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Global Health: Food Security, Sustainability and Biodiversity

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Global Health: Food Security, Sustainability and Biodiversity


The closing date for applications to start this course in September 2024 is 31 July 2024. Further detail here.

Key information

Duration: 1 year full time or 2 years part time

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

UK fees*: £10,600

International/EU fees**: £20,500

The course

Global Health: Food Security, Sustainability and Biodiversity (MSc)

This degree is run in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

From pollution in the air and water, climate change and unsustainable farming and food supply chains, to population growth and concerns about hunger, obesity, or eating too much meat  -  the challenges of sustainable living are all around us.

The MSc in Global Health: Food Security, Sustainability and Biodiversity is an exciting partnership between Royal Holloway and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Students on this degree will study at Royal Holloway and at Kew, learning from world leading experts at both institutions and spending approximately equal time at our main campus in Egham, Surrey and Kew’s main site in Richmond, south west London. 

This one year course covers a range of topics at the intersections of environmental health and human health, addressing the crucial link between biodiversity, sustainable livelihoods and food security.

You will examine some of the most pressing issues affecting our planet, from deforestation and climate change to pollution and the threats from extinctions, intensive agriculture and a growing human population. You will see new, innovative solutions in food security, and you will learn about innovative farming approaches, such as silvopasture, vertical farming and hydroponics. You will also consider crop histories, indigenous knowledge and the links between our environment, culture, economy and the health and livelihoods of people around the world.

You will develop your understanding and ability to blend agricultural, ecological, political and socioeconomic factors, and acquire a strong skill set through practical training in a range of transferable skills including communication, team working, science writing, data visualisation, statistical analysis, and mapping. Students will participate in field trips and study visits, spending time on a residential field course in the last two weeks of the spring term at Kew’s Wild Botanic Gardens, Wakehurst in Sussex, learning from researchers in the laboratory and field, and working collaboratively to complete a group research project*.

Find out more on our partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew here

We have consolidated and expanded our ethnobotany offering as a discipline that sits at the intersection of food security, sustainability, and biodiversity. We will cover the fundamental concepts, methods and themes needed to carry out independent ethnobotanical research. Understanding traditional and indigenous uses of plants for food, medicine and fibre with an interdisciplinary lens that ties together the natural and social sciences could hold the key for more responsible use of the planet’s resources, as well as a more holistic way of conducting scientific research.

On this degree we aim to keep teaching within core hours over 3 days each week (except for the residential course *) and we strive to make it inclusive for those with outside commitments.

* Please speak with the course leader to discuss your requirements if you need to return home in the evenings.

Through interdisciplinary learning and hands on activities in a range of associated topics, our graduates will be better equipped to become the next generation of scientific researchers, policymakers and business leaders, ready to solve global sustainability challenges.

We are a member of CHAP - UK Agri-Tech Innovation Centre, bringing together leading scientists, farmers, advisors, innovators and businesses to understand industry challenges, drive research and innovation and develop and trial solutions that transform crop systems.

From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.

Core Modules

Term 1 and 2
  • This module will focus on how biodiversity can influence human health and wellbeing, and examines how human and planetary health can be measured and quantified. Students will examine how global challenges such as climate change, pollution and the impact of agricultural systems impact on biodiversity and how biodiversity can, in turn, provide solutions to these global challenges (30 credits)

  • This module will focus on sustainable livelihoods in the context of food. Examining topics such as rural livelihoods, indigenous agriculture and organic food production, we will discuss how these have changed through time, from prehistory to current day – blending ecological, biophysical, political and sociological aspects. Students will examine the links between crops, nutrition and food, including domestication, agricultural origins, plantations, and colonial commercialisation through to globalised agribusiness, loss of agrobiodiversity and orphan crops. (30 credits)

  • From examining global patterns in food production, global agricultural policy and the impact of business and economics, our students will gain a rounded view of food security in the 21st century. Students will then focus on scientific developments in food production including seed science, novel crops, plant breeding, genomics and agri-tech including robots, AI, machine learning and use of drones within agriculture.(30 credits)

  • Students will develop core skills in experimental design, data quality, analysis and statistics. Students will learn how to use the statistical programming language R for a variety of data analysis purposes. We will also develop skills in spatial analysis and the use of ArcGIS to enable students to utilise, map and model biodiversity data. (15 credits)

  • A two-week residential field trip to Kew’s living laboratory and wild botanic garden, Wakehurst, where students will be immersed in its research programmes, landscapes and biodiversity. Students will stay at the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst and, following a range of field and laboratory skills training, will undertake a group research project. (15 credits)

  • This module will describe the key principles of academic integrity, focusing on university assignments. Plagiarism, collusion and commissioning will be described as activities that undermine academic integrity, and the possible consequences of engaging in such activities will be described. Activities, with feedback, will provide you with opportunities to reflect and develop your understanding of academic integrity principles.


