13 October 2016 16:57

Three of the UK’s top centres for environmental and agricultural research have joined together to create a unique school for graduate research and training based at Lancaster University.

The Lancaster Environment Centre, one of the UK’s most highly ranked university departments for environmental research, Rothamsted Research, the world’s oldest agricultural research station, and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH),  a world-leading institute focusing on land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere, have formed a graduate school focused on the big environmental challenges of the day.

Between them the three institutions have more than 200 PhD students, one of the largest cohorts in the country, and access to a huge range of expertise, equipment, facilities, and experimental field sites -  including the world’s longest running grassland field site and some of the world's biggest environmental data sets.

Launching on October 19, the new school – which encompasses students studying for Masters, PhD and Professional qualifications - is founded on long-term research collaborations between the three institutions. 

Students undertaking a PhD or Masters by Research will have the unique opportunity of focusing upon a specific area of in-depth research, while also contributing the expertise that they develop towards addressing one or more of the major environmental challenges that the graduate school is tackling. 

Postgraduate students studying taught masters will also gain a wider range of opportunities, both for dissertation projects and through easier access to internationally renowned experts and cutting-edge equipment in all three centres.  The School’s flexible courses include a wide choice of modules from a range of disciplines in the natural and social sciences.

Dr Alan Blackburn, Director of the new Graduate School for the Environment, said students could expect more flexibility, a broader range of specialisms and the possibility of being co-supervised by more than one of the partner institutions at both masters and PhD level.

“Students will now have access to a vast array of potential research projects as well as access to a large cross section of world class supervisors and expertise.  The three research centres also have extensive links to government agencies, research bodies and businesses, offering our students excellent career prospects and contacts with a pool of prospective employers.”

Professor Mark Bailey, Director of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: “This exciting collaboration creates a world-leading and distinctive entity for postgraduate training, research and professional development. We look forward to offering the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s renowned interdisciplinary excellence to help teach and support the next generation of environmental researchers, innovators and leaders as they address real-world environmental challenges. Bringing together our three organisations with our collective, globally-recognised expertise and facilities offers a tremendous set of opportunities to students of the School.”

Professor Achim Dobermann, Director of Rothamsted Research, said: “The Graduate School for the Environment represents an entirely new way of offering postgraduate training and research opportunities as it is founded upon the combined strengths of three internationally-renowned research organisations. Right from the start of their studies, students will benefit from strong engagement with leaders in their research fields – these are the very people who are driving progress towards solving the world’s environmental problems and providing solutions for sustainable agricultural systems. Rothamsted Research is very proud to be a key partner in this important initiative.”

The Graduate School for the Environment is also building on professional training courses run with industry partners for people already in work, including a PG Certificate developed with Waitrose exploring food security and environmental sustainability, and accredited courses in  flood and coastal risk management for water and environmental industry practitioners.

Dr Blackburn added: “Our aim is to be flexible in the way people can study so they can build up their learning while continuing with their career. For example they could start by doing just one module and build up to a PG Cert, a Masters and eventually a PhD.”

  • The initiative is built on long-term research collaborations between the three institutions:  CEH focusses on land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere, it is a partner of Lancaster Environment Centre and has laboratories and scientists based in Lancaster as well as at its other UK sites. Rothamsted and Lancaster University work together on: agro-ecology; plant science and crop production; management of soil and water resources; and designing, modelling and assessing sustainable agricultural systems.