BSc single honours Plant Science 2017/18

Year of entry

94% of School of Human and Life Sciences graduates were in employment or further study six months after completing their studies.

DLHE 2013-14

Where better to study plant sciences than in the ‘Garden of England’? The resulting qualification will not only make you highly employable within this industry, and allied support industries, but will also equip you with a range of transferable skills highly valued by all sectors from farming to finance. Plants are fundamental to all life on Earth, not only providing atmospheric oxygen, food and materials such as cotton, wood, paper and rope, but also perfumes, beverages and cures for disease.

The Royal Society recently issued a statement warning of an impending worldwide skills shortage in the agricultural sciences that would endanger our ability to deal with rising populations, citing plant breeding, plant pathology, agronomy, crop physiology, agricultural entomology, weed science and post-harvest biology as key areas in which shortages are likely. This degree course includes strong elements of all of these disciplines.

You will gain sufficiently wide and detailed knowledge and practical skills in working on plants to make you very much sought after by employers within the industry and allied support industries. You can be sure of this because our innovative course has been put together by a very experienced academic team in discussion with key stakeholders in the horticultural and agricultural industry. As well as this, the course will equip you with a range of transferable skills highly valued by all sectors from farming to finance.

“I’m really enjoying the course. It’s so interesting and has opened a whole new world to me that I never knew existed. I’m a mature student so I took the foundation year which helped a lot with getting into the level of study required.”

First year Plant Science student, 2015

In your first year a set of compulsory modules covers introductory biology, plant taxonomy and environmental science. The course’s ethos is to integrate the sciences, including the physical sciences rather than treating them as separate subjects. There is also an emphasis on experimental science, so you learn a wide range of practical techniques.

You can study French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish as part of, or alongside, your course.

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In year two, dedicated modules probe deeper into plant physiology, plant nutrition, developmental genetics and plant biotechnology. In year three, modules examine the interactions between plants, their environment and other organisms such as pests, pathogens and symbionts. In all three years, you may opt to take modules in marketing.

Work experience

Students are able to compete for internships over the summer breaks. These usually involve working with lecturers on their research projects.

“Science is all about playful juggling with ideas and trying to find and explain the unknown in our quest to generate new knowledge and ensure the survivability of our future generations. Recent developments in plant genetics research have opened up many new Pandora’s Boxes of pleasurable confusions and possibly new solutions to develop new and resilient crop plants which could withstand harsh environmental conditions to meet our growing food demands.”

Dr Naeem Syed, Plant Science Lecturer
In line with good practice, module content is regularly updated and module titles may on occasion change to reflect updated content in the advances in the field of study. 

Year 1

Core modules


The aim of this module is to introduce the basic concepts and chemical foundations of biochemistry and cell biology to develop an understanding of structure and function at the molecular level. This module prepares you for further study in more advanced cell and molecular modules

Diversity of Life

This module aims to equip you with a fundamental understanding of evolutionary relationships between living things, their shared evolutionary history and the physiological and anatomical features that groups of organisms have in common. The module also aims to develop skills in identification of organisms and the use of dichotomous keys

Genetics and Evolution

This level 4 module aims to give you the necessary background in genetics and evolutionary biology, providing broad knowledge of Mendelian genetics and the mechanisms of evolution, which are essential for the study of biological and environmental sciences.


This module aims to develop your aseptic microbiological skills and knowledge of the classification and uses of microorganisms. You develop independent research skills as you investigate the various disease issues that microorganisms can cause.

Science Skills and Introduction to Statistics

This module aims to develop the necessary background in science communication, skills and methods essential for the study of biological sciences. This module will also provide the background knowledge required for the Level 5 Data Handling module.

Soil Science and Plant Nutrition

The aim of this module is to introduce the basic concepts of soil science, focussing on the physical properties of soil, the fundamentals of soil chemistry and hydrology, and the way in which soils and plants are inextricably interlinked.  This module prepares you for further study in more advanced aspects of soil science, plant physiology and land management.

Year 2

Core modules

Data Handling

This module aims to develop the techniques necessary to handle quantitative biological data analysis and introduce the beginnings of bioinformatics. Central to the first aim will be introducing the powerful statistical programming language, R. This “programming” language is critical to current approaches to handling/analysing data, particularly “big data”. The module will also introduce critical biological sequence analysis techniques that form the foundation of the more complex bioinformatics techniques and knowledge (much of which will be introduced in the level 6 Bioinformatics 1 and Bioinformatics 2 modules). The module will also conclude with a brief session introducing R as a potential bioinformatics tool. This module will enable you to become comfortable with the console-based software and to use it for your statistical and data display needs.

Genetics of Plant Breeding 1

The module aims to develop an understanding of basic concepts in plant genetics/breeding and how these fundamental principles could be applied to develop high yielding and more resilient crop plants for the future.

Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

This module will build upon the fundamental knowledge gained during the level 4 Genetics and Evolution and Biochemistry modules to provide an in depth perspective of the theory, practical and commercial applications of molecular biology. The practical emphasis of this module permits you to develop a range of fundamental molecular biology techniques which are not only essential for studying biomolecules within a laboratory research setting, but also highly desirable for future employability.

Plant Pests and Pathogens

This module enables you to develop a knowledge of common important plant pests and diseases, their effects on plant growth and yield, and how to recognise them in the field. The module also aims develop your ability to analyse and interpret published data through student led discussions about specific pests and diseases and their control.

Plant Physiology and Development

This module aims to equip you with a sound knowledge of the basics of plant physiology and development. The module also aims develop your ability to analyse and interpret published data through student led discussion of the role of plant hormones (plant growth regulators) in controlling physiological processes and developmental switches.

Optional modules

Options are subject to availability and may change. The work placement module is offered based on suitable work placement being available and the student being accepted by the employer offering the placement.  
Natural Product Chemistry

The aim of the module is to provide you with an understanding of the chemistry of natural products, building on the chemical knowledge acquired in level 4 modules. It aims to introduce you to the chemistry of natural products and the links between molecular structure and properties, establishing connections with the behaviour of these compounds in biological systems. It also introduces purification methods and different analytical methods that can be used in the isolation and identification of these compounds, and to encourage a critical approach to these methods.

Plants in the Environment

The aim of this module is to build upon the basic concepts of plant science from level 4, considering how plants differ in space and time and how plant communities are managed. You will have the opportunity to study natural and agricultural systems in the field during the five-day field course section of the module. The module allows you to apply a cross-disciplinary approach to the management of problems in the area of plant ecology. The strong fieldwork element also gives you practical skills that can be used throughout your undergraduate studies and beyond.

Work Placement

This module provides you with the opportunity to develop key skills and experience while working in a commercial environment. You will develop critical reflection skills as you review your own competencies and development requirements.

Year 3

Core modules

Advanced Plant Growth and Development

This module aims to enable you to develop an advanced knowledge of plant physiology and development. The module also aims to develop your ability to analyse, interpret and critically discuss published data through student led discussion of molecular basis of acclimation responses to abiotic stresses.

Bioinformatics 1

The module aims to develop a systematic understanding of the role of computing in biological research, the fundamentals of molecular biology and to introduce the key concepts and techniques in Bioinformatics.

Honours Projects

This module allows you to undertake a piece of commercially/socially relevant research. You are required to identify an area of research directly relevant to your degree pathway and design and undertake appropriate experiments. BSc (Hons) Ecology students are required to undertake field based research evidencing a minimum of 10days fieldwork. The module aims to give you experience of independent research, analysis and experience of presenting findings in two styles: a written scientific paper and a presented poster to a non-specialist audience. 

Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions

This module enables you to develop skills in critical analysis, interpretation and presentation of experimental data. The module enables you to develop a detailed knowledge of the molecular and genetic processes that underpins the interaction of plants with a range of different microbes.

Optional modules

Options are subject to availability and may change.
Bioinformatics 2

The module aims to deepen the techniques and analyses introduced in the pre-requisite module Bioinformatics 1, focussing on building the programming and computational skills to allow you to design and undertake complex analyses. The module develops an understanding of how to analyse and investigate bioinformatic questions using various development tools and how to make results available via differing visualisations. Central to this is building an understanding and ability to use various industry standard tools and software platforms. The module therefore develops an integrated understanding of various bioinformatic development and analysis tools and of how to build these into analysis pipelines

Current Science Issues

This module aims to develop your wider understanding of how science influences and affects society. You develop your independent research and analysis skills as you comment on important science issues.

Genetics of Plant Breeding 2

The module aims to develop a deeper understanding of concepts in plant genetics/breeding gained from Genetics of Plant Breeding 1 module. In this module, you will learn how linkage maps are used to map QTLs and clone genes of desirable traits. You will develop a good understanding of different methods for breeding cross-pollinated crops. A special emphasis will be placed on hybrids and hybrid seed production. We will explore genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of heterosis and engage you in discussions why molecular basis of heterosis are still elusive. You will also learn about RNAi technology, phenomics and abiotic stress breeding. Most lectures will consist of a selected topic and a recent paper to develop deeper understanding, nurture analytical ability and learn latest developments in the field. 

Students who complete this degree pathway will be highly employable in the horticultural and agricultural industry, possessing the key skills and knowledge required to manage crop systems and storage. You will also be suitably qualified to work in agricultural or horticultural research and many of the industries that support agriculture, including retail outlets such as supermarkets.

The level of scientific literacy developed by this course of study is also valued in other nonscientific areas of industry, commerce and the media. Our graduates also have also progressed to study for higher degrees either by research or a taught programme. 


The 2017/18 annual tuition fees for this course are:

Full-time £9,250* £11,000**
Part-time £4,625 N/A

Tuition fees for all courses are payable on an annual basis, except where stated.

*Full-time courses which have a Foundation Year 0 will have a 2017/18 UK/EU tuition fee of £6,165 in Year 0.

