SETU Organic & Biological Agriculture courses

By Course Leader John Geraghty

A new MSc programme in Organic and Biological Agriculture has been developed by the Department of Land Science in the South East Technological University in Waterford. The MSc is a two-year part-time programme delivered in blended format with remote sessions combined with farm visits and field assessments. This NOTS supported programme aims to facilitate graduates who wish to pursue further education and develop their knowledge and skills in specialised organic and biological production systems. With individual certification of course modules included in the programme, industry professionals can also avail of the opportunity to upskill in specific areas relevant to their current roles in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

From September 2022, two Level 9 modules will run each semester (12-week academic periods every autumn and spring). Each module is worth ECTS 10 credits and these can be undertaken individually based on a candidate’s topic of interest or the six modules can be accumulated over time to gain the required 60 credits for a Postgraduate Diploma or, when combined with a research dissertation, the 90 credits for a full MSc award.

Course code Programme title ECTS Starting
WD613 MSc in Organic and Biological Agriculture 90 Autumn 2022
WD614 PG Dip. in Organic and Biological Agriculture 60 Autumn 2022
WD615 Soil Health and Water Management 10 Autumn 2022
WD616 Crop Management in Organic and Biological Agriculture 10 Autumn 2022
WD617 Livestock Management in Organic and Biological Agriculture 10 Spring 2023
WD618 Food, Health and Nutrition 10 Spring 2023
WD619 Agro-forestry and Landscape Biodiversity 10 Autumn 2023
WD620 Project Planning and Marketing 10 Autumn 2023
WD621 Research Methods in Biological Agriculture 30 Spring 2024
WD622 Certificate in Organic and Biological Agriculture 30 Autumn 2022

Full details of the programme and individual modules are available here.

While specific horticulture modules are not included in the programme just yet, content is based around scientific principles that are applicable in all production systems. It is anticipated, based on demand, that more focused horticultural modules will be developed in coming years. In the interim, it is advised that potential candidates coming from a horticultural background consider undertaking the general applicable module disciplines – e.g. Soil Health & Water Management (starting September 2022), Food, Health and Nutrition (starting January 2023); Project Planning & Marketing and Agroforestry & Landscape biodiversity (both September 2024) – with a view to building credits and the more specific horticultural modules may be available within a two year timeframe.

Study requirements

There are time and organisational demands associated with undertaking any third level course but particularly so for part-time postgraduate programmes. The individual modules in the programme are delivered in blended format, which includes remote delivery in addition to 2-3 days per module during each semester for farm visits, field assessments and visits to agri-food producers and processors. Much of this takes place on week evenings and weekends or mid-term breaks. Two modules in the programmes (WD615 & WD617) were delivered during spring this year and participants found that significant personal effort and time was spent doing background reading and research in each of the modules. That said participants also found that the courses were most enjoyable and very interesting with practical learnings highly relevant to their own farm holdings and sectoral work.

Entry requirements

Applicants for entry to these programmes should hold a Level 8 degree in agriculture, land science, related sciences or an equivalent qualification. A minimum of two years relevant experience in agriculture, agri-food, horticulture and/or forestry is also required.

Applicants who do not immediately meet these academic requirements may wish to consider applying for a PG Diploma in Organic and Biological Agriculture using SETU-Waterford’s recognition for prior learning (RPL) policy. Here candidates with relevant experience in organic and biological agriculture will be accommodated and can qualify, subject to interview, for participation in any of these Level 9 programmes.

Awards and Qualifications

Graduates, upon successful completion of the two-year programme, will be conferred with the MSc or PG Diploma in Organic and Biological Agriculture. Should a participant complete the six core modules(60 credits) without submitting a dissertation they will receive a Postgraduate Diploma in Organic and Biological Agriculture. The submission of a research dissertation is required to be conferred with the MSc award.

Additionally, for professionals working in industry, provision has been made to facilitate separate participation in different component modules of the programme. This would be suitable for those who wish to upskill in specific modular areas and they would receive a Level 9 Certificate upon successful completion of the relevant module.

Further information on programme and course options is available from John Geraghty in the South East Technological University at