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Programme description

Can you find sustainable solutions to maintaining our global food supply?

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 in 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.

Through the programme you will gain:

  • Specialist knowledge and understanding of plant health.
  • 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 systems.
  • Knowledge of the relevance of plant health to sustainability and food security.

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.

Please view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods.

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.

Field trip

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.

You will have a unique opportunity to develop your experience and skills with a residential field trip in the second semester. This will immerse you in real-world problems, enabling you to see how the knowledge, techniques and investigative skills learned during the earlier part of the programme are applied in practice.

Previous locations have included Poland and the USA, where students gained exposure to crop research work, and measures to address early identification of disease for intervention management.

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.

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

Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)

SRUC – Scotland’s Rural College – is a higher education institution with a number of campuses, farms and research centres across Scotland. SRUC is an associated institution of the University of Edinburgh and focuses on applied research, education and consulting in the rural and land-based sectors.

In Edinburgh, SRUC is based at the King’s Buildings Campus alongside the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences.

SRUC has a long history of plant health research and education and is the lead organisation for agriculture within the Scottish Plant Health Centre, working with other research specialists, such as the James Hutton Institute, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and Forest Research, to provide expertise to help tackle plant health challenges for Scotland.

As a Sustainable Plant Health student, you will have an opportunity through the programme to discover the work these partner organisations carry out and to explore opportunities available for collaborative work. Previous students have been able to make use of these contacts for dissertation projects or future career opportunities.

Career opportunities

Through this programme, you will be equipped to pursue a career in plant health in a variety of vocations including environmental consultancy, research, overseas development, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, urban planning, policy development, plant inspection and management.

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

Long term career prospects are strong as agricultural scientists will continue to be needed to balance increased output with protection and preservation of ecosystems.


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

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