Kew Diploma in Horticulture - course details
The Kew Diploma is recognised as an advanced educational programme with many universities accepting the Kew Diploma with Honours for entry to their Masters programmes
A diploma student performing a plant identification test
The Kew Diploma aims to instruct and develop craft level horticultural professionals for technical and managerial positions. To achieve this, instruction ensures there is a broad foundation of technical training and practical experience augmented with teaching and research by students so they are able to; plan and develop courses of action, solve complex horticultural problems or make recommendations for substantial change to horticultural systems or businesses.
Graduates would be expected to act with responsibility and autonomy, taking into account different perspectives and approaches that are current in the industry, and be innovative in moving the horticultural industry forward. In particular, the course seeks to:
- provide an integrated theoretical and practical curriculum, based on all the horticultural operations of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- encourage student-centred learning so that all students have an opportunity to pursue study of their own interest
- demonstrate practical applications of theoretical principles, referring throughout to current and future needs of the horticultural industry
- teach the highest standards of professional practice to all students
The School of Horticulture at Kew has been described on many occasions as a ‘centre of excellence’ and as such is at the very heart of world-wide horticultural and botanical education. As a result, close links are maintained with many institutions around the globe helping to ensure Kew Diploma students are at the forefront of academic and practical botanical education.
The Kew Diploma is taught by internal specialists, external practitioners and professional lecturers. The three-year course has three main elements:
- three lecture block trimesters
- practical work experience
- project work
The lecture block trimester is a formal academic element of the course and there is one lecture block in each of the three years of the course. Outside of the lecture block trimesters, practical work experience is gained as assessed three-month practical work placements in the Horticulture and Public Experience Department at Kew. Students are assessed while in work placements and must also continue to complete and submit projects and assignments and sit regular plant identification tests.
The comprehensive plant identification tests are an essential part of the course are organised fortnightly through the year, building a knowledge of plants from the collections.
In addition, every first year student is allocated a vegetable plot which they must maintain for one season. The plots are assessed every month on a variety of criteria including range of crops, crop protection, tidiness and overall health of the crops.
Lecture block trimesters
Lectures are delivered by a balance of internal Kew experts, professional teaching staff from colleges and universities and external industry professionals. Each of the lecture block trimesters consists of a three-month period.
The foundation trimester in the first year is a science subject block covering structural anatomy, systematic botany, plant physiology, environmental controls, soil science and landscape studies. An introduction to computer studies is also given.
The second year trimester covers ecology, conservation studies, genetics, landscape studies and an amenity/landscape provision. The final year trimester consists of landscape studies, horticultural management and pathology.
The final week of each lecture trimester is concluded with a series of examinations; these are generally essay style and last from 1.5 to 3 hours.
Practical work experience
The nine months each year spent out in the Gardens is organised into a rotational work scheme where students spend on average three months in each location.
There are three sections at Kew where students work:
- Great Glasshouses & Training
- Hardy Display
- Arboretum & Horticultural Services
Students will spend a year in each section, moving units within that section.
For example a year in the Hardy Display section could involve three months in the Alpine Nursery, three months on the Rock Garden, and three months on the Order Beds.
Great Glasshouses includes the:
Students can work in any of these during their year there. Work placements are organised for the students to give as broad a base of practical knowledge as possible, but requests to work in a particular unit are considered.
Project work links the lecture block trimesters. The projects enable in-depth research to take place into areas of individual student choice. The material is presented in written form with the opportunity for verbal presentation in seminar sessions. The subjects are normally based at Kew, but allow for comparisons to be made with other organisations.
Projects are written either during the lecture block or following it, and are usually between 2,000 and 5,000 words in length. Projects are usually tackled as individual endeavours but some are done as groups.
Topics for projects are selected from the following general areas:
- plant propagation
- systematic botany
- crop protection
- conservation studies
- landscape detailing
- practical management
- a major dissertation
In the third year of the Kew Diploma students are required to undertake a dissertation of 10,000 - 12,000 words on a horticultural subject of their choice (subject to approval).
Recent projects have included a wide range of topics including:
- Further education in horticulture, is a standardised qualification the way forward?
- A review of chlorophyll fluorescence as a stress detection technique for assessing tree health at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
- Vertical gardening – why the future of horticulture is looking up.
- Secondary school pupils' perception of horticulture.
- A study of factors affecting recruitment in the horticultural industry.
- A study of mangroves of the world: their distribution, adaptations, cultivation and habitat restoration methods.
- The cycads at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: notes on taxonomy, natural habitats, conservation and cultivation.
- Does vocational horticultural therapy help people with mental health problems move back into employment?
- Metallophytes and their use in ecological restoration.
- Are there common factors associated with creating a successful business?
- The quality and diversity of planting in public parks.
The Kew Diploma Course is assessed by:
- written examinations
- coursework assignments
- landscape plans and construction drawings
- research projects
- verbal presentations
- practical appraisals
All assessments are moderated by external examiners; students have to gain sufficient credits and convince a panel of external assessors that they have successfully completed the course. Successful students are awarded the Kew Diploma at pass, credit or honours level.
Holders of the Kew Diploma may place 'Dip.Hort. (Kew)' after their name and receive a Transcript of Practical Training. This is a bespoke programme managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
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