Master of Science in Nutrition and Rural Development

Course content

Food and nutrition security is high on the agendas of international policy makers as the world’s population is projected to rise to an estimated 9 billion and more by the mid-21st century, against a background of increasing urbanization and finite productive lands.

The field of food and nutrition security and nutrition public health sciences is highly interdisciplinary. Researchers in these areas achieved fundamental advances in the understanding of the double burden of malnutrition against a backdrop of global issues of food supply, food security and public health nutrition.

Food consumption as a measurable output still sees our current 7 billion population encompassing close to 1 billion people malnourished and hungry, with a larger and rising number classified as obese and overweight with the attendant non communicable diseases of ill health as well as mortality that such conditions bring. Furthermore, food consumption is a key social activity and has cultural dimensions and incorporates societal aspirations that go beyond calculations of energy and nutrient intake. To solve the existing nutrition (security) problems worldwide, specialists with an integrated and multidimensional view on development problems are urgently required.

Food and Agriculture feature very heavily within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Within this multilateral policy response is a renewed awareness that the focus of nutrition security must go beyond nutritional needs at household level, vital as these remain. Today food security needs to address both the methods of food production and the nature of consumption, as well as the management and governance of the delivery of the world’s food supply. Food production relies upon a natural resource base and ecosystems that are under great stress, and in some areas serious depletion, due to patterns of human settlement, industrial activity, natural resource extraction, and from modern farming and fishery practices. The interdependencies of sustainability (in its environmental, economic and social forms) and food security present society with a wide range of intellectual and practical challenges to address. International, national and philanthropic scientific research initiatives and programmes are taking place to address these challenges alongside the increase in policy activity. It is clear that no single discipline or academic methodology will provide the answers to the challenges. Multi-disciplinary approaches are needed and interdisciplinary projects are becoming more common with methodological innovation coming at the interfaces at the boundaries of existing disciplines.

The programme aims to chart and present some of these intellectual contributions and their application to providing practical solutions.

Therefore, this master’s programme focuses on subject areas such as sustainable, multi-sectorial integrated solutions for food production, transformation and preservation, food chemistry, food science, nutritional requirements, food and nutritional policies, nutrition surveillance, nutrition practices, nutrition epidemiology, nutrition disorders, nutrition research, food safety, marketing and consumption and nutrition security management, with special attention for the food and nutrition problems in economically- (fast) growing countries.

The objective is to transfer specific and profound knowledge, insights and skills related to nutrition security and public health nutrition problems and solutions at population level. Therefore, this programme focuses, partially depending on the major chosen, on subject areas such as food production, transformation and preservation, food chemistry, food science, nutritional requirements, food and nutrition policies, nutrition surveillance, nutrition practices, nutrition research, food safety, marketing and consumption and nutrition security management, all referring to the growing food and/or nutrition problems and their possible sustainable solutions.

Course structure

The first semester of the first year gives in-depth knowledge and knowhow in more general standard courses related to nutrition and rural development, in order to achieve a common base level between all students of different backgrounds.

The second semester standard courses aim at achieving a more specific but broad common base for the students. To tailor the course programme to the individual needs and interests, students can already take one elective course during the first master year. The second year of this master provides a more in-depth understanding of the specific problems and their solutions for the major they chose. The second year therefore consists of standard specific courses, a limited list of standard courses per major chosen, another elective course and master’s dissertation research. For the elective courses (including possibilities for an internship) the students may choose other courses offered in programmes at master’s level, at UGent or at an institute cooperating with UGent as long as they enable the student to compile a tailor-made study curriculum enhancing their individual needs or interests.

Master’s dissertation

Students are encouraged to seek in a foreign country possiblities either for data collection (primary or secondary) or to prepare the whole master’s dissertation at a foreign university with whom a cooperation agreement has been undersigned. A local co-promoter (nominated by the staff of the programme) will assist them during that period.

Career perspectives

  • Research and education at universities, private or governmental institutions;
  • Research in research institutions, private or governmental;
  • Development project collaborators (governmental, national or international NGOs, private);
  • Policy development, implementation and evaluation;
  • Administration of rural and urban projects;
  • Industrial sector; PhD programs;
  • Overseas project collaborators for local governmental and non-governmental development organisations;
  • Consultancy after some years of experience;
  • Involved in Europe in some international organisations, active in the development cooperation field;
  • In administration as policy preparatory jobs;
  • ...