Introduction

Are you interested in the complexity, fragility and potential of plants and soil? Together, plants and soil provide an essential resource for all terrestrial life. This is the only degree programme in the UK that focuses on this important and fascinating world.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
BSc
Duration
48 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month
September
Location of Study
Aberdeen
UCAS Code
CD27
Pathway Programme Available
Undergraduate Foundation Programme
Degree marketing image

Doing a Plant and Soil Science degree at the University of Aberdeen will provide you with both core and advanced understanding of this exciting subject area. The knowledge and skills that you gain could open up a world of career opportunities for you, for instance in playing a vital role in informing the debate on climate change and global food security.

The Plant and Soil Science degree provides many opportunities:

  • Fundamental understanding of biology, how organisms work
  • Specialist training in plant science, soil science and its applications
  • Examining the interactions and interface
  • Multi-disciplinary working
  • Role of plants in the ecosystem
  • Applications of plant biology
  • Manipulating plant genomes relates to tolerance and pollutants
  • Studying soils across agricultural systems

What You'll Study

Each year you take a selection of compulsory courses and optional courses that can be chosen from those on offer across the institution. The first two years lay a foundation for the more specialised third and fourth years.

Year 1

Year 1

In year 1 you will take eight courses made up of compulsory and elective options. One of the required courses is Ecology and Environment.


Compulsory Courses
Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD1002)

This course, which is prescribed for level 1 undergraduate students (and articulating students who are in their first year at the University), is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

View detailed information about this course
Frontiers in Biological Sciences (BI1009)

15 Credit Points

Five themes, critical to understanding biology and life, will be explored – Developmental Biology, Microbiology and Disease, Evolution and Behaviour, Immune Systems and Environmental Physiology. Each theme is structured to provide you with core knowledge, insight into how science is practiced, an introduction to current research topics and skills that are useful for investigating, recording and analysing information. The course will be delivered using a blended learning approach and can be taken by students who will be on campus in first semester, or those who may choose to stay at home

View detailed information about this course
Diversity of Life 1 (BI1012)

15 Credit Points

A walk through the evolutionary tree of life, examining the amazing diversity of major groups of organisms from plants through fungi to invertebrates. Learn about how each group of organisms arose, their characteristics, and how they achieved success. Practical activities provide hands on experience of materials demonstrating the diversity of plants and invertebrates. You will be assessed by a combination of exercises based on practicals, on which you will get feedback to help you develop your skills, and online tests, each based on a particular section of the course, which will be spread throughout the course.

View detailed information about this course
Ecology and Environmental Science (BI1511)

15 Credit Points

This course will take you on a journey through the physical workings of the Earth, the interactions between species and their environments and then on to the effects humans are having on the planet, potential solutions and thoughts on the future.

Teaching is by staff with different subject specialisms who give both variety and immediacy to course material.

Exposure to the problems we are facing both now and in the future will help you make informed choices in their everyday lives.

A range of ‘wet’ and computer-based practicals enhance the classroom teaching and develop generic scientific skills.

View detailed information about this course
Diversity of Life 2 (BI1512)

15 Credit Points

• A walk through the evolutionary tree of life, examining the amazing diversity of advanced invertebrates and vertebrates. • Learn about how each group of organisms arose, their characteristics, and how they achieved success. For example what are the key evolutionary steps enabling life away from the water? How do birds fly? • Practical activities provide hands on experience of materials demonstrating the features of invertebrates, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals. • You will be assessed by a combination of laboratory reports, on which you will get detailed feedback to help you develop your skills, and an exam .

View detailed information about this course
The Cell (SM1501)

15 Credit Points

  • cells are the fundamental unit of life – without them life could not exist, and as such understanding how they function is crucial to our understanding of biology and medical science;
  • this course provides theoretical knowledge in a diverse range of topics covering the fascinating world of cells, from molecules like DNA, to how different cell types function within our bodies;
  • all practical classes are research based and will provide theoretical knowledge and skills training in many areas of molecular and cell biology;
  • employability skills will also be explored through a highly interactive session run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise
View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice.

Year 2

Year 2

In year 2 compulsory courses include Ecology and Plants, People and the Environment. You will select elective courses to contribute towards enhanced study.


Compulsory Courses
  • Genetics, Genomes and Evolution (BI2023)
Biological Enhanced Skills Training (BEST) (BI2018)

15 Credit Points

The course will help you consolidate and develop skills in experimental design, sampling, analysis, presentation, and interpretation of data. You will be encouraged to seek to improve your academic writing and develop other transferable skills.

Each week, there is one 1-hour introductory lecture. In two 2-hour sessions when will work through a series of computer-based data tasks, using relevant and realistic biological and environmental themes.

Teaching is informal and friendly. During sessions, staff will chat to you about your progress and provide help where necessary.

