Agricultural and Food Sciences - Research, MPhil/PhD

  • The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) is a multidisciplinary research and development-focused organisation within the University of Greenwich
  • NRI leads research on food security, environment, agriculture and rural development in lower middle income countries. It also has an expanding portfolio of activities in UK, Europe and other industrialised countries
  • NRI's recent awards include: The Queen's Anniversary Prize 2016 for its food security research on African cassava crops
  • The Guardian University Awards 2015 Research Impact prize
  • Times Higher Education Awards 2014, International Collaboration of the Year prize for its flagship project Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Overview

Overview

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) is a specialised multidisciplinary research organisation within the University of Greenwich. The award-winning institute leads research on food security, environment, agriculture and rural development in developing countries, although it has an expanding portfolio of activities within the UK, Europe and other industrialised countries.

Research Awards:

The NRI's recent awards include:

  • The Queen's Anniversary Prize 2016 for its food security research on African cassava crops
  • The Guardian University Awards 2015 Research Impact prize
  • Times Higher Education Awards 2014 International Collaboration of the Year prize for its flagship project Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

Multidisciplinary research specialisms:

The NRI provides a thriving environment for MPhil and PhD students working in agricultural, health, environmental, social and food sciences. Each of the NRI's departments (details below) has a strong portfolio of research activities and groups, of which students form an integral part. NRI's work provides many opportunities for postgraduates to be involved in multidisciplinary projects.

Agriculture, Health and Environment Department:

The Agriculture Health and Environment department has a specialists in ecology, entomology, molecular biology, plant physiology and environmental science. The major area of expertise is on the biology of pests and diseases of plants, livestock and humans that affect livelihoods in developing countries, specialising in the complex biology of the insect vectors of disease to plants and animals. This includes understanding the molecular biology of disease transmission by vectors to crops, detection of plant viruses, the effects of endosymbionts on insect vectors, the behavioural entomology of mosquito mating and sensory cues for egg-laying and host detection. Other areas of work are around ecosystem services in agriculture such as pollination, ecological engineering, carbon dynamics, climate adaption in crops, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity in agricultural systems.

Research is undertaken in the UK, using the NRI's state-of-the-art laboratories, insectaries and glasshouses, but often with its application in developing countries.

Food & Markets Department:

The Food and Markets Department works on food security and food safety aspects of crops and livestock products. The department works with all aspects of the operations of the food sector and has recently taken over a state of the art research facility (Produce Quality Centre) at East Malling.  The research interests of the department include by way of example:

  • Post-harvest technology, storage and food waste reduction
  • Nutrition and understanding nutrition behaviours
  • Food quality analysis and management
  • Compliance with food standards
  • Food processing and value addition
  • Value chain analysis from economic, social and environmental perspectives
  • Information and communication technologies for agriculture
  • Private and public sector standards
  • Market development and smallholder access to markets
  • Capacity development for agricultural innovation systems
  • Microfinance for the agricultural sector

Livelihoods and Institutes Department:

The Livelihoods and Institutions Department works on several themes related to natural resources, environment and development. Its interests include:

  • Participatory and client-oriented methods of agricultural research and their institutionalisation
  • Agricultural service delivery
  • The governance of rural development
  • Performance and impact assessment methodologies
  • Community-based natural resource management
  • Land tenure and land policy
  • Urban agriculture and rural-urban linkages
  • Pastoralism and dryland development
  • Vulnerability to disasters
  • Climate change
  • Gender and social difference
  • Responsible business

Recent PhD Projects

  • Reasons for multiple loans in microfinance and their effect on the repayment performance
  • Evaluating the impact of climate change on postharvest quality of perishables
  • Dormancy and sprout control in root and tuber crops
  • Chemical signals that affect oviposition behaviour of Aedes aegypti
  • Bat activity in UK Agricultural landscapes
  • Using values to identify drivers of land-use change for REDD
  • Next generation sequencing of yam viruses
  • Role of endosymbionts on biology of Cassava Whitefly
  • Introducing a pro-vitamin A rich staple: analysis of decision making along the orange fleshed sweet potato value chain in Uganda
  • The scope of Learning Alliances as a mechanism for more innovative urban water management.
  • Livelihood impacts of staple crop commercialisation on smallholder farmers
  • Creating capabilities for sustainable smallholder agriculture: a systems perspective on innovation and the adoption of Conservation Agriculture in Kenya and Madagascar
  • Margins in the mountains: poverty dynamics in India's Western and Eastern Ghats
  • Climate change impacts, vulnerability and resilience in a pastoral livelihood system: the case of the Borena pastoral area
  • Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Ghanaian crop farmers in response to climate variability and change

Degree aims

This degree aims to:

  • Provide you with the ability to conceptualise, design and realise a project for the generation of new knowledge, and a deep understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry
  • Allow the creation of new knowledge, through original research and advanced scholarship, to extend the forefront of that disciplinary field or area of practice
  • Provide an environment for innovative, intellectually rigorous and developmentally significant research, primarily related to a topic of relevance to a developing, transition or developed country
  • Strengthen the research capacity of students from a variety of professional backgrounds
  • Strengthen capacity to undertake research and develop your ideas

Our Master of Philosophy (MPhil) with possibility to transfer to our Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) involves the systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge in your chosen academic disciplinary field.

Course structure

You will learn to conceptualise, design and realise a project for the generation of new knowledge. Undertaking a PhD at NRI will give you a deep understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.  

