MSc Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement


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This MSc takes advantage of our unique expertise in Plant Genetics to provide expert, cutting-edge training in a highly prized discipline. The degree provides an ideal grounding for PhD research or a career in plant breeding and crop improvement with modules including Genetics, Plant Genomics, Plant Molecular Genetics and Statistics for Plant Science.

Your taught modules will be complemented by a six-month laboratory-based research project, giving you the opportunity to work closely with world-leading scientists from the John Innes Centre and our School of Biological Sciences.

The John Innes Centre – based on Norwich Research Park alongside UEA – is one of the world’s leading research institutes in plant genetics and crop improvement, so there are few places in the world where you’ll find a better opportunity to work with such leading authorities and world-class facilities.


The one-year MSc course in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement provides training for students wishing to undertake a further degree in plant molecular genetics, or alternatively, a career in plant breeding and crop improvement. The course focuses on plant molecular genetics and its potential applications to crop improvement in the 21st century.

The course is run jointly by the School of Biological Sciences (BIO) at UEA and the John Innes Centre (JIC), which also includes The Sainsbury Laboratory. The John Innes Centre is one of the world’s leading research institutes in plant genetics and crop improvement. The teaching staff includes members of the School of Biological Sciences together with scientists from the John Innes Centre and a number of leading plant breeding and plant biotechnology companies within the UK.

In recent years the career prospects for students with a postgraduate degree in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement have been very good, often leading to a PhD or employment in the plant breeding industry. The course will provide you with a unique opportunity to study plant genetics and crop improvement in an environment of academic and research excellence.

The taught modules cover subjects including plant molecular genetics and biotechnology, target traits for crop improvement, and plant breeding. Training in a number of key transferable skills is also included. You will also undertake a six-month laboratory-based research project under the supervision of a member of BIO faculty or a senior scientist at the John Innes Centre. You will be required to submit a dissertation and present a seminar on your research project.

Research projects are offered in the following areas:

  • Plant genetics
  • Plant biotechnology and crop improvement
  • Plant genome organisation
  • Plant-microbe interactions
  • Cell and developmental biology
  • Plant gene function

"I found this course very beneficial but it was also tough for me as I did not have a molecular biology background in my first degree. However, there was always support from the lecturers, supervisors and staff of the course who are sympathetic to students and encouraging. The number of students is kept small, so the atmosphere of the class is friendlier than the other large courses. We are also privileged to have so much exposure to the latest Plant Science at John Innes Centre where renowned researchers gather from all over the world. Thanks to this course, I was offered the PhD studentship to research Crop Genetics at JIC and enjoy a life as a scientist there!"

Course Modules 2018/9

Students must study the following modules for 180 credits:

Name Code Credits


This module provides a Master's level introduction to the structure and function of DNA. You will cover the mechanisms of inheritance in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and receive an introduction to the study of model organisms and their genomes. This will be followed by lectures that cover the contemporary 'omics' technologies used for the analysis of whole genomes, gene function and expression. Lectures and seminars that introduce the role of bioinformatics in genome biology and evolution will also be included, together with an opportunity to gain practical experience in bioinformatics. These lectures and seminars will provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills for more in-depth coverage of these topics later in the academic year, including your laboratory-based research project.




This is a compulsory and restricted module for MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement. You will undertake a six month laboratory-based research project on some aspect of plant genetics, crop improvement, plant-microbe interactions or plant biology. You will be supervised by a member of scientific staff at the John Innes Centre or The Sainsbury Laboratory. This module provides a thorough training in experimentation, data collection, critical analysis, and presentation.




The aim of this module is to provide you with an understanding of the basic principles of plant breeding and genetics and to explore the principles and applications of the newer technologies in the manipulation of traits in crop improvement. You will gain an understanding of: -the principles, analysis and application of Mendelian, population and quantitative genetics in plant breeding; -the principles and application of molecular techniques such as marker assisted breeding and selection; -the breeding strategies and selection procedures, including the use of doubled haploids; -the principles and application of heterosis and hybrid breeding. You will be expected to be familiar with the basic principles of plant genetics, and a basic knowledge of plant molecular biology would also be an advantage.




Plant genetics and biotechnology have played a significant role in understanding fundamental aspects of plant biology and they also have tremendous potential for crop plant improvement in the future. This module will provide you with an overview of the theory and practical applications of plant molecular genetics, genomics and transformation technologies in both model and crop plants. This is a compulsory Module for MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement.




The aim of this laboratory-based module is to provide you with a link between the theory of bioinformatics, plant molecular genetics and marker-assisted selection, (which is covered in other modules), together with their practical basis. Using bioinformatics, you will design molecular markers to determine the genotypes of F2 plants segregating for distinct morphological characters. Genotyping of the F2 seedlings will be used to predict the phenotypic characters exhibited by mature plants. The module will demonstrate how molecular genetics can be used to select plants with specific combinations of traits - which is a key feature of contemporary breeding programmes. The module will also provide you with key practical skills in bioinformatics, molecular genetics and scientific writing skills.




