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Plant and Soil Science, BSc

Plant and Soil Science, BSc

Course Overview


Are you interested in the complexity, fragility and potential of plants and soil? Together, plants and soil provide an essential resource for all terrestrial life. This is the only degree programme in the UK that focuses on this important and fascinating world.

Doing a Plant and Soil Science degree at the Northampton University will provide you with both core and advanced understanding of this exciting subject area. The knowledge and skills that you gain could open up a world of career opportunities for you, for instance in playing a vital role in informing the debate on climate change and global food security.

The Plant and Soil Science degree provides many opportunities:

  • Fundamental understanding of biology, how organisms work
  • Specialist training in plant science, soil science and its applications
  • Examining the interactions and interface
  • Multi-disciplinary working
  • Role of plants in the ecosystem
  • Applications of plant biology
  • Manipulating plant genomes relates to tolerance and pollutants
  • Studying soils across agricultural systems
LEARNING MODE On Campus Learning
DURATION 48 months
What You'll Study

Each year you take a selection of compulsory courses and optional courses that can be chosen from those on offer across the institution. The first two years lay a foundation for the more specialised third and fourth years.

How You'll Study

Combine practice and theory

Typically, one third of your class time is practical and many courses include full-day practical classes and field visits. Most students take at least one residential field trip during their degree; these trips bring the subjects to life and provide the opportunity to make great friendships and get to know staff members.

Research experience

You are actively involved in scientific research throughout your degree. In Year 4, you conduct independent research which can be pivotal to your career choice whether it be in dolphins, water voles, rare plants, tropical forest ecology, climate change in the Arctic, or any one of a diverse range of other exciting topics!

Engaging and inspiring teaching

Our teaching methods are diverse, innovative and based on research on how students learn. For example, we use problem-based learning approaches, creative presentations, peer and self-assessment, presenting posters in public meetings, writing and editing wikis, writing grant proposals, science writing for publication, and the creation of portfolios using multi-media.

Opportunities for Study Abroad and work-related learning

You can take advantage of an optional year-out on a work placement in any of our degree programmes. Study Abroad is encouraged for students in their second year; we have established partnerships with institutions in the USA, Canada, Australia, China and numerous countries in Europe.

In year 1 you will take eight courses made up of compulsory and elective options. One of the required courses is Ecology and Environment. In addition you will attend a summer field trip to Bettyhill in the north of Scotland where Plants and their Habitats in Northern Scotland is studied.

Compulsory Courses

Professional Skills Part 1 (NT1001)
Frontiers in Biological Sciences (NT1009) – 15 Credit Points
Diversity of Life 1 (NT1012) – 15 Credit Points
Ecology and Environmental Science (NT1511) – 15 Credit Points
Diversity of Life 2 (NT1512) – 15 Credit Points
The Cell (NT1501) – 15 Credit Points

Optional Courses

Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice.

In year 2 compulsory courses include Ecology and Plants, People and the Environment. You will select elective courses to contribute towards enhanced study.

Compulsory Courses

Biological Enhanced Skills Training (BEST) (NT2018) – 15 Credit Points
Ecology (NT2020) – 15 Credit Points
Plants, People, and the Environment (NT25P4) – 15 Credit Points
Genes and Evolution (NT2017) – 15 Credit Points

Optional Courses

Select a further 60 credit points from courses of choice.

Courses at this level include Global Soil Geography, Ecosystem Processes, Soils for Food Security, Environmental Analysis. In addition to your taught courses, in third year there is a strong element of practical laboratory training and fieldwork, plus visits to research institutes, conservation and environmental protection agencies and commercial companies.

Compulsory Courses

Statistical Analysis of Biological Data (NT3010) – 15 Credit Points
Global Soil Geography (NT3001) – 15 Credit Points
Ecosystem Processes (NT3304) – 15 Credit Points
Soils for Food Security (NT3309) – 15 Credit Points
Environmental Analysis (NT3802) – 15 Credit Points
Plant Environment Interactions (NT3505) – 15 Credit Points

Optional Courses

Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice.

In year 4, the Honours year, you will carry out a research project as well as writing an extended essay and completing advanced courses of your choosing.

Compulsory Courses

SBS Honours Project (Semester 1) (NT4016) – 45 Credit Points

Optional Courses

Select 75 credit points from courses of choice, at least 45 of which must be from courses delivered by the School of Biological Sciences (i.e. BI, EK, EV, FY, PL, or ZO courses) at level 4.

Assessment Methods

Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:

  • coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course;
  • practical assessments of the skills and competencies learnt on the course; and
  • written examinations at the end of each course.

The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, year of study and individual courses.

Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.

