Biological Sciences (Biotechnology) BSc (Hons)

Biological sciences with biotechnology

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Genetic Engineering, the ability to manipulate the genetic composition of an organism is one of the most remarkable advances in modern biology and has a huge potential impact on industry, agriculture, medical science and the environment. This is the basis of biotechnology. The primary aim of this degree is to give students a detailed understanding of these methods for genetic manipulation and their applications in modern biological industries. This understanding will be grounded in a wider appreciation of biology.

94.8% of our graduates are in employment or further study 6 months after graduation and we rank 3rd for graduate employability in the Russell Group Universities. Our graduates work in diverse careers such as medicine, conservation, agriculture and more.

2014 National Student Survey "95% of our students said that our staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching"

Society of Biology - Accredited Degree This programme has been accredited by the Society of Biology. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers.

Course fact file

UCAS code: C100

Duration: 3 years

Places Available: 230 (across all Biosciences programmes)

Applications in 2014: 1964

Typical Offer: AAA-AAB (More detailed entry requirements and the international qualifications accepted can be found in the course details)

Start date: September

Details

Biological sciences with biotechnologyThis degree course is structured to give you a comprehensive introduction to biotechnology in the context of the broader Biological Sciences programme. The modular structure gives you the opportunity to follow your interests and curiosity as the course unfolds.

Why study this course

Biochemistry students in the labWe have a large and internationally recognised School of Biosciences offering expertise that is the foundation of our research-led teaching.

You will encounter a broad range of topics on our courses. We pride ourselves in our ‘enquiry-based learning’ strategy that will equip you with the skills to achieve full potential in your future career.

We increasingly incorporate new areas of science relating to biology, such as bioinformatics, and the School has major high-technology facilities for research in genomics, structural biology and optical imaging.

Genetic Engineering, the ability to manipulate the genetic composition of an organism is one of the most remarkable advances in modern biology and has a huge potential impact on industry, agriculture, medical science and the environment. This is the basis of biotechnology.

Modules

For a description of modules see Biological Sciences Module Information. The modules described here are the ones that we currently offer and will give you a good idea of the range of subjects that we teach. However as our undergraduate teaching is research led and we constantly review our teaching to ensure that the modules that we offer are up to date there may be changes to module titles and content.

First Year

Biochemistry and Genetics are key first year modules that introduce you to the important concepts in biotechnology. Along with all of the other students on the Biological Sciences programmes you will take other modules (listed below) designed to introduce you to all aspects of this broad subject discipline.

Key First Year Modules:

Biochemistry - Fundamental biochemical processes taking place inside cells

Genetics I - Storage of genetic information, gene expression and regulation, mitosis and meiosis, gene linkage and chromosome mapping.

Introduction to Evolution and Animal Biology | Play video Watch video - An overview of introduction from the pre-biotic era to Darwin and his impact. Natural selection, the origins of altruism and sexual reproduction, genetic determinants of evolution.

Microbiology and Infectious Disease | Play video Watch video - Broad introduction to microbiology with a focus on infectious disease, covering bacteria, fungi, protists, archaea and viruses.

Cell Biology and Physiology - Tissues, organelles, reproduction and development.

Plant Sciences and Environmental Biology Play video Watch video - Part 1: Development, cell biology, physiology of plants and their responses to environmental change. Part 2: Assessing and quantifying biological diversity and the interactions b etween ecosystems and their inhabitants

Skills for Biosciences - Laboratory skills, transferable skills training including basic mathematics, IT, literature search and scientific writing.

Module Outside the Main Discipline (MOMD) - allows you to explore content from other academic programmes of this university in the form of a stand-alone module. More information on MOMD can be found here.

Second Year

Your key second year module is the core module Molecular biology and its applications, Microbes and Man also has a large section on the applications of biotechnology which is highly relevant to biotechnology students. You choose 4 other optional modules from the list below:

Key second year module:

Molecular Biology and its Applications - Genetic analysis and gene cloning, DNA fingerprinting and forensics, genomics and computational approaches to genetics.

Core module taken by all second year students:

Communication and Skills in Biosciences - Science communication in writing and oral presentations, ethics in science, analysis of the scientific literature.

Other Second Year optional modules

Microbes and Man - The impact of microbes on humans, bacteria, fungi and viruses, common themes of infectious disease mechanisms.

Cell and Developmental Biology - Development of multicellular organisms, interaction between cells and the cellular matrix, regulation of stem cell function.

Animal Biology - This module explores how the central nervous system translates sensory stimuli to behaviour. Topics include comparative neurobiology, biological timekeeping, sensory biology, learning and behaviour and others.

Genetics II - Organisation of genes and genomes, generation of genetic diversity, gene transmission and analysis of problems in transmission and molecular genetics.

Human Evolution, Adaptation and Behaviour - This module explores some of the most important features of human evolution, such as bipedalism, racism, leadership and how infectious diseases have shaped human evolution in the distant past and during modern times.

Human Structure and Function - Human anatomy and how it relates to its function and evolutionary origin.

Plant Sciences: from Cells to the Environment  | Play video Watch video - Plants interact flexibly with their environment. This module explores the cellular and molecular features facilitati ng such interactions, including interactions with parasites. The module introduces the model plant Arabidopsis, and you will design and test hypotheses in specific experiments

Field Course: Alpine and Glacial Ecology in Norway  | Play video Watch video

Field Course: Adaptations to Aquatic Environments  | Play video Watch video

Final Year

The final year allows choice from a range of specialised topics in biotechnology which are informed and inspired by the research being carried out in the school.

Central to the final year is the research project, which makes up one third of the credits earned in the final year. This allows you to join one of our many research groups, providing the fascinating opportunity to experience research first hand and to contribute to current research projects. 

Choose a research project and at least 2 final year modules from:

Bacterial Gene Regulation - How genes are switched on or off in response to external stimuli, how control of gene expression can be explored experimentally.

Eukaryotic Gene Expression - Control of gene transcription, chromatin structure, pre-mRNA processing, mRNA translation and degradation.

Applied and Environmental Microbiology - Microbial communities, how they compete, and behave socially.

Other Final Year optional modules

Genetics III: Genetic Variation in Humans and other Eukaryotes - Genetic variation in humans and model organisms, dynamics of chromosome organisation during mitosis and meiosis, genome instability.

Plant Science in the 21st Century  | Play video Watch video - Plant growth and development in relation to food supply, biofuels and climate change. Research-based module with emphasis on analysis of the current research literature.

Structures of Destruction - Bacterial and viral pathogens explored from the perspective of their molecular structures, protein misfolding and amyloid diseases.

Cancer Biology - Regulation of cell division and aberrations in malignant tumours, genetic bases of tumourigenesis, programmed cell death.

Human Evolution - Genetics and genomics, development of bipedalism, development of society and how humans’ activity applies selective pressure on the evolution of HIV.

Cellular Neurobiology  | Play video Watch video - Neuronal function and neural development, synaptic function, transmitter receptors and ion channels.

Adaptation to changing environments - This ecology-oriented module examines behavioural, physiological and molecular mechanisms of adaptation to environmental stress. It examines animals’ mechanisms to respond to changes occurring on varying timescales and over diverse geographic areas

Living in Groups: Collective Behaviour in Animals  | Play video Watch video - This module explores features and rules of group behaviour in animals. Introducing formal concepts such as Social Network Analysis, the module defines fundamental rules that govern collective behaviour, and how individuals partake in making and communicating decisions.

Human Reproductive Biology and Development - A comprehensive view on reproductive biology, stem cells and embryonic development. Topics include gametogenesis, gamete maturation and transport, infertility and controversies surrounding reproductive technologies.

Molecular and Cellular Immunology  | Play video Watch video - Evolution of the immune system, innate immunity, cell biology of immunity, structural basis of discrimination between self and non-self.

Biodiversity and Conservation Management - Examining the scientific basis of conservation, the threats facing biodiversity and how those threats are assessed, why population size is critical and how biodiversity is maintained either in nature or at a backup location.

Conservation Practice: Genes to Ecosystems - Examining the scientific basis for conservation and its genetic foundation.

Molecular Basis of Bacterial Infection | Play video Watch video - Evolution of bacterial virulence, antibiotics and antibiotics resistance, genomic data in analysing pathogenicity.

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply
Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships 
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required: 3

Typical offer: AAA-AAB

Required subjects and grades: Biology/Human Biology A level and one other from Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Geography, Geology, ICT, Maths, Physics, Psychology or Sports Studies/PE. Five GCSEs at grade C (minimum) in Double Award/Integrated Science, English and Mathematics.

General Studies: We do not accept General Studies, Critical Thinking, Citizenship Studies, Applied Science, Communication and Culture, Critical Studies, Global Perspectives, Science in Society and World Development.

Additional information:

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (Applied Science) is accepted only in combination with a science subject at GCE A2 level at grade B or better. Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: minimum 32 points. 6, 6, 5 at HL to include Biology and one other science at HL. 5 points in each of SL English and Maths if not offered at GCSE or equivalent.

Please note that we have reviewed our policy on the IB Diploma for 2016 entry and our offers will now focus on performance in Higher Level subjects. For more information and details please read our 2016 IB Diploma requirements

Standard English language requirements apply
Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com
Learn more about applying

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

Learning and teaching

As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic research elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent thinker, however you will have plenty of contact with the staff who teach you.

