New MSc: Sustainable Food Systems

Outdoor food market in Hong Kong

Start date: September 2020
Duration: 12 months full time
Applications open 3 September 2019

Providing nutritious, safe and affordable food for all in a sustainable manner is one of the greatest challenges of our times. Food practitioners need to able to respond to food safety and security concerns, shifting attitudes towards food and farming, changing diets and demographics, as well as balance global economic and environmental pressures.

This course comes at a time when food and its implications on our health and planet is making headlines. Current challenges include malnutrition and obesity, the food waste-hunger paradox, and food’s devastating environmental impact. Global food consumption and production accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, making our food choice the most effective way to address climate change.

Food is the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability; however, transforming our food system is not an easy task. Our food system is highly complex; it works across different scales, from the local to the global, it involves a wide range of interconnected actors, it has environmental, social, economic and political drivers and implications.

Our MSc in Sustainable Food Systems, therefore, uses a holistic systems thinking approach to understand, evaluate, and deconstruct the complexity of the food system, in order to formulate sustainable solutions addressing the grand challenges we are facing, such as food security and global environmental change.

You’ll be exposed to the latest thinking and research in a wide range of disciplines underpinning food sustainability in order to successfully apply your knowledge and skills to real-world challenges. This course is innovative and interdisciplinary, bringing together expertise from across the University including the schools of  Earth and Environment, Food Science and Nutrition, Psychology, Geography, Biology, the Institute for Transport Studies and Leeds University Business School.

The programme’s strength lies in its interdisciplinary nature and the integration of concepts, approaches, and perspectives from different disciplines in each module, offering a seamless narrative throughout the course.

Active research environment

This Masters degree builds on the success of the University’s interdisciplinary research on the theme of Food. Through strong collaborations with University of Leeds Food Theme and the Global Food and Environment Institute you will not only be exposed to cutting edge research but also given the opportunity to collaborate with industry, policymakers, non-governmental organisations, and the third sector.

Career opportunities

This course will equip you with both the necessary knowledge and skills (such as systems thinking, problem solving, strategy and policy making) to become an effective change agent that will lead the transition to more sustainable food systems. Through its interdisciplinary nature, it offers a holistic or systems-based perspective of the food system and balances critical thinking with practical solutions which is key to enhancing employability prospects.

This programme is ideal for those intending to pursue a range of future employment roles in management and decision making positions, in a wide range of organisations such as but not limited to agribusiness, food processing, retail, non-governmental organisations, charities, social enterprises, governmental organisations and policy making bodies e.g. Defra, WRAP, regulatory bodies, food standards organisations, consultancy, international organisations e.g. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Course content

This programme will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to become an effective leader in the transition to more a sustainable, efficient, healthier, and fairer food system.

The Skills for Researching and Transforming Food Systems module aims to equip you with the research methods and analytical techniques used in sustainability research, the capabilities individuals require to lead change in the food system, and tools and skills required in the food industry.

The Food Systems Fieldtrip module will expose you to the realities of food production in a developing country context. You’ll gain first-hand experience of the challenges in balancing the three domains of sustainability (environment, people, and economy) and the implications of a globalised food system.

On completion of this course, you’ll be able to:

  • demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of concepts, information and techniques at the forefront of one (or several related) disciplines investigating food systems sustainability;

  • apply systems thinking approaches to critically and creatively evaluate the complexity, current and future challenges, research and advanced scholarship in food systems;

  • diagnose and solve the real-world challenges that food sustainability presents.


The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.

Modules Credits
Introduction to Sustainable Food Systems 30 credits
Skills for Researching and Transforming Food Systems 30 credits
Sustainable Food Production 15 credits
Sustainable Food Consumption 15 credits
Sustainable Food Supply Chains and Trade 15 credits
Food Systems Fieldtrip 15 credits
Food Systems Research Project 60 credits


Learning and teaching

Our groundbreaking research feeds directly into teaching, and you’ll have regular contact with staff who are at the forefront of their disciplines. You’ll have regular contact with them through lectures, seminars, tutorials and small group work.

Problem based learning is at the heart of this programme. All key disciplinary or theoretical perspectives are embedded in each module to encourage innovation and interdisciplinarity. For example, you’ll work in teams to tackle complex sustainability challenges that require you to incorporate diverse resources such as existing knowledge, data collection, interpersonal skills, reflections and reasoning ability in order to meet these challenges.

Independent study is also important to this course, as you develop your problem-solving and research skills through the extended research project which culminates the programme. You’ll produce an original piece of research investigating a real-world challenge that food sustainability presents.


On this course, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in a number of fieldtrips to food production and consumption sites, including a week long fieldtrip to a food producing region outside the UK. Through these fieldtrips you’ll be exposed to the global nature of our food system, and the challenge of reconciling competing local and global, environmental, economic and social priorities.

Other off-campus learning opportunities are offered through collaboration with commercial partners such as the University of Leeds Farm. The University of Leeds Farm is operated as a commercial business, which also hosts research and innovation projects and can provide a platform for collaborative research and innovation with industry, government and public research organisations.


You will be assessed using a range of techniques including exams, presentations and report writing. Assessment of the problem-based, experiential and blended learning elements of the programme includes group work, case studies, reflective reports and e-portfolios.

Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) or above, or equivalent, in a relevant subject such as earth and environment, sustainability, geography, agriculture, biology, food science, nutrition, business and management, sociology, politics or public administration. Applicants with a 2.2 will be considered on a case by case basis where applicants can demonstrate relevant work experience or aptitude in a relevant specialist field. Graduates from other disciplines and those with professional experience in the sector will also be considered.

International qualifications

We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For information please contact the School of Earth and Environment admissions team.

English Language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component.

How to apply

Apply online. Applications open 3 September 2019.

If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.


UK/EU: to be confirmed.
International: to be confirmed.

Scholarships and financial support

Scholarships are to be confirmed. Find out more about Masters funding and financial support.

Contact us

The Programme Manager for this course is Dr Effie Papargyropoulou

For admissions related enquiries, please contact the School of Earth and Environment Postgraduate Admissions Team: e:, t: +44 (0)113 343 8109