Human Biology MSci (Hons)

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Human biology is crucial to the continual development of the fields of medicine, sports science, nutrition, fertility and other areas.

Our flexible undergraduate Masters degree course promotes the development of a broad and systematic understanding of biological principles, and the skills to place this understanding in the context of the human condition.

2015 National Student Survey "96% of students said that overall they were satisfied with the quality of our Human Biology course."

Royal Society of Biology - Advanced Accredited Degree This programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Advanced Degree accreditation highlights the degrees that have the potential to educate the life science leaders and innovators of the future.

We are all fascinated by how our bodies work. Recent exciting advances such as the human genome sequence or the culturing of pluripotent stem cells have given human biology fascinating new perspectives and promise novel avenues to treat complex diseases. Over the next decade, we will see the impact of these developments in our daily lives, especially in areas such as medicine and health.

Our Human Biology programme draws on our research expertise in this area. The flexible modular course structure allows students in the second and third year to tailor their programme of study to individual interests and ambitions. The course particularly emphasises practical training and research skills, as well as the development of transferable skills that can be deployed in a wide range of professional settings. The Masters year, which extends the 3-year BSc programme into a fourth year, is devoted to developing research competence through a multi-faceted teaching and research programme. 

Why study this course

Human Biology students and lecturerHumans are arguably the most complex living species on this planet. From genetics to embryonic development to mechanisms of disease, studying human biology entails many facets. As a degree course, Human Biology is a platform from which you can embark on diverse careers, not limited to the life sciences. The research-focussed Masters year offers a great opportunity to gain skills that are vital for a career in research, while expanding and deepening your knowledge of Human Biology.

The School of Biosciences encompasses over 60 academic staff with research interests across the full spectrum of biology. Immunity and infection, cancer biology, cellular signalling, and human reproduction are represented as well research into human blood disorders, such as leukaemia or cardiovascular disease.

With a Human Biology degree, you will acquire a wide range of skills that enable careers not just in the life science, but across a wide range of professions. Taking advantage of one of the 4-year course options will add value to your CV and help you to stand out. However, a University degree course is not just about a professional education, it is first and foremost about studying was fascinates us most. For inspiration, check out our collection of related research stories.


Students in the labThe Human Biology course offers you a comprehensive view of man as a biological species. You will study genetics, physiology, cell biology, evolution and development. Each year of study will feature one or several signature modules that are exclusive to the Human Biology course, along with modules that draw on relevant content from our full spectrum of degree courses.

The modular structure of the course allows you to follow your specific interests in Human Biology. Following a first year, where all modules compulsory, you will enjoy an increasing level of freedom of choice in the 2nd and final year. Below we outline the modules available for each of the three years.

For a description of modules see Human Biology 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.

The modules listed on our website may occasionally be subject to change. For example, as you will appreciate, key members of staff may leave the University and this might necessitate a review of the modules that are offered. Where a module is no longer available, we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

First Year

The Human Biology course begins with an introduction to key concepts in biology, from molecular and cellular features to the concept of evolution, including genetics and physiology. Skills training is an integral part of the course at all levels. You will also have the opportunity to explore the content of other courses offered by this University as part of the Modules Outside the Main Discipline (MOMD) programme.

First year modules

Key modules

Human Biochemistry - covers 3 main areas of human biochemistry: human nutrition and digestion;  biological enzymes and their regulation; and basic primary metabolism and its control.

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.

Other modules

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

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

Biochemistry - Fundamental biochemical processes taking place inside cells

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

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.

For more details on individual modules, follow the links or download a document with short module descriptions for the Biochemistry courses here: (link to Human Biology module descriptions).

Beth Pattle, first year student" I chose human biology because I really felt that I wanted to specialise after previously studying a wide spectrum of topics at A level. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year; it is hard work but very rewarding."

Anatomical model of human face

Second Year

The second year features a combination of core modules that all students on the Human Biology course follow, and elective modules, where you can start to define your personal direction in the course.