  • Lectures - Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning. As well as traditional whiteboard and pen, our lecture theatres are equipped with the latest techology including movies and animations, molecular graphics and ?ask the audience? style electronic voting systems. Student interaction using various social media is encouraged before, during and after lectures.
  • Practical classes - Laboratory-based practical work is an integral part of our degree. A typical practical session will last 3 hours  delivering important transferable skills, experience of practical work is essential if you wish to move into a research career and is valued by a wide range of employers. You will be able to engage with academic and post graduate researchers who will help you during these practical sessions.
  • Field courses - Biological Sciences students have the opportunity to develop their field skills on a wide range of field courses in different environments. See the Course Modules tab for details.
  • Tutorials - A personal tutorial system is an essential feature of our degree programme and your tutors will help you in three important areas: supporting your academic progress, developing transferable skills and helping with any welfare issues. From the outset, you will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham.

To begin with you may find university level education challenging, but we will support you to enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system in the School, including personal tutors and welfare tutors, who can help with both academic and welfare issues throughout your course. You will have a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and identify areas where you may need some additional support, and the School's academic small group tutorial system will provide you with skills based support throughout the course.

Clinical anatomist, author and broadcaster Alice Roberts is the University's Professor of Public Engagement in Science. You can watch Alice's lecture Origins of us: Human Anatomy and Evolution above.  

Alice carries out a range of academic duties which include teaching second year Biosciences students.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from one-to-one support with mathematics and statistics based problems from experienced mathematicians, to workshops on a range of topics including note talking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Assessment methods

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be assessed in a variety of ways and each module is assessed independently. All modules contain some components of continuous assessment, that is, assessment taking place during the teaching terms. Continuous assessment generally accounts for over one-third of the mark for a given module, while two thirds are contributed by the end-of-year examination in the summer term. A subset of modules is assessed through course work, without an end-of-year examination.

At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You'll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You'll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.

More information about assessment methods and feedback is given below:

  • Feedback - You will be able to track your development by making use of a wide range of types of feedback, such as: written feedback on your assessments, class feedback and questions sessions and discussions with your tutor.
  • Examinations ? The formal end-of-year examinations (in May/June of each year) are complemented by course work in the form of essays or reports, data handling or interpretation exercises, poster presentations, seminar presentations, group work and lab reports.
  • Projects and dissertations ? You will choose the topic of your project from a wide range of titles. We offer a range of projects including practical work in the laboratory, field work, computer based projects, or literature reviews to give you the chance to demonstrate the full range of academic and transferable skills.

Employability

Our graduates are ranked 3rd in graduate prospects - Complete University Guide 2016.

Graduates of the University of Birmingham are highly regarded among employers in the UK, and a Biological Sciences degree from Birmingham is an excellent qualification for securing your future career in a diverse range of industries and employment sectors. Our graduates have done consistently well over the last several years, ranking in the top 5 of the Complete University Guide in terms of Graduate Prospects. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.

94.8% of our graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduating  2013/14 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

Advances in the biosciences are having a profound impact on our daily lives in areas from human health to conservation. Biotechnology, biological pharmaceuticals, and personalised medicine are key growth areas in the health sector. Environmental remediation, climate change and related themes pose multi-faceted challenges for the coming decades. Expert knowledge in biology and the life sciences will be in high demand for the foreseeable future, with bright prospects for exciting and rewarding careers in research, teaching, industry, the NHS and the public sector.

A substantial part of our graduates choose to take a further degree, a Masters or PhD. For many career paths, a further degree is an essential stepping-stone, including (but not limited to) careers in research. Our graduates are highly sought after by universities around the world, many stay in Birmingham and join one of our prestigious research groups. Did you know that PhDs are fully funded and that postgraduate students receive a tax free stipend equivalent to a salary?

In order to help you build an attractive CV, bursaries from the University can help fund a summer internship in a research laboratory or in a company. Also, you can apply for one of the highly prestigious (and competitive) Alumni Leadership Mentoring or Global Challenge programmes of the University, which provide unique opportunities to see top notch organisation from an insider perspective. Furthermore, the Personal Skills Award (PSA) scheme gives formal recognition to skills you acquired outside the course, for instance when volunteering for a charity or taking on responsibility within the Guild of Students. Last but not least, our 4-year course options (MSci, Professional Placement, Year Abroad) are key to giving you an edge in a competitive job market.

Helping you find the right career

The University and the School of Biosciences provide a range of services to support you in finding a career you might enjoy and to build a CV that stands out from the crowd. During term time, professional career advisers hold weekly drop-in sessions, discussing with you how to prepare a CV and cover letters, the graduate application process and how to explore possible career paths. An annual Biosciences Careers Fair brings employers from the life sciences sector to our School for networking and discussions, while in the Biosciences Insight series, professionals highlight the diverse employment opportunities in the life sciences in weekly sessions throughout the term.

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you.  Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CV?s and job applications will help give you the edge. In addition, our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Professional accreditation

Society of Biology - Accredited Degree This programme has been accredited by the Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.