Life Sciences – Agricultural Science

For competent specialists in the agriculture industry. With this master's programme, you will deepen your knowledge in a subject area of your choice and expand your methodical and management skills.

MSc in Life Sciences degree programme – Agricultural Science

  • qualifies you for work as a well-rounded specialist: you will delve into your chosen area of special expertise while studying a broad variety of methodological approaches and topics.

  • expands your network: whether in class, internships or your thesis work, you will interact with a host of players in the agricultural industry.

  • is practice-based: your presentations and case studies will be based on real-life practical examples, and your master’s thesis will take a hands-on approach.

  • prepares you for future leadership roles in the Swiss agricultural industry: in addition to comprehensive knowledge of specialist topics and methods, you will also hone your communication and leadership skills.

  • opens the door to the international job market: you may complete your master’s thesis abroad or in cooperation with an international organisation.

  • allows you full flexibility: you can study full- or part-time and combine your master’s thesis with your regular job.

Factsheet

  • Title/Degree MSc in Life Sciences – Agricultural Science
  • Specialisations Majors: Value Chains and Rural Development; Sustainable Production Systems; Regional Management in Mountain Areas
  • Mode of study Full-time (3 semesters), Part-time (4-6 semesters).
    More than half of our students study part-time.
  • Start date Spring: calendar week 7
    Autumn: calendar week 38
  • Application deadline Programme start autumn: 30 April
    Programme start spring: 30 September
    Later registrations will be considered up to 31 July or 31 December at the latest, subject to availability of places.
    Deadline for people who need a visa: 30 April or 30 September.
  • ECTS credits 90 ECTS credits
  • Teaching language English, the «Regional Management in Mountain Areas» specialisation is partly in German
  • Location Zollikofen, Bern and Fribourg
  • School School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL
  • Next info event 09.06.2022, 6.30pm-7.30pm (CET), online via Microsoft Teams

Contact

Structure + Content

Over one billion people work in agriculture today, and the challenges facing them have never been greater. They must meet growing demand for agricultural products on less land and with less water, all while managing social, economic and climate-related issues. There is a great need for well-educated experts and innovative solutions in this exciting field. Our MSc in Agricultural Science equips you with the knowledge and skills you will need.

Learning Outcomes

  • During the MSc programme in Agricultural Science, you will gain comprehensive knowledge and become a top specialist in your selected area of special expertise.

  • You will develop the ability to delve quickly and independently into unfamiliar areas, then implement your new knowledge in practice.

  • You will master a broad spectrum of methodological and leadership skills and learn to manage complex projects competently.

  • You will become adept at making scientific contributions in multidisciplinary teams.

Programme structure

You will take interdisciplinary foundation modules such as Innovation and Project Management. These core-competence modules are offered to all students on all MSc in Life Sciences programmes. You will also take modules focussing on key skills in agricultural science. From a range of specialisation-specific modules, you choose those modules that will best help you to hone your specialist knowledge and develop your interests in current and exciting subject areas.

At the heart of your studies will be your master’s thesis. The master’s thesis is generally embedded within a BFH-HAFL project, but may also be conducted with an external partner, such as your employer.

 Master’s thesis – the core of your studies     30 credits
 Specialisation modules  30 credits
 Cluster-specific modules (Environment Cluster)  9 – 15 credits
 Core-competence modules (Data and Business Management)  15 – 21 credits

 

Majors

You will choose one of three majors, depending on your previous education, interests and personal career plans.

In this major, you may focus on value chains or on rural development or combine the two. You will be examining the different steps in the life span of agricultural products from primary production to consumption. Using market economy approaches, you will investigate value chains, which are important drivers of rural development.

You will also explore other aspects of rural development, such as infrastructure, social and political organisations, knowledge exchange, promotion of innovation, and recreational and environmental uses of rural areas. At all times, you will consider the interdependencies among nature, economy and society.
 
Core topics are:

  • product quality and safety, quality management
  • logistics and supply chain management
  • strategic market positioning
  • analysis of the political and institutional environment
  • economic and trade models
  • international trade relations
  • investment analysis and planning
  • rural infrastructure and organisational development
  • rural development in practice
  • success factors for development and innovation
  • multifunctionality in agriculture
  • research design and statistical analysis

Your area of specialisation

Within this major, there is a wide range of possible areas in which to specialise, allowing you to develop your individual expertise. You can combine the thesis, the modules and, if necessary, an exchange semester exactly according to your interests.

