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 focusses on this important and fascinating world.
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
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.
In year 1 you will take eight courses made up of compulsory and elective options. One of the required courses is Ecology and Environment. In addition you will attend a summer field trip to Bettyhill in the north of Scotland where Plants and their Habitats in Northern Scotland is studied.
Plus 45 credit points from courses of choice.
You are required to choose 60 credits from Sustained Study, Discipline Breadth or Sixth Century courses across levels 1 and 2.
Professional Skills Part 1 (PD1001)
This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year.
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
laboratory reports, on which you will get detailed feedback to help you develop
your skills, and an exam.
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 and thoughts on the future.
Teaching 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 which means that students can make informed choices in their
A range of ‘wet’ and computer-based
practicals enhance the classroom teaching and develop generic scientific
Plants and Their Habitats in Northern Scotland (BI19P4)
The week-long residential course is based at
the University’s Bettyhill field station in the far north of Scotland. The
location is stunning and, for many students, a new experience of unfamiliar
You are introduced to representatives of the
local flora. We teach skills in recognising key features of plant species and
how to identify them.
You are encouraged to consider the reasons
why and where plant species are found within the northern landscape and how
plant communities can be sampled.
In year 2 compulsory courses include Ecology and Plants, People and the Environment. You will select elective courses to contribute towards enhanced study.
Plus 75 credit points from courses of choice.
You are required to choose 60 credits from Sustained Study, Discipline Breadth or Sixth Century courses across levels 1 and 2.
Biological Enhanced Skills Training (BEST) (BI2018)
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 and demonstrators will chat to you about your progress and provide help.
Assessments are two online multiple-choice tests (each 25%) and an individual project (50%).
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
tutorials. Five of the practicals contribute 50% of the course
mark. An exam contributes 50% of the overall course grade and consists a
choice of short, structured questions.
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.
Plus 30 credit points from courses of choice.
You are required to choose 30 credits from Discipline Breadth or Sixth Century courses across levels 3 and 4.
Statistical Analysis of Biological Data (BI3010)
In a series of cases studies, you will learn how to analyse
and interpret biological data to a level which will allow you to design, at
least, the first stages of your level 4 honours project.
You will also choose from4-6 topics in advanced data
handling techniques also pertinent to level 4 honours projects.
The course is intensive but allows you to work largely at
your own pace with considerable assistance from 3-4 staff and 5-6
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.
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.
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.
Lectures, workshops, excursions and computer-based sessions
provide a diverse set of learning opportunities relating to plant physiology
and adaptations to their environment.
A grant writing and grant review exercise on a topic of your
choosing within plant physiology and interactions with the environment develops
specialist knowledge and your capacity for creative, independent and critical
thinking, problem identification and problem solving. Participation in a grant
review panel helps you to develop confidence and oral communication skills.
In a computer-based practical you will develop an
understanding of how landscape modelling informs our understanding of
Current Issues in Biological and Environmental Sciences (BI4504)
issues in biological and environmental sciences will be discussed in weekly
seminars. Student-led group presentations will enable students to critically
examine ecologically or environmentally-relevant topics of their choice, and also
discuss the wider societal scientific and societal ramifications of these
issues with their peers. Students will have the opportunity to develop their
analytical and science communication skills through a debate, written policy brief
(modeled on the UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology’s “POSTnotes”)
and an individually-produced short film.
You research a topic and write an extended
essay, developing specialist knowledge and refining your synthesis and
You choose your topic from a list that includes
fundamental and cutting-edge issues, providing you with flexibility and an
opportunity to pursue your interests.
An introductory workshop reminds you of good
practice in writing an extended essay and a meeting with your essay supervisor
provides you with feedback on your essay plan. You also have the opportunity to submit a
draft essay for comments from your essay supervisor.
You research a topic and write an extended essay, developing specialist knowledge and refining your synthesis and evaluation skills.
You choose your topic from a list that includes fundamental and cutting-edge issues, providing you with flexibility and an opportunity to pursue your interests.
An introductory workshop reminds you of good practice in writing an extended essay and a meeting with your essay supervisor provides you with feedback on your essay plan. You also have the opportunity to submit a draft essay for comments from your essay supervisor.
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.
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 in any of our degree programmes. Study Abroad is encouraged for students in their second year; we have established partnerships with institutions in the USA, Canada, Australia, China and numerous countries in Europe.
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 this Degree?
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, Spain and at our own field centre at Bettyhill, on the North coast of Sutherland.
Our research is at the forefront of Plant and Soil Science discovery, and we were ranked 1st overall in the REF 2014 for Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science.
You will have the opportunity to get involved in our research through summer research assistantships, project work and a compulsory final year research project.
At our regular careers events you will have the opportunity to listen to and meet prospective employers from outside the University, giving you excellent opportunities to get a fulfilling and challenging job in a biological field.
What our Students Say
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.
Fees and Funding
You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.
For international students (all non-EU students) entering in 2017/18, the 2017/18 tuition fee rate will apply to all years of study; however, most international students will be eligible for a fee waiver in their final year via the International Undergraduate Scholarship.
We are the only university in the UK to offer an integrated Plant and Soil Science degree because we knew that the two subjects were so important to each other that the connection required study.
You will find all the information you require about entry requirements on our dedicated 'Entry Requirements' page. You can also find out about the different types of degrees, offers, advanced entry, and changing your subject.
SQA Highers - AABB* A Levels - BBB* IB - 32 points, 5 at HL ILC - AAABB (B1 or B2 required)*
*including good performance in at least two Mathematics/Science subjects.
Fantastic facilities support our teaching and research, both on and off-campus.
Our research facilities on campus include animal holding facilities, greenhouses, fresh and salt-water aquaria, an insectarium, molecular and analytical laboratories, and a state of the art genomics lab.
We have three field centres in Scotland that support our marine, ecology and conservation work. You have the opportunity to spend time at each of these during residential field courses
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.
Our Plant and Soil degree provides you with academic training and transferable skills relevant to both specialist employment and the wider biology graduate job market.
The University of Aberdeen can equip you with a broad range of skills to offer employers. We train students in scientific methodology in the laboratory and in the field. We also incorporate what we call 'graduate attributes' into the whole curriculum, including communication, critical thinking, teamwork, use of specialist IT and time management. Employers now expect a substantial list of skills, knowledge and experience in their graduate recruits and we aim to help you acquire these.
Students in the School of Biological Sciences may have the opportunity to collaborate with external organisations such as the James Hutton Institute or the Scottish Food Security Alliance, for example whilst undertaking an Honours project. Students also work as volunteers in the Cruickshank Botanical Gardens. Such links allow students to become part of professional networks, which can provide opportunities for employment or postgraduate research in plant and soil science.
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.
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.
What our Alumni Say
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.
Unistats draws together comparable information in areas students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study. The core information it contains is called the Key Information Set.
You can compare these and other data for different degree programmes in which you are interested.
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University of Aberdeen