Algal Biotechnology and Bioeconomy MSc

Course code C903

What is special about this course?

Algal biotechnology is a rapidly expanding discipline that seeks to understand and harness the resources of some of the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet.

Algae are comprised of microscopic photosynthetic organisms and macroscopic seaweeds, and are key to human life on earth, producing much of the oxygen that we breathe and underpinning the base of freshwater and marine food chains. Furthermore, algae and their natural products have a huge range of current and potential applications for humans: developing applications include pharmaceuticals, pigments, nutraceuticals, biofuels, enzymes, fertilisers, and bioremediation materials, on earth and even for space applications.

The aim of this programme is to produce highly motivated and trained scientists in the sphere of Algal Biotechnology, with the skills, knowledge and abilities to compete effectively within the employment market of this rapidly expanding area of research and commercial application.

Special features

  • Learn from experts in the algal biotechnology field
  • The course is delivered by scientists from: the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), a leading institute in algal research; the wider UHI network; and other sector experts
  • Theory and practical sessions, including residential experiences
  • Train using the latest equipment at SAMS and CCAP
  • Small class sizes, plus networking across courses and modules
  • Amazing marine location in the highlands and islands of Scotland
  • Opportunities to carry out research abroad

Entry requirements

  • 2:2 honours degree or above in a relevant biological or other biology- related STEM subject
  • Other degree routes, third or ordinary degrees will be considered on application and based on interview 
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must also have a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.5 or equivalent – please see our English Language requirements guide for further details
  • All applicants will be required to attend an interview

Application deadlines for September 2022 intake:

  • International applicants should apply by 1st June 2022
  • UK and EU applicants with 'settled status' in the UK should apply by 1st July 2022

*Funding support notice*

A limited number of scholarships from SAIC (fees only) are available for applicants who meet Scottish residential status, please contact the course team for further information.

Access routes


You will study the following modules.

Semester 1 (September to early January):

Key skills for algal biotechnologists

You will learn:

  • research approaches (biological, statistical and management) essential for becoming an expert phycologist
  • biological approaches include isolation and characterisation, nurturing and assessing biotechnological potential of phototrophs
  • statistical approaches focused on designing experiments for optimising the phototroph output: yield or production or sequestration of compounds (of commercial or research interest)
  • management approaches cover aspects of policy and promotion of research outcomes
  • module will help you gain practical expertise to pursue your chosen career in applied or academic phycology


Managing biological lifecycles – micro and macroalgae

The module will allow you to:

  • gain extensive, detailed and critical knowledge of the main features, techniques, current research, and policy on micro- and macroalgal cultivation globally
  • use a significant range of standard and specialised research equipment and techniques which are applicable to the systems used in the production of micro- and macroalgae
  • gain a critical understanding of how the aquaculture industry manages the biological life-cycles of micro- and macroalgae
  • critically review, consolidate and extend knowledge, in thinking applicable to the critical points of production and the wider environmental and socio-economic impacts that the industry can have on coastal waters


Introduction to R and Data Visualisation (online only)

Analysing data often begins with visualising it, observing the relationships that appear, and discovering anything unexpected. This module will teach you how to use the open source statistical software R to visualise data including cleaning, preparing and summarising the data sets. Alongside the data visualisations, reproducible reporting mechanisms will be introduced, using a document format that mixes code and text. The skills learned in the module are used in many fields and are applicable for use with many datasets, regardless of size. R is a widely used tool throughout various industries and businesses. It has a large open source community who contribute to the development of new tools and techniques, along with providing community support. Other industry tools, including an integrated development environment and version control, will also be used throughout the module. 




You will study the following modules.

Semester 2 (end of January to end of May):

Blue Biotechnology

This module combines taught and practical elements. Topics to be covered include the taxonomy, systematics, and physiology of micro- and macro-algae. The emphasis will be on the biotechnological exploitation of these organisms focusing on: their use as human/animal food; hydrocolloids; fine chemicals; green fertilizers; and as feed-stock to produce algal biofuels. Issues such as the environmental impacts of macro-algal farms, disease susceptibility and techno-economics will be covered.


