University of Edinburgh: Soils and Sustainability

InstitutionUniversity 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 and therefore play a crucial role in climate change regulation, which has gained increasing international attention in recent years.

The 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 the role and effective management of soils 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 every 5 seconds, the equivalent of one football field of soil is eroded. 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 and are under increasing attention to contribute to climate regulation through carbon sequestration.

Soils and sustainable land use are also vital in terms of providing important habitats to support biodiversity.

Through effective management, soils can contribute to flood regulation and buffer pollutant transfers to local watercourses influencing water quality.

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

  • heterogeneity and classification

  • soil functions and ecosystem services

  • soil contamination and remediation

  • the key management strategies to promote and conserve soil health and sustainable soil systems

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.

How will I learn?

The programme places a strong emphasis on varied teaching approaches for both theoretical understanding and the development of practical skills through 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 you enhance your knowledge and skillset with valuable real-world experience.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

This programme is delivered in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

You will not only benefit from being a fully matriculated student at the University of Edinburgh, but also access to the expert staff and resources at SRUC. Upon successful completion of the programme, you will be awarded your degree by The University of Edinburgh.


University of Edinburgh 

 University of EdinburghInspiring the world since 1583 
The University of Edinburgh is one of the world's top universities, consistently ranked in the world top 50, and ranked 20th in the 2020 QS World University Rankings. Our entrepreneurial and cross-disciplinary culture attracts not only students but also staff from some 156 countries, creating a unique Edinburgh experience.

We provide a stimulating working, learning, and teaching environment with access to excellent facilities and attract the world's best, from Nobel Prize winning laureates to future explorers, pioneers and inventors.

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