Aquaculture: Sustainable Aquaculture

Study Aquaculture: Sustainable Aquaculture and graduate with a university degree

Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, MSc

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Aquaculture: Sustainable Aquaculture
  • Type Full-time
  • Start date September The course is available on a block-release basis (by selecting individual or a series of modules) over a period not exceeding five academic years.

University of Stirling
+44 (0) 1786 467921

The Institute of Aquaculture is one of a handful of institutions world-wide wholly devoted to aquaculture science and is the only university department of its kind in the UK. The Institute is internationally recognised for both research and teaching and has more than 70 staff and 80 postgraduate students.

Our goal is to develop and promote sustainable aquaculture and in pursuit of this carry out research across most areas of aquaculture science including:

  • Reproduction and Genetics
  • Health Management
  • Nutrition
  • Environmental Management
  • Aquaculture Systems and International Development


Course objectives

The Institute of Aquaculture provides appropriate and flexible learning opportunities through which you can acquire and develop the knowledge and skills necessary to establish, manage and appraise aquaculture enterprises and development projects in the UK, Europe and overseas.

The course in Sustainable Aquaculture and its related degree outcomes are a natural career progression for most candidates and invaluable for others wishing to enter the aquaculture field. They also provide training for students who wish to pursue a PhD, especially in aquaculture, fisheries and aquatic resources exploitation and management.

Though all students register for the MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture they have the option specialising at the end of the Foundation modules in one of five degree outcomes: Sustainable Aquaculture, Aquaculture and the Environment, Aquaculture Business Management, Aquaculture and Development and Aquaculture Biotechnology.

Entrance requirements

A minimum of a second class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject.  Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 (5.5 in all bands).

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard.

Our range of pre-sessional courses.

Modes of study

Full-time study or discontinuous study by block release.

Course start date


The course is available on a block-release basis (by selecting individual or a series of modules) over a period not exceeding five academic years.

Structure and content

The MSc course at the Institute of Aquaculture is highly modularised and is designed to give considerable flexibility for learning, while maintaining a high standard of training. This structure allows students to make more subject choices which will benefit their future career and also have greater flexibility of learning over time. There are a number of degree outcomes available. These differ primarily in their defined path of required modules; specialised outcomes have more compulsory modules where the Sustainable Aquaculture degree has greater choice. The degree outcomes are:

  • Master of Science/Postgraduate Diploma/Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Aquaculture
  • Master of Science/Postgraduate Diploma in Aquaculture and the Environment
  • Master of Science/Postgraduate Diploma in Aquaculture Business Management
  • Master of Science/Postgraduate Diploma in Aquaculture and Development
  • Master of Science/Postgraduate Diploma in Aquaculture Biotechnology

The full Master’s course for each degree outcome is divided into four taught modules, containing 18 subject areas or topics, and a single research project module. The overall course is divided into three parts:

Foundation modules (September to December)
There are two compulsory modules consisting of six topics of study, taken consecutively, giving instruction in basic aquaculture concepts and skills. Successful completion of both foundation modules will qualify you for a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Aquaculture. Students select a particular named degree outcome at the end of the foundation modules. Topics of study within the advanced modules are then chosen appropriately.

Advanced modules (January to April)
You must choose two advanced modules which cover six from 18 topics of study offered (choices are dependent on the final degree outcome to be awarded). Successful completion of the advanced modules, subsequent to the foundation modules, will qualify the student for a Postgraduate Diploma in a selected named degree outcome.

Research Project module (April to August)
The Research Project module is completed in a subject area which complements the chosen course of advanced study or your named degree outcome. These projects can be lab-based, field-based, or involve a desk study analysis/report. Successful completion of the module, subsequent to foundation and advanced modules, will qualify the student for an MSc in a selected degree outcome.


The research interesting within the Institute of Aquaculture is highly varied and covers mainly aspects of the technical and policy-based development worldwide. Present research interests are:

Animal Welfare: Impact of husbandry systems on the stress response and welfare of cultured fish.

