MSc Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement


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Key facts

(2014 Research Excellence Framework)


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You’re ready to specialise in plant genetics and crop improvement at a ground-breaking centre for this highly prized discipline. With this expert, cutting edge training, you’ll have the perfect grounding to move into PhD research or a career in the practical plant breeding.

This MSc enables you to explore genetics, plant genomics, plant molecular genetics and statistics for plant science, in addition to training valuable transferable skills. Alongside your taught modules, you’ll also work on a laboratory-based research project (worth 60 credits), giving you the opportunity to work closely with world-leading scientists at the John Innes Centre or a relevant industry partner. 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.


Our one-year MSc Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement course is perfect training if you plan to take a further degree in plant molecular genetics, or alternatively, a career in plant breeding and crop improvement. It’s a unique opportunity to study plant molecular genetics and its potential applications in the 21st century in an environment of academic and research excellence.

The School of Biological Sciences (BIO) at UEA runs this course jointly with theJohn Innes Centre(JIC), which also includesThe Sainsbury Laboratory. The John Innes Centre is one of the world’s leading research institutes in plant genetics and crop improvement. This means you’ll benefit from a team of teaching staff that 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 your taught modules you’ll cover subjects including plant molecular genetics and biotechnology, target traits for crop improvement, and plant breeding – as well as learning key transferable skills such as research skills and communication. An important element of the course is the substantial six-month laboratory-based research project that you’ll conduct under the supervision of a member of BIO faculty or a senior scientist at the John Innes Centre. As part of this you’ll submit a dissertation and present a seminar on your research project. We offer research projects in the following areas:

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

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.

Course Structure

On this one-year course you’ll take a number of taught modules alongside completing your research project plan and six-month long laboratory research project.

Your modules include Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics, which gives you a Master’s level introduction to the structure and function of DNA. You’ll cover the mechanisms ofinheritance in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and study model organisms and their genomes. And you’ll explore the contemporary 'omics' technologies used for the analysis of whole genomes, gene function and expression. In further lectures and seminars you’ll explore the role of bioinformatics in genome biology and evolution.

Your Plant Breeding and Statistics module teaches the basic principles of plant breeding and genetics and explores the principles and applications of newer technologies in the manipulation of traits in crop improvement. You will also learn the statistical methods appropriate for analysing data from many experiments in plant science and crop plant improvement.

The module on Plant Genetics and Biotechnology looks at how both have played a significant role in understanding fundamental aspects of plant biology and how they have massive potential for crop plant improvement in the future.

Practical Skills in Plant Molecular Genetics is a laboratory-based module that links the theory of bioinformatics, plant molecular genetics and marker-assisted selection together with their practical basis. Using bioinformatics, you will design molecular markers to determine the genotypes of F2 plants segregating for distinct morphological characters. You’ll then use this to predict the phenotypic characters exhibited by mature plants and select plants with specific combinations of traits – a key feature of contemporary breeding programmes.

The module on Target Traits and Crop Improvement will explore how future crop plant improvement will depend upon new varieties expressing a number of key traits, either by conventional plant breeding, or by genetic modification.

Your Research Project Plan module gives you the chance to conduct an extensive survey of current literature for your research project, as well as formulating hypotheses, and designing experiments to test them. In the research project, you will conduct these experiments, analyse their research project data, and critically assess their hypotheses. Your research project will be a six-month laboratory-based project on some aspect of plant genetics, crop improvement, plant-microbe interactions or plant biology.

Teaching and Learning


Our teaching team is made up of staff from the School of Biological Sciences together with scientists from the John Innes Centre and a number of leading plant breeding companies within the UK.

You’ll be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and laboratory work geared towards helping you understand and apply the concepts and theories covered in your course. 

One recent student said: "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 friendly. 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!"

Independent study

An important element of the course is the substantial six-month laboratory-based research project, which demands a high level of independent study. You will choose a research area that suits your own interests and aspirations and through this you will gain a thorough training in experimentation, data collection, critical analysis and presentation. You will work under the supervision and support of a member of BIO faculty or a senior scientist at the John Innes Centre. As part of this you’ll submit a dissertation and present a seminar on your research project.


We’ll assess your learning in a combination of different ways depending on the module and learning objectives. These include formal exams, laboratory reports, coursework assignments, presentations and problem-based learning sessions. In addition, you’ll complete a six-month laboratory research project, including a dissertation and seminar presentation, which will form a significant part of the course assessment.

After the course

You’ll graduate from this prestigious course well prepared for a career in plant breeding and crop improvement, or further PhD study in this area. Having studied at one of the leading research centres in the field, it’s no wonder that our most recent past graduates have had great success in finding employment or academic research posts.

Career destinations

Examples of careers that you could enter include;

  • PhD research
  • Plant breeding
  • Crop improvement

Course related costs

Please see Additional Course Fees for details of course-related costs.

Course Modules 2020/1


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.

Further Reading

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject Biological Sciences or Plant Biology
  • Degree Classification Bachelors 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 5.5 in all components)
  • PTE (Pearson): 58 (minimum 42 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 the academic year 2020/21 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £8,850 (full time)
  • International Students: £19,800 (full time)

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).


Living Expenses

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



A variety of Scholarships may be offered to UK/EU and International students. Scholarships are normally awarded to students on the basis of academic merit and are usually for the duration of the period of study. Please click here for more detailed information about funding for prospective students.

How to Apply

Please note that this course is no longer accepting applications for September 2020 entry. We are welcoming applications for September 2021 entry. 

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

To apply please use our online application form.

Further Information

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