Assessments are two online multiple-choice tests (each 25%) and an individual project (50%).

View detailed information about this course
Ecology (BI2020)

15 Credit Points

This course builds on themes from introductory ecology courses. You will develop your abilities to interpret data by applying theory discussed in classes to real-life data sets using short problem-solving exercises linked to each topic. Feedback will help you improve writing and interpretation skills. Extended problem-solving exercises will improve your communication skills, scientific writing and introduce you to valuable approaches to summarising complex datasets in Excel. A series of tutorials will allow you develop critical thinking as you explore specific themes in more detail. You will also consider issues around experimental design.

View detailed information about this course
Plants, People, and the Environment (BI25P4)

15 Credit Points

A course in which several researchers explore both core and emerging issues in the plant sciences, focusing in particular on the inter-dependence of plants, people and environment. Students are encouraged to develop a range of important generic and applied skills, through lectures, practicals and seminars. Two practicals and one seminar contribute 50% of the course mark. An exam contributes 50% of the overall course grade and consists a choice of multiple-choice questions and short, structured questions.

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Select a further 60 credit points from courses of choice.

Year 3

Year 3

Courses at this level include Global Soil Geography, Ecosystem Processes, Soils for Food Security, Environmental Analysis. In addition to your taught courses, in third year there is a strong element of practical laboratory training and fieldwork, plus visits to research institutes, conservation and environmental protection agencies and commercial companies.


Compulsory Courses
  • Applied Environmental Analysis (EV3804)
Statistical Analysis of Biological Data (BI3010)

15 Credit Points

You will utilise a robust approach to statistical analysis, a skill highly valued by employers and researchers. Lectures provide context, background and step-by step guidance on how to conduct and interpret a selection of statistical analyses. Through a series of exercises, you learn to explore data, to specify appropriate linear models for your research question and to interpret their results. A set of online tests structured around the exercises and the lecture content allow you to demonstrate your achievement of course learning outcomes. With a group of students, you complete tasks and strengthen your understanding of applications of statistics.

View detailed information about this course
Global Soil Geography (EV3001)

15 Credit Points

Field based course that takes you across northeast Scotland exploring an ancient tropical rainforest, hill farming in action, survey techniques and soil formation.

A long tradition of soil science teaching at the University of Aberdeen assembled into lectures and field trips delivered by senior academics.

Your assessments are geared towards developing practical skills. This includes a field log book to teach survey techniques, a presentation on a particular soil that requires research akin to detective work and a quiz on soil classification. An exam will also assessed.

View detailed information about this course
Soils for Food Security (PL3309)

15 Credit Points

This advanced soil science course provides additional teaching of physical, chemical and biological properties of soils in the context of food security. You will learn a variety of processes that affect soil productivity, accompanied by practical sessions that will teach relevant analytical methods. The wide range of soil processes taught will be brought together at the end of the course to provide a working knowledge of agronomy, including the interactions between crops and specific chemical or physical properties of soils. Students are introduced to modelling of agricultural impacts on soils and the environment so that mitigation strategies can be assessed.

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Plant - Environment Interactions (PL3505)

15 Credit Points

Lectures, workshops and an excursion provide a diverse set of learning opportunities relating to plant physiology and adaptations to the environment.

A literature-based research exercise forms the continuous assessment part of this course, in which you choose a plant adaptation to investigate in detail in terms of physiological adaptations to natural conditions. The exercise develops specialist knowledge and your capacity for creative, independent and critical thinking, problem identification and problem solving. Participation in the oral presentations of the projects helps you to develop confidence and oral communication skills.

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Gateway to Honours Project (BI3511)

This non-credit bearing course will facilitate your preparation for your Honours project.

Lectures and workshops will clarify expectations for project work and provide training in risk assessment, consideration of ethical issues, environmental impacts and project planning.

Resources to help you define and plan your project will be made available through MyAberdeen, helping you to be confident that your project planning is sufficiently advanced by the end of your Programme Year 3.

Submission of an agreed (with your supervisor) project outline, completed checklists and preliminary risk assessment will allow you to demonstrate engagement with your project.

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Ecosystem Processes (PL3304)

15 Credit Points

Terrestrial ecosystems play a pivotal role in modulating the fluxes of energy and matter at the Earth’s surface, including the cycling of carbon, nutrients and greenhouse gases. Understanding the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems is critical for understanding environmental challenges such as global warming, biodiversity loss, sustainable development and pollution. This course develops principles of systems ecology and biogeochemistry, focusing on the fundamental role played by living things in regulating key ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling, nutrient dynamics, trophic transfers, and land-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases.

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View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice.

Year 4

Year 4

In year 4, the Honours year, you will carry out a research project as well as writing an extended essay and completing advanced courses of your choosing.


