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    School of GeoSciences Logo
  • Study Type

    Full time & Part time available

  • Subject Areas


    Environmental Sciences


  • Start Date


  • Course Duration

    1 year full-time or 2-3 years part-time

  • Course Type


  • Course Fees

    Tuition fees vary between degree programmes. Find the specific fees for your chosen programme on our website.

  • Last Updated

    04 October 2019

Programme description

Soils underpin the sustainability of all land based ecosystems on our planet.

They impact fluxes of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, can mediate the impact of pollutants, provide biological habitats, and are an important component of water cycling. Humans have a complex relationship with soil, as soils deal with society’s waste, are a source of extractable minerals, and provide the foundations for the housing and roads on which society depends.

Soils also form the basis of all agricultural production. With a rapidly increasing global population, and Earth’s resources under stress, it is more important than ever to find sustainable approaches to land resource use. As the world looks for ways to increase the quantity and quality of food production for a growing population, you will be ideally placed to help balance the increased agricultural output with the protection and preservation of soil, water and ecosystems for a more sustainable future.

The MSc in Soils and Sustainability will provide you with the advanced skills and knowledge to make informed decisions on sustainable land practice. Designed to prepare you for a career in land-based management or environmental protection, you will learn about soil functions and management practices as well as soil classification, assessment and analysis. You will interpret information on soil physics, biology and chemistry for the preservation and maintenance of soil health and gain greater understanding of soil biodiversity and ecology. The programme places a strong emphasis on both theoretical insight and practical skills which are supported by laboratory and field based activities.

This programme is delivered in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). You will not only benefit from being a fully matriculated student at The University of Edinburgh, but also access to all of complementary staff, expertise, and resources at SRUC. Upon successful completion of the programme, you will be awarded your degree by The University of Edinburgh.

Programme structure

This MSc programme is comprised of:

  • 4 Compulsory courses
  • 2 Option courses
  • Field trip
  • Dissertation

Courses are offered subject to timetabling and availability and are subject to change.

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking. Courses can be delivered through a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, practicals, laboratory work, short field trips and longer field courses.

Part-time study

As we are committed to helping people into education whilst continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • gain a knowledge and understanding of the relationship between soils and sustainable land management
  • gain an understanding of soil sampling and analysis, interpretation and reporting
  • be able to assess soil management issues and develop improved management plans
  • understand the function of soils in relation to sustainable land use and societal needs

Career opportunities

Worldwide efforts are mounting in order to increase the quantity and quality of food produced for a growing population.

Demand for soil and water scientists, whose main function is providing technical expertise to farmers, will increase as the safety and sustainability of our world’s food supply becomes more of a concern.

Soil scientists and environmental scientists with an understanding of soil management are in demand in both the private and public sectors.

As a soil scientist, you can be employed in a broad range of vocations including environmental consultancy, overseas development, environmental impact assessment and analysis, site reclamation and remediation and academia. Other areas also include advising on governmental policy, archaeological excavations and laboratory analysis, forensics and landscape design. Government and regulatory organisations also provide opportunities for careers for soil scientists.

  • Our graduates have also progressed into further research and academia.

Field trips

Field trips are an excellent way in which to explore the factors and forces that shape our world and enable you to put valuable skills into practice.

Through our residential field-trip, you will have a unique opportunity to refresh the skills learned during the programme, as well as develop new tools and techniques useful to your dissertation and future career. Recent trips have been held in Mende, France or Imlil, Morocco.

During these trips, students gained an overview of soil health and management challenges within the region and explored how these are being met by local land managers and farmers. Students also participated in site visits, soil analysis and site sampling in order to better identify key soil issues and management strategies. Prior trips have also included cultural visits and social experiences with fellow students.

You may also experience a short field tour during induction week, to give students a chance to get to know each other. In recent years, our students have taken part in a two day trip with accommodation provided at a SRUC research farm in the southern highlands of Scotland.

  • We are pleased to advise that we do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips. Travel and accommodation costs are covered by your programme.
  • Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons. In any given academic year, the main destination of the field course will be announced as soon as possible.

Visit the Soils and Sustainability (MSc) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!





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