Holistic Science

MSc, PG Cert

Western science is dominated by ‘reductionism’ – the idea that natural phenomena can be explained in terms of their component parts. Reductionism is incomplete, and can be counter-productive since it suggests that by analysing the ‘mechanical’ workings of nature we can fully predict and manipulate it. Holistic science recognises the limitations of this methodology, focusing instead on nature’s qualities, complexity and intrinsic value, giving a science fit to solve global challenges.

Schumacher College in partnership with Plymouth University is the first in the world to offer a postgraduate programme in Holistic Science.

student on a holistic science courses

What is Holistic Science?

The programme explores new methodologies that are gaining success in exploring natural systems. These recognise that complex systems are dynamic processes realising their emergent properties as wholes – and that these properties are conditioned, but not determined, by the system’s constituent parts.

The course provides methodologies that go beyond reductionism in understanding dynamic interactive systems, whether these are ecosystems, the weather, organisations, a plant or a developing human embryo. Students develop a holistic understanding of these systems and along the way learn to apply techniques such as computer modelling, intuitive perception and phenomenology.   Of particular importance here is Goethe’s methodology as a way of meeting the whole through the parts.

The programme advocates a participatory science of interactions, qualities, values and intuition, a science that is more capable of informing some of the key movements today, including environmental restoration, spiritual renewal and community regeneration.

Holistic thinking is already revolutionising physics, earth system science, ecology, evolutionary biology, organisational development and health studies. It is generating increasing interest from scientists in many fields – especially those concerned with issue relating to sustainability. Since1998, when it first began, this Masters programme has developed a coherent methodology of holistic enquiry, proving a rigorous and ethical framework for a mature science.

Join our learning community for this pioneering programme in Holistic Science which completely re-evaluates our scientific understanding of nature, the ecological crisis we face and our role in widespread ecological, economic and social change.

This is not just an intellectual enquiry. It’s a really embodied, participatory approach to nature which can help to foster a deep sense of belonging". Stephan Harding, Resident Ecologist and Head of Holistic Science, Schumacher College.

The MSc in Holistic Science has helped me view the global economy (embedded as it is in our finite earth ecology) as a complex adaptive system. In particular, as I seek to accelerate the rate of innovation and the scale of impact of our work, I am much more relaxed about throwing out new ideas and only pursuing those that seem to attract the energy of colleagues and partners. Nigel Topping, Chief Innovation Officer, Carbon Disclosure Project

It is pretty difficult to sum up what I learned in the MSc in a few sentences. The very short answer is that I better learned how the world works. How the dynamics of life in our three-dimensional reality work. I learned to see myself as embedded in a web of life that is always placed-based. I shifted my focus from things to relationships. And I will for the rest of my life be a student of these dynamics in order to live and design in harmony with them instead of opposition. Terry Irwin, Head of School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University

For me doing the MSc was definitely one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life. Now that I am teaching at business schools, I can really now understand the benefits of having had the immersive experience that Schumacher brings. I can see how there is a huge difference between people who understand concepts such as complexity just in terms of thinking, or in their heads, and from students who are able to know the world from a much more profound and deeper perspective. This can only really be acquired from the way in which these subjects are not just taught, but lived and experienced at Schumacher College. Simon Robinson, business educator and consultant

Our teachers include:

Who is this course for?

Are you deeply concerned about the state of the natural world?

Are you hoping to make a difference with your life and work?

Are you willing to experiment in a group learning process that makes you part of something bigger than yourself as an individual?

The primary qualification we are looking for in our students is a strong interest in nature, how it evolves and self-organises and what we as individuals, organisations and cultures can learn from it in our quest for a sustainable future.

We welcome people from all backgrounds, cultures and of any age – whether you are currently employed, unemployed, a student or retired. The diversity of our student group is a rich part of how we learn and is a reflection of the diversity of nature itself.

What will you learn?

  • A thorough understanding of the implications and consequences of using western science as a tool for gaining reliable information about the world.
  • Insights about how contemporary sustainability issues have come about and the various routes we could take in addressing them.
  • Theoretical and experiential understandings of an ecological world view for transforming your understanding of your place in the world and how to act within it.
  • An understanding of the importance of sensing, feeling and intuition for an expanded science.
  • Knowledge of a range of alternative scientific methodologies which integrate qualitative experience and quantitative measurement.
  • An understanding of the emergent properties of whole systems through the lenses of chaos, complexity and Gaia theories, and how these relate to ecological, social and economic problems.
  • An understanding of how Holistic Science is being applied in the creation of a more sustainable world.
  • A clearer understanding of your own rational and emotional states and processes through experiential and reflective group enquiry.

As part of this programme you will also carry out an independent research project in which you can apply holistic science to your own area of interest.

This is an unparalleled opportunity to undertake high level research outside the usual constraints of academic norms. Projects can be presented as personal narrative, film, artwork, poetry or any other creative endeavor, alongside more conventional modes of delivery.

Where you will go?

Graduates of the programme have taken a broad integrated systemic approach in areas such as environmental management, education for sustainability, design, biological research, ecological business consulting, academia, healthcare, agriculture, media and film-making, NGOs and working with indigenous people.

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

I learnt how to appreciate the wholeness of nature and life. I learnt how to connect with that wholeness and access knowledge through all my senses (my mind, my intuition, my feelings) to make decisions (personal and professional) that are in harmony with this unity. All of this has helped me be more effective at work and apply an integral approach to everything I do. It profoundly changed me and the way I live life and share it with others. Luzette Jaimes, Operations Manager for Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in the Arab World


Chevening Scholarships Awards

International Students applying to us for  Holistic Science and Economics for Transition postgraduate programmes starting in September 2016 may be eligible to apply for a Chevening Scholarship. To find out more and see if your country is listed please see: http://www.chevening.org/welcome-to-chevening.   When searching for the MSc Holistic Science programme on the Chevening site please look under 'Science' as the subject area.     Please note:  The deadline for applying to Chevening for a 2016 award is 3 November 2015; whilst applications to Schumacher College remain open until May 1st 2016; students applying to Schumacher College after this deadline should e-mail postgradadmin@schumachercollege.org.uk to discuss places available.