**Tuition Fee Scholarship discounts of £1,500 are available to eligible overseas students. Visit the International webpages for further information.

Please read the 2017/18 Tuition Fee Statement for further information regarding 2017/18 tuition fees and year on year fee increases

Further information

Additional course costs

Although we aim to minimise any additional costs to students over and above the course tuition fee, there will be some additional costs which students are expected to meet.

Costs applicable to all students

Text books Own purchase text books
Travel to other sites Where travel to other sites is required, this will be payable by the student
Library Fees and Fines Where students fail to return loaned items within the required time they will be responsible for the cost of any Library Fees and Fines applicable
Printing & Photocopying The cost of printing and photocopying undertaken by students to support their individual learning are payable by the student
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire / photography are additional costs payable by the student

Course specific costs

Learning Materials Textbook “Biology: How Life Works, by Morris et al”, ISBN-13: 978-1464138263. Currently £39.99. Includes one year’s access to Launchpad, an interactive web e-book which is integrated into some of the modules.

General principle policy

The University’s general principles policy for additional course fees are set out here

CategoryIncluded in the tuition feeAdditional cost to student
Field trips (including trips abroad and trips to museums, theatres, workshops etc) Yes, if the trip contributes to the course (whether it is part of an optional or compulsory module), but not including food and drink. Yes, if the trip is not an essential part of the course but is offered as an enhancement or enrichment activity, or for a student’s personal development.
Travel and accommodation costs for placements  No

Travel and accommodation costs for professional placements within the Education and Health & Wellbeing Faculties.

Travel and accommodation costs for other work placements. 
Text books No Own purchase text books.
DBS / Health checks No Yes
Professional Body registration No Yes
Travel to other sites (e.g. travel to swimming pool for lessons) No Yes
Clothing / Kit Yes, where the clothing / kit is essential for Health & Safety reasons. Yes, where the clothing is kept by the student and not essential for health and safety reasons.
Learning materials Essential learning materials (excluding text books) in connection with the course. Additional materials beyond the standard provision essential for the course or where the costs are determined by the student’s area of interest and the outputs are retained by the student.
Library fees and fines No Yes
Printing and photocopying No Yes
Social events No, unless the event forms an essential part of the course. Yes, unless the event forms an essential part of the course.
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire/ photography are additional costs payable by the student.

Each taught module has a standard 60 hours of student contact. This will typically be composed of lectures, seminars, practical work, labs, workshops, field based activity, tutorials, feedback on assignments. You will also be expected to engage in 140 hours of self-directed study per taught module.

Academic input

All of the modules you will study are led by experienced academic staff and all lectures are delivered by staff with PhDs and who have, or are studying for, a higher education teaching qualification or membership of the Higher Education Academy. Within this framework, modules may feature guest lectures by subject specialists undertaking research on a specific topic, or from those working in that particular field. The lecturing staff includes those specialists in many areas of biology, and also chemistry and physics.

Assessment of the modules is varied. Some modules are assessed entirely by coursework and some by a combination of coursework and examination. Coursework will include one or more of essay, calculation and problem solving exercises, practical write ups, portfolios, log books, group and or individual work, group projects, oral presentations, assessed practical, laboratory work, graph drawing exercises, (group) poster presentation, computer based assessment, group presentation, data handling exercises, multiple choice questionnaire, seminar presentation, paper presentation, seminar papers, case study (involving the analysis of biological data) audio or video presentation.

You will often be able to use modern, research grade equipment.

1st October 2015 saw the launch of the Life Sciences Industry Liaison Laboratory at Discovery Park. Discovery Park, the enterprise zone based at Sandwich, is a fabulous site with well over 100 companies now based there. The potential of the Liaison Laboratory lies in the work we and our students will do with the businesses based at Discovery Park. The Liaison lab will allow all of our students to have the chance to experience an industry environment and will, for those seeking to work in the field, allow them to do research or to study in that environment for a substantial period.

We have established numerous links with local and regional wildlife parks and organizations (e.g. Wildwood, Howletts (Aspinall Foundation), The Powell-Cotton Museum, Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust) that either collaborate with our researchers or provide opportunities for research projects for our students.

BSc Hons Plant Science with Science Foundation Year

This course can also be studied over four years with an additional foundation year (Year 0) for those without the formal entry qualifications. The foundation year is designed to provide you with the grounding you need to progress on to the degree.

Find out more.


Full-time study

Apply via UCAS

Part-time study

Apply directly to us


Full-time study

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For advice on completing your application please contact the Admissions Enquiry Team:

Tel:+44 (0)1227 782900


Contact our International Team

Fact file

UCAS code

  • C200 Plant Science
  • C201 Plant Science with Foundation Year

Institutional code

  • C10


  • 3 years full-time

    4 years full-time including a Foundation Year

    6 years part-time


  • September 2017

Entry requirements



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Last edited: 29/08/2017 15:53:00