Food Challenges for the 21st Century

One of the most significant challenges currently facing humankind is to make enough food, for an active healthy lifestyle, available to a population which will probably rise beyond 9 billion within the next 30 to 40 years.

Extra food must be produced against a changing climate and with reduced usage of a range of resources required for crop production, nearly all of which are already in short supply (land, water, fertilisers, energy, labour). As economies in many countries grow, people want to eat more and they want to eat differently, often aspiring to a more meat-rich and resource-demanding diet. More and more people now live in cities and these social changes constitute significant challenges for those committed to supply more good quality food to more people.

There are many factors that combine to impact food availability and the access that people have to food. Food production is prominent among these factors but we can also feed more people if we distribute food more effectively and waste less food. Meeting this latter target requires that people change their food purchasing and utilisation habits. Of course there are many factors that have little directly to do with food (such as the state of the economy) and these factors can greatly affect who eats what and in what quantities. In addition to consideration of environmental effects on food production there is much concern over the deleterious effects of the food production system on the environment and we must work to make more food available in an environmentally responsible fashion.

The Response to the Challenge

In recognition of the importance of the challenges faced in providing food in a sustainable way, Lancaster University, in partnership with Waitrose, has developed a Professional Training Programme: Food Challenges for the 21st Century.

Lancaster Environment Centre has a strong international reputation for work in sustainable agriculture and food security and is itself committed to raising understanding of food system challenges, particularly with young people.  The Waitrose Board and its Agronomy Group has a substantial commitment to responsible sourcing and supply of food, though its suppliers of fresh produce.  This partnership of Lancaster Environment Centre with Waitrose and their suppliers brings together knowledge and expertise from a range of area concerned with food security issues.

Food Challenges for the 21st Century

Our topical and unique new Postgraduate Professional Training Programme commenced in 2015, and covers a broad range of issues reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the challenges faced by people and organisations working in the food supply chain.  The programme provides an opportunity for flexible and accessible postgraduate learning and professional development, for those working in the food supply chain that are unable to commit to a full time study.

Students can choose to study a diverse range of topics identified by both academic and business providers as key to addressing current and future food security challenges.  Delegates will benefit from the expertise of Lancaster University’s world- leading environmental, bioscience and social science researchers and trainers, from industry-leading technical expertise drawn from within the Waitrose supply chain and from additional contributions from leading practitioners, consultants and researchers from other key institutions.

Course details

Our training programme consists of a series of modules, each of which is run over a set 12 week period, and each of which is worth 15 credits.  The programme is delivered by blended learning, which consists largely of online material to allow flexible working, together with short face-to-face elements during which students will meet and work with the programme team and fellow students.

The programme starts with a compulsory introductory module, which runs in February each year. After completion of the introductory module, students are then free to choose from a range of modules on offer, taking as many as they want up to a maximum of 3 per year.

Our modules reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the challenges faced by people and organisations working in the food chain. Teaching of each 12 week module generally commence in February, June and September each year. Current modules are:

  • LEC.450 Introductory Model: The Impending Storm
  • LEC.451 Crop Production Science
  • LEC.452 Environmental Stress and Crop Production
  • LEC.453 Plant Defence and Crop Protection

Proposed future modules include topics such as:

  • Food Ethics
  • A Role for New Science in Farm Practices
  • Soils
  • Study skills

Who is it for?

The course will provide novel understanding and essential skills for a people from a wide range of backgrounds who have an interest in the food security challenge. Some of these will be professionals who are drawn from within the UK Food Supply Chain. Potential students with experience and interest in closely related areas are also encouraged to apply.

Initially this training programme is open only to Waitrose partners (employees) and the suppliers and growers who are involved in the production and supply of fresh produce for Waitrose.  In 2016, the programme will be open to a broader range of potential students. A first degree is not an essential requirement but if this is the case, professional experience in one or more of the component disciplines of the food system is required.

Time commitment and assessment

In line with standard University Postgraduate courses, each 12 week module comprises 150 learning hours. This includes time for study, taking part in discussion forums, completing module assessments and attending face-to-face meetings/residential schools.

Assessments are submitted online and comprise: short answer questions, discussion forum contributions and a final 2500 word essay.


A Postgraduate Certificate will be awarded on successful completion of four 15 credit modules. A Postgraduate Diploma will be awarded on successful completion of eight 15 credit modules (ie, four additional modules). Completion of a research project will lead to the award of a Masters degree (details to be confirmed).

Entry requirements

We recognise prior learning and experience; there are no formal entry requirements and you don’t necessarily need a degree to apply

How to apply for the PGCert

If you would like to apply for the PgCert Food Challenges for the 21st Century, you need to use the University's My Applications website.  The following three items must be supplied to the online admissions website in order for your application to be considered:

  1. Curriculum Vitae (CV) containing full details of your experience pertinent to the PgCert Food Challenges for the 21st Century programme.
  2. A Personal Statement stating why you wish to study for a PgCert Food Challenges for the 21st Century.
  3. 2 full references

Relevant certificates and/or degree transcripts may be included. Please note that these requirements differ from those of the MSc programmes within LEC as stated on the general LEC Postgraduate webpages.  Applications for a February start must be received by 31st December the previous year. 

To submit an application, simply create an account on the My Applications website and then select Create a new application from your homepage once you are logged-in. Using your account on the My Applications website, you are then able to submit applications for the PgCert Food Challenges for the 21st Century programme, upload supporting documentation and provide us with information about referees.

The Director of Studies for this Programme are: Professor Bill Davies and Dr Jane Taylor.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss the course in more detail, please contact the the Programme team on