Applied Fish Physiology: Energy budgeting and metabolism of halibut, carp, cod and tilapia; SDA, nitrogenous metabolites, activity budgeting, oxygen consumption and requirements. Applied anaesthesia and stress considerations.  Remote stereo video imaging and biomass measurement:  Predictive energy budgeting in fish and shrimp.

Aquaculture Engineering: Treatment of aquaculture wastes; aquaculture system design and development; fluid mechanics of fish tanks and incubators.

Aquaculture Nutrition: Nutrition of temperate and tropical finfish and crustaceans; lipid nutrition; antioxidant and carotenoid biochemistry; larval nutrition; control of appetite/fat deposition in fishes; use of agricultural wastes and other products as substitutes in diets; nutrient requirements in relation to digestible energy intakes. The present emphasis is on the lipid nutrition of salmonids and specifically the biochemistry and molecular biology of the desaturases involved in the formation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Aquaculture Production: Design of production systems, economics and resource use in aquaculture; sustainability of aquaculture, manpower planning, technology transfer.  Use of Geographic Information Systems and satellite imagery in facility planning and natural resource use periphyton-based aquaculture.

Aquatic Molecular Toxicology: Cellular effects of metals, organic pollutants and agrochemicals on aquatic organisms; environmental regulation of genes for detoxification systems; in vitro toxicology as alternatives to whole animals testing; biochemical responses to pollutants as biomarkers of environmental exposure and ecosystem health; fish developmental biology; application of molecular biological and genetic techniques to mechanistic investigations of adaptation of fish populations to polluted environments. 

Biotechnology: Cryopreservation and micromanipulation of fish gametes.  The interaction of physico-chemical factors on the viability of post-thawed gametes.

Ecotoxicology: Effects of poorly water soluble compounds on aquatic ecosystems, their structure and function; development of test systems with artificial sediments and benthic communities; field evaluation of novel chemotherapeutants; development of physiological models to predict impacts of toxicants.

Environment: Qualitative and quantitative aspects of water use; micro- and macro-environmental impacts of resource use and waste production; modelling of waste production and impacts; evaluation of Environmental Assessment techniques; remediation; impacts of aquaculture on biodiversity; use of modelling and GIS in coastal management of aquaculture.

Epidemiology: There is currently a project studying the risk factors and control of White Spot disease in cultured shrimp in Vietnam and India.

Histopathology: Finfish and crustacean diseases, with special reference to infectious diseases and therapy.  The main emphasis is on the economically significant problems affecting farmed aquatic animals.

Immunology: Production of monoclonal antibody probes against fish pathogens and fish immunoglobulins. Development of rapid methods (including ELISA, imminohistochemistry, IFAT, PCR, in situ hybridisation) to detect a variety of fish bacterial, parasitic, viral and fungal pathogens. Environmental monitoring of fish pathogens using PCR. Development of vaccines to prevent Proliferative Kidney Disease, Bacterial Kidney Disease, Rainbow Trout Fry Syndrome, Pasteurellosis and Aeromonas hydrophila infections. Studies on the effects of dietary additives on the immune response in fish.

International Aquaculture Development: Sustainable and ethical trade and development of aquaculture; the food supply chain and sustainability; socio-economic and poverty elevation through aquaculture production; marketing issues within the food supply chain.

Microbiology:  Viral diseases of tropical and temperate fish, e.g. Viral Nervous Necrosis, Infectious Salmon Anaemia;  bacterial diseases of fish, shellfish and amphibians, e.g. bacterial kidney disease, Cytophaga spp. infections, vibriosis in shrimp and frog septicaemic disease.  Disease prevention and therapy; development of novel therapeutic agents and methodology of administration; safety and efficacy studies.

Nutritional pathology: Dietary requirement studies in novel species and their pathologies; specific deficiencies in farmed fish, pancreas disease, Vitamin E, metal toxicity.

