International Master of Science in Health Management in Aquaculture
AquaH is a 2-year master programme that studies the interaction between the health of aquaculture species and their environment. The programme contributes to the sustainable supply of healthy and tasty seafood by training experts that are able to develop innovative solutions to current and future health and disease problems in the aquaculture industry.
Aquaculture, the controlled production of aquatic organisms, plays a crucial role in meeting the growing demand for health, tasty and sustainably produced seafood. The rapid growth and intensification of seafood farming has inevitably resulted in the increased occurrence of viral, bacterial, parasitic or stress-related disease outbreaks. Indeed, current fa may in many farming practises tend to promote the presence of unwanted micro-organisms. It is an aspect of modern aquaculture that, until recently, has been largely underestimated or ignored in some regions, but that needs to be approached in a strategic way if current aquaculture production is to be improved in a sustainable way. In salmon aquaculture, for instance, spreading of viral diseases and parasites (salmon lice) are among the main current health and welfare challenges. In penaeid shrimp farming, viral disease outbreaks have occasionally decimated the production of whole countries causing huge economic losses and threatened livelihoods of numerous family-run business. Science-based efficient health management and well-educated specialised personnel are paramount for overcoming these problems.
The AquaH programme responds to the need for an expert training that prepares students to develop and implement innovative solutions to aquaculture health issues thus contributing to the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry. The programme focuses on understanding and controlling the interaction between aquaculture species and their environment, in order to produce robust and healthy animals with attention for epidemiologic, environmental and welfare regulations. The programme offers 3 distinct learning lines, each addressing aquaculture health issues on a different level:
- The relationship between the ecosystem and health
- Preventing disease and maintaining adequate health, whilst minimising the impact on the environment
- The relationship between animal physiology and health
This ERASMUS Mundus programme enables students to study at 4 of Europe’s leading institutes in aquaculture and do a work placement at one of our numerous industry or research partners worldwide. ERASMUS Mundus scholarships are available.
The admission requirements vary. Depending on your preliminary training, you are either able to enrol directly, or there are additional requirements.
The programme starts with a common semester at Ghent University where students receive courses on fundamental aspects in health management in aquaculture an essentials in statistics and aquaculture practices.
Second en third semester
Students can choose between one or the two learning lines each at another of the four programme partner institutes.
The learning line of NTNU, Norway, on ‘Ecosystems and Health’
Involves important interactions between farmed and native organisms, including how diseases and parasites are spread (salmon lice); interactions between native microbial communities and farmed hosts; the influence of water quality (e.g. toxic algae) on the health and welfare of farmed fish. The overall focus is normally on how the environment, or the ecosystem, may affect fish health, not on the effects of farming on the environment. Learning activities include mainly health, welfare and environmental issues for fish from larval to adult stages. NTNU currently has major involvement in research on health issues in marine fish farming and has a strong relationship with industry.
The learning line at WU, Netherlands, on ‘Disease Prevention Management & Health’
Focuses on relevant innovations by studying fish and shellfish nutrition and health. This is mainly in circular aquaculture systems, be it in recirculating aquaculture systems or ponds. Research looks into how nutrition influences health and how novel feeds improve disease resistance; it also considers the latest strategies in terms of activation of the immune system and key therapeutic tools, such as new generation vaccines.
The learning line of UAB/UB, Barcelona, on ‘Physiology and Health’
With the main purpose of acquiring knowledge on the physiological mechanisms involved in the overall health of fish and shellfish. Therefore, the following aspects will be considered: harmonious growth and balanced nutrition; the generation of the stress response and stress prevention methodologies; the innate and adaptive mechanisms of immune defences; the regulatory systems involved; knowledge of infections; pathological signs; and the patho-physiological response.
In the second and third semester, students will also do an internship at one of the many international industry or research partners of the programme consortium.
Fourth semester: Master's Dissertation
Students can choose the topic for their master’s Dissertation (thesis) in a broad range of disciplines in which the scientific staff of the master’s programmes is active. In general, the students become involved in ongoing research within the research laboratories of their promoter(s). Thanks to our extended international network, students can perform their master’s dissertation work in laboratories in other (non-) European countries. Students have to conduct research with the appropriate expertise in order to contribute to the development of a particular research domain. The ultimate goal is to initiate students into research at an academic level so that, upon completion of their master’s programme, they are able to autonomously carry out scientific research.
The ever-continuing intensification in aquaculture systems, along with an increased production scale has inevitably resulted in the increased occurrence of disease outbreaks. This has created an urgent need for aquaculture health management experts who can respond to the health challenges in the aquaculture industry.
