Mode of Study
This course is studied part time through on-line distance learning. This allows those in continuing employment or with family commitments to participate. With the exception of several weekend schools and a short study tour, the learning is carried out in the student’s own home or workplace. The learning material is presented using SAC’s Blackboard web learning environment. Blackboard utilises threaded discussion facilities as well as static and interactive learning programs. Other on-line communication media, such as Learnlinc, are used for tutorial support. Once every term students attend a weekend school at SAC Aberdeen for seminars, tutorials, briefing sessions and farm visits.
There are eight taught modules providing a range of technical, marketing, management, work experience and professional skills development. A study tour is also used to visit a range of organic and conventional farms as well as businesses operating in the organic food supply and distribution chain. In the modules an element of student choice is often built in through the use of essay and other course work topics that cover areas of potential interest. Students following the course may gain exemption from the practical element of the Organic Farming Work Placement module but are required to complete a report of their work experience. Taught modules are:
Organic Forage and Livestock Production
This module will provide an understanding of the role of forage legumes in organic systems and describe grassland management systems that maximise the contribution of legumes. Students will also be given an understanding of the organic approach to livestock production, particularly in terms of animal welfare, preventative health management and nutrition.
Soils and Nutrient Cycling
This module will aim to provide the students with the tools to manage their soils optimally. Ultimately, they should be able to describe soil properties, evaluate soil fertility and assess management requirements in the context of organic farming. Providing an understanding of the chemical, physical and biological features of soil fertility and nutrient cycling. Developing practical skills in soil assessment and whole farm nutrient budgeting.
Organic Crop Production
This module will provide an understanding of methods of crop production for arable and vegetable field crops, with particular reference to organic farming in the UK. Developing an understanding of breeding, establishment, nutrition, protection, harvesting and storage in the context of organic crop production of field crops.
Organic Farming Case Study
This module will improve the student’s ability to undertake whole farm analysis and in particular organic conversion planning. Whole farm analysis involves a range of skills and examination of a wide range of issues: technical, financial, marketing and environmental. The module will require the student to integrate the knowledge gained in other Modules, to provide an evaluation and plan for the conversion to organic production of an actual farm example.
Organic Farming Profession
This module will provide an overview of the philosophy, principles, history and development of the organic farming industry. The organic standards will be introduced and the ways in which they are used to regulate the organic food and farming industry at UK, European and world levels will be covered. The roles of the main UK organisations that influence the development of the organic sector will also be explored.
Organic Farming Work Placement
This module will allow students to become familiar with an organisation or business in the organic food and farming sector during a 6-week (or equivalent) work placement. The student will gather relevant and unique material to enable them to carry out a technical and business analysis and make recommendations for future development of the organisation or business in question. The material will also be used in class discussion and to contribute to group learning.
Issues in Organic Farming
This module explores the public goods delivered by organic farming. Develops an understanding of food quality and the role and application of Quality Assurance (QA) Schemes in the organic food sector to meet the needs of relevant legislation and consumer concerns. Provides an overview of the principles of environmental management in the context of organic agriculture, helping students gain an appreciation of the potential impacts of agricultural enterprises on the environment, measures for minimising such impacts, and opportunities for incorporating positive environmental management measures into farm business plans. Includes a 3-day study tour
Marketing and Business Management in the Organic Farming Sector
This module will provide an understanding of the concepts, principles and techniques involved in marketing management and how they are applied in the context of the organic farming sector. Financial accounts are one source of information regarding an organic business, and aid the process of planning and control. This module will provide an understanding of accounts to assist in the process of setting goals within a business and assessing the financial consequences of alternatives.
MSc Project (taken following successful completion of taught modules)
Provides an opportunity for in-depth individual research on a topic related to organic farming.
Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip): Normally studied over 2 years. All 8 taught modules listed in the course description page are studied. The academic year is split into 2 half-sessions and 2 modules are studied part-time in each half-session.
Master of Science (MSc): Normally studied over 3 years. Students take the PGDip, and if a certain standard is achieved may progress to the MSc project. This is taken part-time over a further 2 half-sessions.
A Postgraduate Certificate qualification is available for those not wishing to do the full PGDip course. Individual modules from the programme may also be studied for CPD or personal interest purposes. Please enquire for further details.
Methods of Delivery and Assessment
The course is delivered through on-line distance learning, allowing those in continuing employment or with family commitments to participate. Each module is available for a defined period, e.g., normally for one half-session. Learning material is presented using SAC’s Blackboard web learning environment. Blackboard utilizes threaded discussion facilities as well as static and interactive learning programs. Other on-line communication media, such as Learnlinc, are used for tutorial support. Once every term students attend a weekend school at SAC Aberdeen for seminars, tutorials, briefing sessions and farm visits.
The PGDip is assessed by a combination of module examination (30%) and coursework (70%). Coursework takes the form of essays, case study reports, poster preparations, etc. The high emphasis on coursework for assessment reflects the vocational nature of the programme and encourages full development of integrative, analytical and inter-personal skills. The MSc is assessed through submission of a project dissertation.