Courses: Nutrition

'First and foremost you must have an interest in food and health'

Tuesday 27 February 2007 01:00

What are the entry requirements for this course?

The majority of students join the course with three A-levels with ABB grades. One of these will normally be biology, but more and more students come with home economics or food technology. You don't have to study chemistry at A-level (although it does help) as you are normally taught basic biological chemistry in the first year. Students from Scotland with As and Bs in highers and advanced highers, as well as students taking Access and BTEC qualifications, are generally welcome too.

Who applies?

First and foremost you must have an interest in food, nutrition and health. You've probably read about food matters in newspapers and magazines and wondered why eating healthily is so important. Perhaps you're a good cook and want to develop new foods for everyone to enjoy? You'll enjoy science and want to use your knowledge to make an impact.

What does the course involve?

Nutrition has its roots in the biological sciences which all have laboratory elements, and it's important to experience these first hand. Because all students have different backgrounds, the first year is used to build the foundations for the degree: courses in biological chemistry, genetics, microbiology and physiology provide the base for later years. We live in a technological age, so it's also important to learn how to use IT effectively for analysing and presenting data, as well as a vital aid to teaching and learning.

In the first year, students learn the basics of food production and utilisation, including making visits to factories and kitchen outlets. As the course progresses, nutrition and food science become the focus of attention, again with a mix of lectures and practical sessions. Students gain experience in how to design and carry out experiments on people, and even take part in a few nutrition experiments themselves! In the final year, courses are research-led as students work first-hand in a research project to produce a dissertation.

The placement year is a key part of the degree programme at Newcastle University and takes place between Stages 2 and 3. All students do their placement in an approved company or organisation of their choice. During this year, students experience first-hand food science and/or nutrition in an industrial, commercial or public sector environment in the UK or overseas. Students use this experience as the basis for obtaining the Licentiateship of the City and Guilds of London Institute (LCGI), showing how they've developed personal, transferable skills in the workplace. Many institutions offer this placement year; visit individual websites to find out who does what.

How long does it last?

Because of the placement year, the full programme lasts four years from start to finish.

How will I be assessed?

At Newcastle, all courses are formally assessed. Mostly this includes traditional exams but there are also have in-course assessments with essays, practical reports, oral and poster presentations. Sometimes these are completed as group tasks and peer assessment is encouraged. In the final year the project dissertation makes up a quarter of the final mark.

Are there opportunities for further study?

A number of students go on to study higher degrees in dietetics or in specialist nutrition courses; food & human nutrition is an ideal entry route into these taught MSc courses. Some will go into research and study for a PhD, where the breadth of the degree and material covered gives a perfect grounding for further research.

What career options are there when the course is completed?

The food industry is the main employer where graduates find employment in all areas, including product development, technology and retail. You'll find graduates in all the major companies including Sainsbury's, Tesco, Kerry Foods, Marks & Spencer, MasterFoods and Jordans Cereals.

Dr Chris Seal, senior lecturer in the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University,

Current student: Laura Briggs, 19, is in the second year of a food and human nutrition course at Newcastle University

"I studied biology, chemistry and food technology at A-level. In the first year, my course focussed on building up basic scientific knowledge. Modules included biochemistry and food production. The second year is nutrition-based, and my final year will include more on health and disease.

We are primarily taught through lectures, but we get to visit factories to look at production. Assessment is mostly through exams.

What attracted me most to this course was the compulsory year in industry. Starting in June I'll be working with Innocent drinks' product development team - I'm really excited about it."

Recent graduate: Chris Greaves, 24, is a quality technician an Nestlé UK

"I graduated in food and human nutrition at Newcastle University in 2005, and had a year-long placement at Unilever in 2004. Now I am one of five quality technicians at Nestlé, where I manage a team of at least seven people and run the food-testing laboratory. Managing a small team is demanding at times, especially when workloads are heavy, but this makes it especially rewarding when targets are met.

Due to my nutritional background, my particular targets are to ensure microbiological sampling is carried out on time, that all staff are educated about milk allergens, and to ensure that all machines are fully cleaned to reduce the risk of milk allergens."


British Nutrition Foundation Read about the different career paths in nutrition

The Institute of Food Science and Technology The Europe-based professional body for food science and technology

Food Standards Agency Get an idea of food issues in the UK

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