A combine harvester gathering grain

Food Challenges

Food Challenges for the 21st Century - PG Certificate
Food Security - MSc and PG Diploma


One of the most significant challenges currently facing humankind is to provide enough food, for an active healthy lifestyle, to a population which will probably rise beyond 9 billion within the next 30 to 40 years. The biggest challenges we face are climate change and a diminishing supply of essential resources for crop production (land, water, fertilisers, energy, labour). The provision of these resources must be sustained while minimising any deleterious environmental effects of food production systems.

Our programme will equip you with the specialist skills and knowledge to engage with the challenges of making and supplying enough food to sustain an active healthy lifestyle for a growing population.

Increasing affluence means that 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 challenge those committed to supplying more good quality food to more people.

While food production can determine food access and availability, more people can be adequately fed if food is distributed more equitably and less food is wasted. While subsistence farmers in less developed countries have some control over their own food provision, most of us live in a globally networked food system, where external shocks (eg. pandemics) can have dramatic local effects.

Recognising the importance of food provision in a sustainable way, since 2015 Lancaster University, in partnership with Waitrose, has developed this online postgraduate training programme at Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) and Master's (MSc) levels.

Our programme is delivered online, with all materials supplied to allow you to work at your own pace within a full-time programme.

Who is the course for?

Our online programme is tailored to those around the world who aspire to work in food and farming policy, practice and research, or those that already do so. The course will equip you for careers in agriculture, rural industries, the food industry, governmental agencies, research, or enhance your professional development if you are already employed in these sectors.

It is currently offered full-time for new students and will appeal to graduates with backgrounds in biological sciences, environmental sciences, geography, agriculture, horticulture, agronomy, agri-food, food sciences, or similar degrees. However, those with other degrees (eg. business) have also graduated from our programme, and we recognise those with prior relevant learning and experience - you don’t necessarily need a degree to apply!

Why study with us?

  • Five years’ experience in delivering this online programme
  • Flexible online delivery enables you to progress to a level to suit you – PGCert, PGDip or MSc
  • Work through the materials at your own pace online with online guidance from expert tutors, meaning you don’t need to relocate to undertake this course
  • Gain technical skills and knowledge that can be directly applied to a wide range of roles and disciplines in the food industry
  • Subject to any local covid-19 restrictions, meet your fellow students and network at optional short workshops, or online discussions
  • Gain a thorough grounding in statistics, data collection and analysis (PGDip & MSc only)
  • Develop your research skills through a bespoke, often industry-focused, dissertation project (MSc only)
  • Choose from a wide range of specialist modules that illuminate the factors impacting upon food security and environmental effects on food production
  • Analyse the factors that influence who eats what and discuss innovations that can help address shortcomings in the global food system

An introduction to the course

In this short video, our academics explain the purpose of the course, what you will study and what you get from it.

Applications for Graduate School for the Environment courses must go through the Lancaster University Postgraduate Applications portal.

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Tina Todorova

Tina Todorova

When did you know that Lancaster was the university for you?The idea of the programme won me immediately but as soon as I met the team, I’ve realised how fortunate I am to take this incredible journey with Lancaster University.

How did the distance-learning help you in your daily life?I wouldn’t be able to participate if this wasn’t a distance-learning programme as I have a full-time job and a fairly young child to take care of.

How did the staff at Lancaster help you in your studies?The staff at Lancaster was brilliant from the beginning to the end. Extremely supportive, professional and inspirational. Words cannot explain how grateful I am to all of the staff involved.

What are you doing - or going to do - now that you have graduated?I already have a well-established professional career but my recently gained confidence is urging me to pursue higher professional horizons.

Course Details

You can select the level of postgraduate qualification you wish to study from the following:

  1. Postgraduate Certificate: Food Challenges for the 21st Century
    60 credits of assessment (4 x 15 credit modules), which equates to 600 learning hours, studied full-time over 1 year.
  2. Postgraduate Diploma: Food Security
    120 credits of assessment (8 x 15 credit modules), which equates to 1200 learning hours, studied full-time over 1 year
  3. Master's: Food Security
    180 credits of assessment i.e. 1800 learning hours, studied full-time over 1 year. It includes a 60 credit dissertation project and 8 x 15 credit modules.

If you initially enrol at PGCert level you may apply to upgrade to our PGDip in Food Security on completing four modules at an average equivalent of a Pass grade, or our MSc in Food Security on completing four modules at an average equivalent of a Merit grade. Alternatively, you may apply for direct entry onto the PGDip or MSc in Food Security and may exit early with an interim award.

If you initially enrol full-time, but your circumstances change and you wish to progress part-time, you can change your enrolment.

Who teaches on the course?

The course is delivered by leading specialists including:


Modules are offered across three teaching terms each year. Each 15 credit module is normally 12 weeks duration. Full-time students will typically study 2-4 modules per term (potentially allowing completion of PGCert within one term, and PGDip within two terms). All students must take a compulsory introductory module in term 1. This covers a broad range of issues related to food security. Other modules can be selected from an annual timetable. Some modules are compulsory for the MSc (Food Challenges for the 21st Century, Literature Review, Data Collection & Analysis, Dissertation Project).


Module information 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.

A timetable of modules for the coming year is available on request by emailing foodchallenges@lancaster.ac.uk

Time commitment and assessment

In line with standard University Postgraduate courses, each 15 credit module comprises 150 learning hours. This includes time for study, taking part in discussion forums, completing module assessments and attending short face-to-face workshops.

Assessments are submitted online and for each 15 credit taught module is typically comprised of two short answer questions, discussion forum contributions and a final 2500 word essay.

How to Apply

This programme starts in October each year.

Details of entry requirements and fees can be found on the University Postgraduate Courses webpage:

The Directors of Studies for this Programme is Professor Ian Dodd. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the course in more detail, please contact the Programme team on foodchallenges@lancaster.ac.uk.

Development of this course has been part-supported by Waitrose.