You will find inspiration for thesis topics below under ‘Selected MSc theses’. 

“We need an international and intercultural dialogue on how to produce the best food, and how to make it a holistic product from start to finish. And I think that’s more or less what HAFL is about: looking at the whole value chain, from rural development to the whole food technology sector. How do we process this in the best possible way? I really tried to combine these different aspects in this thesis.” Nathalie Walker, MSc in Life Sciences with Specialisation in Agricultural Science. Topic of her thesis: Developing an online platform with key quality metrics for cocoa beans.

This major focuses on applied research in sustainable agricultural production systems in Switzerland and abroad.

You will study production systems in both fields and barns, deepening your scientific knowledge and exploring the following topics:

  • production engineering analysis and optimisation of production systems
  • assessment and improvement of sustainability
  • production technology
  • agronomic and ecological research relevant to the industry
  • innovation combining ecological responsibility and profitability
  • management of natural resources and climate change
  • research design and statistical analysis

Your area of specialisation

There are many areas of specialisation you may choose from within your major. Combine your master’s thesis, modules and even a semester abroad to match your interests. 

You may also create your very own profile. 
Our open thesis topics could also provide you with inspiration. 

Madeleine Kaufmann has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture, specialising in International. Afterwards, she did a master’s degree, with a major in Sustainable Production Systems. In the video she talks about what she did in Mozambique, Cuba and Benin and why she recommends studying at BFH-HAFL.

In the ‘Regional Management in Mountain Areas’ major, you will combine your knowledge of ecological and socio-economic issues with the management of regional development for mountain areas. You will study the interrelationships between nature, land use, society and politics. In particular, you will examine:

  • agricultural and forest production in the Alpine region
  • specific natural hazards and risk management
  • current methods for geospatial analysis, such as GIS
  • changing living conditions in the Alpine region
  • Project management
  • regional planning
  • nature reserves
  • tourism
  • leadership and human resources management
  • public relations and conflict management

The content relates specifically to mountain areas and will be illustrated by examples from the Alps.

Testimonial Franziska Imhof

Mode of study + Duration

The programme is entirely modular, which allows you to select the modules that appeal to your interests and accommodate your work or family obligations. Independent study accounts for much of the programme.

We also offer several cooperation modules as one-week compact courses. The others are held on Thursdays and Fridays, over seven weeks. We generally hold specialisation modules Mondays through Wednesdays, over five weeks.

The programme takes three semesters of full-time study. If you choose to attend part-time, you should aim to complete the programme within six to seven semesters. 
Part-time and full-time students attend the programme simultaneously. As a part-time student, you will simply enrol in fewer modules per semester. As the timetable changes every quarter, this requires flexibility on the part of your employer or family.

Structure + Modules

Effective from 1 August 2022
Code   Module title   ECTS
    Major-specific modules – compulsory    
AF-11   Logistics, Supply Chain and Network Management   5
AF-12   Consumer Behavior, Markets and Trade   5
AF-13   Corporate Responsibility, Quality Management and Traceability   5
AF-32   Policies and Institutions as Drivers for Development and Innovation   5
AF-33   Rural and Regional Development in Practice   5
    Minimum required   15
    Generic specialization modules – compulsory optional    
AF-01   Applied Research in Natural and Social Sciences   5
AF-02   Knowledge Management and Sharing in Agriculture and Forestry   5
AF-03   Integrated Natural Resources Management and Climate Change   5
    Minimum required   5
    Further specialization modules – compulsory optional    
AF-21   Expansion of Personal Scientific Knowledge   5
AF-22   Holistic Assessment of Production Systems   5
AF-23   Optimisation of Production Systems in Agriculture and Forestry   5
AF-24   Advances in Agricultural and Forest Sciences   5
AF-25   Current Topics in Applied Agricultural and Forest Research   5
AF-41   International Forestry   5
AF-51   Agricultural and Forest Production in Mountain Areas   5
AF-52   Natural Hazards and Risk Management   5
AF-53   Analysis of Spatial Data – GIS   5
AF-55   Regional Management, Tourism and Parks   5
AF-56   Landscape development and planning   5
    Cluster-specific modules – compulsory optional    
E1  