Unlike taught programmes (such as Bachelor's and Master's programmes), this degree enables a more critical, rigorous and self-led exploration of your particular subject area. It places much more emphasis on original research and the contribution to knowledge. 

You will develop advanced research skills including the collection, analysis and presentation of quantitative and qualitative data.

What you'll study

You will learn to conceptualise, design and realise a project for the generation of new knowledge. This degree enables a more critical, rigorous and self-led exploration of your particular subject area

Entry requirements

For registration for MPhil with the possibility of transfer to PhD:

  • A first or upper second-class honours degree or equivalent or a Master's degree (with merit).
  • Students who are registered only for the MPhil may apply for transfer to PhD on submission of a full progress report and pass at a specified point in the programme.
  • Students educated in a language other than English should have an IELTS score of 6.0 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each skill) or equivalent

For MPhil:

  • A first or upper second-class honours degree or equivalent.
  • Each case is considered on its own merits, so these requirements should be used only as a guide.
  • Students educated in a language other than English should have an IELTS score of 6.0 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each skill) or equivalent.
  • If you were educated in a language other than English and/or English is not your first language, you should normally have a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.5 in each skill) or an equivalent rating in another Secure English Language Test.
  • Before applying, please make informal preliminary contact with a potential supervisor or research group within the Natural Resources Institute (study-at-nri@nri.ac.uk). Please include the name of the potential supervisor or supervisors you were in contact with in your research proposal and personal statement. The research interests of the faculty are listed here: www.gre.ac.uk/bus/research
  • Please submit a detailed research proposal of approximately 1,500 words, your CV, transcripts and evidence of language proficiency, if relevant, with your application. It is advisable to include a Gantt chart at the end of your research proposal to summarise the schedule for the research project outlined in the research proposal.
  • There are intakes throughout the year. If you are applying for a specific studentship which has been advertised, you must apply by the deadline given in the advertisement.

Applicants from a UK educational background:

For more information, contact study-at-nri@nri.ac.uk/courseinfo@greenwich.ac.uk or 020 8331 9000.

Applicants from a non-UK educational background:

For more information, contact international@gre.ac.uk or +44 20 8331 8136.

What people say

"I received excellent supervision and guidance as an NRI PhD student, which facilitated my exploration of food market development issues in interesting and novel ways. I have no hesitation in recommending NRI as fantastic organization with which to study for a development-related PhD." Dr Jaquelino Massingue, Mozambique

"The time I spent at NRI was truly rewarding. The blend between academic excellence and practical work in the field under well qualified and enormously experienced staff equipped me with the knowledge, skills and attitude to explore development challenges with ease. Therefore, I unreservedly recommend anyone seeking excellence to NRI." Julius Okwadi, Uganda

"I chose NRI because it is a world renowned centre of excellence in cutting edge science and development research. My course equipped me with timeless tools for conducting impact evaluations in any field of human endeavour. The supervisors on the course didn't only guide and quality control our work, they went that extra mile to teach us other virtues of human life like patience, endurance, courage, emotional intelligence, confidence, attention to detail, perseverance, effective communication, empathy, trust, honesty, sincerity, clarity, speed, time keeping, hard work and focus." Peter Beine, Uganda

Extra information

Assessment

You will be assessed through submission of a thesis and an oral examination.

Careers

Employability and career development

We have developed strong relations with many academic institutions and research centres both in the UK and overseas. This offers you networking, mentoring and internship opportunities, making it a perfect location to develop your career. 

Helping graduates into careers is a very important part of our mission as a university. Many of our PhD students go on to obtain employment at middle and senior levels and positions in ministries, NGOs, universities and international organisations.

Supervisors:

At the heart of this MPhil/PhD is the collaboration between you and your research supervisors. NRI supervisors, your first point of contact in the faculty, are experts in your chosen area and will guide you through the process of:

  • Defining the aims of your research project, and its expected deliverables
  • Outlining a suitable plan of work, monitoring its realisation, and helping you to keep your commitment to it
  • Guiding you to obtaining ethical approval to realise your research, if your study requires it
  • Identifying any taught courses, training events and conferences (to be attended in support of your learning.

Award: 

You will graduate with an MPhil or PhD degree title that reflects your area of academic specialism. 

Attendance: 

The normal route accepted by the university is to register first as MPhil student, and transfer to PhD after demonstrating sufficient progress in your research (usually after about 12-18 months from start) via an oral exam.

Attendance for MPhil is 18-36 months full-time and 30-48 months part-time; PhD is 36-48 months full-time and 48-72 months part-time.

It may be possible to spend some time overseas on data collection.

Ranking:

The University of Greenwich is ranked one of the top two most globally diverse universities in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, by Hotcourses Diversity Index. We have also been named as one of the "most international" universities on the planet by The Times Higher Education magazine.

Student Community:

The Natural Resources Institute Postgradute Society (NRIPS) is our community of postgraduate students, formed in 2015 to facilitate the academic, social and intellectual interests in postgraduate students at NRI. NRIPS strive to improve their academic, communication and organisational skills by providing practice opportunities and peer-to-peer support as well as strengthening social networks within the group, with NRI staff and the postgraduate community across the Medway Campus. This is achieved by regular social activities, sports events and seasonal gatherings. NRIPS also hold an annual Postgraduate Symposium.

Fees and finance

Your time at university should be enjoyable and rewarding, and it is important that it is not spoilt by unnecessary financial worries. We recommend that you spend time planning your finances, both before coming to university and while you are here. We can offer advice on living costs and budgeting, as well as on awards, allowances and loans.

Find out more about our fees and the support available to you at our:

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