Undergraduate study
Biological Sciences

BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

UCAS code: C100 BSc/BioSc

Biology touches all areas of our life, from the microscopic working of our cells to immune evasion strategies of bacteria. This programme is broad in content, drawing on recent technological and theoretical advances in the field. It covers topics ranging from the complexities of the genetic code to ecosystems on land, helping to keep your career options as wide as possible.

Course information

Full-time

  • Length: 3 years (or 4 years with work placement)

More full-time details

Part-time

  • 6 years if entering Year 1, 4 years if entering Year 2

More part-time details

  • Timetable governed - please contact our admissions office
  • Enrolment date: September
  • Admission enquiries: 01642 738800

Contact details

Further information

This degree emphasises how understanding genetic, cellular, organism, ecological and evolutionary biology can be employed to benefit humankind and improve the environment. We draw on our local biotechnology industry and links with national experts to enhance your learning, ensuring you develop comprehensive knowledge and skills relevant to current industry and employer requirements. Your learning includes extensive development of a range of laboratory techniques, professional and employment skills (which are highly regarded by employers) as well as a thorough understanding of biological principles. This learning culminates in a major research project in the final year, which is often linked to industrially significant applications.

According to the National Student Survey 2016, 95% of our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences students were satisfied overall with their course,

In Years 1 and 2 you focus on a number of key discipline-based topics, molecular biology, cell biology and microbiology, human biology, and ecology and evolution.

In the final year, you are given the choice of taking three modules which continue a biomedical specialism: Medical Microbiology, Biotherapeutics, and Human Ageing and Disease; or three modules which continue an ecology specialism: Ecological Sustainability, Environmental Protection, and Biogeography and Conservation; or a combination of the two. These modules integrate the key concepts addressed within the themes and heighten awareness to the continuing advances in biological sciences and their impact on other disciplines.

In addition, the course develops skills and attributes which prepare you for the world of work. For example, you undertake a series of intensive projects which mimics real-life situations and helps you become an effective member of a team.

Course structure

Year 1 core modules

Animal and Plant Biology

This module introduces the themes of ecology, diversity, variation within animals and plants, population biology and the complexity within ecosystems, and the relationships between animals and plants and their environment. You gain a thorough introduction to these themes within the lecture series and are given example problems to solve within tutorials. Learning is supported by a field trip surveying diversity within the local area, and laboratory sessions exploring the physiology of animals and plants.

Biochemistry and Chemical Science

Biochemistry, the study of the chemistry of life, is one of the most important and exciting areas of science. It spans areas including biomedical science, nutrition, drug design, forensic science, agriculture and manufacturing. It covers the most important principles of biochemistry including the structure of the atom, chemical bonding and the forces that operate between molecules, chemical reactions and biological pathways. You study the chemistry of carbon and why it is capable of forming the complex 3D modules that make life possible. And you study important groups of biological molecules in detail including proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids.

Biodiversity and Evolution

You study the concept of evolution and how it led to the development of biodiversity and the world we now inhabit. You discuss evolution by natural selection and our development from the common ancestor, along with the principles of taxonomy, speciation and the evolutionary tree to demonstrate relationships between species. We highlight the impact of modern molecular methods of taxonomy in the form of phylogenetics, particularly the discovery of the domain of archaea. We discuss the complex biodiversity of the microbial, plant and animal worlds and their importance in ecological balance for the earth, human kind and society in the form of conservation. Lectures and tutorial sessions provide an insight into the theoretical aspects of evolution and biodiversity, and you discuss and analyse problem-based exercises to affirm your theoretical knowledge.

Biological Methods

Life sciences is a multifaceted field drawing on knowledge and understanding from the molecular level to whole organisms and ecosystems. Biologists must be able to work in teams, drawing on this vast knowledge to solve problems in the field. In this module, you work in teams to solve a biologically relevant problem, taking into account the principles of health, safety and ethics facing professionals in the workplace. You develop a range of employability skills such as time management and presenting your work. You also gain the research skills needed to support problem solving in the field and to help you become a well-rounded, professional scientist.

