MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
  • Biosciences
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September


Dr Dan Bebber discusses our MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture programme based on our Streatham Campus 

Food security: a global concern

There has never been a more urgent need to train food security researchers who are equipped with skills in agronomy, plant pathology, plant disease and plant genetics, and knowledge of modern agricultural systems and agricultural policy. It is of vital importance that we increase crop yields significantly over the next 50 years, while also decreasing our dependency on chemical intervention and fertilizers.

Meeting the challenge of sustainable agriculture

This interdisciplinary programme was developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders, including: the agricultural industry, government agencies, farmers and food manufacturers. Research-led teaching in molecular plant pathology, plant sciences, and microbiology is strongly supplemented by Rothamsted Research, North Wyke expertise in grassland management, soil science, and sustainable farming systems. The combination of expertise in both arable and pastureland systems ensures a truly rounded learning experience. Leading social scientists also provide valuable input on land use and economic practices in rural areas.

The curriculum is designed to address critical shortages of experts capable of working in government agencies, agriculture, and the food industry as researchers, advisers, policy developers, and managers. The programme provides opportunities to gain industrial and practical experience and observe food security issues first-hand during field trips.

"I particularly enjoyed the Crop Security module as it was very challenging. It looked at how food production could be increased sustainably given that land is limited and global population is continuously increasing."

Donaldrich, MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. Donaldrich

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

Expert teaching

Teaching is enriched by expert contributions from a broad cross-section of the industry. Members of the Plant Health Inspectorate cover field aspects of plant pathology, and a LEAF1 farmer addresses agricultural systems and the realities of food production using integrated farm management. In addition, teaching staff from the University and BBSRC Rothamsted, North Wyke will draw on material and experiences from their academic research and scientific links with industry.

Industrial and practical experience

All students will have opportunities to gain industrial and practical experiences. Teaching visits will be made to the Plant Health Inspectorate in Cornwall to see quarantine management of Phytophthora, and to a local LEAF farm to review the challenges and approaches to food production in integrated farm management systems. You will gain specialised experience in practical science or policy making through a dissertation or project placement with external agencies. Defra, for example, are offering dissertation and/or project placements annually.

Structure and learning style

The programme consists of core modules that provide you with a theoretical and applied learning framework for directed student-centred learning in which you will develop skills of synthesis, critical analysis, and interpretation. In addition, you will receive professional skills training tailored to the areas most relevant to your academic and professional development. 

You will be taught through lectures, workshops, seminars, and some group work and discussion forums. Within modules there is scope for you to direct your learning towards areas of particular interest; this is especially true of your choice of research project or placement.


Taught modules are assessed through essay examinations, individual and group-based coursework assignments, oral presentations, in-module tests and reports or essays. A significant proportion of the marks are based on your substantial research project and the associated paper submitted in September.

Advice and support

You will be allocated a personal tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. There is also a postgraduate tutor available to help with further guidance and advice. In addition, the programme director will offer every student a meeting each term to review academic progress.

1 LEAF: Linking Environment and Farming


Addressing a skills shortage to tackle global food security

The MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture curriculum has been designed in collaboration with the agricultural industry to tackle the skills shortage that exists in this vital interdisciplinary area. This programme will provide the highly trained individuals required in government agencies, agriculture, and food industries for critical roles in scientific research, advice, evaluation, policy development, and implementation.

Global horizons

Because food security and sustainable agriculture are a global concern, there are opportunities for specialists in the areas of agronomy, plant pathology, plant disease, and plant improvement around the world. As a graduate of our interdisciplinary programme, you will be prepared to take on the global challenges of food security and sustainable agriculture, identify cross-disciplinary solutions to local agricultural problems, and adapt them to farming systems in a variety of ecosystems worldwide.

Learning enhanced by industry

The programme is enriched by expert contributions from a broad cross-section of the industry, with specialist lectures, teaching visits to observe the practical application of techniques, and industrial placement opportunities for project work or dissertations in practical science or policy making.

