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The University of Edinburgh: Soils and Sustainability

Institution The University of Edinburgh View institution profile
Department School of GeoSciences
Study type Taught


Soil systems are a vital resource.

They provide multiple ecosystem services and are an essential component of food production and food security globally.

Soils can act as both a net sink and net source of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Therefore, soils play a crucial role in climate change regulation, which has gained increasing international attention in recent years.

Our MSc Soils and Sustainability is an interdisciplinary programme, providing you with the essential knowledge and advanced skills to make informed decisions on sustainable land practice.

The programme encompasses the fundamentals of soil science and soil's role in wider environmental systems, sustainable land management, and monitoring techniques to evaluate soils' role and effective management in various environmental landscapes and socioeconomic contexts.

The need for sustainable soil systems

Did you know it takes up to 1,000 years to produce just 2-3cm of soil?

Yet the United Nations report that the equivalent of one football field of soil is eroded every 5 seconds. Over 33% of the Earth's soils are already degraded.

Therefore, with a rapidly increasing global population and the threat of climate change, sustainable soil systems will play a vital role in future food security. They are under increasing attention to contribute to climate regulation through carbon sequestration.

Soils and sustainable land use are vital in terms of providing important habitats to support biodiversity. In addition, soils can contribute to flood regulation and buffer pollutant transfers to local watercourses influencing water quality through effective management. Soil environments also provide foundations for infrastructure and cultural heritage.

What will I learn?

The MSc will prepare you for a range of careers in land-based management and environmental protection.

You will explore:

  • Soil formation, functions and ecosystem services

  • Role of soils in mitigating climate change

  • Soil health and causes of degradation

  • Management strategies to promote and conserve soil health and sustainable soil systems

  • Practical skills in soil analysis and surveying

You will learn to interpret data and information on soil physics, biology and chemistry for the preservation and maintenance of soil health and gain a greater understanding of soil biodiversity, ecology and ecosystem services, as well as global-scale issues and threats to soil systems.

The programme places a strong emphasis on varied teaching approaches for both theoretical understanding and practical skills, such as laboratory and field-based activities.

Reputation, relevance and employability

The MSc is delivered by world-renowned experts and researchers across a range of disciplines within the soil and environmental sciences.

You will learn from our academic staff and guest lecturers, who are experts in their respective fields.

This means you will benefit from the most up-to-date research-led knowledge on soils and sustainability, as well as links to other organisations and industries.

During your dissertation project, you will be encouraged to engage and collaborate with a wide network such as government bodies, conservation organisations and consultants.

Not only will this provide you with opportunities to expand your network for employment opportunities or research projects, but also help enhance your knowledge and skillset with valuable real-world experience.

Scotland's Rural College

This programme is delivered in collaboration with Scotland's Rural College (SRUC). You will benefit from being a fully enrolled student at the University of Edinburgh as well as access to all of the complementary staff, expertise, and resources at SRUC. Upon successful completion of the programme, you will be awarded your degree by the University of Edinburgh.


University of Edinburgh 


Be open to possibilities. Be open to the extraordinary.
The University of Edinburgh is one of the world's top universities, consistently ranked in the world top 50, and placed 15th in the 2023 QS World University Rankings Our entrepreneurial and cross-disciplinary culture attracts students and staff from across the globe, creating a unique Edinburgh experience. Whatever excites you, whatever your ambition, whatever makes you ‘you’, we know one thing; nothing ordinary comes from this extraordinary place.

Our students have been making an impact on the world for more than 400 years. Each year is different – every …

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