Professional Doctorate in MSc - Ethnobiology

    About This Professional Doctorate

    Course Description

    Ethnobotany is quintessentially interdisciplinary, involving knowledge and use of plants and their ecology in the context of their cultural, social and economic significance.

    Ethnobotany is the study of the interrelationship between people and plants, historically and cross-culturally, particularly the role of plants in human culture and practices, how humans have used and modified plants, and how they represent them in their systems of knowledge.

    This programme combines anthropological studies of human-environment interaction and sociocultural knowledge of plants in different parts of the world with ecology, conservation science, biodiversity management and climate change science. It also covers medicinal plant use and ethnopharmacology, plant conservation and sustainable management practices, taxonomy, and economic botany. Students will receive practical training in mixed methods and learn to conduct interdisciplinary research in Ethnobotany, in preparation for doctoral research or a career in related fields.

    The programme is partnered with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Botanical Gardens Conservation International, The Eden Project and The UCL School of Pharmacy.

    Why study with us?

    • One-year Master's programme - excellent preparation for doctoral research and careers in a variety of botanical and environmental fields.
    • First programme of its kind in the world and only graduate course in UK and Europe.
    • Study with the largest research group for Ethnobotany in Europe.
    • More than 25% of our graduates complete PhD programmes, with significant career prospects (read more about our alumni).
    • Integrates field methods with theoretical perspectives; our students are conducting research in almost 40 countries.
    • Partnered with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UCL's School of Pharmacy, and The Eden Project.
    • Field trips to the ancient woodlands of Blean, The National Fruit Collection, Bedgebury Pinetum, Canterbury Catherdral Archives, The Millennium Seed-bank and the Eden Project.

    Applicants might also be interested in reading more about the Annual Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture and our Ethnobotanical Garden.

    This programme draws on the combined strengths of three academic centres. At the University of Kent, the Centre for Biocultural Diversity has pioneered research and teaching in ethnobotany and human ecology; it has been rated excellent for teaching, and its work in anthropological approaches to the environment flagged for excellence in the most recent HEFCE Research Assessment Exercise.

    About the School of Anthropology and Conservation

    The School of Anthropology and Conservation has a large and diverse staff, with particular expertise in ethnobiological classification, historical ecology, gender, computing applications, indigenous knowledge, ethnographic (including quantitative) research methods, the human ecology of tropical subsistence systems, wildlife conservation, biodiversity management, agricultural change, sustainable development, and economic botany and plant taxonomy. Regionally, we have relevant research experience in Europe, the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Himalayas, tropical South America, Mesoamerica and sub-Saharan Africa.

    The programme is based at the University of Kent, while students benefit from the wealth of collections, particularly the economic botany collections and specialist expertise on plants, their uses and importance available at Kew. The School is housed in a refurbished spacious building with dedicated DNA, small organism, ethnobiology and biological anthropology laboratories.

    The Templeman Library has strong holdings in anthropology, area studies and ethnobotany; and good and expanding core holdings in plant science.

    Course structure

    Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time

    The MSc is an intensive 12-month programme. You take eight coursework modules over the first six months and then undertake a project and write a dissertation in the second six months.

    Additionally, it is also possible to take modules from the list available for our MA programmes in Anthropology and from our MSc in Conservation Biology as un-assessed options. The modules available may include foundations of natural science for conservation, social science perspectives on conservation, population and evolutionary biology, nature tourism, principles and practice of ecotourism, integrated species conservation and management, trade, economics, regulation and the environment, conservation and community development, and managing protected areas.

    The course will be supplemented with practical work, field visits to local sites of ethnobotanical interest (Blean woodland, national fruit collection at Brogdale, Canterbury Cathedral Library, phytomedical suppliers and practitioners), and through guest speakers involved in research in various parts of the world.

    Dissertation and fieldwork

    Students undertake intensive coursework between September and the end of March each academic year. Towards the end of this period, they develop a concept for a project and write a proposal, as part of their assessed work. The second six months of the programme consists entirely of project and dissertation work under the direction of an appropriate supervisor. The supervisor can be from either Kent or Kew and you are encouraged to work on subjects where staff have particular expertise, while pursuing a research theme in a geographical area in which you have a particular interest. 

    Students may select projects that are library, museum or lab-based, but many wish to undertake fieldwork (usually of six weeks duration) and we try to facilitate this. Some students come to the programme with developed ideas about their projects, others may chose topics that relate to current work at Kew or Kent. For example, in recent years we have been able to provide modest financial support for projects related to our Leverhulme-funded British Homegardens Project, a linguistic diversity erosion project in Cameroon and through the Global Diversity Foundation. Examples of MSc Dissertation titles.

    Kew are central partners to this programme. Find out full details of Kew's involvement and the plant resources module they teach on this programme.


    Please note that modules are subject to change. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.

    Compulsory modules currently include

    •  SE885 - Anthropological Research Methods I (15 credits)

    Optional modules may include

    •  DI871 - International Wildlife Trade - Achieving Sustainability (15 credits)
    •  DI880 - Conservation and Community Development (15 credits)
    •  SE811 - Practical Methods in Conservation Social Science (15 credits)
    •  SE880 - Holism, Health and Healing (15 credits)
    •  SE883 - Anthropology for a World in Crisis (15 credits)
    •  SE884 - Botanical Foundations of Ethnobotany (15 credits)
    •  SE896 - Environmental Anthropology (15 credits)
    •  SE897 - Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems (15 credits)
    •  SE898 - Plant Resources and their Conservation (15 credits)

    Visit the MSc - Ethnobiology page on the University of Kent website for more details!

    Related Student ProfilesStudent Profiles

    Santander Scholarships - CLOSED - No. of awards TBC

    Santander is offering scholarships of £5,000 each to support students from Iberian and Latin American countries studying for a full-time taught or research Master’s degree at the University of Kent. The Scholarships:
    •are for the forthcoming academic year only (2014-15), the start date cannot be deferred;
    •are for one year only (12 months full-time);
    •may be used at any of the University of Kent’s locations – Canterbury, Medway, Brussels, Paris, or Athens.CriteriaThe awards are not available to students that already have, or are already studying for, a Master’s degree. Candidates must:
    • be a national of one of the 11 countries of the Iberian and Latin American Santander Universities network: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Portugal, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela;
    • have graduated or be studying at one of partner universities within the Santander Universities network: Argentina, Brazil , Chile, Columbia, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, Spain, USA, United Kingdom, Uruguay;
    • be resident in one of the countries within the Santander Scheme.
    • have been offered a place to study a full-time Master’s degree at Kent;
    • have achieved a First or a 2:1 or equivalent at undergraduate level.
    • In addition to excellent academic achievement, demonstrate excellence in an area of their life; this may include: ◦extra-curricular activities, such as sports, music, managing events or societies;
    ◦significant achievement gained either in their working life or through volunteering and service to others.

    Value of Scholarship(s)



    See scheme details for eligibility critera.

    Application Procedure

    For application details please visit the website

    Further Information

    Entry Requirements

    A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology, botany, biology, environmental studies, environmental science, geography or similar.

    All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications.

    Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

    Please see course website for further details.

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