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Description of Ethnobotany

Anthropology prides itself on its inclusive and interdisciplinary focus. It takes a holistic approach to human society, combining biological and social perspectives.

All of our Anthropology Masterís programmes are recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as having research training status, so successful completion of these courses is sufficient preparation for research in the various fields of social anthropology. Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their Masterís qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments to teaching to consultancy work overseas.

Ethnobotany is the study of the interrelationship between people and plants, particularly the way in which plants impact on human culture and practices, how humans have used and modified plants, and how they represent them in their systems of knowledge. It is fundamentally interdisciplinary: connecting anthropology, botany, natural resource management and environmental history, to mention only the most central of the contributing subjects.

The programme is taught collaboratively with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (a World Heritage Site) and DICE.

About the School of Anthropology and Conservation

Kent has pioneered the social anthropological study of Europe, Latin America, Melanesia, and Central and Southeast Asia, the use of computers in anthropological research, and environmental anthropology in its widest sense (including ethnobiology and ethnobotany). It maintains an active research culture, with staff working in many different parts of the world.

Our regional expertise covers Western and Southeast Europe, Europe, the Middle East, Central South East and Southern, Central and South America, Amazonia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Polynesia. Specialisation in biological anthropology includes forensics and paleopathology, osteology, evolutionary psychology and the evolutionary ecology and behaviour of great apes.

Higher degrees in anthropology create opportunities in many employment sectors including academia, the civil service and non-governmental organisations through work in areas such as human rights, journalism, documentary film making, environmental conservation and international finance. An anthropology degree also develops interpersonal and intercultural skills, which make our graduates highly desirable in any profession that involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Detailed Course Facts

Application deadline as soon as possible
Tuition fee
  • GBP 15380 Year (Non-EEA)
  • GBP 8800 Year (EEA)
Part-time: UK/EU: £4,410; Overseas: £7,690
Start date September  2016
Credits (ECTS) 90 ECTS

Credits 180

Duration full-time 12 months
Partnership Joint
Delivery mode On Campus
Educational variant Part-time, Full-time
Intensity Flexible
Duration part-time 24 months
Part-time variant Flexible

Course Content

The following Masterís programmes are recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as having research training status, so successful completion of these courses is sufficient preparation for research in the various fields of social anthropology. Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their Masterís qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments to teaching to consultancy work overseas.

Please note that modules are subject to change. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.

This programme combines anthropological studies of human-environment interaction and socio-cultural knowledge of plants in different parts of the world with ecology, conservation science and biodiversity management. It also covers plant conservation and sustainable management practices, taxonomy, and economic botany.

The programme is taught collaboratively with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (a World Heritage Site) and DICE.


The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

  • Contemporary Issues in Ethnobotany
  • Research Methods in Social Anthropology
  • Environmental Anthropology
  • Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems
  • Introduction to Botanical Ethnobotany
  • Plant Resources and their Conservation
  • Dissertation: Ethnobotany


Assessment is by written reports, oral presentations, written student feedback forms and the dissertation.

Learning outcomes

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • to provide you with a broad range of knowledge in the major aspects of the subject, showing how these involve connections between a range of different academic disciplines
  • provide you with advanced level knowledge of the theoretical, methodological and policy issues relevant to understanding the subdiscipline
  • provide you with advanced level knowledge of the theoretical and methodological issues relevant to understanding the subject
  • introduce you to a variety of different approaches to ethnobotanical research, presented in a multidisciplinary context and at an advanced level
  • facilitate your educational experience through the provision of appropriate pedagogical opportunities for learning
  • provide you with appropriate training if you are preparing MPhil/PhD theses, or going on to employment involving the use of ethnobotanical research
  • make you aware of the range of existing material available and equip you to evaluate its utility for your research
  • cover the principles of research design and strategy, including formulating research questions or hypotheses and translating them into practicable research designs
  • introduce you to the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding research and to debates about the relationship between theory and research, about problems of evidence and inference, and about the limits to objectivity
  • develop skills in searching for and retrieving information, using library and internet resources in a multidisciplinary and cross-national context
  • introduce you to the idea of working with other academic and non-academic agencies, when appropriate, and give you the skills to carry out collaborative research
  • develop your skills in writing, in the preparation of a research proposal, in the presentation of research results and in verbal communication
  • help you to prepare your research results for wider dissemination, in the form of seminar papers, conference presentations, reports and publications, in a form suitable for a range of different audiences, including academics, policymakers, professionals, service users and the general public
  • give you an appreciation of the potentialities and problems of ethnobotanical research in local, regional, national and international settings
  • ensure that the research of the Departmentís staff informs the design of modules, and their content and delivery in ways which can achieve the national benchmarks of the subject in a manner which is efficient and reliable, and enjoyable to students.
Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • ethnobotany as the comparative and interdisciplinary study of the relationship between people and plants
  • specific themes in ethnobotany eg plant conservation, medical ethnobotany, ethnobotanical knowledge systems
  • cultural and biological diversity and an appreciation of its scope
  • several ethnographic regions of the world including north Africa, South America. South Asia and Southeast Asia (in particular Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines)
  • the history of the development of ethnobotany as a subject
  • the variety of theoretical approaches contained within the subject
  • the processes of biological and social change
  • the application of ethnobotany to understanding issues of sustainable social and economic development and environmental conservation throughout the world
  • the relevance of ethnobotany to understanding everyday processes of plant-human interaction anywhere in the world.
Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • general learning and study skills
  • critical and analytical skills
  • expression of ideas both orally and in written form
  • communication skills
  • groupwork skills
  • computing skills
  • reviewing and summarising information
  • data retrieval ability.
Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the ability to understand how people are shaped by their social, cultural and physical environments while nonetheless possessing a capacity for individual agency which can allow them to transcend some environmental constraints
  • the ability to recognise the pertinence of an ethnobotanical perspective to understanding major national and international events.
  • the ability to interpret plants by locating them within appropriate cultural and historical contexts
  • high-level competence in using ethnobotanical theories and perspectives in the presentation of information and argument
  • high-level ability to identify and analyse the significance of the social and cultural contexts of plant use
  • the ability to devise questions for research and study which are anthropologically informed
  • the ability to perceive the way in which cultural assumptions may affect the perception and use of plants
  • an openness to try and make rational sense of cultural and social phenomena related to plants that may appear at first sight incomprehensible.
Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to make a structured argument
  • the ability to make appropriate reference to scholarly data
  • time-management skills
  • the use of information technology including computers and library research
  • groupwork
  • handling audio-visual equipment
  • independent research
  • presentation skills
  • have the ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
  • have the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

English Language Requirements

CAE score
193(Grade B)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Per 6 April 2015 only the English language tests from IELTS and Trinity College London are accepted for Tier 4 Visa applications to the United Kingdom. Other tests (including TOEFL, TOEIC, Pearson, City & Guilds) are no longer accepted for Tier 4 visa applications to the United Kingdom. The university might still accept these tests to admit you to the university, but if you require a Tier 4 visa to enter the UK and begin your degree programme, these tests will not be sufficient to obtain your Visa. Since the Trinity College London language tests must be taken in one of their exam centres in the UK, IELTS is now the only language test accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK that can be taken worldwide.

The IELTS test is most widely accepted by universities and is also accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK- learn more.

Requirements for Ethnobotany

A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology, botany, biology, environmental studies, environmental science, geography or similar.

Work Experience for Ethnobotany

No work experience is required.

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