Humans 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.
2013 National Student Survey "96% of students said that overall they were satisfied with the quality of our Biology and Related Sciences courses"
The 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 more detailed descriptions of individual modules download Human Biology Module Descriptions (PDF 385KB).
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.
First year 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.
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.
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."
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 – The module considers 5 million years of human evolution, including bipedalism, culture, diet, language and human adaptations.
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 Sensory Systems, Neurobiology and Behaviour – 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
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
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.
Mechanisms of Toxicity and Disease – Metabolic detoxification, chemical carcinogenesis, genetic toxicity.
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.
Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour - Enquiry-based learning in groups and individually on topics such as ‘Why are animals built the way they are?’, ‘Paternity assurance and parental behaviours’ and Consciousness in animals and concepts of self.
Whole-Organism Biology - Biological clocks, neural basis of complex natural behaviour; learning, memory, orientation and navigation – how they help animals to cope with changing environmental conditions.
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 - Control of gene transcription, chromatin structure, pre-mRNA processing, mRNA translation and degradation.
* 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 Eva Hyde, Leader of the Undergraduate Masters programme "The MSci course was inaugurated in October 2009 and, with my colleagues, I have tried to create a course in which individual students can largely pursue their own biological interests. At the same time, we aim to further develop skills that are important not only for scientific research but in a wide range of careers."
Number of A levels required: 3
Typical offer: AAA
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.
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 Baccalaureate Diploma: 36 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.