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Holistic Science (MSc, PG Cert)

Course Description

Western science is dominated by ‘reductionism’ – the idea that natural phenomena can be explained in terms of their component parts. Reductionism is incomplete, and can be counter-productive since it suggests that by analysing the ‘mechanical’ workings of nature we can fully predict and manipulate it. Holistic science recognises the limitations of this methodology, focusing instead on nature’s qualities, complexity and intrinsic value, giving a science fit to solve global challenges.

Schumacher College in partnership with Plymouth University is the first in the world to offer a postgraduate programme in Holistic Science.
student on a holistic science courses

What is Holistic Science?

The programme explores new methodologies that are gaining success in exploring natural systems. These recognise that complex systems are dynamic processes realising their emergent properties as wholes – and that these properties are conditioned, but not determined, by the system’s constituent parts.

The course provides methodologies that go beyond reductionism in understanding dynamic interactive systems, whether these are ecosystems, the weather, organisations, a plant or a developing human embryo. Students develop a holistic understanding of these systems and along the way learn to apply techniques such as computer modelling, intuitive perception and phenomenology. Of particular importance here is Goethe’s methodology as a way of meeting the whole through the parts.

The programme advocates a participatory science of interactions, qualities, values and intuition, a science that is more capable of informing some of the key movements today, including environmental restoration, spiritual renewal and community regeneration.

Holistic thinking is already revolutionising physics, earth system science, ecology, evolutionary biology, organisational development and health studies. It is generating increasing interest from scientists in many fields – especially those concerned with issue relating to sustainability. Since1998, when it first began, this Masters programme has developed a coherent methodology of holistic enquiry, proving a rigorous and ethical framework for a mature science.

Join our learning community for this pioneering programme in Holistic Science which completely re-evaluates our scientific understanding of nature, the ecological crisis we face and our role in widespread ecological, economic and social change.

This is not just an intellectual enquiry. It’s a really embodied, participatory approach to nature which can help to foster a deep sense of belonging". Stephan Harding, Resident Ecologist and Head of Holistic Science, Schumacher College.

"The MSc in Holistic Science has helped me view the global economy (embedded as it is in our finite earth ecology) as a complex adaptive system. In particular, as I seek to accelerate the rate of innovation and the scale of impact of our work, I am much more relaxed about throwing out new ideas and only pursuing those that seem to attract the energy of colleagues and partners." Nigel Topping, Chief Innovation Officer, Carbon Disclosure Project

Our teachers include:

Stephan Harding
Philip Franses
Patricia Shaw
Satish Kumar
Bill Plotkin and Geneen Marie Haugen
Craig Holdrege
Rupert Sheldrake
Shantena Sabbadini
Jules Cashford

Who is this course for?

Are you deeply concerned about the state of the natural world?

Are you hoping to make a difference with your life and work?

Are you willing to experiment in a group learning process that makes you part of something bigger than yourself as an individual?

The primary qualification we are looking for in our students is a strong interest in nature, how it evolves and self-organises and what we as individuals, organisations and cultures can learn from it in our quest for a sustainable future.

We welcome people from all backgrounds, cultures and of any age – whether you are currently employed, unemployed, a student or retired. The diversity of our student group is a rich part of how we learn and is a reflection of the diversity of nature itself.

What will you learn?

A thorough understanding of the implications and consequences of using western science as a tool for gaining reliable information about the world.
Insights about how contemporary sustainability issues have come about and the various routes we could take in addressing them.
Theoretical and experiential understandings of an ecological world view for transforming your understanding of your place in the world and how to act within it.
An understanding of the importance of sensing, feeling and intuition for an expanded science.
Knowledge of a range of alternative scientific methodologies which integrate qualitative experience and quantitative measurement.
An understanding of the emergent properties of whole systems through the lenses of chaos, complexity and Gaia theories, and how these relate to ecological, social and economic problems.
An understanding of how Holistic Science is being applied in the creation of a more sustainable world.
A clearer understanding of your own rational and emotional states and processes through experiential and reflective group enquiry.

As part of this programme you will also carry out an independent research project in which you can apply holistic science to your own area of interest.