Compulsory Courses
SBS Honours Project (BI4016)

45 Credit Points

This independent research project develops your skills in scientific inquiry and critical analysis, as well as important generic skills, including presentation and time management.

Projects are field-, lab- and/or desk-based, developed on a topic of your interest under the direction of a supervisor.

Training in skills needed to perform your project is provided by world-leading researchers and their teams.

Workshops and drop-in sessions provide training in data analysis and thesis production.

This skill set will be appropriate for advanced study in the field of biological science or other careers where the generic skills that you will develop are highly valued.

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Select 75 credit points from courses of choice, at least 45 of which must be from courses delivered by the School of Biological Sciences (i.e. BI, EK, EV, FY, PL, or ZO courses) at level 4.

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Combine practice and theory

Typically, one third of your class time is practical and many courses include full-day practical classes and field visits. Most students take at least one residential field trip during their degree; these trips bring the subjects to life and provide the opportunity to make great friendships and get to know staff members.

Research experience

You are actively involved in scientific research throughout your degree. In Year 4, you conduct independent research which can be pivotal to your career choice whether it be in dolphins, water voles, rare plants, tropical forest ecology, climate change in the Arctic, or any one of a diverse range of other exciting topics.

Engaging and inspiring teaching

Our teaching methods are diverse, innovative and based on research on how students learn. For example, we use problem-based learning approaches, creative presentations, peer and self-assessment, presenting posters in public meetings, writing and editing wikis, writing grant proposals, science writing for publication, and the creation of portfolios using multi-media.

Opportunities for Study Abroad and work-related learning

You can take advantage of an optional year-out on a work placement and study abroad is encouraged for students in their 2nd year. We invite employers and volunteering organisations to come and meet our students at our career evenings and there are opportunities for students to work with our partner institutions within and outside of Aberdeen.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:

  • coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course;
  • practical assessments of the skills and competencies learnt on the course; and
  • written examinations at the end of each course.

The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, year of study and individual courses.

Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.

Why Study Plant and Soil Science?

  • This degree combines the disciplines of plants and soils, with opportunities to specialise in plant biology at different levels from genes to ecosystems, and in soils from chemistry, microbes to global geography.
  • The University of Aberdeen has a long and, in many ways, unique tradition for teaching and research in Plant and Soil Science, and is home to a large and active group of award-winning staff in this subject.
  • The degree is taught by a wide range of staff who are active in plant and soil research from the tropics to the Arctic; our teaching is research-led, relevant and exciting.
  • You will have opportunity to collaborate with groups at the James Hutton Institute and SFSA who undertake applied research and policy development work informing national priorities.
  • Plant and soil students attend at least two residential field courses selected from our range of courses in the Cairngorms and Spain.
  • You will have the opportunity to get involved in our research through summer research assistantships, project work and a compulsory final year research project

What Our Students Say

Imelda Uwase

Imelda Uwase

Imelda Uwase

The University of Aberdeen immediately caught my attention - it had a unique programme in which soil and plant sciences are combined in a single degree. Aside from fascinating courses and projects in the Herbarium, I really like field courses.

Entry Requirements

Qualifications

The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.


General Entry Requirements

SQA Highers

Standard: AABB*

Applicants who have achieved AABB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.

Minimum: BBB*

Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.

Adjusted: BB*

Applicants who have achieved BB, and who meet one of the widening participation criteria are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

A LEVELS

Standard: BBB*

Minimum: BBC*

Adjusted: CCC*

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

International Baccalaureate

32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL, with two Mathematics/ Science subjects at HL.

Irish Leaving Certificate

5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 including a minimum of H3 from two Science or Mathematics subjects.

Entry from College

Advanced entry to this degree may be possible from some HNC/HND qualifications, please see www.abdn.ac.uk/study/articulation for more details.

SQA Highers

Standard: AABB*

Applicants who have achieved AABB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.

Minimum: BBB*

Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.

Adjusted: BB*

Applicants who have achieved BB, and who meet one of the widening participation criteria are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

A LEVELS

Standard: BBB*

Minimum: BBC*

Adjusted: CCC*

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

International Baccalaureate

32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL, with two Mathematics/ Science subjects at HL.

Irish Leaving Certificate

5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 including a minimum of H3 from two Science or Mathematics subjects.

Entry from College

Advanced entry to this degree may be possible from some HNC/HND qualifications, please see www.abdn.ac.uk/study/articulation for more details.

The information displayed in this section shows a shortened summary of our entry requirements. For more information, or for full entry requirements for Sciences degrees, see our detailed entry requirements section.


