Key facts

Course Dates
Three intakes per year
Up to 5 years (3 years for those in receipt of a student loan)
Entry Requirements
Graduate level or relevant experience
IFST Membership
Your course enrolment also entitles you to one year of free membership to the IFST (Institute of Food, Science and Technology).
CQFW Level
Course Provider
Aberystwyth University
Provider Reference Number
Course Arrangements
Full joining instructions will be confirmed by the course provider.
Course Location
Aberystwyth University, Online
AFTP Cohort
Course Logistics
Our distance learning modules are designed to be flexible so that you can fit studying around your work and other commitments. A typical master's participant is expected to study for 200 hours when taking a 20 credit module. As a rule of thumb you should anticipate spending approximately 2-3 hours a week on online lectures, presentations and podcasts, and the remaining time on readings and assignments; the more time and effort you can put in, the more you'll benefit from studying the module and the better your grades are likely to be.

Course overview

The time is ripe to develop low carbon alternatives to petroleum-based products both in terms of what society wants and what economics demand. This makes it’s an exciting time to be part of the rapidly developing Biotech Industries. However, biorefining is a highly technical field and the successful growth of the industry is resulting in a lack of sufficient staff with the technical knowledge necessary to support its expansion.

Equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to be part of the new bio-economy. This MSc focuses on substituting plant material for mineral oil and you can choose from a range of modules which incorporate the latest thinking around this.

This training programme has been designed in consultation with existing UK industries to address this skills shortage. Since this programme is aimed at people who are already working, training is via distance learning.

Participants take at least 3 and up to 5 of the modules shown at the bottom of this page, plus Research Methods and a Work-based research project.  Up to 2 complementary modules may be taken from the following: Carbon Footprinting and LCA, Climate Change, Anaerobic Digestion, Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics 

This programme is delivered entirely on-line. Modules are accessible as CPD or as credit-bearing units towards a range of postgraduate qualifications.

Completing this course results in a postgraduate qualification. See Our Qualifications for more information.

Learning outcomes

The focus of this MSc is to increase understanding of the challenges facing the sector and awareness of current relevant research. To ensure academic coherence throughout the optional taught modules all work towards common learning outcomes, as follows:

  • The challenges facing land based agriculture to substitute for fossil carbon
  • Communicating scientific issues to both the scientific community and other stakeholders including policy makers and the public
  • An awareness of the social and societal issues associated with the application (and non-application) of different biotechnology options
  • Limiting impacts and integrating policy frameworks into development strategies
  • The nature of scientific investigation and the application of results into practice to foster greater sustainability and efficiency within industrial biotechnology


Additional Course Information

A flexible approach to postgraduate learning:

  • Take 5 years to complete as many or as few modules as you like
  • Choose modules to meet your needs
  • Carry out work-based research to benefit your business

Course Structure

Biobased Product Development

Start Date: Starts Sept 2019
Location: Aberystwyth University, Online
Credits: 20 credits

The Biobased Product Development course examines the potential end-products from bio-refineries, such as biodegradable plastics, biocomposites and biofuels. All these products come from biomass, which is renewable and sustainable, unlike fossil oil-based conventional products.

Our knowledge of how to refine organic biomass has improved and we are able to extract new molecules (or bioproducts) that can only be made from biomass, and hence dictate availability and price of that product. Following governmental policies on banning the landfilling of recyclable plastics, single-use plastic waste and the trouble of recycling contaminated fossil-based plastics, biodegradable plastics are an important topic for the agrifood sector, not to mention using biobased items is more sustainable and thus applicable to ‘green tax’.

The course focuses on both industry standard and newly emerging technologies. This includes the product innovation chain including commercial elements, life-cycle analysis and regulatory considerations.

The course is aimed at the postgraduate level (Masters). This qualification will be of great benefit to Construction industries, any industry using plastic packaging, any industry that produces a waste stream that could be valorized.

Previous participants who benefited from the module have been involved in several biotech industries, from teaching in China to farm management and technicians based in an anaerobic digestion plant.

Biorefining Technologies

Start Date: 10 Jan 2018
Location: Aberystwyth University, Online
Credits: 20 credits

The Biorefining Technologies course provides a detailed examination of  current and emerging technologies. You will examine the validity of mining for value added minor components whilst leaving large quantities of biomass for secondary processing; and take a comprehensive look at layered approaches to valorisation within diverse feedstocks e.g. from micro-algae to agricultural waste.

This module can be taken as a stand-alone course or as an option in the following courses:

Biorenewable Feedstocks

Start Date: TBC
Location: Aberystwyth University, Online
Credits: 20 credits

The Biorenewable Feedstocks course focuses on research into a range of feedstocks including dedicated feedstock crops grown for energy and for the biopharmaceutical chemical industry. Biorefining of agricultural waste and food waste streams will also be investigated for valorisation. This course is driven by on-going biorefining and bioenergy research at Aberystwyth University in collaboration with  partners from the chemical industry.

We will explore how and why research programmes in dedicated crops can improve biorenewable feedstocks and how this drives the bio-economy. We will begin with an overall introduction to biotechnology, crop breeding in the chemical industry and biorenewable feedstock improvement and look at the societal drivers and impacts of this sector.

Participants will gain understanding and appreciation of the technologies used to identify variation in feedstocks and to improve yield and composition including: trait analysis, imaging and spectral analysis, conventional breeding, GM and association genetics. Participants will also gain knowledge of funding sources and business innovation to ‘make biotechnology happen’.

This module can be taken as a stand-alone course or as an option in the following courses:

Drivers of the Bioeconomy

Start Date: starts May 2019
Location: Aberystwyth University, Online
Credits: 20 credits

The biobased economy encompasses much more than our need to find renewable substitutes for oil in the face of climate change and the finite nature of fossil fuels. It is a global issue encompassing sustainability, food production, economic growth and public health.

This module examines the societal drivers that shape the bio-economy and looks at what makes production viable. The need for energy efficiency will be highlighted, along with vertically integrated production pipelines. There will be a focus on global policies and economic trends and we will look at the implications, restrictions and opportunities they present to biobased industries, and we will consider the approaches used to underpin and evaluate them, such as LCA and the application of green chemistry to conversion processes.

Waste Stream Valorisation

Start Date: May 2019
Location: Aberystwyth University, Online
Credits: 20 credits

Organic waste arising from many biotechnological industries can be processed to extract useful products or sources of energy. Much waste therefore has a value, determined by extraction costs and by the market value of its metabolites. 

This module explores the potential to valorise a range of waste streams and will include case studies of exemplary waste streams as well as from participants’ own chosen areas of interest.  The methods, technologies and equipment used to separate and fractionate waste, both downstream and upstream, will be discussed, as will the biotechnologically important metabolites that we can expect to be in demand in the future.

My AFTP training course has given me greater confidence day-to-day and more insight into the impact of new techniques and technologies.
Andy Russell - Fresh Produce Technologist, Bakkavor

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