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

Year 1

Core modules

Core Science

This double module gives you the background skills in science necessary for the rest of the course. These include sufficient laboratory skills to perform experiments safely and successfully; the necessary mathematical and statistical skills for quantitative analysis of data. It also introduces the broad body of knowledge of chemical, biological and physical sciences necessary for the study of the biological and environmental sciences.

Variety of Life

Life on earth is amazingly diverse, colourful and multifaceted. The Variety of Life module introduces you to this diversity, tracing the tree of life from its roots to its branches. Beginning with simple, single-celled organisms like bacteria and Protists, you discover the various forms of complex life that have evolved and how to classify them in a taxonomic system using characteristic features of each group. The module features a large number of practical sessions in which you engage with plants, animals and other organisms.

Introduction to Environmental Systems

You will investigate animals and plants living in selected habitats and review factors which control populations and methods of determining distribution and abundance. It will also introduce you to the concept of energy in physical and biological systems. In this way the theme of energy will be seen as unifying all the various aspects of the relationships between organisms and their environments.

Microbiology and Cell Culture

This will introduce you to principal taxonomic groups of micro-organisms; examines their growth, physiology and culture, and their importance to humans and the biosphere. The module equips you with the necessary skills to carry out safe, aseptic practices with such organisms in a laboratory environment. It is an intensive module in which you spend an entire week in the laboratory. Currently the lab week takes place in the Easter vacation.

Year 2

Core modules

Plant Control Systems

This module investigates the physiology of a range of plant groups, integrating biology with the underlying physics. By studying communication and homeostatic processes as unifying themes, you will develop a holistic approach to the investigation of biological control systems and the means by which they respond to the environment.

Communication and Analysis in Science and/or Marketing Research

Communication and Analysis in Science: Scientists must be able to effectively analyse, present and communicate scientific data, whether it originated from their own research or whether they are engaging with literature produced by other researchers. In addition, successful research depends on the careful and considerate planning and design of experiments and studies in the laboratory and field. This module helps you to develop your critical thinking skills as scientists, introduces you to various mathematical and statistical methods for analysing and presenting scientific data and explores important concepts relating to experimental design, measurement and sampling.

Marketing Research

The module will explore the nature, scope and recent development of marketing research and its context in the marketing decision process. A range of both primary and secondary data sources as well as quantitative and qualitative research techniques will be explored, evaluated and contextualised. For example, government and commercial sources of data and the use and design of questionnaires, focus groups and in-depth interviews will be used to demonstrate various aspects of the research process. In line with current practice the use of current information technology software will be introduced in order to facilitate data analysis and presentation.

Molecular Biology

The Molecular Biology module offers you a unique practical experience of diverse laboratory skills associated with the isolation, handling and manipulation of DNA and proteins. During two weeks of intensive practical sessions, lectures and tutorials, this module will cover the main areas of theoretical molecular biology knowledge and its practical applications in current research. The module currently takes place during the summer vacation.

Chemistry for the Life Sciences

This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the fundamental concepts and practical applications of chemistry in a biological context. It aims to introduce you to the study of organic compounds and the links between molecular structure and properties, establishing connections with the behaviour of these compounds in biological systems. The module also aims to introduce some of the different methods that can be used in the identification of chemical compounds, and to encourage a critical approach to these methods.

Applied Plant Genetics

This module will cover some exciting topics explaining genetic/epigenetic mechanisms by which plants grow, make flowers, know when to flower and can turn different genes on and off to achieve these goals. We will also look at strategies to map and clone desirable genes. In this module, you will also do various experiments (9-5 for 5 days) and will explore how different genes are expressed under different temperature regimes. You will also clone these genes and use DNA markers to look into mapping populations.

Likely optional modules

Chemistry for the Environmental Sciences

Chemical processes shape the world we live in; the soil we use to produce food, the air we breathe and the water we drink. This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the fundamental concepts and practical applications of chemistry in an environmental context. You will be introduced to the chemistry of soil, water and the atmosphere and you also will learn how these three environments interact. The impact of human activity on the chemistry of the environment will be discussed in topics like the ozone layer, greenhouse gases, freshwater quality and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This module has weekly lectures, supported by practical lab sessions, workshops and two local field trips.


