Postgraduate study

Soils and Sustainability MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Soils and Sustainability

I wanted to study something that was a little bit more specific and would give me some specialist knowledge when I completed the course. This programme was the best of both worlds, it gave me both specific knowledge and an insight into the wider environmental world. I’ve had a great time in Edinburgh, thoroughly enjoyed it, I think one of the reasons I’m considering doing a PhD in the future is that I’ve had so much fun.

Angus Leigh MSc Soils and Sustainability

Soils underpin the sustainability of all land based ecosystems on our planet.

They impact fluxes of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, can mediate the impact of pollutants, provide biological habitats, and are an important component of water cycling. Humans have a complex relationship with soil, as soils deal with society’s waste, are a source of extractable minerals, and provide the foundations for the housing and roads on which society depends.

Soils also form the basis of all agricultural production. With a rapidly increasing global population, and Earth’s resources under stress, it is more important than ever to find sustainable approaches to land resource use. As the world looks for ways to increase the quantity and quality of food production for a growing population, you will be ideally placed to help balance the increased agricultural output with the protection and preservation of soil, water and ecosystems for a more sustainable future.

The MSc in Soils and Sustainability will provide you with the advanced skills and knowledge to make informed decisions on sustainable land practice. Designed to prepare you for a career in land-based management or environmental protection, you will learn about soil functions and management practices as well as soil classification, assessment and analysis. You will interpret information on soil physics, biology and chemistry for the preservation and maintenance of soil health and gain greater understanding of soil biodiversity and ecology. The programme places a strong emphasis on both theoretical insight and practical skills which are supported by laboratory and field based activities.

This programme is delivered in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). You will not only benefit from being a fully matriculated student at The University of Edinburgh, but also access to all of complementary staff, expertise, and resources at SRUC. Upon successful completion of the programme, you will be awarded your degree by The University of Edinburgh.

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COVID-19

We are committed to offering a high-quality education to all our students. Please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery due to COVID-19.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience**.

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This MSc programme comprises:

  • Compulsory and option courses
  • Dissertation

Although we endeavour to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from, these can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice.

Places on optional courses can be restricted on the basis of numbers, room capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses*.

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking.

Courses can be delivered through a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, practicals, laboratory work, short field trips and longer field courses.

Part-time study

As we are committed to helping people into education whilst continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.

*(Revised 11 December 2019 to include information on optional courses.) **(Revised 1 June 2020 to remove specific number of compulsory and option courses required and to add COVID-19 information.)

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
MSc1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2020/21
MSc3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2020/21
MSc2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2020/21

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

Worldwide efforts are mounting in order to increase the quantity and quality of food produced for a growing population.

Demand for soil and water scientists, whose main function is providing technical expertise to farmers, will increase as the safety and sustainability of our world’s food supply becomes more of a concern.

Soil scientists and environmental scientists with an understanding of soil management are in demand in both the private and public sectors.

As a soil scientist, you can be employed in a broad range of vocations including environmental consultancy, overseas development, environmental impact assessment and analysis, site reclamation and remediation and academia. Other areas also include advising on governmental policy, archaeological excavations and laboratory analysis, forensics and landscape design. Government and regulatory organisations also provide opportunities for careers for soil scientists.

Our graduates have also progressed into further research and academia.

COVID-19 and field trips

For the academic year 2020-21, the School of GeoSciences will not be undertaking field courses with international destinations, in the best interests for the safety of our students, staff and the community. Alternatives will be provided that enable you to gain the appropriate experience for your degree.

Fieldwork on the UK mainland for the academic year 2020-21 may be changed as the COVID-19 situation unfolds. The School of GeoSciences will follow advice from the University and the Scottish and UK Governments, as the situation develops over the next 12-18 months.

Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled. We will also look at alternative arrangements such as digital experiences that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree wherever you are based *.

Field work

You may experience a field trip to refresh the skills learned during the programme, as well as develop new tools and techniques useful to your dissertation and future career.

During prior trips, students gained an overview of soil health and management challenges within the region and explored how these are being met by local land managers and farmers.

Students also participated in site visits, soil analysis and site sampling in order to better identify key soil issues and management strategies. Prior trips have also included cultural visits and social experiences with fellow students.

You may also experience a short field tour during induction week, to give students a chance to get to know each other. In recent years, our students have taken part in a two day trip with accommodation provided at a SRUC research farm in the southern highlands of Scotland.

Please note:

Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons. Any changes to the main destination of the field course will be announced as soon as possible. There are no additional fees for compulsory field trips.

*(Revised 1 June 2020 to add information on possible restricted field trips in light of COVID-19.)

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

For 2020 entry 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 (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 20 in each module). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 20 in each module). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

*(Revised 21 February 2020 to remove PTE Academic from 2021 entry requirements. Revised 21 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition in 2020 and 2021 entry requirements.)

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.

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.

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Field trips and field courses

We do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses. Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips will be covered by the programme fees. However incidental/ personal expenses are to be met by the student.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MSc1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MSc3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MSc2 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 Administrator for more information.

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.

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 Administrator.

School of GeoSciences Scholarships

Browse funding opportunities

You are also encouraged to undertake your own research into the range of potential scholarships and other funding for which you may be eligible.

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.

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