Full time 3 Year(s), Part time 3 Year(s)
Our Masters programme will equip you with the specialist skills and knowledge to engage with one of the most significant challenges currently facing a growing human population: making and supplying enough food for all to sustain an active healthy lifestyle.
Our Masters in Food Security (Distance Learning) is a distance learning programme designed for people with an interest in the global food system and for professionals in the food supply industry. This exciting course explores important issues related to food security, focusing on production, distribution, and waste.
The course is highly flexible so that you can fit study around your day job. Teaching is done largely online; all materials are supplied and you can work through them at your own pace. You will also have the opportunity to meet tutors and fellow students at short workshops during the year.
To gain an MSc you need to complete eight modules, and a significant dissertation project. The programme starts with an introductory module every February, which covers a broad range of issues related to food security. After that, you will develop a breadth of knowledge and depth of expertise by studying an additional seven modules. These modules cover a range of topics and will allow you to develop specialist knowledge of the factors impacting upon food security and environmental effects on food production.
Alongside topics such as crop production science and ethical food systems, you will take study skills modules such as a literature review. These will introduce you to a higher level of research skills which are essential to your dissertation project and when exploring new opportunities within your career.
Finally, you will cement your learning and put theory into practice in a major research project. Your dissertation will be guided by a supervisor from Lancaster and will normally be undertaken with an industry partner. This module will develop a range of transferable, highly employable skills. You will enhance your planning and written presentation skills, learn to concisely and effectively communicate complex concepts and ideas, as well as learn to handle and present quantitative and qualitative information and data.
Undertaking these modules and research project will ensure you have the breadth and depth of knowledge required to support your career. Upon graduation, you will have a range of specialist skills, advanced knowledge, and experience, allowing you to engage with and tackle the food challenges of the 21st century. By completing the programme, you will be equipped to make informed decisions, progress in your career, affect change in culture and best practice, or continue into PhD study and research.
If you enrol at MSc level you may exit early with an interim award at PGCert or PGDip level.
You will study a range of modules as part of your course, some examples of which are listed below.
The student will be introduced to key aspects of the food security challenge. They will explore the many factors that combine to impact food availability and the access that people have to food. In particular, they will study themes of food production, distribution and waste. Additionally, consideration is given to the environmental effects on food production and students will explore how we can work to make more food available in an environmentally responsible fashion.
Throughout the module, students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the global food system and its component parts, understand the potentially conflicting impacts of making changes. On completion of the module, students will be able to participate in an informed manner in discussions/debates on food system issues; be able to raise the profile of issues within food chain companies; and increase the chances of changing food practices for the better.
The literature review is a substantial written piece of work. The specific subject will depend on the area in which the literature review is to be undertaken, but is expected to be on a topic of relevance to food security.
The scope of the review will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the student consulting with their academic supervisor, who will be appointed according to their specific expertise. In addition to this, two short pieces of coursework are designed to ensure that all students have a minimum level of proficiency to allow them to be able to undertake a literature review.
Students will be equipped with the skills to synthesise and analyse information from a wide variety of sources, structure this information, and express it in a coherent form. Each student will read widely within an appropriately defined topic area/research question, and accurately reference various information sources whilst avoiding plagiarism. This will require the use of database searching techniques to acquire relevant reference sources.
Students will plan, execute and present the findings of a Masters level research project within the area of food security. They are expected to undertake this project with their employer or an associated company. The content will vary depending upon the specialisation of the project.
The emphasis is on applying skills learnt during the course. This will require students to self-manage their project; to effectively present data using flow diagrams, graphs and tables, and statistical analysis to enhance the communication of quantitative and/or qualitative data. These skills will allow them to integrate information to deliver technically sound solutions to various problems regarding food security.
This module will teach the use of standard project management tools to deliver predetermined goals effectively and on time. This will be done via planning a food security research schedule and (where necessary) aligning it with a student’s current employment duties.
This module examines a range of environmental stresses that crops are likely to encounter and explores the ‘yield gap’ between predictions for agricultural systems and farmers’ actual yield. Students will consider the mechanisms by which these stresses impact plant growth, development and yield.
This will serve as a basis for understanding how to overcome these negative impacts by intervening genetically, or by changing the environment by modifying crop management. As a result, students will learn about crop management solutions, and the techniques by which crop genotype can be altered through plant breeding, genetic modification and/or grafting.
Students will also look at current information on the magnitude of the challenges faced and adaptations that minimise the impacts of environmental stress, provided by leading scientists from a range of research institutions, along with growers of selected crops.
This module examines how plants deal with biotic stress inflicted by pests and pathogens, how such pests affect crop yield, and current and future possible control mechanisms. Students will examine a range of ideas and develop a wide knowledge of the subject, within three key topics: pests and pathogens, plant resistance, and pest detection and control.
They will discuss different strategies used by pests and pathogens to attack plants, and the use of constitutive and induced defence by plants. In addition, students will become familiar with the regulatory environment. The research and analytical skills gained throughout this module are used to examine a range of approaches to control pests and disease. Students will also gain detailed, specialist knowledge, such as how to differentiate between crop protection strategies that directly target the pest and those that enhance natural biological mechanisms for pest control.