Term 3

Taught modules are followed by a four-month Independent Research Project in term 3 worth 60 credits. Students will work with supervisors from both Kew and Royal Holloway, and either develop their own project or select from a list of cutting-edge projects. These could be field, laboratory or desk-based research projects, in the UK or overseas. Student projects will be written up in the style of an academic paper and presented at a research symposium.

The location for the final research project will be dependent on the project selected. Students may spend more of their time at Royal Holloway or Kew in term 3 depending on the nature of their project, subject to agreement with their project supervisors and course leaders.

Optional Modules

  • All modules are core

The course will be delivered in a range of teaching approaches, from lectures, to workshops, study visits, field trips, practicals, group projects, quizzes and debates. These will be complemented by skills training, from communication, writing and science in the media, to data visualisation and statistical analysis, mapping, and research skills. Students will also develop transferable skills in team working, time and project management, and leadership.

There are study visits and field trips during the course. We have considered accessibility and inclusivity throughout the course, including in the selection of external trips. For more information, please contact the course leader.

Assessments will be carried out by staff at Royal Holloway and Kew, and this will be split equally between institutions.

Part time students will complete the course on a blocked basis for the taught elements in the autumn and spring terms. Students will follow the same timetable as the full-time students, but complete half of the modules each year. This enables completion of half of the taught modules in year 1 (approximately 6 weeks) and half of the taught modules in year 2 (approximately 6 weeks). Students will be required to participate fully during these weeks. The research project is completed over 2 years (2 summer terms).

Eligible degree subjects include (but are not limited to) Agricultural Science, Archaeology, Biochemistry, Biological Science, Biomedical Science, Chemistry, Conservation Science, Earth Science, Ecology, Environmental Science, Food Science, Genetics, Geography, Health Science, Human Biology, Horticultural Science, Plant Science, Soil Science, Zoology. However, it should be noted that this is an interdisciplinary course and so we welcome students with different degrees if they can demonstrate relevant work experience.                                                                                                                                                                     

Normally applicants will possess a UK 2:2 (Honours) or international equivalent in the eligible degree subjects listed above. Applicants holding other degree subjects, such as social sciences and economics, should contact the Course Lead to be considered, especially if they can demonstrate relevant training and/or professional vocational experience. 

Please note that we reserve the right to call candidates for interview (virtual or face-to-face interview on campus) for acceptance on the course.

International & EU requirements

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C
  • TOEFL iBT: 88 overall, with Reading 18 Listening 17 Speaking 20 Writing 26.
  • Duolingo: 120 overall, 135 in Literacy, 135 in Production and no sub-score below 100.

Our graduates will have an exciting future as the next generation of scientists, policymakers and business leaders, ready to solve global sustainability challenges.

There will be many future opportunities in this space for graduates with knowledge and skills to develop innovative solutions to generate multiple benefits for social, ecological, and economic development.

Students will have the opportunity to network with future PhD supervisors and employers, through seminars with scientists, policymakers and entrepreneurs, and during study visits.

Previous years’ students have gone to be accepted on PhD programmes, and are working in businesses, charities, think-tanks and in policy-making, as well new start-ups in the sustainability and agriculture space.

A Master's degree in Global Health develops a wide range of employability skills. They include:

  • Communication skills: through writing essays, social media articles, project reports, and the final research project, as well as workshops on communicating science to the public and media.
  • Presentation skills: from your participation in presentation skills workshops, to presenting your ideas at seminars and tutorial groups, as well as responding to and framing questions.
  • Analytical skills: developed through your engagement with a range of materials including scientific evidence, government reports, academic literature and media sources.
  • Research skills: interpreting and locating information from a variety of sources, and using appropriate methodologies whether it is interviewing people, carrying out measurements in the field or analysing and mapping your data.
  • Time management skills: organising your studies and fulfilling work-related commitments as part of your course.
  • Team working: developed during field trips, workshops and collaborative projects.
  • Worldly experience: as a student of global health, you will gain extensive experience of different cultures and environments.

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £10,600

EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £20,500

Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course. It should be noted that students will be responsible for the costs of travel to Kew (Richmond) and Royal Holloway (Egham) to attend the course. There will be no travel costs for external study visits, field trips and the residential field course (Wakehurst). Travel, accommodation and food will be provided during the Wakehurst field course at no cost.

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis in the academic year 2024/25. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year.

Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase all postgraduate tuition fees annually, based on the UK’s Retail Price Index (RPI). Please therefore be aware that tuition fees can rise during your degree (if longer than one year’s duration), and that this also means that the overall cost of studying the course part-time will be slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. For further information, please see our terms and conditions.

** This figure is the fee for EU and international students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25. Find out more 

*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2024/25 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.

In partnership with

The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Mark Lee

Senior Lecturer in Global Health
Director, MSc Global Health: Food Security, Sustainability and Biodiversity


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