Masters of organic farming

Applications are open for 2023 entry for the SRUC distance learning postgraduate programme in Organic Farming. This is available at Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or MSc level, or you can opt to study individual modules for CPD, giving flexibility to what and how much you study. The online distance learning format enables you to study while working or alongside other commitments. We support this with study weekends that give you chance to enhance your learning and to network with your peers and across the wider industry through visits to farms and businesses.

In 2021 SRUC celebrated a significant coming-of-age milestone – 21 years since first opening its doors to postgraduate Organic Farming students. Coincidentally, SRUC’s organic rotations research trial simultaneously reached its 30th anniversary. Established in 1991, the aim of the trial is to investigate the long-term productivity of legume based systems. This long-term organic rotation trial and other relevant field trials are located at SRUC’s Craibstone campus near Aberdeen, where the teaching for the programme is based, giving students the opportunity to get access to research data literally straight from the field.

For the last eight years there has been a formal teaching partnership in place with ORC. In conjunction with teaching input from SRUC’s own researchers and advisors, this gives the students access to up-to-date information and research data about the organic sector as well as promoting discussion about 21st century food production and related issues.

Not all SRUC’s Organic Farming postgrads are practitioners. Growing interest in food in terms of production systems, efficiency, food miles, carbon footprint, nutrient use, ethics, environment and the link with health and socioeconomics of both producers and consumers, is reflected in the student profile. So while some current students are farmers, smallholders, market gardeners and horticulturalists, others work in the food and drink sector and hospitality, or have a much wider background in, for example, geology and the oil industry, dentistry and film making.

The Organic Farming programme offers students the opportunity to develop an understanding of the key technical production, marketing and management aspects of organic farming and food with the added benefit of having a part time and largely online delivery format, enabling them to continue working while studying, and therefore providing the opportunity to put their newly acquired knowledge straight into practice.

Lou Ralph, Senior Lecturer, who has been leading SRUC’s programme in Organic Farming for the past twelve years, said “What brings all these students together is a passion for organic food, whether that’s producing it, selling it, cooking it, or just wanting to find out more about it. This means that as well as formal learning there are also great networking opportunities, and a lot of informal knowledge exchange goes on when the students meet up at study weekends”.

One former student recently described the Postgraduate Diploma qualification as a “springboard for me to continue my professional development, learning more and building a career in farming”, while another said “My knowledge of industry recommended organic farm management practices has improved, as have my analytical skills. This course has given me so much confidence in finding the latest research information online and I have achieved far more than I ever thought possible”.

The programme, validated by the University of Glasgow, has the further benefit of being offered from postgraduate certificate to MSc level, giving flexibility of study over one to three years, with progression points between years. “Students may not initially intend to embark on the full Masters degree”, said Lou “but that option is available to them if they later decide to continue with their studies. Similarly, if a student’s circumstances change and they are unable to complete a longer award, they get the opportunity to qualify for one of the shorter ones”.

SRUC delivers sector-leading research, education and consultancy and students on the Organic Farming programme have the benefit of teaching input from all three of these complementary strands, alongside input from other sector experts. Since 2015 this has included a formal teaching partnership with the Organic Research Centre. In addition, we have a long-term organic rotation trial and other relevant field trials located at our Craibstone campus near Aberdeen, where the teaching for the programme is based. The programme uses part time online distance learning blended with study weekends, allowing students to gain a PGCert qualification in one year, a PGDip in two years or an MSc in three years, as well as the option to study individual modules.
If you are interested in studying Organic Farming with us, please contact Dr Lou Ralph on or visit the SRUC website for more information.

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