Why Study Plant and Soil Science?
  • This degree combines the disciplines of plants and soils, with opportunities to specialise in plant biology at different levels from genes to ecosystems, and in soils from chemistry, microbes to global geography.
  • The Northampton University has a long and, in many ways, unique tradition for teaching and research in Plant and Soil Science, and is home to a large and active group of award-winning staff in this subject.
  • The degree is taught by a wide range of staff who are active in plant and soil research from the tropics to the arctic; our teaching is research-led, relevant and exciting.
  • You will have opportunity to collaborate with groups at the James Hutton Institute and SFSA who undertake applied research and policy development work informing national priorities.
  • Plant and soil students attend at least two residential field courses selected from our range of courses in the Cairngorms, Spain and at our own field centre at Bettyhill, on the North coast of Sutherland.
  • Our research is at the forefront of Plant and Soil Science discovery, and we were ranked 1st overall in the REF 2014 for Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science.
  • You will have the opportunity to get involved in our research through summer research assistantships, project work and a compulsory final year research project.
  • At our regular careers events you will have the opportunity to listen to and meet prospective employers from outside the University, giving you excellent opportunities to get a fulfilling and challenging job in a biological field.


Our Plant and Soil degree provides you with academic training and transferable skills relevant to both specialist employment and the wider biology graduate job market.

The Northampton University can equip you with a broad range of skills to offer employers. We train students in scientific methodology in the laboratory and in the field. We also incorporate what we call ‘graduate attributes’ into the whole curriculum, including communication, critical thinking, teamwork, use of specialist IT and time management. Employers now expect a substantial list of skills, knowledge and experience in their graduate recruits and we aim to help you acquire these.

Students in the School of Biological Sciences may have the opportunity to collaborate with external organisations such as the James Hutton Institute or the Scottish Food Security Alliance, for example whilst undertaking an Honours project. Students also work as volunteers in the Cruickshank Botanical Gardens. Such links allow students to become part of professional networks, which can provide opportunities for employment or postgraduate research in plant and soil science.

Entry requirements


SQA Highers

Standard: AABB*

Applicants who have achieved AABB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.

Minimum: BBB*

Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.

Adjusted: BB*

Applicants who have achieved BB, and who meet one of the widening participation criteria are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.


Standard: BBB*

Minimum: BBC*

Adjusted: CCC*

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

International Baccalaureate

32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL*.

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

Irish Leaving Certificate

5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 OR AAABB*, obtained in a single sitting. (B must be at B2 or above)

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

English Language Requirements

English Language Requirements

To study for an Undergraduate degree at the University of Northampton University it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:


IELTS Academic:

OVERALL – 6.0 with: Listening – 5.5; Reading – 5.5; Speaking – 5.5; Writing – 6.0


OVERALL – 78 with: Listening – 17; Reading – 18; Speaking – 20; Writing – 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL – 54 with: Listening – 51; Reading – 51; Speaking – 51; Writing – 54

Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency:

OVERALL – 169 with: Listening – 162; Reading – 162; Speaking – 162; Writing – 169

How to apply


This programm by online learning has start dates in September and January of each academic year. 

We recommend that you apply as early as possible; this is particularly important for applicants who may need to allow sufficient time to take an English language test

Documentation required

Applications are made online via the University Application Service, EUCLID.

Please follow the instructions carefully and make sure that you have included the following documentation with your application:

  • Degree certificates showing award of degree.
  • Previous academic transcripts for all past degree programmes.
  • A reference in support or your application. The reference should be academic and dated no earlier than one year from the start of study on the LLM programme.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency, if required.

If you are currently studying for your degree or you are not in a possession of an English test result you may still apply to the programme. Please note that it is your responsibility to submit the necessary documents.

After you apply

After your application has been submitted you will be able to track its progress through the University’s applicant hub.

Application processing times will vary however the admissions team will endeavour to process your application within four to six weeks of submission. Please note that missing documentation will delay the application process.

You will be informed as soon as possible of the decision taken. Three outcomes are possible:

  • You may be offered a place unconditionally
  • You may be offered a conditional place, which means that you must fulfil certain conditions that will be specified in the offer letter. Where a conditional offer is made, it is your responsibility to inform the College Postgraduate Office when you have fulfilled the requirements set out.
  • Your application may be unsuccessful. If your application has not been successful, you can request feedback from us or refer to our guidance for unsuccessful applicants, which explains some of the common reasons we why we reach this decision.
    View the University’s guidance for unsuccessful applicants
Terms and conditions of admissions
  • The University’s terms and conditions form part of your contract with the University, and you should read them, and our data protection policy, carefully before applying.

    Northampton University admissions terms and conditions