Biological Sciences (Zoology) BSc (Hons)

Zoology is the study of animal life across all levels of organisation; from the evolution and adaptations of whole organisms to the activities of animal cells and the biochemical processes that maintain them.

In recent years the development of new technologies has opened new avenues to study collective behaviour of animals in the wild as well as understanding the cellular and molecular foundations of animal biology.

This course builds on the BSc Biological Sciences course and allows you focus increasingly on  modules covering various aspects of animal biology and zoology. This includes evolution, animal behaviour and ecology.

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We rank 5th for graduate employability in the Russell Group Universities. Our graduates work in diverse careers such as medicine, conservation, agriculture and more.

2015 National Student Survey "100% of students said that overall they were satisfied with the quality of our Biological Sciences (Zoology) course."

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Royal Society of Biology - Accredited Degree This programme has been accredited by the Royal 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.

Young orangutan in treeZoology is the study of animal life across all levels of organisation; from the evolution and adaptations of whole organisms to the activities of animal cells and the biochemical processes that maintain them. In recent years the development of new technologies has resulted in a particular emphasis on the study of the organisation and activities of animals at the cellular and molecular levels.


“Degree provided a good foundation in ecology, zoology, generatics and population in biology which has been essential in my career.”

Tania Gilbert - Conservation Biologist, Marwell Wildlife
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Why study this course

Research in Zoology inspires a research-led syllabus covering evolution, animal locomotion and behaviour, conservation and ecology.

In addition to the Zoology-focussed content, you will encounter a broad range of topics on our courses, ranging from studies on the three-dimensional structure of individual molecules through to the study of whole ecosystems. 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.

Specialist field courses for those involved in the study of animals, plants and ecological aspects are also available. 

Zoology is the study of animal life across all levels of organisation; from the evolution and adaptations of whole organisms to the activities of animal cells and the biochemical processes that maintain them. In recent years the development of new technologies has resulted in a particular emphasis on the study of cellular and molecular levels of animal organisation and activities.

Modules

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.

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2017. We aim to publish any changes to compulsory modules and programme structure for 2018 entry by 1 September 2017 and recommend you refer back to this page shortly after that date for any changes. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules after that date; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.

First Year

In Introduction to Evolution and Animal Biology you will study the diversity of animal species, and their adaptations, including complex behavioural strategies, reproductive and survival strategies and how these can be understood in the context of evolution. 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.

First year modules

Key First Year Module:

Introduction to Evolution and Animal Biology |  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.

Fundamentals of 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 Microbiology  |   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.

Ecological Concepts and Plant Sciences - This module provides a broad overview of the biology of our environment, including topics such as climate change, conservation, ecophysiology and cell biology of plants.

Widening Horizon Module (WHM) - allows you to explore content from other academic programmes of this university in the form of a stand-alone module. More information on WHMs can be found here.

Second Year

The key second year module for zoologists is Animal Biology; this module takes an evolutionary and comparative approach to the study of animal behaviour and its underlying mechanistic control by the nervous system. You choose 4 other optional modules from the list below: Ecology, Cell and Developmental Biology and a field course, particularly Adaptations to Aquatic Environments, are good choices for a zoologist.

Second year modules

Key second year module:

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.

Core module taken by all second year students:

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

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

Example optional modules may include:

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.

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

Evolution of Humans and Other Animals – The primary aim of this module is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of comparative animal biology in an evolutionary context.

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

Critical Issues for 21st Century Ecosystems - Core skills in ecosystem knowledge 

Plant Sciences: from Cells to the Environment  |  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  |  Watch video

Field Course: Adaptations to Aquatic Environments  |  Watch video

Final Year

The final year is made up of a combination of taught modules and independent study. It is here that the link between the teaching and the research in the school is particularly important. The final year allows choice from a range of specialised topics in zoology, 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.

Project work is not limited to the laboratory; some students will do more ecology- or behaviour- based projects involving field work that may be in a UK zoo or further afield. 

Final year modules

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

Cellular Neurobiology * |  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  |  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.

Example optional modules may include:

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.

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  |  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.

Molecular and Cellular Immunology  |  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 |  Watch video - Evolution of bacterial virulence, antibiotics and antibiotics resistance, genomic data in analysing pathogenicity.

* This module is under review and content will likely change from 2018/2019 onwards

Fees and funding

Standard Home/EU student fees 2017-18

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2017, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Standard international student fees 2017-18

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £19,710

Learn more about fees and funding 

Scholarships
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
3
Typical offer:
AAB
Required subjects and grades:
A level Biology/Human Biology and a second science°. Minimum of five GCSEs to include Mathematics, English and double award science at grade C

°Subjects accepted as 'second science': 

  • For 2017 entry: Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Geography, Geology, ICT, Mathematics, PE, Psychology, Sports Science
  • For 2018 entry: Chemistry, Mathematics (or Further Mathematics or Statistics), Physics, Geography, Geology, Psychology

Specified subjects excluded for entry: General Studies, Critical Thinking, Citizenship Studies, Applied Science, Communication and Culture, Critical Studies, Global Perspectives, Science in Society, Use of Maths and World Development.