English Language Requirements

To study for an Undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.0 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0

TOEFL iBT:

OVERALL - 78 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 59 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 169 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

International Applicants who do not meet the Entry Requirements

The University of Aberdeen International Study Centre offers preparation programmes for international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements for undergraduate study. Discover your foundation pathway here.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
RUK £9,250
Students Admitted in 2021/22
EU / International students £20,700
Tuition Fees for 2021/22 Academic Year
Home Students £1,820
Tuition Fees for 2021/22 Academic Year

Scholarships and Funding

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who pay tuition fees may be eligible for specific scholarships allowing them to receive additional funding. These are designed to provide assistance to help students support themselves during their time at Aberdeen.

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Undergraduate EU Scholarship

The Aberdeen Global Undergraduate Scholarship is open to European Union (EU) students.

This is an £8,000 tuition fee discount available to eligible self-funded Undergraduate students who would have previously been eligible for Home (Scottish/EU) fee status.

View Undergraduate EU Scholarship

Careers

We are committed to the career progression of our students and we collaborate with the University’s Careers and Employability Service to ensure that you have numerous opportunities to explore career options, develop your employability and connect with employers.

  • The expertise and support of a dedicated careers professional who is a specialist in the types of careers and further study undertaken by Biological Science students.
  • A mentoring scheme run by the Careers and Employability Service linking current students with professional mentors.
  • An annual volunteering fair to connect students with appropriate organisations in conservation and the environment.
  • The exploration of possible careers and the development of employability from week 1, via the mandatory “Frontiers of Science” and PD1002 careers course.
  • One to one appointments to discuss students’ options, provide practical support around internships, placements and part time work and provide support for effective applications and interviews.
  • Regular opportunities through the “speed careering” programme for current students to meet and learn from Biological Sciences graduates.
  • Employer input to the design of the curriculum and in talks to students about career opportunities.
  • A university-wide co-curriculum programme aimed at developing key employability skills sought by employers.

For more information visit www.abdn.ac.uk/careers or email careers@abdn.ac.uk.

Industry Links

We have strong local, national and international links to industry, government bodies, charities and other research institutions. You will benefit in several ways:

  • Exposure to policy-makers, practitioners, regulatory professionals and experts.
  • Our curriculum is informed by an employer advisory board that provides insight in to changing requirements of employers.
  • You can take advantage of our collaborators' facilities and expertise for your research projects or placement.

Accreditation

Graduates from Accredited programmes will receive one year of free membership of the Royal Society of Biology in their final year of their degree. This will open up networks at a crucial time when applying for jobs. The Royal Society of Biology is the leading professional body for the biological sciences in the United Kingdom. The Society represents over 18,000 biologists from all areas of the life sciences, as well as over 100 organisations which make up the diverse landscape of biology in the UK and overseas. The Royal Society of Biology offers members unique opportunities to engage with the life sciences and share their passion for biology. Whichever area of biology you wish to gain a career in, membership will help you:

  • Stay up to date with what is happening across the life sciences
  • Gain additional recognition for your skills and experience
  • Develop your professional network
  • Demonstrate your support for the future of biology

This degree holds accreditation from

School of Biological Sciences Highlights

Our short film highlights the benefits for students who choose to study with us and the superb facilities available on and off campus.

Image for useful fact about this Degree

International Recognition

We are ranked Top 100 in the world for Life Sciences (THE World University Rankings 2021)

What our Alumni Say

Dawn Wood

Dawn Wood

Dawn Wood

Graduated 2013

I chose the Plant and Soil Science degree because the lecturers and advisors I met from the biological sciences department were very engaging and inspirational, and had a wide range of research interests providing diversity within the faculty.

Our Experts

Other Experts
Professor Paul Hallett
Mr Mark Paterson
Professor Michelle Pinard
Professor Pete Smith
Programme Coordinator
Dr Martin Barker

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Facilities

Fantastic facilities support our teaching and research, both on and off campus.

Image for Cruickshank Botanic Garden
Cruickshank Botanic Garden

Cruickshank Botanic Garden

The Cruickshank Botanic Garden is situated on our King's College campus. It is used to support both our teaching and research; existing to promote the diversity and importance of plants and their role in the natural world.

Image for Nature on our doorstep
Nature on our doorstep

Nature on our doorstep

Our geographical location means that Aberdeen is a great place to study nature. Beaches, dunes, estuaries, wide rivers and open sea are all a short walk from campus. And a short drive or bus journey will take you to forests, moorland, and mountains.

Image for Opening 2022 - Science Teaching Hub
Opening 2022 - Science Teaching Hub

Opening 2022 - Science Teaching Hub

Our state-of-the-art Science Teaching Hub will provide students with a digitally focussed environment including advanced analytical tools, research-grade equipment and flexible laboratory spaces.

Find out more

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Get in Touch

Contact Details

Address
Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
Aberdeen
AB24 3FX