Journal Club Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences

  3
E2  

Life Cycle Assessment

  3
E3  

Sustainable Natural Resource Management   

  3
E4  

Ecological Infrastructure in Landscapes

  3
E5  

Biodiversity

  3
E6  

Water Management for Households, Industry and Agriculture

  3
F4   Sustainable Food Supply Chains   3
F5   Advanced Sensory Techniques   3
    Minimum required   9
    Core competence modules – compulsory optional    
B1  

Business Administration for Life Sciences

  3
B2  

Management and Leadership for Life Sciences

  3
B3  

Innovation and Project Management

  3
B4  

Politics and Society

  3
D1  

Handling and Visualising Data

  3
D2  

Design and Analysis of Experiments

  3
D3  

Modelling and Exploration of Multivariate Data

  3
D4   Data and Ethics   3
    Minimum required   15
All areas   Minimum required (has to be completed by taking additional modules from the four compulsory optional areas)   60
Thesis   Required from master’s thesis   30
Total   Minimum required   90
Effective from 1 August 2022
 Code   Module title   ECTS
    Major-specific modules – compulsory    
AF-21   Expansion of Personal Scientific Knowledge   5
AF-22   Holistic Assessment of Production Systems   5
AF-23   Optimisation of Production Systems in Agriculture and Forestry   5
    Minimum required   15
    Generic specialization modules – compulsory optional     
AF-01   Applied Research in Natural and Social Sciences   5
AF-02   Knowledge Management and Sharing in Agriculture and Forestry   5
AF-03   Integrated Natural Resources Management and Climate Change   5
    Minimum required   5
    Further specialization modules – compulsory optional    
AF-11   Logistics, Supply Chain and Network Management   5
AF-12   Consumer Behavior, Markets and Trade   5
AF-13   Corporate Responsibility, Quality Management and Traceability   5
AF-32   Policies and Institutions as Drivers for Development and Innovation   5
AF-33   Rural and Regional Development in Practice   5
AF-24   Advances in Agricultural and Forest Sciences   5
AF-25   Current Topics in Applied Agricultural Research   5
AF-41   International Forestry   5
AF-51   Agricultural and Forest Production in Mountain Areas   5
AF-52   Natural Hazards and Risk Management   5
AF-53   Analysis of Spatial Data – GIS   5
AF-55   Regional Management, Tourism and Parks   5
AF-56   Landscape development and planning   5
    Cluster-specific modules – compulsory optional    
E1  

Journal Club Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences

  3
E2  

Life Cycle Assessment

  3
E3  

Sustainable Natural Resource Management   

  3
E4  

Ecological Infrastructure in Landscapes

  3
E5  

Biodiversity

  3
E6  

Water Management for Households, Industry and Agriculture

  3
F4   Sustainable Food Supply Chains   3
F5   Advanced Sensory Techniques   3
    Minimum required   9
    Core competence modules – compulsory optional    
B1  

Business Administration for Life Sciences

  3
B2  

Management and Leadership for Life Sciences

  3
B3  

Innovation and Project Management

  3
B4  

Politics and Society

  3
D1  

Handling and Visualising Data

  3
D2  

Design and Analysis of Experiments

  3
D3  

Modelling and Exploration of Multivariate Data

  3
D4   Data and Ethics   3
    Minimum required   15
All areas   Minimum required (has to be completed by taking additional modules from the four compulsory optional areas)   60
Thesis   Required from master’s thesis    30
Total   Minimum required   90
Effective from 1 August 2022
Code   Module title   ECTS   Module type
    Major-specific modules – compulsory        
AF-51   Agricultural and Forest Production in Mountain Areas   5   compulsory
AF-52   Natural Hazards and Risk Management   5   compulsory
AF-53   Analysis of Spatial Data – GIS   5   compulsory
AF-55   Regional Management, Tourism and Parks    5   compulsory
AF-25  

RMA Integrated Project

  5   compulsory
AF-56   Landscape development and planning   5   compulsory
    Minimum required   30    
    Further specialization modules – compulsory optional        
AF-03   Integrated Natural Resources  Management and Climate Change   5   optional
AF-24   Advances in Agricultural and Forest Sciences   5   optional
AF-32   Policies and Institutions as Drivers for Development and Innovation   5   optional
    Cluster-specific modules – compulsory optional        
E1   Journal Club Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences   3   optional
E2   Life Cycle Assessment   3   optional
E3  