This module will introduce students to the key factors impacting the growth and yield of a range of key crops. Studying this module will help students to appreciate the science behind vegetative growth, photosynthesis and production, to inform best practice across the different components of a supply chain. Students will also benefit from insight and knowledge from leading producers of these crops and scientists from a range of research institutions.
The module focuses on the plant biology that is crucial in the regulation of plant growth, development and yielding. Students will learn the basic principles to enable them to intervene in the production process, to address the challenge of providing more good-quality, safe and nutritious food.
Soils are fundamental to our very existence, as a vital medium for food growth and a regulator of water quality and climate. Exploring concepts within three core topics – principles of soil science, soil biology, and soil management and global change – students learn about the importance and functions of a healthy soil system.
They will develop knowledge of soil nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and water and carbon cycling processes. In addition, students will explore the issues and mitigation options related to soil compaction, erosion and water quality, and the challenges and threats faced by soils in the light of global change.
This module encourages students to think critically about food systems and introduces them to the challenges of ethical food. They will learn to identify the actors and will explore key trends and tools. As well as exploring the future of food control, students will also examine food poverty, and transforming food systems.
Ethical Food Systems allows students to research case studies and consider the wider issues impacting upon food systems. They will gain experience of explaining to those who work in the food chain what ethical issues are relevant when sourcing and selling food. Students will also develop their knowledge of concerns expressed about the conditions in which farm animals are kept, and major concerns about diet and human health. Finally, they will apply their skills and knowledge to consider the issues that may impact the future control of food.
This module will consider all aspects of agricultural biotechnology, from a basic understanding of gene function and methods for gene isolation, through to the production of commercial GM crops. Students will cover a range of examples of the use of genetic modification for pure research and for the production of improved crop varieties, and will investigate the regulatory and ethical issues surrounding the use of transgenic plants in agriculture.
The syllabus will be presented as a series of topics, each comprising several 'issues'. Each issue will include a short video lecture and supplementary learning resources. The material will be presented in a way that makes the material accessible to non-specialists.
Students will learn to explain how genetic variation for a trait can be exploited for crop improvement. To this end they will be taught to summarise the different approaches for introducing DNA into plant cells to make transgenic plants, and summarise the diverse applications of plant genetic modification in fundamental and applied research. They will also come to appreciate the different attitudes towards the adoption of GM crops and provide examples of commercial applications of GM crop technology.
Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, but changes may be necessary, for example as a result of student feedback, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes, and new research.
Designed for: graduates of biological sciences, environmental sciences, geography, agriculture, horticulture, agronomy, agri-food, food sciences, or similar degrees. Also for professionals working in the food supply chain who wish to extend their knowledge and apply this to their working environment.
Entry requirements for MSc: 2:1 (Hons) degree (UK) or equivalent in Environmental Science, Biological Sciences, Ecology, Biology, Geography or a similar degree. An undergraduate degree is not a prerequisite for practitioners working in the food supply chain as we recognise prior learning and experience.
Entry requirements for PGDip and PGCert 2:2 (Hons) degree (UK) or equivalent in Environmental Science, Biological Sciences, Ecology, Biology, Geography or a similar degree. An undergraduate degree is not a prerequisite for practitioners working in the food supply chain as we recognise prior learning and experience.
If you have studied outside of the UK, you can check your qualification here: International Qualifications
As part of your application, you will need to provide a CV and two references. Each application is examined by the Director of Studies on a case-by-case basis, examining the appropriate experience and in-work training (or degree course content) given in the submitted CV, and the aptitudes highlighted by the referees.
IELTS: Overall score of at least 6.5, with no individual element below 6.0
We consider tests from other providers, which can be found here: English language requirements
If your score is below our requirements we may consider you for one of our pre-sessional English language programmes:
10 week - Overall score of at least 5.5, with no individual element below 5.0
For details of eligibility see: Pre-sessional programmes
4 week - Overall score of at least 6.0, with no individual element below 5.5 Further information is available at English for Academic Purposes
Assessment: Essays, online discussions and short answer assignments
Fees are subject to annual increase and are invoiced on a module by module basis. Costs in respect of travel, accommodation and food for the residential school element are additional.
Applicants connected to the Waitrose UK supply chain should contact us for further details.
There are three programmes available. If you initially apply at MSc level you may exit early with an interim award at PGCert or PGDip level.
You can determine your own speed of progression within the time period for completion detailed above. A maximum of three modules (45 credits) may be taken in any one year for the PGCert and the PGDip programmes.
The University will not increase the Tuition Fee you are charged during the course of an academic year.
If you are studying on a programme of more than one year's duration, the tuition fees for subsequent years
of your programme are likely to increase each year. The way in which continuing students' fee rates are
determined varies according to an individual's 'fee status' as set out on our fees webpages.
Studying at a UK University means that you need to pay an annual fee for your tuition,
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recommendations for increases to fees proposed for all categories of student and this takes into
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Many of our students each year will be entitled to bursaries or scholarships to help with the cost of
fees and/or living expenses. You can find out more about financial support, studentships, and awards
for postgraduate study on our website.
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