Additional information:

BTEC Extended Diploma in Applied Science with sufficient Biology and Chemistry content is only accepted when combined with an A level in a required subject. Grades D*D*D* required in addition to grade B in a required subject A level.

BTEC Diploma accepted when combined with two acceptable A levels.

BTEC Subsidiary Diploma is not accepted.

Access to HE (Science) with sufficient Biology and Chemistry content is considered. Contact Admissions Team for details.

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6, 6, 5 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall. Higher level subjects need to include the required subjects as defined for the A-level qualification.

Standard English language requirements apply
Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International 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.

As a Birmingham student you 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.

What can you expect?

Throughout your Biological Sciences degree you can expect an average of about 15 hours of contact time per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring). This will be made up of lectures, practical laboratory workshops and seminars. The proportion of time spent in each will vary depending on which year you are in and the optional modules you choose.

You will be taught by our professors and lecturers, while doctoral researchers will support practicals as demonstrators. You can find out more about the members of academic staff in the School of Biosciences here where you can read about their qualifications, publication history and specific areas of interest.

  • Lectures - At Birmingham, we support lectures through recordings of the session, so you can revisit and review parts of the session as needed. Lectures frequently include interactive elements, instance by using instant polling. Occasionally, we use 'flipped' lectures, asking you to study a particular topic prior to a session, and using the contact time to explore the topic in more depth through problem solving exercises, question-and-answer sessions or lecturer-led group discussions. Student interaction using discussion boards and social media is expressively encouraged.
  • 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 integral 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. You will normally have the same tutor throughout the course, who will get to know you well as you progress towards graduation. Tutor groups include a maximum of 6 students and each tutor looks after one tutorial group in each of the years. You will have one-on-one meetings with your tutor at least once a term.
  • Project (final year) - A core component of your final year is the project, which principally comes in two forms: as a laboratory-based project or as an extended dissertation. In both situations, a lecturer or professor will guide and advise you. But the principal aim is to lead you to independence as a future graduate in your field.

    You will join one of the research groups in the School for the laboratory-based project, and you will work on a topic or question that draws on current research activity. You will receive training in relevant lab techniques and you will have to document your work and its results in a thesis-like report.

    The dissertation project asks you to explore the research literature in a narrowly defined area of scholarship, with three aims: one, to write a comprehensive review of that area, two, to explore analyse a small set of articles in depth, and three, to develop a new research proposal from your review and in-depth analysis.

Our e-learning platform Canvas provides a wide range of learning resources. Recordings of lecture sessions, reading material and links to resources on external sites, quizzes, video material and so on. We use Canvas to provided individual feedback on some of the assessments, for instance on essays. Finally, Canvas serves as a discussion forum, where tailored to individual classes or groups, students can exchange questions, thoughts with each other and with lecturing staff.

We have dedicated welfare tutors who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond. During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into University.  You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.

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. Each module is assessed independently, and all modules contain some components of continuous assessment, that is, assessment taking place during the teaching terms. Continuous assessment generally accounts for one quarter to one third of the mark for a given module, while the remainder is contributed by the end-of-year examination in the summer term. A subset of modules is assessed entirely 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 three 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. An important avenue for providing individualised feedback is the e-learning platform Canvas.
  • Examinations - The end-of-year examinations take place in May, June each year. Length and format of the exams changes from first to final year. We give you access to marking criteria, while mock exam and marking sessions allow you to get a sense what to aim for, helping ease any apprehension you might have.
  • Continuous assessment - During the teaching terms you will gather marks through assessments in a variety of formats. Essays, poster or oral presentations, or group submissions will feature at various points. Most practicals require you to submit a write-up and some also feature a proficiency test prior to the session. The weighting of these assessments is small, therefore occasional missteps are not likely to jeopardise progression.
  • Projects and dissertations - You will choose the topic of your project from a wide range of titles. We offer a range of project opportunities, 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.


“This course helped me immensely in getting a job in the competitive world of zoo keeping.”

Alistair Keen - Head Keeper, Birdland Park and Gardens
Read more...

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 5th in the Russell Group 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, Birmingham's Careers Network, our careers advice and support service can help you achieve your goal.

Almost 95% of our graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduating  2015/16 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 postgraduate 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?

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.

Careers Network, 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 CVs 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

Royal Society of Biology - Accredited Degree This programme has been accredited by the Royal 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.

Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.

Shape your academic experience

Choose to study here and you will have a Student Representative, who works with the University and Students' Union on issues that directly affect students. You could even become one yourself. Not only would you be making a difference to the academic student experience, but you would also be developing transferable skills for the future. Find out more on the Guild of Students website

Accommodation

Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.