Cell Biology and Microbiology

The cellular basis of all living organisms is one of the characteristics which defines life. This module explores the common features and the immense diversity of form and function displayed by cells of organisms. The module will increase your understanding of biological processes at the cellular level. It covers the structure and function of major cellular components and examines how fundamental processes within cells are organised and regulated, such as gene and protein expression. It also addresses the mechanisms by which cells divide, reproduce and differentiate. You study the historical development of cell biology and microbiology advances in theoretical and practical aspects of the discipline. You explore how knowledge of the biology of microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, has informed the identification and control of infectious diseases. You also examine the beneficial roles of many microorganisms and their utilisation in genetic engineering and biotechnology.

Core Skills in Life Sciences

Knowledge of the degree subject is not the only thing you learn whilst at university and it’s not the only thing that potential employers are looking for after graduation. You also need to develop a range of skills applicable for a variety of career pathways These include your ability to articulate yourself clearly, confidently and effectively to different audiences; to work independently or on your own initiative demonstrating creativity and adaptability when tackling problems where you don’t have all the necessary information available; to locate information and critically assess its usefulness; and to make efficient and effective use of the latest information technology.

You also learn to assess your own performance, giving you the chance to recognise and build on your strengths, and identify and improve your weaknesses as a way to raise your aspirations. This module also introduces you to basic principles and good practice in collecting, recording and evaluating data, and using information resources and referencing. You also consider the assessment and handling of scientific errors. You review a range of basic mathematical skills and introduce statistical methods that are essential in a wide range of scientific endeavour. Emphasis is placed on using spreadsheets for data recording, presentation and statistical analysis.

 

Year 2 core modules

Ecology and Biodiversity

This module is for students interested in ecology and how complex interactions shape the distribution and abundance patterns of species in the natural environment. You examine the ecology of populations and communities, and how the integration of powerful new molecular biology technologies can inform the study of ecology and ecological interactions. You explore the underlying theories used to explain the observed spatial and temporal patterns of diversity observed and the measurements which can be used to quantify diversity. These topics are aligned to current issues, enabling you to appreciate the environmental, ethical and socio-economic concerns raised by ecological studies. Field trips give you the opportunity to sample natural environments and interpret ecological data, such as diversity indices, based on these sites.

Genetics and Molecular Biology

This module introduces you to a range of modern molecular biology concepts and techniques. It addresses general molecular biology, molecular biology of genetic diseases and using molecular biology for producing recombinant proteins and forensic applications. The new age of molecular biology is underpinned by gene and genome sequencing, sequence analysis and sequence manipulation. You are introduced to the principles of sequence analysis and how these techniques have revolutionised all areas of molecular biology, particularly the technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR). You learn through lectures and tutorials that allow you to gain insight into the theoretical aspects of molecular biology. A series of laboratory practical sessions introduce the basic techniques at the heart of modern molecular biology such as DNA purification, PCR, restriction digestion, control of gene expression, nucleic acid analysis through agarose gels and sequencing.

Human Diseases and Immunology

Infectious diseases are responsible for a third of global mortality and have a significant impact on quality of life on a worldwide basis. This module examines the organisms able to generate pathogenic interactions with human populations and takes a systems-based approach, for example gastrointestinal, respiratory and genitourinary tract, to examine the virulence determinants, pathology, characteristics and epidemiology of selected pathogens. You are also introduced to the current molecular and cellular biology of pathogen interactions and co-evolution with host cells, and their relevance to human diseases. And you consider the factors contributing to the emergence of devastating pandemics and new diseases, in particular the significance of zoonotic diseases. The module reviews the extensive array of protein and cell-based responses which are typically launched against microbial pathogens as part of the innate and acquired immune response. You analyse the effectiveness of strategies used to treat and control the transmission of infectious diseases.