Genomics and Metabolomics in Algal Biotechnology

The module will provide a theoretical and practical knowledge and skills in the use of genomics and metabolomics. Knowledge in both areas is highly sought after across a wide range of research and commercial/industrial biotechnological settings, not least in algal biotechnology. This module will develop knowledge and critical evaluation skills relating to their application in biotechnology, and the use of biotechnology in the context of algae and the environment. It will develop the critical skills for problem-solving in genomics and metabolomics.


Algal Scale up and Processing

This module combines taught, practical and off-site visit elements. Topics include the process of microalgal scale-up from cells on small agar tubes or liquid vials to 70+L algal bioreactors in the SAMS-CCAP ARIES system. The types of scale are considered in the lectures. The harvesting processes (centrifugation and membrane filtration) will be taught in the lectures and practical sessions. Productivity units in terms of aerial and other units will be taught. An off-site visit to the University of Cambridge Algal Innovation Centre (AIC) will introduce you to different ways of growing and harvesting algae in larger settings. There may also be opportunity to visit industrial algal growth companies in the UK. SWOT analyses will develop your skills in critical evaluation of scale up techniques.


You will study the following module.

Semester 2 (January to August):


This module will provide you with an opportunity to undertake a sustained and independent investigation or project on one area or topic within Algal Biotechnology, under academic and/or industrial supervision. The project can either be at SAMS, SAMS Enterprise, anywhere at the wider UHI institutes (by agreement), or at an external academic group or industrial partner, in the UK or internationally. Extra independent funds to cover non-SAMS placements will be investigated by you and your course leader during the year.

How will I study my course?

  • Full-time
  • You will learn through a combination of face to face lectures and tutorials for all modules, with the exception of the Introduction to R module, which is held online via Inverness UHI
  • All modules at SAMS contain a mix of theory and practical classes
  • There will be a field trip to other algal growth facilities, such as the Algal Innovation Centre at the University of Cambridge, in semester 2
  • The research dissertation can be hosted at SAMS or other external industry or academic sites, in the UK or abroad, if funding allows
  • For further course information, please see the SAMS site page

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 1 year @ 35-40 hours per week

Number of hours per week indicates the total number of hours you should dedicate to the course, which includes time spent in lectures and your own time spent on individual study and research.

Where can I study my course?

  • Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI

Start date

  • September


The following fees apply to this taught postgraduate course:

For students normally domiciled in Scotland or the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland, including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), studying this course on-campus the following fee applies:

This includes

  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status in the UK,
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with settled status in the UK
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.
MSc (180 credits), full-time £9,000

Fees are payable in advance each academic year unless otherwise agreed.

International students

For students who do not normally reside in the UK or are otherwise assessed as international for fee purposes, studying this course on-campus, the following fee applies:

MSc £12,800

This includes EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled in the UK and EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are not self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.

Fees are payable in advance each academic year unless otherwise agreed.


A limited number of scholarships from SAIC (fees only) are available for applicants who meet Scottish residential status, please contact the course team for further information.

Additional costs

There is a short, off-site, residential excursion planned to Cambridge, UK, in Semester 2. Standard travel and accommodation will be arranged and covered by the course but extra costs incurred (meals etc) will need to be covered by the student. It may be possible to make arrangements on a case by case basis with the module leader, if these costs are a barrier to a student attending this excursion.

Some students may want to carry out their dissertation research outside the SAMS facilities (eg at an algal industry or other academic partner). The course will not directly fund such off-site projects beyond that allocated for the project, but will mentor the student to look for extra funds if required (eg. for travel and accommodation).

What can I do on completion of my course?

Once you have successfully completed this course, you might like to consider the following career paths:

  • Companies growing algae at scale for high value products or aquaculture
  • Starting your own company
  • Scientific research assistant

Can I progress into further study?

You may wish to progress from MSc Algal Biotechnology and Bioeconomy to PhD research in Algal Biology and/or Biotechnology.

Is there more information available online?

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Apply for Algal Biotechnology and Bioeconomy MSc

I want to start in Aug/Sep 2022

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.