MSc Plant Diversity

biosci_JMStudentIDThe MSc in Plant Diversity is designed to address the broad area of Plant Biodiversity and Systematics, which is both socially and scientifically important to the modern world at national and international scales. The Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics in the School of Biological Sciences is one of the foremost research groups worldwide in plant taxonomy and plant biodiversity. The group has a long and successful tradition of training MSc and PhD students, many of whom are now prominent members of the plant science profession. The MSc teaching is led by research active staff who are engaged in a range of scientific projects in the UK and around the world.

One Year - Full time,  Two Years - Part time


Associated Institutions Student examining Calluna 

We have formal established links with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (MSc Partnership with Kew), The Natural History Museum (NHM University Links) and The Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley (RHS Botany) who are associated institutions of the University.  These institutions have strong collaborative links with us and contribute to teaching of the course each year. 

Industrial Links

We have close links with RSK Carter Ecological who provide some of the training in field skills as well as contributing professional skills teaching giving our students a knowledge of private sector ecological consultancy.



Recent comments from our external examiner

"It is a real pleasure to act as External Examiner for such an excellent course. It is a credit to the School and the University. Staff involved in delivering the course should be congratulated as it is a fine model for good practice in delivering a taught MSc."

"Assessment tasks and procedures are all appropriate and allow the full range of skills acquired by students on the course to be judged fairly and objectively. One exam essay from the Critical Discussion of Systematic Literature was quite simply the best essay I have ever seen written under exam conditions. A number of project marks also stood out but reflected exemplary projects - one marker commenting that a project was the best he had ever seen for this course and having read the project I concurred with him that this was an outstanding piece of work."

"Project work merits particular praise and the reports I read are a credit to the students and their supervisors. As I have said before the project work is on a par with, and this year often better than, work I have seen from first year or even second year PhD students…. I particularly enjoyed the students' project presentations and valued the opportunity to meet with the students afterwards to discuss their work."

Professor Simon Hiscock, University of Bristol (External examiner to the MSc)

Campus as a biological resource

We are lucky to have a great deal of plant and habitat diversity on our main campus.  We report this diversity on the Staff and student authored Whiteknights Biodiversity Blog

We also have a news site on Facebook: Plant Diversity on Facebook

Educational aims of the programme

The course aims to provide professional-level training in the characterisation, assessment and sustainable management of plant diversity within three broad areas: 

  1. Taxonomy and Evolution: To provide a broadly-based introduction to classical and contemporary aspects of plant taxonomy.
  2. Biodiversity Assessment and Conservation: To present a broadly-based introduction to key topics in plant classification, conservation and resource management.
  3. Vegetation Survey and Assessment: To provide the theoretical understanding and practical skills necessary to carry out and interpret vegetation surveys and related vegetation studies to high standards in applied contexts.

Within the modules offered by the course, and by choice of appropriate project, students will be able to gain experience to professional standards in areas of taxonomy, biodiversity and vegetation survey. 

To provide instruction in the theoretical background and practical skills required to enable the graduate to embark on a career as a practising plant taxonomist, in research, teaching, the development and management of taxonomic collections and the documentation of the world's flora;

To provide trainees from developing and developed countries with the practical and the critical skills they require to classify, conserve, utilize and manage botanical diversity in a way that permits sustained development for the benefit of all humankind;

To train graduates (who are almost always deficient in field skills) and capable non-graduate field-workers (who are mostly deficient in theoretical grounding) to plan, conduct and interpret vegetation surveys and related botanical field investigations to high standards and especially to those standards required by commercial and professional users of such surveys.


University support for students and their learning falls into two categories. Learning support includes IT Services, which has several hundred computers, and the University Library which across its three sites holds over a million volumes, subscribes to around 4,000 current periodicals, has a range of electronic sources of information and houses the Student Access to Independent Learning (S@IL) computer-based teaching and learning facilities. There are language laboratory facilities both for those students studying for a language degree and for those taking modules offered by the Institution-wide Language Programme. Student guidance and welfare support are provided by Programme Directors, the Careers Advisory Service, the University's Special Needs Advisor, Study Advisors, Hall Wardens and the Students' Union.

Each student will be assigned to a personal tutor and in the Summer will also have a research project supervisor.

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