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Programme description

Food production has tripled in the last forty years, but one billion people still go hungry every year. On average 30% of all food produced is wasted in the pathway from ‘field to fork’. With the global human population set to rise from seven to over nine billion by 2050, we urgently need sustainable solutions that will allow us to increase the global food supply while preserving the integrity of agricultural and non-agricultural ecosystems.

Our trees and forests face new plant health threats which in turn threaten areas of great natural beauty and diversity, and affect both rural and urban landscapes. Our unique MSc Sustainable Plant Health will give you the opportunity to develop your understanding of the vital role of plant health, applying your skills by conducting laboratory and field studies.

This programme is primarily aimed at graduates wishing to pursue a career in plant protection in agriculture, horticulture, forestry or urban settings, and also careers in policy development and implementation, plant health inspection, academic and industrial research, consultancy and conservation management, and private industry.

Programme structure

This 12 month programme involves two semesters of classes followed by an individual research project. Students will take 80 credits of compulsory courses, with the opportunity to choose two optional courses. Field trips will also form a crucial part of this course.

Compulsory courses typically will be*:

  • Fundamentals of Plant Health
  • Forensic Plant Health
  • Plant Health in a Global Context
  • Professional and Research Skills in Practice (including Field Trip)
  • Dissertation

Option courses may include* (select two):

  • Applications in Ecological Economics
  • Atmospheric Quality and Global Change
  • Case Studies in Sustainable Development
  • Ecology of Ecosystem Services
  • Ecosystem Service Values
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Forests and Environment
  • Foundations in Ecological Economics
  • Frameworks to Assess Food Security
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability
  • Interrelationships in Food Systems
  • Land Use/Environmental Interactions
  • Principles of Environmental Sustainability
  • Soil Ecology and Taxonomy
  • Soil Protection and Management
  • Soil Science Concepts and Application
  • Sustainability of Food Production
  • Understanding Environment and Development

Field trip

As part of the programme students on Sustainable Plant Health will take part in a week-long study tour at the end of the second semester – usually in April. The tour has recently been to Poznan in Poland and proved an opportunity for students to see how the knowledge, techniques and investigative skills learned during the earlier part of the programme are applied in practice. Feedback from students has been very positive about the study tour, which takes in cultural and well as academic activities.

The costs of the study tour – travel, subsistence and accommodation are included in the programme tuition fees, though you will want to take some spending money.

There is also normally a short field tour during induction week, to give students a chance to get to know each other. In recent years this has involved a two-day trip with accommodation provided at a SRUC research farm in the southern highlands of Scotland.

*Please note: courses are offered subject to timetabling and availability and are subject to change each year.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course our graduates will have gained:

  • Specialist knowledge and understanding of plant health, and its evaluation, impact and management
  • Skills to detect and identify agents detrimental to plant health
  • An understanding of the nature and diversity of plant health interactions
  • The ability to develop strategies for plant health management taking into account their impact on agricultural and non-agricultural ecosystems
  • Knowledge of the relevance of plant health to sustainability and food security
  • Improved analytical skills and critical thinking

Career opportunities

Plant health scientists are employed in a range of vocations: environmental consultancy, research, overseas development, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, urban planning, policy development, plant inspection and management. Long term career prospects are strong as agricultural scientists will continue to be needed to balance increased output with protection and preservation of ecosystems.

Our graduates will gain particularly valuable skills due to our programme's unique approach looking at impacts across ecosystems. They also benefit from the applied nature of the course allowing them to use their practical skills in a range of field trip environments with expert supervision.


Visit the Sustainable Plant Health (MSc) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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