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Ecological Food Systems (MSc, PGDip, PGCert)

Course Description

MSc and PG Diploma (full and part-time) and PG Certificate programme approved and awarded through Plymouth University

The next start date of this this postgraduate programme will be January 2016.

Ecological Food Systems at Schumacher College

Schumacher College is the first in the world to offer a postgraduate programme in Ecological Food Systems, developed in collaboration with Plymouth University, The Organic Research Centre (ORC), The Campaign for Real Farming and the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).

Join the leaders and change agents at the forefront of new thinking in resilient and healthy food systems.

This course explores the frontiers of research and practice that will meet the social, ecological and economic challenges our food systems face in the 21st Century.

We offer you a unique and transformative blend of academic and practical learning opportunities from Schumacher College, Plymouth University, the Organic Research Centre, The Campaign for Real Farming and the Centre for Alternative Technology.
sustainable horticulture and food production students
Beyond industrial food systems

Now that global population has passed 7 billion, we urgently need to consider how our food systems will cope in the coming years. The food industry tells us we need to increase yields but the reality is far more complex.

Food needs to be of sufficient quality as well as quantity, while diets will need to adapt in order to improve agricultural land-use. We need to move away from methods of production that contribute to environmental degradation and consume finite resources. Food sovereignty (the right of people to define their own systems) must be included in the debate, as well as grassroots movements in food localisation. Food waste and distribution are complex issues that also need to be addressed alongside production. In addition, food systems need to be resilient in an unpredictable and changing climate.

These are the issues that you will explore on the course, which brings together the thinking, research and practice at the cutting-edge of a global food revolution. Drawing from many different models and initiatives around the world, including ‘human scale’ horticulture, holistic mixed farming, farm-scale agroforestry and local food networks, Schumacher College’s starting point is complexity and resilience in natural systems. We believe that agriculture and associated food systems have to be inspired by biological and ecological processes.

Why Schumacher College?

Schumacher College has an international reputation for its holistic and systemic approach to sustainability. Our teaching approaches offer more than an intellectual enquiry since they nurture the whole self, fostering a deep engagement with nature that empowers and inspires our students to take action in the world.

Food and ecology have been at the heart of the College, since its inception in 1991. The College launched its vocational programmes in sustainable horticulture in 2008, which have expanded to include the postgraduate and short courses, as well as a sizeable food growing operation.

The College’s four acres of grounds and gardens include polytunnels, composting areas, forest gardens, ‘no dig’ kitchen gardens and habitats for biodiversity. We have recently begun to develop a five acre field for an innovative project in agroforestry. These land-based resources provide a rich learning experience, with a variety of research opportunities for dissertation projects. We are adjacent to Martin Crawford’s famous forest garden and School Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture scheme.

The course is validated through the School of Biological Sciences at Plymouth University (link is external), which has a well-established profile in horticulture, nutrition and ecology alongside high quality research and laboratory facilities.

Our Teachers

From Schumacher College:

Bethan Stagg, Stephan Harding, Jonathan Dawson and Tim Crabtree.

Guest contributions from:

Colin Tudge - author and founder of the Oxford Real Farming Conference

Martin Crawford - author and Director of the Agroforestry Research Trust

Prof. Martin Wolfe - founder of Wakelyns, 60-acre Agroforestry research farm; part of The Organic Research Centre

Dr. Andrea Berardi – systems scientist and researcher in indigenous cultures from the Open University

Julie Brown – Founder of London’s first organic vegbox scheme, now a major food localisation scheme Growing Communities

Rebecca Hoskins – agroecologist and holistic farmer; producer of the BBC documentary ‘Farm for a Future’

Guy Watson - farmer and founder of Riverford Organic (link is external), Britain's largest supplier of organic produce

Who is this course for?

We are looking for enthusiastic agents of change who are ready to co-create a new sustainable food system in practice. Are you prepared to take a risk and stand on the cutting-edge of new thinking in this area?

We are delighted to receive your applications whether you are coming from an undergraduate degree, taking time-out to study mid-career or wanting an opportunity to retrain in a subject area that is of huge importance to our future resilience and well-being.

Schumacher College welcomes students from all over the world in its diverse mix of cultural experience and age groups which allows for rich peer to peer learning.

Where you will go?

Graduates from this programme will have the skills and knowledge to work for sustainable change in the public, private and NGO sectors or to set up their own enterprises or organisations that will be a part of the transition to a more holistic understanding and appreciation of the world.

Previous students have gone into NGO positions relating to food and farming, working as independent consultants, as educators in community and educational food initiatives or as practitioners in land-based initiatives.
Collaborating institutions in our postgraduate programme

Plymouth University
Plymouth University is committed to social and environmental sustainability and was top of the People and Planet Green League of Universities in 2010.

Visit the Ecological Food Systems (MSc, PGDip, PGCert) page on the Schumacher College website for more details!

Student Profiles

Entry Requirements

To be accepted on to any of the EFS postgraduate courses you will be expected to have a 2:2 Honours degree or equivalent in an environmental, geographical or biological subject. Applicants with an unrelated degree are also encouraged to apply if they have a Level 3 qualification in horticulture and/or relevant experience. In certain circumstances applicants with extensive direct experience but lacking a first degree will be considered for entry.

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