This is an unparalleled opportunity to undertake high level research outside the usual constraints of academic norms. Projects can be presented as personal narrative, film, artwork, poetry or any other creative endeavor, alongside more conventional modes of delivery.

Where you will go?

Graduates of the programme have taken a broad integrated systemic approach in areas such as environmental management, education for sustainability, design, biological research, ecological business consulting, academia, healthcare, agriculture, media and film-making, NGOs and working with indigenous people.

"What I learnt and experienced from the MSc is that everything is ever changing. Working with the concepts of holistic science I experienced living with complexity and change as a way of life rather than as a stage I had to survive. For me, the gift of holistic science was to learn to appreciate the inherent potential in all situations. This has taught me to more effectively think, act and live with the tension of transitions through multidisciplinary approaches." Anne Solgaard, Green Economy for UNEP/GRID-Arendal

Chevening Scholarships Awards

A number of Chevening Scholarships are available for our Holistic Science and Economics for Transition postgraduate programmes starting in September 2015.

Visit the Holistic Science (MSc, PG Cert) page on the Schumacher College website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Nigel Topping

The MSc in Holistic Science has helped me view the global economy (embedded as it is in our finite earth ecology) as a complex adaptive system. In particular, as I seek to accelerate the rate of innovation and the scale of impact of our work, I am much more relaxed about throwing out new ideas and only pursuing those that seem to attract the energy of colleagues and partners.

Chief Innovation Officer, Carbon Disclosure Project

(Student Profile)

Teresa Cohn - Assistant professor of Science Communication at the University of Idaho

What had you been doing prior to beginning your PG course at Schumacher College?

I had been wandering around the lodgepole pine forests of Yellowstone National Park doing things like coring trees, estimating cone serotiny, and sitting up all night taking carbon efflux readings while wondering if every crack of a branch was a grizzly. I’d worked with a fire ecology research team led by landscape ecologists Monica Turner and Bill Romme.

Describe your time at the College.

I remember the great generosity of the Schumacher community, and all the learning that took place under the moon in the gardens or watching seals by the sea. I remember talking with Marianne DeTray in her pottery studio when working on a paper on symmetry for Brian Goodwin’s class. And I remember writing a note home, “This place is full of the most bizarre and brilliant people I’ve ever met in my life.”

What have you gone on to do since leaving the College?

I’m now a geographer, and an assistant professor of Science Communication at the University of Idaho, based at the McCall Outdoor Science School. Part of my research for my M.Sc. included work with American Indian tribes of the Missouri River Basin and water. I’m still doing this work.

(Student Profile)

Simon Robinson

What had you been doing prior to beginning your PG course at Schumacher College?

I had many years of corporate experience and my roles were a mixture of business development, product marketing and customer experience design. I was the co-founder of Genie Internet, the world’s first mobile internet portal, and was involved in the conception, design and launch of many other innovative products and services in the areas of mobile telecoms, the mobile internet and gaming.

What was it that made you want to take the programme?

I discovered Schumacher College after reading an interview with Satish in the Guardian magazine. When I then looked at the website I was a little shocked to discover that the masters degree in Holistic Science combined all of the subjects that over the previous years I had developed a personal interest in - complexity and chaos theory, ecology, consciousness studies and new economic thinking.

Describe your time at the College?

What really stands out is that Holistic Science combines both scientific teachings with an immersive learning journey that at times can be extremely intense and which is challenging not just intellectually but personally as well. The group dynamics of the class are extremely important, since the learning environment is hugely supportive since it takes courage to change your ingrained conceptions of science, the world and reality.

What have you gone on to do since leaving the College?

Out of the development of this course came the idea for a book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter which we wrote in order to show how the teachings of Schumacher College, especially Holistic Science and Economics for Transition, combined with the five universal human values of peace, truth, love,right action and non-violence, can be applied in business and organisational contexts.

I have founded a company in Brazil called Holonomics Education a consultancy which has as its foundation the philosophy of wholeness in Holonomics. I am helping various companies here in Brazil develop programmes of profound organisational change and sustainable innovation.


Entry Requirements

We normally expect our MSc or PG Certificate students to hold a first degree in a natural or a social science, but we will accept applications from non-graduates in exceptional circumstances when relevant life and work experience can be demonstrated.

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