Sustainable Natural Resource Management   

  3   optional
E4  

Ecological Infrastructure in Landscapes

  3   optional
E5  

Biodiversity

  3   optional
E6  

Water Management for Households, Industry and Agriculture

  3   optional
    Minimum required   9    
    Core competence modules – compulsory optional        
B1  

Business Administration for Life Sciences

  3   optional
B2  

Management and Leadership for Life Sciences

  3   optional
B3  

Innovation and Project Management

  3   optional
B4  

Politics and Society

  3   optional
D1  

Handling and Visualising Data

  3   optional
D2  

Design and Analysis of Experiments

  3   optional
D3  

Modelling and Exploration of Multivariate Data

  3   optional
D4   Data and Ethics   3   optional
    Minimum required   15    
All areas   Minimum required (has to be completed by taking optional modules)   60    
Thesis   Required from master’s thesis   30    
Total   Minimum required   90    

Student mobility

Outgoing Mobility

You can spend an exchange semester at one of our partner universities during your Master's programme. Inform us at an early stage if you are planning a study exchange. We are happy to advise and support you.

Incoming Mobility

Would you like to spend an exchange semester or year at BFH-HAFL in Switzerland? If your home university is on our list of partner universities, please contact your International Office. If not, they should contact us.

  • Application deadline
    For the autumn semester: 15 April
    For the spring semester: 15 October
  • Language
    The Master’s programme is taught in English.
  • Accommodation
    There is a hostel for students on the BFH-HAFL campus. However, the demand for rooms is much higher than the availability.

Selected MSc theses + published student works

Collaboration

The MSc in Agricultural Science is part of the Master of Science in Life Sciences programme, which is offered in cooperation by four Swiss universities of applied sciences:

Eligibility + Entry

To be eligible to apply for the MSc in Agricultural Science programme, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and be proficient in English.

You will be accepted to the programme immediately if you hold a bachelor’s degree from a Swiss higher-education institution in one of the following fields of study, a grade of at least 5 and at least half a year of work experience in an area approved by BFH-HAFL:

  • Agriculture 
  • Oenology
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Landscape Architecture 
  • Forest Science
  • Geography

Do you have a degree in a different discipline? Was your final grade lower than a 5? Did you earn your degree in a different country? If so, you must pass an aptitude assessment.

Are you passionate about agriculture, but don’t have the required practical experience to start your master’s degree at BFH-HAFL? No worries! You can do a six-month work placement on a farm.

Entry requirements Enlarge image

Language skills

The ‘Value Chains and Rural Development’ and ‘Sustainable Production Systems’ majors are conducted in English. We recommend competence in English (at least level B2 of the European Language Portfolio).
The ‘Regional Management in Mountain Areas’ major is partially conducted in German (we also recommend level B2).
You may write your master’s thesis in English, German or French (or in Italian or Spanish, by request).

Applying from abroad

We review each international application individually. Please send questions to msc-as.hafl@bfh.ch before submitting your official application.

Exceptions

If you do not meet all of our requirements, you may work with programme administrators to create an individual action plan for filling these gaps.

At the heart of the aptitude test is a structured interview, graded according to the following criteria: conceptual skills, analytical thought, ability to make connections, specialised knowledge and motivation.

Qualification + Career prospects

Upon completing this programme, you will have acquired the skills that employers demand for management positions in agricultural industries: practical specialists who can work scientifically and manage complex, multidisciplinary projects competently.

Title + Degree

Upon graduating, you will obtain the title ‘Master of Science in Life Sciences with Specialisation in Agricultural Science’ from Bern University of Applied Sciences.

Career prospects

An MSc in Agricultural Science prepares you for leadership roles domestically and abroad, in companies, associations, NGOs, administrative seats or in applied research, whether in the public or private sector.

Major in ‘Value Chains and Rural Development’

This major equips you with the skills you need for leadership roles in small, middle-sized and large companies in agricultural value chains. You will also be able to take on project leadership positions in rural development. Your training will enable you to base decisions on scientific reasoning.

Major in ‘Sustainable Production Systems’

You will gain the knowledge and skills you need for demanding leadership responsibilities, examining topics surrounding agricultural production technologies, industry-wide sustainability measures and methods for improvement and the intersection of various ecological aspects. You will be ready to develop and optimise workable solutions. 

Major in ‘Regional Management in Mountain Areas’

Upon completing your studies, you will be well qualified for leadership positions in regional development, managing nature reserves and conservation areas or in the disciplines of agricultural or forest sciences. 

