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MSci Human Biology

Start date
September
Duration
4 years
UCAS code
C106
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
Fees
£9,250 (Home/EU - 2020-21)
£22,260 Fee Band 3a (International Students - 2020-21)
More detail

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

The Human Biology MSci course builds on the content and structure of the 3-year BSc Human Biology degree, promoting 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. 

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 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.

Recent exciting advances, such as the human genome sequence or research into stem cells, have intrigued us all with their promise of new ways to treat complex diseases. Over the next decade, we’ll start to see the impact of these developments in our daily lives, but none of this would be possible without 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 and cellular signalling are represented as well research into human blood disorders, such as leukaemia or cardiovascular disease.

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.

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Why Study this Course?

  • Accreditation - All UG programmes are accredited by the Royal Society of Biology as containing a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and preparing graduates to meet the needs of employers.
  • Research-led teaching – Our world-leading research feeds directly into our programmes, meaning you will learn from academics who are experts in their field.

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Modules

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 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.

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 2020. 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 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 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


Human Nutrition and Metabolism - Exploring four broad themes: nutrition, energy metabolism, practical biochemistry techniques, and regulation and deregulation of metabolic pathways.

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.

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

Personal and Academic Skills: Communication and Data Analysis

Personal and Academic Development

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 videography, writing and speaking, ethics in science, analysis of the scientific literature.

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

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.

Choose four optional modules
Example optional modules may include:

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

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.

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: Principles and Mechanisms – 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.

Animal Biology

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

Choose four optional modules* 
Example optional modules may include:

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.

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

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.

Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour

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

Living in Groups: Collective Behaviour in Animals

Exercise and Diet; Mechanisms of action in exercise performance, promotion of health and longevity

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

Introduction to Teaching Biosciences in Schools

Research Methods in Microbiology

* 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.

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."

Final year modules

Fees

Standard Home/EU student fees 2020-21

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2020, 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 2020-21

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £22,260

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.

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How To Apply

Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com 
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.

Standard offer

International Requirements



Number of A levels required:
3
Typical offer:
AAA
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.

For applicants without AS (minimum grade C) or A2 Chemistry, grade 6/B GCSE Chemistry or double awards science is required.

°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 and World Development.

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 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 A 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.

Applicants who take the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and meet our offer criteria will be made the typical offer for the programme, plus an alternative offer, which will be one grade lower plus a grade A in the EPQ.

International Students

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6, 6, 6  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

You’ll be taught using a combination of lectures, practical sessions and tutorials with lecturers using innovative teaching techniques where possible.

At Birmingham, research and teaching go hand-in-hand. Lecturers and professors contribute to scholarship in their fields and, as academic teachers, are keen to introduce you to what intrigues them.

Find out more about research in the School of Biosciences.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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. 

Support

You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Wellbeing officers - We have dedicated wellbeing officers 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.
  • Academic Skills Centre - The centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) - the AWAS team will provide guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level. You will receive individual support from an academic writing advisor and meet with postgraduate tutors who specialise in particular subjects. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, tutorials and email correspondence.
  • Student experience - Our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.

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.

Contact Hours

Throughout your Human Biology degree you can expect an average of about 12 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 usually 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 coursework, 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 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. 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.

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, our careers and employability service, known as Careers Network, can help you achieve your goal.

Typical Careers

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. Over the next decade our increasing understanding of how genomes are regulated will revolutionise how we interact with the natural world. 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 excellent prospects for exciting and rewarding careers in research, education, media, industry, the NHS and the public sector.

A significant number 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. While many of our graduates remain in Birmingham and join one of our prestigious research groups, they are also highly sought after by universities around the world.

Developing your career

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 - 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.

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