Holistic Science

MSc | PGDip | PGCert
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overview

  • This long-running and dynamic course, with an emphasis on experiential learning, equips students with the knowledge and skills to address our many challenges through an understanding of holism and the emergent properties of whole systems
  • For students with an interest in science, who want to explore the implications and ramifications of scientific discovery, who want to challenge the status quo and work towards presenting alternative solutions.

duration

MSc: 1 year FT, 2 years PT.
Other routes are available, including online options – see ‘Learning Pathways’

department

start date

January. (Our master’s courses start at various points in the calendar year – find out why.)

full Term dates

There are two terms of timetabled teaching periods when you must live on site (or nearby in Totnes or the vicinity) and participate in the learning community. We have a limited number of residential places available for international students. Apply as early as possible.

2022 Term Dates

Welcome Week: 3-7 January 2022
Term 1: 10 January – 1 April 2022
Term 2: 25 April – 1 July 2022
Dissertation Deadline: 22 October 2022

onsite teaching weeks

Term 1: 10 January – 1 April 2022
Term 2: 25 April – 1 July 2022

next application deadline

16 August 2021

Learning pathways

Our degree programmes are designed to suit the complexities of modern life, allowing you to live where you live and work where you work, whilst studying the subject you are passionate about as a member of our wide-reaching learning community.

Some qualifications are offered part-time – these are indicated below. Please note that we do not offer online-only pathways for this course. More about flexible learning at Dartington >

Master's of Sciences (ft/pt; 180 credits)

A 6-month residency programme with 6 x 20-credit modules and 1 x 60-credit Dissertation or Major Project module.

The course is available full time over one year (UK, EU or international students) or part time over two years (UK students only).

Postgraduate Diploma (ft/pt; 120 credits)

A full-time (1 year) or part-time programme (2 years, UK students only) with 6 x 20 credit modules. Students taking the full-time option will study all four modules during the first two terms.  For full details on part-time pathways, please contact us.

Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits)

A full-time programme with 3 x 20 credit modules. Students will study both modules during term one.

single module (20 credits)

Modules from this course can be studied on a standalone basis, with 20 credits allocated per module.

To apply for the accredited single module option, apply in the usual way, selecting the ‘single module’ option during the application process.

course content

At this moment of climate emergency, of extreme ecological and social challenges, the Master’s in Holistic Science questions the role of science as cause and solution to the world’s problems. It presents a rigorous inquiry into the methods, techniques and philosophical underpinnings of science, to address whether they can take us beyond mere explanation to a deeper understanding of the world and our place within it. It asks if there is a way science could be done differently.

The modern world owes everything to science. The revolution in thought and method that began in the seventeenth century unleashed not just marvels in technology, medicine and communication but a whole new way of seeing the world. It marked a radical break with the past.

But it came at a cost.

The same revolution that gave us satellites, artificial intelligence and the internet has also propelled us into a climate emergency, the sixth mass extinction event, a crisis that threatens civilisation itself. It has disenchanted the world, leaving us in a universe that has been richly described but stripped of meaning. It has given us facts but few values.

The Master’s in Holistic Science asks whether there is a different way to do science. It questions reductionism (the method of explaining things by breaking them into their constituent parts) and explores holism, the notion that true understanding can only be found by considering the whole. Using the rigorous methods proposed by Goethe, the German Romantic era writer and scientist, Holistic Science challenges the supposed objectivity of mainstream science and proposes instead a more participatory or engaged approach to the world.

By studying Gaia theory, Chaos theory, complexity science, emergence, process philosophy and panpsychism, it wonders whether science must necessarily lead to a sterile kind of materialist atheism. It asks if there is still room for spirituality in a world that has been fundamentally explained.

Above all, through an appreciation of qualities as well as quantities, Holistic Science seeks to answer the most fundamental riddle of them all: how it is that there are minds capable of wondering at this astonishing universe.

programme structure & modules

There are two terms of timetabled teaching periods when you must live on site (or nearby in Totnes or the vicinity) and participate in the learning community. We have a limited number of residential places available for international students. Apply as early as possible.

Term One Modules

Module 1: Science of Qualities
Examine the fundamental principles of modern science and their limitations. It also explores new directions in science that combine quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Module 2: Chaos and Complexity
Explore theoretical and practical principles of chaos and complexity theories using mathematical modelling and experiential enquiry.

Module 3: The Living Earth
Examine the principles of complexity and emergent order at the level of the Earth. Studies in biogeophysical processes and models of integrative global dynamical processes will be used to critically review how globally stable states can emerge from complex biological and geophysical interactions.

Term Two Modules

Module 4: Contemporary Issues in Holistic Science I
The module aims to examine novel material and concepts in holistic science that shed new light on a variety of areas within mainstream science, together with an exploration of the ecological and ethical implications of such a unified perspective.

Module 5: Contemporary Issues in Holistic Science II
The module aims to examine novel material and concepts in holistic science that shed new light on a variety of areas within mainstream science, together with an exploration of the ecological and ethical implications of such a unified perspective.

Module 6: Mind in Nature
Early Modern Science separated mind from nature in a process Max Weber called the “disenchantment of nature”. This module explores practices and philosophies that bring about a “reenchantment of nature” and move science from a dualistic to a participatory epistemology.

Dissertation (60 credits)

Discover research methods through workshops for the purposes of peer-support around similar or supervisor, with supervisory support focusing on clarifying the enquiry, the research methodology and literature review.

watch: why study holistic science at schumacher college?

entry requirements

Qualification(s) required for entry to the MSc

BA/BSc (Honours) Degree
Where the first degree is not a 2.1, or in an unrelated subject, further support of the application or experience may be required.

Other non-standard awards or experience
A willingness to engage with the field of Holistic Science. Candidates will be considered with prior credited learning and prior experiences subject to interview.*

Interview requirements
All applicants are required to attend an interview, either at the College or online. During the interview we will look for: evidence of intellectual clarity during interview; a clearly formulated purpose for taking the course; focused interests and a clear understanding of the ethos and philosophy of the College; readiness and ability to live and work in a communal setting.

*For further information please contact our admissions team at admissions@dartington.org.

fees

For full details on our fees, plus information about scholarships, student loans and bursaries, click here.

staff

Stephan Harding

Dr Stephan Harding

Stephan is a Deep Ecology Research Fellow and has been teaching on the MSC Holistic Science programme since its inception in 1998.

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Troy Vine

Dr Troy Vine

Dr Troy Vine is Programme Lead for MSc Holistic Science, having studied Physics with Astrophysics at Bristol University.

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careers

Graduates leave to work in:

  • Higher education
  • Research: at doctoral level and beyond
  • NGOs: especially those tackling climate emergency
  • Permaculture: the application of holistic thought to land management and community
  • Economics: analysing how markets responds to various stressors
  • Design: finding solutions to complex problems
  • Business and healthcare: from start-ups to consultancy.

alumni stories

Nigel Topping

High Level Climate Action Champion, COP26

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Tom Rivett Carnac

Founding Partner, Global Optimism

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Emma Kidd

PhD researcher in Sustainability, Glasgow Caledonian University

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