Parasitology:  Host/parasite interactions; pathology of parasitic infections; parasitic population dynamics in relation to culture condition; epidemiology; diagnostic methods; biosystematics of pathogenic species; molecular biology of parasites; vaccines; sea lice biology; parasite management and control strategies.

Physiological Ecology and Feeding Habits of Cultured Species:  Ecology of lakes, reservoirs and ponds and their management for aquaculture; feeding behaviour of tropical food fishes.

Reproduction Biology and Genetics: Reproductive strategies in fish; environmental and hormonal control mechanisms; biological rhythms; fecundity; gamete quality; induced spawning; sex reversal; androgenesis; gynogenesis; hybridisation; sex determination; inbreeding; selection and management of broodstocks; genetic markers; electrophoresis; mitochondrial DNA; species identification; taxonomy and conservation.

Delivery and assessment

In addition to lectures, tutorials and seminars, a number of assignments must be completed. Laboratory-based practical sessions and fieldwork are also important elements of the programme. Taught module assessment is continuous, involving short tests, seminars, essays, practical reports, critical and computational analysis, field assignments and set project reports. The research project module is examined through written dissertation and seminar presentations by both examiners and the external examiner.

Module titles

Foundation modules:

  • Principles of Aquaculture (topics: Aquatic Animal Biology and Health, Aquatic Animals in the Environment, Aquatic Animal Nutrition and Food Safety) (AQUPX1)
  • Aquaculture Production (topics: Aquatic Animal Reproduction & Genetics, Aquatic Production Systems, Aquaculture in Practice) (AQUPX2)

Advanced modules (choose two from six):

  • Aquatic Environmental Resources (topics: Environmental Management, GIS and Remote Sensing, Biodiversity & Sustainable Development) (AQUPY1)
  • Animal Health & Breeding (topics: Broodstock Management & Genetics, Epidemiology & Health Control, Ecotoxicology) (AQUPY2)
  • Advanced Aquaculture Production (topics: Aquaculture Engineering, Practical Feed Production, Non-fish Aquaculture) (AQUPY3)
  • Aquaculture Development (topics: Policy, Planning & Management, Livelihoods & Aquatic Resources Management, Business & Financial Management) (AQUPY4)
  • Aquaculture Biotechonology I (AQUPY5)
  • Aquaculture Biotechnology II (AQUPY6)

Research Project module

View module information

Course Director

Dr Trevor Telfer

RAE rating

The Institute of Aquaculture, with a rating of 2.45 in the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), was graded the top aquaculture department in the UK.


The Institute has been closely associated with the global expansion of aquaculture initially through developing and improving the existing production systems and the development of new farmed species. In recent years our research has focused on increasing the sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of these activities.

This gives out students the unique opportunity to be associated with these activities and obtain an insight into all aspects of aquacultural sciences and development worldwide.

Career opportunities

This course has run for over 30 years and has trained over 620 students from all over the world. The comprehensive nature of the course and our close links with UK and overseas industry allows good potential for employment in any aspect of commercial aquaculture. Approximately 30 percent of our students follow a direct route into industry.

Additionally, the course is an excellent grounding for research and further education, often building on the dissertation, and about 30 percent of graduates choose this route. Links with government departments throughout the world allow many of our graduates to establish careers in aquaculture development and aquaculture management in developing countries.



You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.


Masters Scholarships

The Scottish Funding Council is funding Home/EU tuition fees for a number of places on the MSc Sustainable Aquaculture.  Funded places are open to applicants domiciled in Scotland and the EU.  More information 

Fishmongers Society of Great Britain Bursary

A single bursary of around £3,500 is normally awarded each year by the Fishmongers Society of Great Britain for the MSc Sustainable Aquaculture programme.  All eligible applicants are considered for these awards in June/July preceding entry on the basis of academic merit.

Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan

This course is currently approved for PTFL (Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan) funding from SAAS. More information


For further information on possible sources of funding, visit: