Taught course

Soils and Sustainability

University of Edinburgh · School of Geosciences

Entry requirements

You should have a UK 2:1 degree, or its international equivalent. Please visit http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/international/country to check equivalents to UK qualifications.Students whose first language is not English must provide evidence of proficiency in English : IELTS 7.0 (with no score lower than 6.0 in each section), TOEFL-iBT: Total 100 (with no score lower than 20 in each section). A degree from an English speaking university may be accepted in some circumstances. More information about other qualifications we accept is online: http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/international/english

Months of entry


Course content

Managing today’s resources to ensure a sustainable future

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).

Programme Structure

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

Compulsory courses typically include*:

  • Soil Protection and Management
  • Soil Ecology and Taxonomy
  • Soils Science Concepts and Application
  • Dissertation

Option courses:

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

  • Analysing the Environment Study Tour
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability
  • International Development in a Changing World
  • Principles of Environmental Sustainability
  • Principles of GIS
  • 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

*Please note: courses are offered subject to timetabling and availability and are subject to change each year.

Field trip

This programme has historically included a week-long study tour which lets you refresh skills learned on the programme and develop new tools and techniques, useful during the dissertation process. Past tours have 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.

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


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.


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Information for international students


Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Students applying for Soils and Sustainability may be eligible to apply for funding.

For information about funding opportunities visit our GeoSciences Scholarships webpage

Or visit the University's Scholarships and Student Finance Office.

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24,36 months

Course contact details

MSc Programme Secretary Elspeth Martin
+44 (0)131 535 4198