Human Metabolism and Clinical Biochemistry

This module provides you with a broad understanding of the linked themes of metabolism and endocrinology. Metabolism, the chemical processes that occur in living organisms, is examined in the context of cellular respiration, and the metabolism of exogens such as drugs and vitamins. Endocrinology, the study of the physiological role of hormones, is covered in detail, including review of the mechanisms underpinning hormone action, the roles of second messengers, and endocrine system disorders. This module also explores the methods used for collecting, measuring and analysing clinical samples.

Science Communication and Bioethics

Central to this module is using teamwork for problem-based learning and monitored or facilitated self-directed learning. You explore the way science is communicated within the scientific community, to stakeholders and the general public. You discuss and critically analyse the different communication methods. You are also introduced to bioethical issues central to your programme of study. You are expected to debate these issues and sensibly communicate the complexity of the themes which are embedded within the scientific disciplines.

Science Research Methods and Proposal

You will take this module if you are studying a science degree and complete a hypothesis-driven research project at Level 6 of your degree studies. It is delivered though lectures, tutorials and workshops.

You develop a proposal for your research project, which includes an explanation of the project targeted at both a specialist audience and the general public, and details of experimental design and statistical analysis to be employed. The proposal considers academic beneficiaries and economic, environmental and societal impacts. Project costs are estimated on the basis of a full economic costing model. In addition, the proposal is supported by a targeted CV.

A short lecture series at the start of the academic year provides you with an introduction to the module and advice on completing the research proposal documentation, followed by a series of assessment centre-style workshops and tasks which help assign you to a specific research project area and supervisor. These tasks familiarise you with the type of activities you might face during the application, interview and selection procedures.

You must produce a research proposal for your individual project. You are supported by a series of meetings with your supervisor to provide feedback on your progress.

For the proposal to be considered you must acquire ethical clearance from the School Research Ethics Committee. Once you are allocated a project you join discipline-based tutorials with other students. Each discipline operates tutorial sessions, which are used to provide academic guidance and support for completing ethical clearance documentation and the proposal. A series of research methodology-based workshops introduce you to various experimental designs and statistical techniques relevant to your discipline. These sessions also demonstrate how you can use software such as Minitab, SPSS and Excel to present and analyse datasets. These workshops help you decide on the design and analysis of the data associated with your project.

The module is assessed by you successfully acquiring ethical clearance (pass/fail) and submitting a completed research project proposal and supporting CV (100%).

 

Final-year core modules

Biologics and Biotechnology

Working in small groups you design a biological product relevant to the agricultural, environmental, industrial or medical biotechnology sectors. This product can either be a biotherapeutic or a platform chemical from waste. You consider the market need for your product, feasibility of its production and scale-up, UK bioeconomy, intellectual property and technical requirements of its production. Lectures support you throughout the process providing case studies and discussing the considerations needed to take a product to market. Tutorial and laboratory sessions allow you to explore the logistics of developing a product prior to the intensive group week.

Biology Research Project

The Biology Research Project allows you to bring together a range of practical and academic skills developed in previous years of study. You specialise in a particular area of biology supported by an academic staff member as your research supervisor. They will act as a mentor, guiding you in developing and completing your research project.

You must present a poster and abstract at the annual School of Science & Engineering poster day attended by academic members of the School, external examiners and professionals from the region. The poster contributes to your final project mark.

Throughout the project you are expected to maintain systematic and reliable records of your research. These records will be reviewed on a regular basis by your supervisor and assessed at the end of the project. Finally, you will submit your research in the style of a paper which could be submitted to an appropriate scientific journal related to your discipline.

 

and three optional modules

Biogeography and Conservation

This module is ideal for you if you’re interested in the biogeographical distribution of species and how this information can inform conservation practices.

Biogeography, with its focus on the distribution of species at a range of scales, provides an important theoretical framework within which ecosystem services, and the increasing impact of human activity on global biodiversity and ecosystem functions, can be evaluated.

