Biological Sciences BSc (Hons)

Start date
September
Duration
3 years
UCAS code
C100
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
Fees
£9,250 (Home/EU - 2019-20)
£21,180 Fee Band 3a (International Students - 2019-20)
More detail

Biology is the science of life. Study for the accredited Biological Sciences BSc at Birmingham and you'll learn about animals, plants and microorganisms - their genetic make-up, their cellular structure and how they interact with the natural environment.

The Biological Sciences BSc gives you flexibility to study the subject in its whole breadth or to specialise in genetics or zoology. You'll benefit from some of the country's best facilities and technology, being taught by experts in the field renowned the world over for their cutting-edge research.

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

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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.

Our Biological Sciences BSc degree programme is structured to give you a comprehensive introduction to all aspects of Biological Sciences.

The modular structure gives you the opportunity to follow your interests and curiosity as the course unfolds; by choosing your favourite modules in years 2 and 3, you can focus on a single area of biology, or sample content from animal behaviour to molecular biology.

 

In the third year, you have the option of doing a laboratory research project, where you work in a lab for most of the year. You are doing real research alongside PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, so you gain invaluable skills and learn in a much more personal setting.

Parisha Kaytwa, BSc Biological Sciences

Why Study this Course?

There are plenty of reasons to study Biological Sciences BSc at Birmingham:

  • We rank 5th for graduate employability in the Russell Group Universities. Our graduates work in diverse careers such as medicine, conservation, agriculture and more.
  • World top 100 for Biological Sciences in the QS World University Rankings by subject 2018
  • 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.
  • We have a large and internationally recognised School of Biosciences offering expertise that is the foundation of our research-led teaching.
  • We pride ourselves in our 'enquiry-based learning' strategy that will equip you with the skills to achieve full potential in your future career.

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 2019. 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 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.

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.

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

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

At this stage you begin to tailor the degree towards your own particular interests. In addition to the core modules you choose four specialist modules from the list below. If you have chosen one of the specialist Biological Sciences degree courses this is where your degree starts to be specific.

Second year modules

Core modules (taken by all students on the Biological Sciences programme)

Communication and Skills in Biosciences - Science communication in writing and oral presentations, 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 - 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.

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.

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 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. 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.

Final year modules

Core content

Choose 40 credits from the following project modules:

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.

Global Challenges and Plant Science | 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.

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.

* 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.

Fees

Standard Home/EU student fees 2019-20

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2019, 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 2019-20

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £21,180

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

 


For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the gov.uk website.

EU Referendum

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How To Apply

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

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 4/C

°Subjects accepted as 'second science': 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.

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.

The Collaborative Teaching Laboratory is a brand new state-of-the-art facility designed to support the latest methods in laboratory teaching for STEM subjects.

Collaborative Teaching Laboratory

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.

How you will learn

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.

Your personal tutor

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.

Seminars and tutorials

  • 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.
  • Project (final year) - A core component of your final year is the project, which principally comes in two forms: as a practical project (Laboratory, field, outreach or computational) 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 practical project, and you will work on a topic or question that draws on current research activity. You will receive training in relevant research 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 and 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 that can be tailored to individual classes or groups.

Lecturers and world leading researchers

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.

Clinical anatomist, author and broadcaster Alice Roberts is the University's Professor of Public Engagement in Science. Alice carries out a range of academic duties which include teaching second year Biosciences students.

Resources and facilities

Our spacious state-of-the-art teaching laboratories are the training ground for your skills development, and you will have access to high-technology facilities during your final-year project.

Contact Hours

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.

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.

  • 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.

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. 

Careers Network

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 mentoringglobal 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.