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Food security: a global concern

There has never been a more urgent need to train food security researchers who are equipped with skills in agronomy, plant pathology, plant disease and plant genetics, and knowledge of modern agricultural systems and agricultural policy. As outlined in The Royal Society’s 2009 report Reaping the Benefits: science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture, it is of vital importance that we increase crop yields significantly over the next 50 years, while also decreasing our dependency on chemical intervention and fertilizers.

Meeting the challenge of sustainable agriculture

This interdisciplinary programme was developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders, including: the agricultural industry, government agencies (including Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra) and The Food and Environment Research Agency (fera)), and farmers and food manufacturers. Research-led teaching in molecular plant pathology, plant sciences, and microbiology is strongly supplemented by Rothamsted Research, North Wyke expertise in grassland management, soil science, and sustainable farming systems. The combination of expertise in both arable and pastureland systems ensures a truly rounded learning experience. Leading social scientists also provide valuable input on land use and economic practices in rural areas.

The curriculum is designed to address critical shortages of experts capable of working in government agencies, agriculture, and the food industry as researchers, advisers, policy developers, and managers. The programme provides opportunities to gain industrial and practical experience and observe food security issues first-hand during field trips.

Expert teaching

Teaching is enriched by expert contributions from a broad cross-section of the industry. Scientific staff from Fera provide specialist lectures as part of the Crop Security module, members of the Plant Health Inspectorate cover field aspects of plant pathology, and a LEAF1 farmer addresses agricultural systems and the realities of food production using integrated farm management. In addition, teaching staff from the University and BBSRC Rothamsted-North Wyke will draw on material and experiences from their academic research and scientific links with industry.

Industrial and practical experience

All students will have opportunities to gain industrial and practical experiences. Teaching visits will be made to the Plant Health Inspectorate in Cornwall to see quarantine management of Phytophthora, and to a local LEAF farm to review the challenges and approaches to food production in integrated farm management systems. You will gain specialised experience in practical science or policy making through a dissertation or project placement with external agencies. Defra and Fera, for example, are offering five dissertation and/or project placements annually.

Programme structure

The programme is made up of modules. The list of modules may include the following;

  • Professional Skills;
  • Research Project;
  • Sustainable Land Use in Grassland Agriculture;
  • Crop Security;
  • Sustainable Livestock and Fisheries;
  • Political Economy of Food and Agriculture
  • Research and Knowledge Transfer for Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture

The modules listed here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand. Please see the website for an up to date list (http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/taught/biosciences/foodsecurity/#Programme-structure)

Addressing a skills shortage to tackle global food security

The MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture curriculum has been designed in collaboration with the agricultural industry to tackle the skills shortage that exists in this vital interdisciplinary area. This programme will provide the highly skilled individuals required in government agencies, agriculture and food industries for critical roles in scientific research, advice, evaluation, policy development and implementation tackling the challenges of food security.

Global horizons

With food security and sustainable agriculture a global concern, opportunities for specialists in the areas of agronomy, plant pathology, plant disease and plant improvement will be worldwide. By combining expertise across the natural, social and political sciences, this programme provides valuable interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in both arable and pastureland systems. Graduates will be prepared to take on the global challenges of food security and sustainable agriculture, being able to adapt to farming systems across the world and identify cross-disciplinary solutions to local agricultural problems.

Learning enhanced by industry

The programme is enriched by expert contributions from a broad cross-section of the industry, with specialist lectures, teaching visits to observe the practical application of techniques, and industrial placement opportunities for project work or dissertations in practical science or policy making.


Visit the MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture page on the University of Exeter website for more details!

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