We normally expect our MSc or PG Certificate students to hold a first degree in a natural or a social science, but we will accept applications from non-graduates in exceptional circumstances when relevant life and work experience can be demonstrated.


£14,326 (UK/EEA); £18,715 (non EEA)

 Course Content

Where is Schumacher College

Student Profile(s)

Nigel Topping

The MSc in Holistic Science has helped me view the global economy (embedded as it is in our finite earth ecology) as a complex adaptive system. In particular, as I seek to accelerate the rate of innovation and the scale of impact of our work, I am much more relaxed about throwing out new ideas and only pursuing those that seem to attract the energy of colleagues and partners.

Chief Innovation Officer, Carbon Disclosure Project

Teresa Cohn - Assistant professor of Science Communication at the University of Idaho

What had you been doing prior to beginning your PG course at Schumacher College?

I had been wandering around the lodgepole pine forests of Yellowstone National Park doing things like coring trees, estimating cone serotiny, and sitting up all night taking carbon efflux readings while wondering if every crack of a branch was a grizzly. I’d worked with a fire ecology research team led by landscape ecologists Monica Turner and Bill Romme.

Describe your time at the College.

I remember the great generosity of the Schumacher community, and all the learning that took place under the moon in the gardens or watching seals by the sea. I remember talking with Marianne DeTray in her pottery studio when working on a paper on symmetry for Brian Goodwin’s class. And I remember writing a note home, “This place is full of the most bizarre and brilliant people I’ve ever met in my life.”

What have you gone on to do since leaving the College?

I’m now a geographer, and an assistant professor of Science Communication at the University of Idaho, based at the McCall Outdoor Science School. Part of my research for my M.Sc. included work with American Indian tribes of the Missouri River Basin and water. I’m still doing this work.

Simon Robinson

What had you been doing prior to beginning your PG course at Schumacher College?

I had many years of corporate experience and my roles were a mixture of business development, product marketing and customer experience design. I was the co-founder of Genie Internet, the world’s first mobile internet portal, and was involved in the conception, design and launch of many other innovative products and services in the areas of mobile telecoms, the mobile internet and gaming.

What was it that made you want to take the programme?

I discovered Schumacher College after reading an interview with Satish in the Guardian magazine. When I then looked at the website I was a little shocked to discover that the masters degree in Holistic Science combined all of the subjects that over the previous years I had developed a personal interest in - complexity and chaos theory, ecology, consciousness studies and new economic thinking.

Describe your time at the College?

What really stands out is that Holistic Science combines both scientific teachings with an immersive learning journey that at times can be extremely intense and which is challenging not just intellectually but personally as well. The group dynamics of the class are extremely important, since the learning environment is hugely supportive since it takes courage to change your ingrained conceptions of science, the world and reality.

What have you gone on to do since leaving the College?

Out of the development of this course came the idea for a book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter which we wrote in order to show how the teachings of Schumacher College, especially Holistic Science and Economics for Transition, combined with the five universal human values of peace, truth, love,right action and non-violence, can be applied in business and organisational contexts.

I have founded a company in Brazil called Holonomics Education a consultancy which has as its foundation the philosophy of wholeness in Holonomics. I am helping various companies here in Brazil develop programmes of profound organisational change and sustainable innovation.


Arne Naess coined the term ‘deep ecology’ as an attempt to point out that Western culture needs to reconnect to something more satisfying and enduring than yet more economic growth fuelled by increasing levels of material consumption. Building on this insight, what is your current understanding of the meaning of ‘deep’ in deep ecology? Do you see a role for science in developing the senses of ‘deep’ that you perceive?

Value of Scholarship(s)



We welcome scholarship applications from all students, unrelated to bursary applications. The decision of the award will be based on what is deemed by the faculty to be the best response.

Application Procedure

Please answer the following question. Your statement should be no longer than 500 words and submitted alongside or preceding your application to study at Schumacher College. To apply for a scholarship, please complete a written statement to the questions asked below for the programme of your choice. The statement should be no longer than 500 words and submitted alongside or preceding your application to study at Schumacher College. Applications must be received by the closing date: 31st March 2017.

Please email scholarship statements to (link sends e-mail) (link sends e-mail). The Postgraduate Admissions team will e-mail you to acknowledge safe receipt of your scholarship application.

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