Biological Sciences Module Information

For BSc Biological Sciences (C100) and MSci Biological Sciences (C105)

This overview also covers modules studied in the MSci Professional Placement (C102), BSc Year in Europe (C101), BSc International Year (C001) courses, and in the specialist degree labels in Zoology (C300) and Genetics (C400).

The Fundamentals

Each academic year includes 120 credits. Most modules comprise 20 credits, with about 25-30 lectures per term, in addition to practicals and workshops. During the teaching terms (Oct-;Dec, Jan-;Mar), you will have 10-15 hours of timetabled sessions per week. End-of-year examinations follow for most modules in the summer term (April-;June).

To pass a module you need to achieve at least 40% (50% in the Masters year, when studying for the MSci). Practical reports, workshops or short class tests can contribute up to 40% to a module mark, but progression primarily depends on the end-of-year examination. In order to progress to the second and third year, you need to pass modules worth at least 100 credits in each year.

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 2023. 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

The first year modules are designed to give you a broad and balanced view of modern biology. They will develop from what you have learned at school but you will soon be learning new material.

All Biological Sciences students take the same modules in the first year, whether or not they have selected one of the specialised degree courses. You also take a Widening Horizon Module, which allows you to access to content from other Schools, from Humanities to the Sciences to Engineering.

First year modules

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

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

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.

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.

WHM - Biochemistry

Second Year

In addition to two compulsory modules, you choose 5 elective modules. At this stage, you would consider which module might be appropriate for particular specialist degree labels. You tutor will be happy to discuss this with you and give advice.

Second year modules

Core modules (taken by all students on the Biochemistry programme)

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

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

Example optional modules may include:

Animal Biology - The central theme of this module is to cover aspects of comparative Zoology. Animals display specific adaptations in their morphology, physiology, and behaviour to the environments they live in. 

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

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

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  |   The aim of this module is to develop an understanding of how plants function, via their development and physiology, in relation to key influences in their natural environment. 

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 modules are informed and inspired by the research being carried out in the school.

The final year allows choice from a range of specialised topics. Central to the final year is the research project, which makes up one third of the credits earned in the final year. If you choose a practical project 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-based projects involving field work. Alternatively, for your research project, you can carry out a critical review of literature in an area that you are interested in.

Final year modules

Core content


Choose four optional modules* 
Example optional modules may include:

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

Plant Science in the 21st Century  |  Watch video

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

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.

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

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. The in situ management of diversity is given particular emphasis. The module is stand-alone but also complements Conservation Practice: Genes to Ecosystems.

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.

* Modules run either in Semester 1 or Semester 2. Particular combinations of modules may not be advisable, especially if all 3 choices were to run in the same semester.

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

Which courses should I apply for?

You may apply either for the main Biological Sciences degree programme or for one of the specialist degree labels eg, Genetics or Zoology. The selection criteria are identical in either case. The design of our courses allows students to delay specialisation until the second year, or to transfer between specialist degree labels as interests develop or change.

We are proud that the Society of Biology has accredited our Biology degree programmes, vouching for teaching excellence and skills employers are looking for.

Masters Year (MSci)

The 4-year MSci course builds on the 3-year BSc course, and offers a research-focused fourth year, where the 80-credit research project takes centre stage. Along your lab-based research, you will take a Research Development Module, where you attend and track seminars by guest speakers visiting our School, get training in problem solving and data handling, as well as working on research-related assignments. A taught module drawn from the specialist modules of the third year complements the programme.

Professional Placement (MSci)

The Biological Sciences with Professional Placement (MSci) course (4 years) draws on the same spectrum of modules as the corresponding 3-year course. You can specialise or keep a broad perspective, as you prefer, but you cannot include a specialist label in your degree title. During second year you start applying for your placements on the back of specific training sessions. The placement follows in your third year, and you return to the University for your fourth and final year. Placements are not limited to the UK.

Year in Continental Europe, International Year

We offer two distinct pathways to include studying abroad in your course. The Year in Continental Europe option gives access to all modules of the 3-year BSc course. In the first and second year, however, you will replace 20 credits of Biological Sciences content with a language module in German, French or Spanish, depending on your destination during your third year, and you will attend lectures in the language of the host country during the year abroad.

The International Year gives the opportunity to study your subject at an overseas University. There are 50+ possible destinations, including Europe, but the language of teaching will always be English. For more information visit this link here.

Module in a minute videos

Meet some of the undergraduate lecturers in the School of Biosciences as they describe the content of a selection of modules from the Biochemistry degree programme in more-or-less a minute.