This module involves an extensive survey of current literature related to the research project module, the formulation of hypotheses, and the design of experiments to test them. In the research project, you will conduct these experiments, analyse their research project data, and critically assess their hypotheses. You will carry out individual work under the supervision of the research project supervisor. This is a restricted and compulsory module for MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement.




This module will provide you with training in statistical methods appropriate for analysing data from many experiments in plant science and crop plant improvement. No prior knowledge of statistics will be assumed. The preliminary lectures and practicals will cover basic statistics and design principles, the estimation of important parameters, confidence intervals and significance tests. You will also be introduced to linear models and concepts of experimental design. The later lectures will cover experimental design and analysis and you will learn how to use general linear modelling as a widely-applicable method of analyzing data from most experiments. Further lectures will develop specific topics relevant to plant genetics. This module will provide you with the essential skills required for analysis of experimental data from their own laboratory-based research projects and for a wide range of research in the future. This is a restricted module for MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement.




Future crop plant improvement will depend upon new varieties expressing a number of key traits, either by conventional plant breeding, or by genetic modification. These traits include durable resistance to pathogenic microorganisms, and promoting interactions with other microorganisms that will result in mutually beneficial symbioses that could reduce inputs of nitrogen and phosphorous in agriculture. Other desirable traits include tolerance to abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity, and extremes of temperature, as well as crops with enhanced nutritional quality. This module will investigate the genetic basis underlying these important traits in both model and crop plants, and the strategies for introducing these traits into specific crops. This is a compulsory module for MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement.




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject Biological Sciences or Plant Biology
  • Degree Classification Good first degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent)
  • Alternative Qualifications Candidates with other experience, such as employment within a plant breeding company or relevant research experience, will also be considered.

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all components)
  • PTE (Pearson): 62 (minimum 55 in all components)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact

Special Entry Requirements

Applicants are required to submit two references with their application - at least one of these must be related to their most recent Academic study.

A full, detailed CV should also be included with the application. 

Fees and Funding

Tuition Fees for 2018/19:

Tuition fees for the academic year 2018/19 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £8,550
  • International Students: £19,000

If you choose to study part-time, the fee per annum will be half the annual fee for that year, or a pro-rata fee for the module credit you are taking (only available for UK/EU students).

International applicants from outside the EU may need to pay a deposit.

We estimate living expenses at £1,015 per month.



50% Final Year Undergraduate Continuation Scholarship

Current final year UEA undergraduate students who gain a First class degree and progress onto a postgraduate course in September 2017 will receive a 50% fee reduction scholarship. Who do not gain a First class degree will be eligible for the 10% UEA Alumni Scholarship outlined below. Terms and conditions apply.


UEA Alumni 10% Scholarship

A scholarship of 10% fee reduction is available to UEA Alumni looking to return for postgraduate study at UEA in September 2017. Terms and conditions apply.


Ranworth Trust Scholarship 

This scholarship of £4,500 is available to one student annually who has applied and been accepted to study on the MSc Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement.  Students studying this course full-time and part-time can be considered. Please see the Ranworth Trust Scholarship for further details. 


Eligibility: Available to students ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom who are eligible to pay fees at the Home/EU rate. 

Closing date: 15th May 2017.  Applicants wishing to be considered, must have submitted a complete application by this date.   


NFU Mutual Charitable Trust Centenary Award

In 2017 The NFU Mutual Charitable Trust is once again offering its Centenary Award, providing bursaries for postgraduate students in agriculture.

The award gives annual bursaries to pay up to 75% of course fees for selected postgraduate students in agriculture (Masters or PhD). 

The Centenary Award is a long-term scheme, run by the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, and was launched in 2010 to celebrate the 100th birthday of NFU Mutual.  It is designed to help to create a long-standing legacy for the future, and highlight the commitment NFU Mutual has to young people and the countryside.  

Eligibility: Home, EU and Overseas applicants who have gained, or are expected to gain, a 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in agriculture or a closely related degree, and have been offered a place on a Masters or PhD course in agriculture in the UK starting in September 2017. 

Application deadline: 30th April 2017

How to apply: Prospective postgraduate students who think they may be eligible to apply for the award in 2017 should contact to request further details and an application form. 

Further information, including selection criteria for applicants as well as Terms and Conditions, can be found on the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust Website


The Morley Agricultural Foundation Bursaries

The Morley Agricultural Foundation will be providing a bursary of £10,000 per annum which will be used to assist students to finance their studies in agricultural related topics. The Foundation will make up to 5 awards each year, up to a maximum of £2,000 per student.


Successful applicants will:

1) Live or study in East Anglia
2) Be involved in research which will assist East Anglian agriculture
3) Be able to demonstrate a need for, and a determination to raise, funds for their studies

All applicants will be interviewed and asked to provide the Foundation with a report of their studies at their conclusion.

Application deadline: 10th April 2017. It is anticipated that successful candidates will be notified by the end of July 2017.

Further information about this award can be found on the Foundation’s website.

Colin Law Prize

Every year the John Innes Centre award the Colin Law Prize of £250 to the student who has made the most outstanding contribution to the course of the academic year. 


How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online, or by downloading the application form.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515