MSc Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement
- Full Time
- Degree of Master of Science
- Course Length
- 1 years
- Course Start Date
- September 2023
One of the greatest challenges facing humanity is sustainable food production for a rapidly increasing global population. Achieving this will depend, amongst other things, on our ability to expedite the production of new higher yielding crop varieties that are better adapted to a changing climate, and which will require fewer inputs, such as fertilisers and other chemicals.
You’re ready to specialise in plant genetics and crop improvement at the John Innes Centre (JIC), a ground-breaking institute for research on plant and microbial sciences. With this expert, cutting-edge training, you’ll have the perfect grounding to move onto a PhD, or alternatively into a career within the plant breeding industry.
This MSc enables you to explore the theoretical basis of plant breeding and statistics, plant genetics, genomics and bioinformatics, while at the same time gaining valuable practical experience. You will also receive training in key transferable skills. Alongside your taught modules, you’ll also complete a laboratory-based research project (worth 60 credits), giving you the opportunity to work alongside world-leading scientists at JIC, The Sainsbury Laboratory, the Earlham Institute, or possibly with an industry partner.
The JIC, which is based in the Norwich Research Park, is one of the world’s leading research institutes in plant genetics and crop improvement. So, there are few better places to study this topic within a world-class teaching and research environment.
Our one-year MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement is perfect training if you plan to study for a further degree in plant genetics, or alternatively, a career in plant breeding and crop improvement. It’s a unique opportunity to study plant molecular genetics and its potential applications in the 21st century, within an environment of academic and research excellence.
JIC is one of the world’s leading research institutes in plant genetics and crop improvement. This means you’ll benefit from teaching by research staff at JIC, and a number of leading plant breeding and plant biotechnology companies within the UK.
In your taught modules, you’ll cover subjects including plant molecular genetics and biotechnology, target traits for crop improvement, and plant breeding with statistics – as well as learning key transferable skills such as laboratory research and communication skills. An important element of the course is the substantial six-month laboratory-based research project that you’ll conduct under the supervision of a senior scientist. As part of this you’ll submit a dissertation and present a seminar on your research project. We offer research projects in the following key areas:
Crop plant genetics
Plant biotechnology and crop improvement
Plant genome organisation
Cell and developmental biology
Plant gene function
In recent years, the career prospects for students with a postgraduate degree in plant genetics and crop improvement have been very good, often leading to a PhD or employment within the UK plant breeding industry.
Study and Modules
On this one-year course, you’ll take a number of taught modules while completing your research project plan and the six-month laboratory research project.
Your modules cover important topics such as genetics, genomics and bioinformatics, providing you with a Masters’ level introduction to the structure and function of DNA. You’ll cover the mechanisms of inheritance in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and study model organisms and their genomes. And you’ll also explore the use of contemporary ‘omics’ technologies for the analysis of whole genomes, gene function and expression. In further lectures and seminars, you’ll explore the role of bioinformatics in contemporary research on plant genomes and crop improvement.
You will also learn about the principles of plant Breeding and and the role of newer technologies in the manipulation of traits in crop improvement. You will also learn the relevant statistical methods for analysing data from many experiments in plant science and crop plant improvement.
Further teaching on genetics and biotechnology looks at how these disciplines have played a significant role in understanding fundamental aspects of plant biology, and their potential to expedite crop plant improvement in the future.
There is also an opportunity to learn key practical skills in plant breeding using molecular genetic approaches. This links the theory of bioinformatics, plant molecular genetics and marker-assisted selection together with their practical application. You will utilise molecular markers to determine the genotypes of F2 plants segregating for distinct morphological characters. You’ll then use this to predict the phenotypic characters exhibited by mature plants, and select ones with specific combinations of traits, which is a key feature of contemporary breeding programmes.
Other important teaching will cover identifying key target traits for crop. Future crop Improvement will depend upon new varieties expressing a number of key traits, introduced by either conventional plant breeding, genetic modification or genome editing.