You explore the contribution of habitat destruction and fragmentation and invasive species to biodiversity losses. You examine underlying principles in biogeography, including the historical development of the discipline, and investigates how these principles can inform effective conservation practices targeted at preventing biodiversity losses. You explore how endangered species are characterised, the selection and design of conservation areas, and the legal and policy frameworks in place to support conservation efforts.

Biotherapeutics

Biotherapeutics are medicinal products derived from living organisms. This module looks at the role of a biologist in the upstream and downstream aspects of a typical bioprocess. You cover the molecular and cell biology techniques required during the upstream part of the process including selecting suitable production organisms, recombinant DNA technologies and synthetic biology. You cover the different fermentation strategies and how these relate to the product being manufactured, economics and sustainability of the process. You learn about controlling and monitoring the fermentation process using analytical methods and process analytical technology.

For the downstream processing aspects, you focus on the different separation and purification strategies used for isolating the target product. This module highlights the regulatory and quality management aspects that impact on a bioprocess at all of these stages, in particular the roles of good laboratory and manufacturing practice. You develop an understanding of the multidisciplinary nature of the bioprocessing industry and how a biologist is required to have an appreciation of the engineering, chemistry, economic and regulatory aspects of a bioprocess.

Ecological Sustainability

The module is for life and environmental sciences students. You explore key areas in which biological-based technologies have the potential to offer more sustainable solutions to environmental problems. You consider the complementary and multidisciplinary analytical techniques that are used to understand and ensure the sustainable management of different ecological systems. You learn through a combination of lectures, student-led seminars, tutorial sessions and a field trip where possible.

Environmental Protection

This module explores the principles of environmental protection. Environmental protection is distinct from other aspects of law because of the potential impact of any given incident on a large sector of the community, wildlife and habitats. Environmental protection issues have significant health implications. For example there may be long-term adverse effects on the environment and future generations, effects that go way beyond simple visual blight and loss of amenity. There is also increasing evidence that there is a connection between local environmental degradation and increasing incidences of other crimes.

Human Ageing and Disease

This module furthers your understanding of the molecular, cellular and whole organism ageing processes. It addresses how ageing occurs by the accumulation of damage to molecules, cells and tissues, resulting in a loss of function and leading to an increased risk of death. Ageing is a major risk factor for a number of diseases including dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. This module addresses advances in intervention mechanisms which have contributed to reduced disease risk and development in an ageing population.

Medical Microbiology

The module helps you explore how modern clinical microbiology can be used to detect, diagnose and control infectious diseases. You extend your understanding of the molecular basis of microbial pathogenesis and it allows you to explore how modern molecular biology techniques have been employed to define the nature of host-pathogen interactions.

 

Modules offered may vary.

How you learn

You are expected to attend a range of lectures, small-group tutorials and hands-on laboratory sessions. Part of your course also involves a substantial research-based project.

The course provides a number of contact teaching and assessment hours (such as lectures, tutorials, laboratory work, projects, examinations), but you are also expected to spend time on your own - self-study time - to review lecture notes, prepare coursework assignments, work on projects and revise for assessments. Each year of full-time study consists of modules totalling 120 credits and each unit of credit corresponds to 10 hours of learning and assessment (contact hours plus self-study hours). So, during one year of full-time study you can expect to have 1,200 hours of learning and assessment.

One module in each year of your study involves a compulsory one-week block delivery period. This intensive problem-solving week, provides you with an opportunity to focus your attention on particular problems and enhance your team-working and employability skills.

How you are assessed

Your learning involves different types of assessment including coursework assignments and examinations.


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Work placement

We produce graduates with the problem-solving and leadership skills necessary to forge successful careers.

This programme allows you to spend an optional year - in-between your second year and final year - learning and developing your skills through work experience. You have a dedicated work placement officer and the University's award-winning careers service to help you with applying for a placement. Advice is also available on job hunting and networking. Employers are often invited to our School to meet you and present you with opportunities for work placements.

