Life Sciences – Agricultural Science

In this MSc programme, you will bring your specialist scientific knowledge up to date and develop your analytical, methodological and leadership skills.

This degree programme:

  • 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.

Master Agrarwissenschaften

Factsheet

  • Title/Degree Master of Science (MSc)
  • Specialisations 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 Autumn 2019 start: 30 April 2019
    Spring 2020 start: 30 September 2019
  • ECTS credits 90 ECTS credits
  • Study language English
  • Location Zollikofen, Bern and Fribourg; ‘Regional Management in Mountain Areas’ specialisation requires one semester in Weihenstephan, Germany
  • Department School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL

Downloads

  • Programme Handbook

MSc in Life Sciences – Agricultural Science

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 attend modules offered in all MSc in Life Sciences specialisation areas, such as Innovation and Project Management. Furthermore, you will enrol in modules designed with a focus on critical agricultural science skills.
You may select from a range of specialisation modules, which allows you to customise your studies based on your strengths, interests and area of special expertise.

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

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

There are many areas of specialisation you may choose from within your major. These hypothetical profiles demonstrate the many ways in which you may 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. 

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. These hypothetical profiles demonstrate the many ways in which you may 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.

By taking this major, you have the opportunity to gain a double Master’s degree: the MSc in Life Sciences from Bern University of Applied Sciences and the MSc in Regional Management in Mountain Areas from Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT) in Germany.

During this major, you will combine your knowledge of ecological and socio-economic issues with the management of regional development in mountain areas. You will therefore be studying how nature, land use, society and politics interact. 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.

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

Cluster-specific modules

Titel   ECTS   Code  

You choose
at least

Journal Club Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences

  3   E1   3

Life Cycle Assessment

  3   E2  

Sustainable Natural Resource Management   

  3   E3  

Ecological Infrastructure in Landscapes

  3   E4  

Biodiversity

  3   E5  

Water Management for Households, Industry and Agriculture

  3   E6  

Sustainable Sourcing, Processing and Tracing of Food

  3   F4  

Advanced Sensory Techniques

  3   F5  
Total   9       3

 

Modules at HAFL

Module Title   ECTS   Code   You choose

Land- und forstwirtschaftliche Produktion in Bergregionen

  5   AF-51   1

Naturgefahren und Risikomanagement

  5   AF-52   1

Management of Spatial Data

  5   AF-53   1

Leadership and Human Resources Management

  5   AF-54   1

Interdisziplinäres Projekt zu Naturgefahren, Forst- und Landwirtschaft

  5   AF-55   1

Integrated Natural Resources Management and Climate Change

  5   AF-03   1

Current Topics in Applied Agricultural Research

  5   AF-25  
Applied Research in Natrual and Social Sciences   5   AF-01   Optional
Knowledge Management and Transfer in Agriculture an Forestry   5   AF-02  
Logistics, Supply Chain and Network Management   5   AF-11  
Consumer Behaviour, Markets and Trade   5   AF-12  
Corporate Responsibility, Quality Management and Traceability   5   AF-13  
Expansion of Personal Scientific Knowledge   5   AF-21  
Holistic Assessment of Production Systems   5   AF-22  
Optimisation of Production Systems in Agriculture and Forestry   5   AF-23  
Advances in Agricultural and Forest Sciences   5   AF-24  
Policies and Institutions as Drivers for Development and Innovation   5   AF-32  
Rural and Regional Development in Pracitce   5   AF-33  
International Forestry   5   AF-41  
Total   30       6

Modules at HSWT

Module Title   ECTS   Code   You choose

Regionalplanung und Politik im Alpenraum

  5  

354141010

  1

Schutzgut Gebirgsraum

  5  

354141020

  1

Tourismus

  5  

354141030

  1

Sozial- und Methodenkompetenz

  5  

354141040

  1

Interdisziplinäres Projekt

  5  

354141050

  1

Interkulturelle Kompetenz

  5  

354141060

  1
Total   30       6

Student mobility

You may also do an exchange semester at one of our partner universities during your master’s degree programme. Please let us know in good time if you are planning a student exchange. We are happy to provide advice and support.

If you select the ‘Regional Management in Mountain Areas’ major, you will spend one semester at Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT) in Freising, near Munich.

Selected MSc theses

Collaborations + Partners

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:

  • Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH)
  • University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland HES-SO
  • University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW)
  • Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZFH)

The «Regional Management in Mountain Areas» major is offered together with Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT) in Freising, near Munich. 

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 if you hold a bachelor’s degree from a Swiss university of applied sciences in one of the following fields of study and graduated with a grade of at least 5:

  • 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.
Do you have a bachelor’s degree from a university? If so, you must provide evidence of at least half a year of work experience in an area we have approved.

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.

«Value Chains and Rural Development» major

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.

«Sustainable Production Systems» major

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. 

«Regional Management in Mountain Areas» major

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.

Autumn 2019 start date

Application deadline: 30 April 2019
Start date: 16 September 2019

Spring 2020 start date

Application deadline: 30 September 2019
Start date: 16 February 2020

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 overseas 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.
*** ‘Overseas students’ refers to all citizens of foreign countries who were not official residents of Switzerland or Liechtenstein at the time they were admitted to the university programme. This regulation applies from the autumn semester 2018/19.

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. 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 ausbildungsbeiträge.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 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.

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.

Instruction is generally held on the campus of BFH-HAFL in Zollikofen – in lecture halls, modern labs and our own technology hall. 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.