MSc in Global Health: Food Security, Sustainability and Biodiversity

At the intersection of environmental and human health, explore the crucial link between biodiversity, sustainable livelihoods and food security.

Woven fabric bag with a hand over black and red coffee berries

This MSc is an exciting new partnership between Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Students on this one-year course will examine some of the most pressing issues affecting our planet, from deforestation and climate change to pollution and the threats from extinctions, intensive agriculture and a growing human population.  

Learn about new, innovative solutions in food security such as AI, drones, robotics, and next generation sequencing, as well as innovative farming approaches such as silvopasture, vertical farming and hydroponics. 

Students will consider crop histories, indigenous knowledge and the links between our environment, culture, economy and the health and livelihoods of people around the world, through our international network of partners in science, conservation, business and policy. 

Develop an understanding and ability to blend ecological, biophysical, political and socioeconomic factors, and acquire a strong skill set through practical training in a range of transferrable skills including communication, team working, science writing, data visualisation, statistical analysis, and GIS. 

Students will also spend time on a residential course at Kew’s wild botanic garden, Wakehurst in Sussex, where they will learn from researchers in the laboratory and field, and work collaboratively to complete a group research project. 

In the final term, students will complete a four-month individual research project, working closely with research teams from Kew and/or Royal Holloway. 

Through interdisciplinary learning and hands on activities in a range of associated topics, our graduates will be well-equipped to become the next generation of scientific researchers, policymakers and business leaders, ready to solve global sustainability challenges.

Video © Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London

Course structure 

Students on this course will study at Royal Holloway and Kew, learning from world leading experts at both institutions. You will spend approximately equal time at Royal Holloway’s main campus in Surrey and Kew’s main site at Richmond in South West London. 

The course comprises: 

  • five taught modules 
  • a two-week residential visit to Kew’s wild botanic garden, Wakehurst (although venues are subject to change) 
  • a four-month individual research project 

Teaching and assessment 

The course will be delivered using a range of teaching approaches including lectures, workshops, study visits, field trips, computer and laboratory practicals, group projects, quizzes and debates. 

These will be complemented with skills training in science communications (including social, print and web), hands-on data visualisation and analysis, mapping, and field and laboratory research skills. 

Students will also develop transferable skills in team working, time and project management, and leadership. 

Students will be assessed on coursework throughout the year, and on their final research project. 

Orange fruits in person's palm.
Enset fruits. Image © RBG Kew / James Borrell.

Biodiversity and agricultural ecosystems 

This module will focus on how biodiversity can influence human health and well-being, and examines how human and planetary health can be measured and quantified. 

Students will examine how global challenges such as climate change, pollution and the impact of agricultural systems impact on biodiversity and how biodiversity can, in turn, provide solutions to these global challenges.  

Sustainable food production and human livelihoods 

This module will focus on sustainable livelihoods in the context of food.

Examining topics such as rural livelihoods, indigenous agriculture and organic food production, we will discuss how these have changed through time, from prehistory to current day – blending ecological, biophysical, political and sociological aspects. 

We will examine the links between crops, nutrition and food, including domestication, agricultural origins, plantations, and colonial commercialisation through to globalised agribusiness, loss of agrobiodiversity and orphan crops. 

Innovations in food security 

From examining global patterns in food production, global agricultural policy and the impact of business and economics, students will gain a rounded view of food security in the 21st century. 

Students will then focus on scientific developments in food production including seed science, novel crops, plant breeding, genomics and agri-tech including robots, AI, machine learning and use of drones within agriculture.

They will also examine nutrition, diets and hunger. 

This module also includes study visits to research, policy and commercial agri-sector partners.

Science writing, communication, media and leadership

Students will develop essential skills in science communication using a variety of channels and media.

This will range from the formal writing of scientific papers, right through to the sharing of information using social media and Wikipedia, using both the written word as well as images and video.

We'll also equip students with the leadership skills required to set up and run research and conservation projects. 

Data analysis and research skills

Students will develop core skills in experimental design, data quality, analysis and statistics.

You will learn how to use the statistical programming language R for a variety of data analysis purposes.

You will also develop skills in spatial analysis and the use of ArcGIS to enable you to utilise, map and model biodiversity data.

Wakehurst research project 

A two-week residential field trip to Kew’s living laboratory and wild botanic garden, Wakehurst, where students will be immersed in its research programmes, landscapes and biodiversity. 

Students will stay at the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst and, following a range of field and laboratory skills training, will undertake a group research project. 

Individual research project

Taught modules are followed by a four-month independent research project in term three. 

Students will work with supervisors from both Kew and Royal Holloway, and either develop their own project or select from a list of pre-determined cutting-edge projects. 

Student projects will be written up in the style of an academic paper. 

How to apply

To find out more, check you’re eligible and how to apply visit the Royal Holloway MSc course webpage.

The degree is awarded by Royal Holloway, and all applications are conducted through Royal Holloway. 

Applications are now open: For full details including course fees, funding and entry requirements, visit the Royal Holloway course webpage.


Apply to MSc in Global Health


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Further details

For details about the course fees, funding and entry requirements, visit the Royal Holloway course webpage

For any further information or to have an informal chat, contact the course leaders Dr Richard Gianfrancesco from Kew and Dr Mark Lee from Royal Holloway. 

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