You will also work with your project supervisor to develop a research project plan. This provides an opportunity to conduct an extensive survey of current literature for your chosen research project, as well as formulating hypotheses, and designing experiments to test them. In the research project itself you will conduct experiments, analyse research project data, and critically assess your hypotheses. Your research will be a six-month laboratory-based project on some aspect of plant genetics, crop improvement, plant-microbe interactions or plant biology.
Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, the University will endeavour to consult with students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will inform students.
Teaching and Learning
Our teaching team is made up of research staff from JIC and a number of leading plant breeding companies within the UK.
You’ll be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and laboratory work geared towards helping you understand and apply the concepts and theories covered in your course.
One recent student said: “I found this course very beneficial but it was also tough for me as I did not have a molecular biology background in my first degree. However, there was always support from the lecturers, supervisors and staff of the course who are sympathetic to students’ needs, and are very encouraging. The number of students is kept small, so the atmosphere of the class is friendly. We are also privileged to have so much exposure to the latest plant science at JIC where renowned researchers gather from all over the world. Thanks to this course, I was offered a PhD studentship to research Crop Genetics at JIC and enjoy life as a scientist there!”
An important element of the course is the substantial six-month laboratory-based research project, which demands a high level of independence. You will choose a research area that suits your own interests and aspirations and through this you will gain a thorough training in experimentation, data collection, critical analysis and presentation. You will work under the supervision of a senior scientist at JIC. As part of this you’ll submit a dissertation and present a seminar on your research project.
We will assess your learning through a diverse set of assessment types depending on the module and learning objectives. These include formal exams, laboratory reports, coursework assignments, presentations and problem-based learning sessions. In addition, your research dissertation and seminar presentation will form a significant part of the course assessment.
- Degree Classification
- Bachelors degree 2.1 or equivalent
- Degree Subject
- Biological Sciences or Plant Biology. Employment experience with a plant breeding company or related research experience would be advantageous.
- English Foreign Language
We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:
IELTS: 6.0 (minimum 5.5 in two components only, with 6.0 in the other two)
PTE (Pearson): 64 (minimum 59 in two components only with 64 in the other two)
Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.
Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests
INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact email@example.com.
This course is open to UK, EU and International applicants. The annual intake for this course is in September each year.
Additional Information or Requirements
Applicants are required to submit two references with their application - at least one of these must be related to your most recent academic study.
Fees and Funding
Tuition fees for the Academic Year 2023/24 are:
UK Students: £12,250 (full time) (includes £1000 bench fee). We also offer a limited number of scholarships to UK students worth between £4.5K-£5K. Further details of these scholarships, and the eligibility criteria, can be found at the following links –
- The Chadacre Trust Scholarship
- The Clan Trust Scholarship
- The Ranworth Trust Scholarship
- The Lugden Hill Trust
- The Morley Agricultural Foundation Trust Scholarship
If you choose to study part-time, the fee per annum will be half the annual fee for that year, or a pro-rata fee for the module credit you are taking (only available for Home students).
International Students: we are pleased to announce that for the academic year 2023-24 self-funded international students will qualify for a John Innes Centre M.Sc Scholarship (John Innes Centre International Student Scholarships - Fees and Funding (uea.ac.uk)). These scholarships will be awarded in the form of a tuition fee discount; eligible students will pay a tuition fee of £12,250 instead of the normal international student rate of £23,500 (includes £1000 bench fee).
We estimate living expenses at £1,023 per month.
Further Information on tuition fees can be found here.
Course Related Costs
Please see Additional Course Fees for details of course-related costs.
How to Apply
Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.
To apply please use our online application form.
If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:
Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515
International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.
After the Course
You’ll graduate from this prestigious course well prepared for a career in plant breeding and crop improvement, or further PhD study in this area. Having studied at one of the world’s leading research centres in this field, it’s no wonder that our most recent graduates have achieved great success in finding employment or academic research positions.
A degree at UEA will prepare you for a wide variety of careers. We've been ranked 1st for Job Prospects by StudentCrowd in 2022.
Examples of careers that you could enter include: