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Holistic Science Programme Structure

MSc Holistic Science - programme structure

Programme Structure

MSc full and part-time

The MSc may also be taken on a part-time basis over two years, using the following Programme Pathways:

Programme Type
and Length


Full Time

180 credits and 
80 credit dissertation

Part Time: Over 2 years

Year 1: 60 taught credits
Year 2: 40 taught optional credits and dissertation

PG Certificate: Full Time 60 taught credits


PG Certificate

Students studying this PG Certificate programme will take the three core modules, each worth 20 Masters Credits. Students enrolled on to the PG Certificate will study exactly the same material as the Masters students  during the first term, from September to December. Masters and PG Certificate students will live and study together, so there is no separation between the programmes.

There is no part-time option for the PG Certificate.

Core Modules

Course Module One: 20 credits

Science with Qualities: New Scientific Methodologies.

This module explores the philosophy and methodologies of an expanded science that values qualities as much as quantities. This new approach cultivates intuition, sensory experience and ethics as well as rational thought as a way of understanding and interacting with the natural world.

In this module, students explore basic philosophical questions central to science such as: ‘How do we acquire reliable knowledge?’ and ‘How do we investigate natural processes?’ Principles and concepts from phenomenology, cognitive science and the history of ideas are applied to the understanding of relationships between parts, wholes and emergent phenomena. Students will review the fundamental principles of Western science and explore both the usefulness and drawbacks of the reductionist approach using examples from the history of science and biology. Alternative methodologies will be offered, including Goethe’s scientific approach to the study of colour, morphology and landscape. The use of Free Choice Profiling which involves the qualitative evaluation of phenomena in various domains will also be explored.

Assessment: Students are required to produce an essay of 3,000 – 3,500 words, or a creative project of equivalent standing.

Course Module Two: 20 credits

Chaos and Complexity

In this module, using a combination of rational analysis, computer modelling and careful observation of nature, students work with concepts of wholeness and self-organisation to develop an understanding of emergence within the physical world, within individual organisms and within human organisations. Chaos and complexity theories are used to explore how complex order emerges within a wide range of phenomena, including the chaotic pendulum, the development of form in plants and animals and the pulsing of the human heart. Through these investigations, students will see how complex systems tune themselves towards the ‘edge of chaos’, a domain of rich possibilities for creativity and meaningful expression of innate wholeness.

Assessment: Students are required to produce an essay of 3,000 – 3,500 words, or a creative project of equivalent standing.

Course Module Three: 20 credits

The Living Earth

In this module students develop a deeply participatory understanding of the living dynamics of the Earth by combining rigorous scientific analysis with intuitive experiential work outdoors on Dartmoor, on the Dartington estate and on the South Devon coast. Students engage in a detailed exploration of James Lovelock’s Gaia theory, which suggests that tightly coupled feedbacks between living beings and their nonliving environment give rise to emergent self-regulation at the level of the Earth. We use Gaia theory to understand climate change and the connections between healthy ecosystems and a healthy planet. Throughout the module, we explore the ethical implications of the theory through the lens of the deep ecology approach.

Assessment: Students are required to produce an essay of 3,000 – 3,500 words, or a creative project of equivalent standing.


MSc students take electives from the Schumacher College short course programme - the choice of which will change every year. As these courses are available to professionals and interested and active individuals, this is an excellent opportunity for students to engage with these specialist areas in a holistic way.

Research and dissertation

80 credits

In the dissertation module, students have the chance to apply their knowledge of holistic science and its methodologies to a real research problem. In the past, students have chosen to explore the applications of holistic science to a wide range of disciplines including education, agriculture, economics, design, biology, medicine, and landscape assessment.

As a new type of postgraduate degree which encourages novel approaches to scientific investigation, students’ holistic investigations for the dissertation often result in different outcomes to traditional styles of research and reporting. The dissertation can involve the use of alternative creative formats such as personal narrative, artwork and experiential material alongside those normally used in scientific writing in order to integrate intuitive insights and feelings that arise during the course of the work. Students are encouraged to blend the analytic-synthetic and the narrative-experiential as extensions and complements of each other in a coherent, holistic manner.