The AquaH programme will prepare you for a range of diverse career options, including:
- Head of R&D teams in one of the leading aquaculture pharma companies
- Self-employed consultant in fish disease issues
- Governmental veterinary officer responsible for farmed fish health and welfare, quarantine regulation, food quality and security control etc.
At Ghent University, we strive to educate people who dare to think about the challenges of tomorrow. For that purpose, we provide education that is embedded in six strategic objectives: Think Broadly, Keep Researching, Cultivate Talent, Contribute, Extend Horizons, Opt for Quality.
Ghent University continuously focuses on quality assurance and quality culture. The Ghent University's quality assurance system offers information on each study programme’s unique selling points, and on its strengths and weaknesses with regard to quality assurance.
Ghent University's Education Objectives
Unique Selling Points
- Relevance: aquaculture is a relatively young, diverse and very dynamic bio-industry, highly depending on innovation in its various disciplines. The aquaculture sector is steadily reaching maturity but its further growth is increasingly facing serious problems with parasites, viral, bacterial or stress-related disease outbreaks. This programme responds to the need for an expert training that will prepare you to develop and implement innovative solutions to aquaculture health issues thus contributing to the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry.
- Merging European expertise: this ERASMUS Joint Master merges the expertise of 4 top quality aquaculture research groups at renowned European universities: Ghent University (Belgium), Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet (NTNU, Norway), Wageningen University (The Netherlands), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona & Universitat de Barcelona (Spain). This fusion of expertise enables us to offer you a quite unique learning experience that a single university would not be able to match.
- International experience: the programme offers you the opportunity to study at – at least – 2 of the 4 organising institutes and do thesis work and an internship at one of the numerous academic and industry partners worldwide thus gaining precious international experience and get the opportunity to lay the foundation for a unique professional network.
- Strong industry embedment: each of the organising partners have extensive connections with leading aquaculture companies worldwide. Course holders are closely monitoring and integrating new developments surfacing in the sector, amongst others, through seminars by several experts in various courses.
- Employability: the programme prepares you for successful careers at the highest level in European and international aquaculture research and industry as well as in policy-making.
- Student/staff ratio: the relatively small group of students (around 20) engenders a low student/staff ratio. All involved staff is very approachable, both teaching staff regarding academic issues as well as administrative, technical and other supporting staff regarding any practical problem or issue a student can encounter. Students can interact with the staff in both a formal and informal way to discuss research, as well as academic and practical matters.
- Student support: you will be closely assisted in every aspect of the studies, starting before the studies with application, preparation for travel and visa. During your studies we and our partners provide a wide range of supporting services and staff for students such as a faculty ombudsperson, welcome days, social events, a buddy system, student counselling, career advice, alumni services, university medical and psychological service, etcetera.
- Programme coordination: Ghent University coordinates 7 EMJM; at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, 4 EMJM are managed with the support of the dedicated 10 staff strong International Training Center. This guarantees a smooth and professional management of the programme.
- Preparatory course: our students come from every corner of the world and tend to have quite different academic backgrounds. We offer the opportunity to participate in BePREP, a preparatory summer school prior to the academic year. The BePREP summer school combines refresher courses on basic themes (mathematics, chemistry, statistics) with introductory sessions on student life in Ghent/Belgium, administrative issues, cultural competencies, basic ICT and laboratory skills. Last but not least, the programme builds a sense of community among international students at our faculty as well as with its student supporting staff and fellow local students.
- Student participation: students are represented in the educational committee that meets on a monthly basis to discuss matters related to the quality and organisation of the program. Student representatives count for at least 1/3 of the members and have voting rights.
- Our programme was launched in September 2021 and is thus relatively young. Our strategy to collect feedback from (international) alumni to further improve our curriculum will only fully bear fruit when a critical number of alumni will be reached.
- As we strive at covering every aspect of the very diverse aquaculture health and disease issues, the programme is very intensive and leaves little time for extra-curricular activities. Also, a strong basic background in, for instance, microbiology, biochemistry and statistics is essential to keep up with the fast pace of the courses.
- The curriculum combines modules of the 4 partners organising this programme. Although the course content and learning lines are coherent, logistic and administrative differences among the partners – for instance slight incongruities in academic calendars – urge for solutions that require some flexibility from the participants.
This study programme is accredited by the Flemish-Dutch Accreditation Organization (in Dutch: NVAO).
This information was last updated on 01/02/2023.
In case of questions or suggestions with regard to the publicly available information, please contact the study programme.