By taking a work placement year you gain experience favoured by graduate recruiters and develop your technical skillset. You also obtain the transferable skills required in any professional environment. Transferable skills include communication, negotiation, teamwork, leadership, organisation, confidence, self-reliance, problem-solving, being able to work under pressure, and commercial awareness.

Throughout this programme, you get to know prospective employers and extend your professional network. An increasing number of employers view a placement as a year-long interview and, as a result, placements are increasingly becoming an essential part of an organisation's pre-selection strategy in their graduate recruitment process.

Potential benefits from completing a work placement year include:

  • improved job prospects
  • enhanced employment skills and improved career progression opportunities
  • a higher starting salary than your full-time counterparts
  • a better degree classification
  • a richer CV
  • a year's salary before completing your degree
  • experience of workplace culture
  • the opportunity to design and base your final-year project within a working environment.

Career opportunities

Graduates are sought by a wide range of industries and organisations including food production, pharmaceuticals, environmental agencies, hospitals and government laboratories. Some graduates also go into teaching or do research and development work.

According to the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2014-15, 100% of our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences graduates were in work or further study within six months of completing their course.

Entry requirements

Year 1 entry
If you live in the UK you may be invited to attend an interview. The interview helps us tailor your offer to your individual circumstances. The interview process also enables us to consider applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and those with non-traditional qualifications, including individuals who may be returning to study after a period of employment.

When you visit the University for your interview you will be offered a tour of our fantastic campus, a visit to our excellent laboratory and teaching facilities, and an opportunity to meet our staff. You will also learn more about your course and the range of scholarships, bursaries and grants you might be eligible for.
If you can't come for an interview, we will consider making you an offer based on the information you provide in your application.

Eligibility for entry to Year 1 of this programme requires study of the following essential subjects at Level 3:
• biology (or another related subject)

The most common acceptable Level 3 qualifications are (typical minimum grades are shown in brackets):
• A levels (grades BBC)
• BTEC Extended Diploma (grade DMM)
• Access to HE Diploma (with 30 Level 3 credits from science units awarded at merit or higher)

You also need to have numeracy and literacy skills equivalent to at least GCSE grade 4.

If the qualification you are studying for is not listed, please contact our Admissions Office for advice. We accept many alternative UK and international qualifications.

If you don't meet the entry criteria for Year 1 entry, you may wish to consider joining our extended degree programme which includes an integrated foundation year, BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences (Extended) .

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Guaranteed Place Scheme (for UK/EU students only)

If you have completed Level 3 qualifications (for example AS Levels, BTEC Nationals) and have at least five GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including English and Mathematics, you may be eligible for a guaranteed place on an Extended degree course in your chosen subject whilst still working towards meeting the conditions required for a course with higher entry requirements.
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Direct entry to later years
Applicants qualified to BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC) or BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) level may request direct entry to Year 2 of this degree. Applicants qualified to BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) level may request direct entry to the final year of their degree. To be considered for advanced entry you must provide a full detailed transcript of your previous studies with your application.

English language requirements
Entry to a degree programme requires you to have a good command of spoken and written English. An example of an acceptable qualification is GCSE English Language at grade 4 or above.

Non-EU international students who need a student visa to study in the UK should check our web pages on UKVI-compliant English language requirements. The University also provides pre-sessional English language courses if you do not meet the minimum English language requirement.

For additional information please see the entry requirements in our admissions section

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country


You can gain considerable knowledge from work, volunteering and life. Under recognition of prior learning (RPL) you may be awarded credit for this which can be credited towards the course you want to study.
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Part-time

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Course information

Full-time

  • Length: 3 years (or 4 years with work placement)

More full-time details

Part-time

  • 6 years if entering Year 1, 4 years if entering Year 2

More part-time details

  • Timetable governed - please contact our admissions office
  • Enrolment date: September
  • Admission enquiries: 01642 738800

Contact details

Further information