While not compulsory, students are encouraged to work in the agricultural or horticultural industry either prior to beginning the degree and/or by taking an optional sandwich year.
The first year consists of a set of compulsory modules covering introductory biology (at both whole organism and molecular level), plant taxonomy and environmental science. The physical sciences are also taught to a level needed to underpin sound biological knowledge but the ethos of the programme is to integrate the sciences together rather than treating them as separate subjects. There is also an emphasis on experimental science, so students learn a wide range of practical techniques, including microbiology and cell culture.
In Year 2, dedicated modules probe deeper into plant physiology, plant nutrition, developmental genetics and plant biotechnology. Core modules also include those that adopt a systems approach to biology with the emphasis on key aspects of employability (laboratory, computational biology and communications skills) while other options allow them to specialise in areas that interest them such as evolution and biogeography.
In Year 3, core modules further examine the interactions between plants, their environment and other organisms such as pests, pathogens and symbionts. Optional subject areas include ecology and conservation and biological imaging. Students also carry out a practical research project as part of a final year Individual Study.
In all three years, students may opt to take modules in marketing. This will be particularly relevant for students wishing to work in commercial horticulture and agriculture or the associated support industries such as agrochemical companies or seed merchants.