Holistic Science

MSc, PG Cert

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Stephan Harding, Head of Holistic Science at Schumacher College

“Mainstream science, powerful as it is, has made us clever, but it has not made us wise."

- Dr Stephan Harding, Head of Holistic Science, Resident Ecologist and Founding Faculty Member of Schumacher College

Western science is dominated by ‘reductionism’ – the idea that natural phenomena can befully explained in terms of their component parts. Although it is a useful tool in certain circumstances, reductionism as a world view is incomplete and can be dangerous on its own since it suggests that by analysing the ‘mechanical’ workings of nature we can fully predict and manipulate it entirely for our own benefit.

Holistic Science integrates the useful aspects of reductionism and mainstream science by developing a more comprehensive basis for seeing and knowing. At the heart of this is Goethe’s rigorous and systematic way of involving the imagination in an appreciation of nature’s qualities, complexity and intrinsic value. Holistic thinking is stimulated by exercises using phenomenology and in tackling challenges related to physics, earth system science, ecology, evolutionary biology, organisational development and health studies. Since 1998, when the programme was pioneered at Schumacher College, it has developed a coherent methodology of holistic enquiry, providing a rigorous and ethical framework for a mature science.

The MSc takes you into a profound personal transformative learning journey helping you to join a growing group of international alumni contributing positively to ecological, economic and social change.    

 “Interactive, experiential and participatory learning encourages novel approaches to scientific investigation. Various non-traditional teaching formats, learning experiences and assessments are facilitated. Investigations are holistic in the sense that they are embodied as well as rational/intellectual and often result in different outcomes to traditional styles of research and reporting.”

- Philip Franses, Senior Lecturer of Holistic Science

Programme Overview

  • Develop an understanding of the pros and cons of using western science as a tool for gaining reliable knowledge about the world.
  • Learn how contemporary sustainability issues have come about and how we can successfully address them by combining rational and intuitive ways of knowing.
  • Gain an understanding of the importance of sensing, feeling and intuition for an expanded science.
  • Learn about a range of cutting edge alternative methodologies which integrate qualitative experience and quantitative measurement.
  • Develop an understanding of the emergent properties of whole systems through the lenses of chaos, complexity and Gaia theories, and discover how these approaches can help us deal with ecological, social and economic problems.
  • Understand how Holistic Science is being applied in the worlds of business, economics, health and mainstream science in the creation of a more sustainable world.
  • Develop a clear understanding of your own rational and emotional states and processes in the study of nature through experiential and reflective group enquiry.

Our Teachers and Guest Contributors Have Included:

Rupert Sheldrake
Patricia Shaw
Satish Kumar
Craig Holdrege
Mike Wride
Shantena Sabbadini
Jules Cashford
Bruce Lipton

Career Opportunities:

Our graduates from around the world have used their skills and knowledge for sustainable change to become eminent and important contributors to many fields, including climate change advocacy, education, scientific research, ecological design, healthcare, green business, protection of indigenous cultures, ecological restoration and sustainable agriculture. Working in in public, private and NGO sectors, many have set up their own projects or organisations.

Hear from past students
Find out how this programme has changed the lives and careers of students who have taken the course by reading our Holistic Science student profiles.

What Past Participants Have Said:

“What I learnt and experienced from the MSc is that everything is ever changing. Working with the concepts of holistic science I experienced living with complexity and change as a way of life rather than as a stage I had to survive. For me, the gift of holistic science was to learn to appreciate the inherent potential in all situations. This has taught me to more effectively think, act and live with the tension of transitions through multidisciplinary approaches.”
- Anne Solgaard, Green Economy for UNEP/GRID-Arendal

“During my MSc in Holistic Science I learned a comprehensive qualitative approach to science that binds natural and cultural phenomena. It was a unique experience that transformed my own inner way of relating to complex circumstances and empowered me with the tools necessary to develop the way of life I’ve always dreamed of.“
- Sebastian Eslea Burch, founder of Gaia y Sofia

“The MSc certainly opened my eyes to new ways of doing business in a complex world. Both the formal teachings and the tremendous networking potential of the College have helped me in forging a professional life that I feel reflects my ideals.“
- Sophia Van Ruth, co-founder Urban Edibles

Our Teachers

Stephan Harding, Coordinator and Senior Lecturer - Holistic Science / Estate Ecologist

Stephan oversees the MSc in Holistic Science, teaching on the core models and as part of several of the short courses at the College. Stephan was born in Venezuela in 1953. He came to England at the age of six with his father and housekeeper, with whom he spoke Spanish (his mother tongue) at home. Since childhood Stephan has had a deep fascination with the natural world, and his scientific cast of mind lead him to do a degree in Zoology at the University of Durham and then a doctorate on the behavioural ecology of the muntjac deer at Oxford University.


Philip Franses, Senior Lecturer – Holistic Science

In September 2009 Philip joined the MSc in Holistic Science Faculty as teacher of complexity. Born in 1958 in England, Philip studied mathematics at New College Oxford from 1976 to 1980. Academia’s dull explanation of the world inspired Philip on a counter-journey into the depths of experience, travelling and a re-sensitisation to quality. In 2005, after a fifteen-year career designing intelligent software, culminating in a programme now used in The Netherlands by all Dutch courts, Philip had a chance encounter with Satish Kumar and was moved to come to Schumacher as an MSc student. Philip began and edits the Holistic Science Journal He is also the convener of a successful inquiry forum called Process and Pilgrimage.

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