Practicalities + Application

Planning ahead will help you organise and coordinate your studies so that they fit with work or family obligations.

Programme start autumn

  • Deadline for registration: 30 April
  • Start of programme: calendar week 38

Programme start spring

  • Deadline for registration: 30 September
  • Start of programme: calendar week 7

A place on the programme is guaranteed if the registration is submitted by the applicable date and all conditions are met. Registrations after this date will be considered up to 31 July (autumn start) or 31 December (spring start) if places are available. 

Deadline for people who need a visa: 30 April or 30 September.

Here, you will find helpful information about financing your studies at BFH. Details regarding individual living costs are not covered, however.

The cost of study includes tuition and examination fees, as well as costs for teaching materials and excursions.

Costs

At BFH, different fees apply for programmes and examinations.

Application (per application)*

CHF 100

Matriculation**

CHF 100

Tuition fees (per semester)

CHF 750

Tuition fees for international students*** (per semester)

CHF 950

Examination fee (per semester)

CHF 80

Fee for social, cultural and sport offerings (per semester)

CHF 24

Membership fee for the Bern University of Applied Sciences Student Association (VSBFH) (per semester)

CHF 15

* plus CHF 10 processing fee if paying by paying-in slip/paper invoice.
** If the application leads to matriculation, the matriculation fee is covered by the application fee.
*** International students are defined as persons of foreign citizenship who at the time of obtaining their university entrance qualification were domiciled under civil law neither in Switzerland nor the Principality of Liechtenstein. This rule applies as of the 2018/19 autumn semester.

There is also a fixed fee for material, which can vary from programme to programme, and additional costs for teaching materials, specialist literature, supplies, etc.

An invoice for the application fee is generated upon applying online and must be paid within 10 days. If payment is made by paying-in slip/paper invoice, a processing fee of CHF 10 is applied. There are no waivers or refunds for withdrawn or abandoned applications.

The application is processed after payment has been received.

Grants, loans and other funding options

Financial aid is available through grants and loans. Grants are one-off or ongoing payments that don’t usually have to be paid back provided you complete your course. Loans are one-off or ongoing payments that must be paid back after you finish your course.

Cantonal grants

Grants and loans for Swiss students and overseas students are generally paid out by the canton where the students’ parents are tax residents.

Students who have been tax residents in the Canton of Bern for at least two years are able to apply for cantonal grants and loans. Applications should be submitted to the Financial Aid Office at the Department of Education.

Further information (incl. financial aid calculator):

The websites stipendien.educa.ch, stipendium.ch and European Funding Guide cover all the key information about grants in Switzerland and overseas.

Foundations and funds

There are also numerous private foundations and funds that offer financial support to students. The electronic foundation directory administered by the Federal Department of Home Affairs offers a comprehensive summary of these organisations and can be searched by keywords (e.g. student, research, financial aid, etc.). Other sources of funding include the foundation directories for individual cantons and private foundations.

The following foundations offer funding specifically to BFH students and students from other universities:

Pursue your degree part-time while fulfilling your work and family obligations. We do recommend you allot at least 50 percent of your schedule for the programme. Unsure whether this option is right for you? Please get in touch.

Contact

Please upload the following documents when registering online:

  • statement of personal motivation
  • curriculum vitae
  • identity card or passport
  • academic degree certificate(s)
  • transcript(s) of records
  • references/certifications of practical experience
  • upper-secondary education (university entrance) certificate
  • confirmation of exmatriculation (if previously enrolled at another university)

Important: we require a certified translation of all documents issued in a language other than German, French, Italian, English or Spanish.

Application from abroad: please check the link for visa applications, accommodation, etc.

Information

Still have questions about the degree programme? Attend one of our information events or arrange a personal consultation.

Student advisory service

The programme coordinator is happy to advise you in a personal consultation and answer any questions you have.

Contact

Location + Facilities

The BFH-HAFL campus is located in Zollikofen, near Bern. Nestled among fields and forests, the location offers both the modern infrastructure you need for your studies and countless recreational options.

The campus of BFH-HAFL in Zollikofen provides modern lecture halls, labs and trial fields.

But our campus is more than just a place for studying: the pool, barbecue area, sauna and many other recreational offerings make it a fun place to spend your free time. There is also a student residence on site with approximately 140 furnished rooms and a cafeteria.

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