Plant Science, BSc - 2018/19

BSc single honours Plant Science 2020/21

Year of entry

Plant-based enterprises operate in a regulated environment and need well trained knowledgeable professionals with a knowledge of plant genetics and physiology, molecular genetics and biotechnology as well as plant pests and diseases.

You will gain knowledge of these areas and increase your practical skills, and you will be encouraged to broaden your experience by interacting with a range of employers, including biotech companies through the Life Sciences Industry Liaison Lab, major local growers such as Thanet Earth, and advisory companies such as FAST Brogdale.

Our programme enables you to undertake further specialist training in order to meet your own individual career aspirations, including fruit-industry based training programmes.

You will explore areas including:

  • plant physiology and development
  • genetics of plant breeding
  • plant pests and pathogens.

Recent reports from the UK government and independent scientific bodies have highlighted a chronic national shortage of graduates with knowledge and skills in the area of plant science; especially soil science, plant pathology and plant physiology: all aspects covered in this course. The shortage of knowledgeable graduates and a resurgence in the horticultural industry and modern high-tech “sustainable” growing techniques provides a range of exciting employment opportunities for highly motivated individuals.

This course aims to develop students into highly employable knowledgeable professionals that possess a wide range of scientific and transferable skills. To produce professional Plant Scientists, the course aims to develop competencies in the areas of taxonomy and classification, plant genetics and evolution, plant physiology and how this is influenced by the environment, and plant responses to external stimuli. These competencies are built on a firm foundation of an understanding on cell biology and the development of critical analysis skills.

At level 4 study subjects including biochemistry, classification, evolution, genetics, soils and plant nutrition and microbiology that provide a firm grounding in scientific knowledge and laboratory skills. In addition, you develop analytical skills and a knowledge of statistics.

At level 5, you deepen your knowledge of statistics, experimental analysis, and your knowledge of molecular biology. Students study plant genetics, physiology, and plant diseases, and have the option to study aspects of chemistry or plant ecology. The optional plant ecology module contains a 5-day field trip.

At level 6, you demonstrate your scientific competence and independence by devising and undertaking a piece of novel research which you present as a professional fully referenced scientific paper and in the form of an oral presentation of a poster. You also develop skills in bioinformatics, and further your development of plant physiology and plant interactions with microbes. Options permit you to develop a deeper understanding of bioinformatics or plant genetics.

“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

Core modules

Year 1

Biochemistry (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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.

Microbiology (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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

Data Handling (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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.

Year 3

Advanced Plant Growth and Development (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (40 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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.

Likely optional modules

Year 2

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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

Options are subject to availability and may change.

Bioinformatics 2 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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 (20 credits)

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.

The programme allows graduates not only to enter a wide variety of career pathways, but also for those who wish to enter postgraduate study at masters or PhD level. The programme also forms a solid platform of knowledge permitting graduates to undertake subject specific training in areas such as plant breeding, plant production and advisory roles.


Tuition Fees for 2020/21 have not yet been finalised. Course webpages will be updated with Tuition Fee information once these have been agreed.

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) No, if the trip contributes to the course as an optional module. Yes if the trip is optional.
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.


You will be taught through a combination of lectures, laboratory practicals, field trips, visits to employers, seminars, invited speakers and practical workshops. At level 4 you typically have 18 contact hours per week.  The emphasis is on developing independent learners and learning by student experimentation and observation. At level 4 two thirds of each module is delivered as practical experimentation either in laboratories, IT labs or in the field. These sessions are supplemented by lectures, and seminars/workshops in which you feedback from your structured independent study. By level 5 laboratory and field based experimentation is complemented by analysis of published research and by level 6 the emphasis is on learning being driven by student led workshops discussing published research papers. All teaching material is posted on the internal VLE Blackboard. Learning is supplemented at all levels by tutorial sessions with an individual personal tutor and small group seminars (I2 sessions) which are requested by students to address specific topics.  All programmes are informed by the University’s Learning and Teaching Strategy 2015-2020.  Your actual contact hours depend on the option modules you select.

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars, workshops or other timetabled sessions you will continue learning through self-study.  Typically, this involves reading journal articles and books, undertaking research in the library, working on projects, and preparing for coursework assignments/examinations, workshops and seminars.  Your module director will direct you towards specific readings and/or activities to complete before class through the VLE blackboard.

For the 40 credit individual study at level 6 you will undertake independent research. You will work under the supervision of a member of the programme team. You will meet with your supervisor regularly.

Overall workload

Each 20 credit module requires 200 hours of study which comprises of formal contact (lectures, practicals, tutorials, workshops), structured independent learning (prescribed reading and/or online exercises) and independent learning. Each module at foundation level and level 4 has 60 hours of formal contact, supplemented with 40 hours of structured independent learning. As students develop and become more independent formal contact and structured learning reduces to 50 hours of contact and 30 hours of structured independent learning at level 5, and 40 hours of contact and 20 hours of structured independent learning at level 6.

Academic input

The team consists of highly qualified academics. They have a range of expertise and experience.

All our core team members hold doctoral qualifications and most hold or are working toward postgraduate teaching qualifications. They are research-active and encourage students to become involved in their research. They have experience in delivering research-informed teaching. You can find out more about the current teaching on our Meet the Team webpage. You should note members of the teaching team might change.

Postgraduate students sometimes assist in teaching and assessing some modules. However, experienced academics teach the vast majority of lectures and seminars.


Assessment is by both coursework and examination. The course provides you with opportunities to test your understanding of the subject informally before you complete the formal assessments that count towards your final mark. Each year you will be set formative assignments to go through with your tutor.  There will also be 'formative' assessment within some of the modules.  Practice assessments are developmental and any grades you receive for them do not count towards your module mark.

There are also formal or 'summative' assessments.  Assessment methods include written examinations and a range of coursework assessments such as essays, reports, portfolios, performance, presentations and your final year individual study project.  The grades from formal assessments count towards your module mark.

Coursework assessments permit you to develop key scientific and transferable skills and assignments include: scientific lab/log books, written reports, written scientific papers, discursive essays, PowerPoint presentations and poster presentations. There is a maximum of two assessments per 20 credit module studied.

Percentage of the course assessed by coursework

The balance of assessment by examination and assessment by coursework depends to some extent on the optional modules you choose. The approximate percentage of the course assessed by coursework and exams is as follows:

Level 4

60 per cent coursework 40 per cent written exams

Level 5

50 per cent coursework 50 per cent written exams

Level 6

65 per cent coursework 35 per cent written exams


You will receive feedback on all practice assessments and on formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback on examination performance is available upon request from the module leader. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your module tutor.  We aim to provide you with feedback within 15 working days of hand-in.

You will often be able to use modern, research grade equipment during taught modules and for your individual research on your dissertation project.

The Life Sciences Industry Liaison Lab at Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent, was launched in March 2016. Discovery Park is a fabulous site with well over 100 companies now based there, many of which are active in the science sector.


Tuition Fees for 2019/20 have not yet been finalised. Course webpages will be updated with Tuition Fee information once these have been agreed.

Fact file

UCAS course code

  • C200 Plant Science
  • C201 Plant Science with Foundation Year

UCAS institution code

  • C10


  • 3 years full-time

    6 years part-time

    Professional placement option available


  • September 2020

Entry requirements



Last edited 09/09/2019 09:02:00

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Last edited: 09/09/2019 09:02:00