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Part time September MSc 1-3 years

About the course

The Organic food and farming sector within Europe is continuing to develp in response to governmental Action Plans and CAP policy development. The organic sector requires highly trained individuals to work as certification officers, advisers, agronomists, farmers, farm managers and livestock specialists. SRUC offers this programme to enable students with a variety of academic and working experiences to gain a fast-track understanding of the key technical production, marketing and management aspects of organic farming and food.

This enables students to build on their existing expertise and aspirations, and to give them enhanced career opportunities as practitioners, promoters and facilitators within the sector.

The organic farming courses are offered on a part-time distance learning basis to allow those in continuing employment or with family commitments to be able to participate. Course participants come from a wide range of backgrounds, including farmers, growers, vets and other agricultural and food sector workers who wish to develop their career and businesses in the organic food and farming sector, as well as those from unrelated backgrounds wishing to increase their knowledge and understanding of organic systems.

Specific course objectives are to provide graduates with:
- An ability to critically appraise organic farming as an agricultural system
- A good understanding of the organic sector
- A sound knowledge of the science underpinning organic farming
- An understanding of the marketing, business & quality assurance requirements for organic produce
- Work placement experience
- Research skills (MSc only)

The course is accessible through its delivery by part-time on-line distance learning.

Course Content

The course modules comprise of a mix of technical production, marketing and management, and skill development modules.

Organic Forage and Livestock Production

This module will provide an understanding of the role of forage legumes in organic systems and describe grassland management systems that maximise the contribution of legumes. Students will also be given an understanding of the organic approach to livestock production, particularly in terms of animal welfare, preventative health management and nutrition.

Soils and Nutrient Cycling

This module will aim to provide the students with the tools for optimal management of their soils. Ultimately, they should be able to describe soil properties, evaluate soil fertility and assess management requirements in the context of organic farming. The module provides an understanding of the chemical, physical and biological features of soil fertility and nutrient cycling and develops practical skills in soil assessment and whole farm nutrient budgeting.

Organic Crop Production

This module will provide an understanding of methods of crop production for arable and vegetable field crops, with particular reference to organic farming in the UK. The module will develop an understanding of breeding, establishment, nutrition, protection, harvesting and storage in the context of organic crop production of field crops.

Organic Farming Case Study

This module will improve the student's ability to undertake whole farm analysis and in particular organic conversion planning. Whole farm analysis involves a range of skills and examination of a wide range of issues: technical, financial, marketing and environmental. The module will require the student to integrate the knowledge gained in other modules, to provide an evaluation and plan for the conversion to organic production of an actual farm example.

Organic Farming Profession

This module will provide an overview of the philosophy, principles, history and development of the organic farming industry. The organic standards will be introduced and the ways in which they are used to regulate the organic food and farming industry at UK, European and world levels will be covered. The roles of the main UK organisations that influence the development of the organic sector will also be explored.

Organic Farming Work Placement

This module will allow students to become familiar with an organisation or business in the organic food and farming sector during a 6-week (or equivalent) work placement. The student will gather relevant and unique material to enable them to carry out a technical and business analysis and make recommendations for future development of the organisation or business in question. The material will also be used in class discussion and to contribute to group learning.

Issues in Organic Farming

This module explores the public goods delivered by organic farming. It develops an understanding of food quality and the role and application of Quality Assurance (QA) Schemes in the organic food sector to meet the needs of relevant legislation and consumer concerns. The module also provides an overview of the principles of environmental management in the context of organic agriculture, helping students gain an appreciation of the potential impacts of agricultural enterprises on the environment, measures for minimising such impacts, and opportunities for incorporating positive environmental management measures into farm business plans.

Marketing and Business Management in the Organic Farming Sector

This module will provide an understanding of the concepts, principles and techniques involved in marketing management and how they are applied in the context of the organic farming sector. Financial accounts are one source of information regarding an organic business, and aid the process of planning and control. This module will provide an understanding of accounts to assist in the process of setting goals within a business and assessing the financial consequences of alternatives.

Course Format

This course is studied part time through on-line distance learning. This allows those in continuing employment or with family commitments to participate. With the exception of several weekend schools and a short study tour, the learning is carried out in the student's home or work place.

The MSc Project (taken following successful completion of taught modules)
Provides an opportunity for in-depth individual research on a topic related to organic farming.

Postgraduate Diploma

The PgDip is a high level learning course taught at university post-graduate level for students who opt not to progress to the Masters. Students are required to complete all taught modules detailed above. Typically a student will study 4 modules per year and complete the PgDip in two years. This would normally take an average of 12 to 15 hours study time a week.

Study Tour

The study tour is used to visit a range of organic and conventional farms as well as businesses operating in the organic food supply and distribution chain. In the taught modules an element of student choice is often built in through the use of essay and other course work topics that cover areas of potential interest. There is also a Work Placement module. Students following the distance learning course may gain exemption from the practical element of the placement but will require to complete a report of their work experience.

The study weekends and short study tour are an integral part of teaching delivery and students are strongly recommended to attend these if they are to succeed in this course.
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Entry Requirements

A degree relevant to the sector, or the candidate's assessed ability to benefit from the studies e.g. extensive relevant work experience considered. Evidence of English competence.

 Course Content

Where is SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College


Student Profile(s)

Robby Gass

Robby is studying Organic Farming by online Distance Learning at SRUC.

"With more than 15 years of Organic Farming experience in South Africa, I have now moved to Scotland and started with the PGDip/MSc in Organic Farming by Part Time Distance Learning at SRUC."

"I have never been made to feel as welcome as was my experience at the Aberdeen Campus, at our first study weekend in September. The volume and standard of information and attention to detail is amazing. Our Teaching team have made a real effort to understand our needs and abilities in a very short time. I am surprisingly proud to be part of SRUC. Thank you for this life changing opportunity."

Robby Gass

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