Postgraduate study

Soils and Sustainability MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Soils and Sustainability

This programme aims to introduce students to the concepts of soil for the 21st century and is suitable for students wishing to pursue a career in land-based management or environmental protection.

Soils underpin the sustainability of terrestrial ecosystems and are key to food production. Soils form the basis of all agricultural production, but they also store water, mediate the impact of pollutants, provide biological habitats, have an impact on the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, are involved in dealing with society’s waste, are a source of extractable minerals and provide the foundations for the housing and roads on which society depends.

You will learn about soil function and management, and soil classification, assessment and analysis, with a strong emphasis on practical skills. You will gain expertise in the relationship between soil and sustainable approaches to land resource use.

This programme is run in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

This programme involves two semesters of compulsory and option taught courses followed by a period of individual dissertation project work.

Compulsory courses typically will be:

  • Soil Protection and Management
  • Soils Science Concepts and Application
  • Professional Research Skills in Practice
  • Dissertation

Option courses:

In consultation with the Programme Director, you will choose from a range of optional courses^. We particularly recommend:

  • Analysing the Environment
  • Analysing the Environment Study Tour
  • Culture, Ethics & Environment
  • Ecosystem Dynamics and Functions
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability
  • International Development in a Changing World
  • Principles of Environmental Sustainability
  • Principles of GIS
  • Project Appraisal
  • Atmospheric Quality and Global Change
  • Frameworks to Assess Food Security
  • Integrated Resource Management
  • Spatial Modelling
  • Ecosystem Values and Management
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Land Use/Environmental Interactions
  • Participation in Policy and Planning
  • Sustainability of Food Production
  • Interrelationships in Food Systems

Courses are subject to timetabling and availability and are subject to change.

Field trip

An integral, week-long study tour lets you refresh skills learned on the programme and develop new tools and techniques, useful during the dissertation process. The tour has historically been held in Mende, France. In addition to the formal taught component, students had the opportunity to go rafting and visit the Aven Armand caves. This year the your will likely be to Morocco.

There may also be a short tour during induction week, to give students a chance to get to know each other.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSoils and Sustainability1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScSoils and Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2019/20

Students will:

  • gain a knowledge and understanding of the relationship between soils and sustainable land management
  • gain an understanding of soil sampling and analysis, interpretation and reporting
  • be able to assess soil management issues and develop improved management plans
  • understand the function of soils in relation to sustainable land use and societal needs

A recent report by the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) identified soil science as an area in which there are critical skills shortages, meaning graduates will be in high demand.

Soil scientists are employed in a broad range of vocations including environmental consultancy, research, overseas development, environmental impact assessment and analysis, site reclamation and remediation, and conservation as well as advising on government policy, archaeological excavations and laboratory analyses, forensics, and landscape design.

Would you like to know what it’s really like to study at the School of GeoSciences?

Visit our student experience blog where you can find articles, advice, videos and ask current students your questions.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in biological science, environmental science, physical science, geography, engineering, economics or other relevant subject.

We many also consider a UK 2:2 honours degree, or its international equivalent, with relevant industry experience.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fee deposit

If you receive an offer of admission, either unconditional or conditional, you will be asked to pay a tuition fee deposit of £1,500 to secure your place on the programme.

Any applicants who are required to pay will receive an offer with full details. (If there is no information on your offer about the deposit then you are not required to pay.)

  • If you receive an offer before 1 March, you must pay your deposit by 31 March.
  • If you receive an offer between 1 March and 30 June, you must pay your deposit within 28 days.
  • If you receive an offer on or after 1 July, you must pay your deposit within 14 days.

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSoils and Sustainability1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScSoils and Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

SRUC bursary

Students undertaking the MSc Soils & Sustainability may be eligible for a SRUC bursary. Applicants will be sent information with guidance on eligibility and how to apply. Contact the Programme Secretary for more information.

The SRUC bursary provided up to 10% of the tuition fee to eligible candidates in 2018/19.

SRUC alumni discount

The SRUC alumni discount aims to encourage SRUC graduates to take up opportunities to study on taught masters (MSc) degree programmes run by SRUC in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh by providing a financial contribution towards the programme tuition fees to eligible applicants.

Eligible applicants will:

  1. have graduated, or be expecting to graduate, with an honours degree delivered through SRUC, and awarded by either the University of Glasgow or the University of Edinburgh, within five years prior to the commencement of the masters programme
  2. have been accepted for admission to one of the following MSc programmes:

  3. have been offered a place for the next academic session
  4. have firmly accepted that offer, or be intending to do so

We will inform you if you are eligible to receive the discount on tuition fees during the application and admissions process. (Please tell us on your application if you are a SRUC graduate, as this will help speed up the process.) For further information please contact the Programme Secretary.

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)
  • Peter Wilson Building
  • West Mains Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3JG

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)
  • Peter Wilson Building
  • West Mains Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3JG