Underpinning all of the biosciences, evolution is central to understanding the diversity of life and the behaviour of biological systems. By studying the processes and drivers that result in evolutionary change, you will consider the nature of evolution, developing an understanding of both macro- and micro-scale evolutionary change.

Introduction to Mapping and GIS

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have been utilised for over quarter of a century, however, there is still a rapid growth in the applications of GIS to a wide range of business, public and academic fields. This module provides the practical and theoretical aspects of GIS and the fundamentals of cartographic design required to produce meaningful GIS results. To appreciate the potential and scope of GIS, an exploration of the core aspects (principles) of the subject is made, concluding with a variety of relevant case studies. Given the desirability of acquiring a large degree of practical software skills, in a number of complex and varied programmes, a substantial aim of the module is to provide ‘hands-on’ use of GIS, using industry standard hardware and software.

Year 3

Core modules

Pests, Parasites and Pathogens

This module aims to teach you about pests, parasites and pathogens which affect animals and plants, and how they affect the wider world. The course begins with introduction to the taxonomy and biology of these organisms, the economic impacts they have on societies around the world, and the ways in which plants and animals have evolved to fight infection and infestation. We then discuss and critique the mechanisms by which humans have attempted to control pests, parasites and pathogens such as the use of antibiotics, pesticides, vaccination and biological control.

Plant Responses to the Environment

In this module we study how plants (despite being immobile) encounter various environmental threats (drought, high temperature, disease) and employ sophisticated genetic and biochemical mechanisms to thrive under stressful conditions. We need to grow 70% more food in the next forty years from ever shrinking amounts of land and with less fresh water. Understanding plant survival mechanisms, especially for crop plants, is therefore vital for our food security in the coming decades. This module covers topics explaining plants/crop interaction with their environment to maximise productivity and is complemented with latest developments published on student-led seminars of case studies you will gain an in-depth understanding of the biological, ecological and biochemical problems associated with a selection of the more important diseases.

Likely optional modules

Introduction to Bioinformatics

This module examines all aspects of the gathering of biological sequence data, and introduces the application and approaches to their analysis. Particular reference is made to the manipulation and analysis of DNA sequence data and three dimensional protein structural data. Topics include: molecular biology, genomics, phylogenetics, proteomics, metabolomics and online databases. A major focus is on practical use of bioinformatics tools and techniques and on understanding how bioinformatics can be used to address real research questions. 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.

Bioinformatics 2

The module aims to extend the techniques and analyses introduced in the co-requisite module Introduction to Bioinformatics, focussing on building the computational skills to allow you to 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 open source tools and to work in Linux. The module therefore develops an integrated understanding of various bioinformatic development and analysis tools and of how to build these into analysis pipelines.

Practical Ecology

You will spend 8 days in the mountains and coastlines of Snowdonia, North Wales. During this intensive course you will go from being a novice at quantifying habitats and asking ecological questions of the environment to an expert at turning the natural world into a form that can be quantified and objectively measured. Due to its intense nature, this module is one of the most mentally challenging of all the science modules you will take at Christ Church, but according to our student feedback, also one of the most enjoyable, both from an academic and general life skills point of view. There is a limit on the number of students who can take this module. This module is currently taken during the summer vacation.

Biological Imaging and Photography

This module will enable you to use a range modern photographic and other image capture and processing techniques as tools for studying of biological organisms. With a focus on using these techniques to extract biological information, and on developing an awareness of the limitations of the different approaches, you will learn to critically evaluate imaging approaches in a contextual setting

Ecology and Conservation

In order to conserve we must first identify underlying ecological issues that make conservation necessary. In the first two thirds of this course you will explore the underpinning ecological concepts that help us to effectively plan and carry out conservation work. In the final third of the course, which is partly student led, you will apply these concepts to modern conservation themed issues.

Marketing: Culture and Communication

This module develops your understanding in relation to the importance of an appreciation of how the cultural context(s) for global marketing activities can be regarded as similar, or dissimilar to their home-country situation. Emphasis is given to language (spoken and ‘silent’) as a barrier to effective communication across the full range of marketing activities, but with particular emphasis on its value in relation to both personal and non-personal marketing communications activities such as face-to-face personal selling, and advertising and packaging, respectively.

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

Need some help?


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
  • C240 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: 17/05/2017 10:47:00