Second year modules

Core modules (taken by all students on the Human Biology programme)

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

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

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.

Choose four elective modules from:

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

Topics in Medical Biosciences – Neurobiology and neurotransmitters, pharmacology and anaesthetics, blood constituents and haemostasis, complement and immunity.

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

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

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.

Membranes, Energy and Metabolism – Biological membranes and their role in energy metabolism, regulation of metabolism by hormones and other factors

Third year

A key component of the final year is the Research Dissertation, which covers 40 of 120 final year credits and stretches over both Semester 1 and 2. In dialogue with a lecturer or professor, you will do your own research and be led to intellectual independence. A diverse spectrum of elective modules allows you to explore individual facets of human biology according to your personal preference and interests.

Students choose their disserations from an extensive list near the end of their 2nd year. Some even arrange a project independently in collaboration with an academic member of staff. Whichever path you choose, you will find that the dissertation provides valuable skills training.

Third year modules

Core content

Research Dissertation

Choose four elective modules* from:

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.

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

Human Health and Disease - This module builds on the 2nd year module 'Human structure and function', and discusses advanced concepts in anatomy and physiology. It also gives students an insight into how clinicians approach problems relating to diagnosis and management of disease.

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

Cellular Signalling - Signal transduction in and between cells, G-protein coupled receptors, phospholipid and Ca2+ signalling, ligand-gated ion channels and electrical responses.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

Eukaryotic Gene Expression - The central processes in gene expression are transcription and translation. Control of gene expression plays an important role in development, homeostasis and disease. This module explores the molecular mechanisms used to control gene expression, including transcription initiation, post-transcriptional control and epigenetic.

* Modules run either in Semester 1 or Semester 2. Particular combinations of modules may not be advisable, especially if all 4 choices were to run in the same semester.

Fourth year (Masters year)

The final year is devoted to developing and honing research skills. The central element to achieve competence in research is the research project, which extends over both semesters of the year and which takes up the majority of your work effort. In addition, you will attend a research training module, as well as a taught module drawn from the specialist modules of the third year.

The research training module is a combination of research seminars given by external researchers visiting the School, data handling and problem solving sessions, and finally developing a grant proposal and a business plan.

The research project is arranged individually between the student and a supervisor of the student’s choice. During your project you will work along with postdoctoral and postgraduate students on a project drawn from current research activity of the supervisor.

Dr Michael Tomlinson, Leader of the Undergraduate Masters programme "The MSci course was inaugurated in 2009, with the aim to create a course in which students can move beyond the strict confines of a taught programme and start exploring on their own accord. Since then many MSci students have benefited from the intellectual freedom this programme offers and produced excellent results."

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 
Learn more about fees and funding 

Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
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.
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:

GCSE requirements: Five GCSEs at grade C (minimum) including English and Mathematics and grade B in Chemistry (or Double Award/Integrated Science) if Chemistry is not offered at A or AS Level.

The typical offer for the MSci course is higher than that for the corresponding three-year BSc degree course. However, all candidates who firmly accept the offer as their first choice will be automatically offered a place on the corresponding BSc course should they fail to meet the MSci offer while meeting the standard offer.

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

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 32 points excluding bonus points from TOK and Extended Essay. 6, 6, 6 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.

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 
Learn more about applying

NB You should apply through UCAS for your preferred four-year option at the outset. You will still retain the flexibility of switching your registration to one of our three-year degree courses during the second year.

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 are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent thinker, however, you will also 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.
  • Practical classes - Laboratory-based practical work is an integral part of our degree. A typical practical session will last 3 hours allowing you to complete the work at your own pace. In addition to 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Occasionally, human biology students take part in a final year field course, which is then counted as a full-fledged research project.

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 usually accounts for about 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 make use of a wide range of types of feedback, such as: written feedback on your assessments, class feedback 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.

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 Human Biology degree from this University 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 and Employability Service 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 significant number 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 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

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.


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.