Find out more about our career support schemes for postgraduate students.

Graduate destinations

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of our Biosciences postgraduate programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17. Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Recent graduates are now working as:

Assistant Ecologist
Assistant Ecologist/Fieldwork Co-ordinator
Communications Assistant
Conservation Project officer
Ecological Planning advisory intern
Environmental consultant
Employability and Field Course Assistant
GIS and Social Technician
Graduate Ecologist
Graduate Research Assistant
Impact Support Assistant
Impact Tracker Intern
Junior Researcher
King Cobra Telemetry Project Intern
Marine and Environmental Consultant
Medical Writing Intern
Procurement graduate (graduate buyer)
Programme Assistant, Conservation Science and Design
Project Assistant
Research Assistant
Research Field Assistant
Research Leader, FEMBE Project
Science Researcher
Senior Interpreter
Technical Assistant

Recent graduates are now working for:

A Rocha
Bayer Crop Science
Biosphere Magazine
Blackdown Environmental
Blue Ventures
Bournemouth and Poole College
Brook Lyndhurst
CSa Environmental Planning
Devon Wildlife Trust
EDF Energy
Field Studies Council
FX Plus
Gibraltar Vet Clinic
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Greengage Environmental LLP
Hyder Consulting
Institute of Zoology
John Wenman Ecological Consultancy Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI)
Oxford Scientific Films
PorterHouse Medical
Seamarc Environmental Consultancy and Engineering
Somerset Wild Life Trust
Sparrow-Weaver Project
Stark Ecology
Sustainable Restaurant Association
Taylor Woodrow
The Civil Service
Thomson Ecology
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
Wiley and Sons

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from our Masters programmes. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17.

PhD investigating the effects of species interactions on species distributions
PhD Sustainable Agriculture
Doctor of Philosophy
PhD Institute for Bee Health
PhD Environmental Sciences
PhD in Biological Sciences
PhD Structural/Molecular Biology
PhD Dispersal at Low Densities
PhD Crop Biology
PhD Ontogeny of foraging behaviour in grey seals
PhD Diversity and Evolution of Wasps and Bees Along an Altitudinal Gradient in NW Ecuador

Further information

Further information is available through the Careers pages of the University’s Postgraduate Study website.

Research areas

Fungal Biology Research Group

Across the University we have a wide range of expertise in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. Through our participation in the Food Security and Land Research Alliance, our researchers are working to help secure global food security and ensure resilient land management.

Key areas of research include:

Crops: Molecular pathology, genetics, breeding and protection

Soils: Protection and management

Land and water: Ecosystem services and management

Animals: Health, welfare and veterinary public health

Society: Consumption, production, culture and policy

Fish: Aquaculture, fisheries and marine science

Entry requirements

Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a biological or agricultural relevant subject.

Consideration may be given to appropriate professional background on a case-by-case basis involving an interview. A strong interest in food security and/or sustainable agriculture is required.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2020/21

  • UK/EU: £10,900 full-time; Pro-rata (credit based, where available)
  • International: £21,100 full-time

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,609 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

University funding

The Funding website has information on all available options for funding open to prospective students of taught Masters programmes. You can also use the searchable database of all Scholarships and Bursaries to find funding for which you are eligible.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2020.
Please note that this scholarship isn't offered for all our masters programmes.

Contact us

We welcome enquiries about the programme. For further information contact:

Taught programmes

Web: Enquire online
Phone: +44 (0)1392 725818

The Programme Director is Dr Dan Bebber

Apply online

Fast Track
Current Exeter students
Funding Ask a question Visit subject website Get a prospectus

Find out more >>

  • Staff profiles
  • Career support schemes
  • Support for students in Biosciences
  • Student life

Food Studies Network

The Food Studies Network facilitates the sharing of information about the study of food, including news of food-focused teaching, lecturers, seminars, workshops, conferences, and research opportunities and outcomes.

//unibuddy popcard script