Biological Sciences: University of Birmingham

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Biological Sciences: University of Birmingham, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, Birmingham, United Kingdom
C100, C150, C200, C300, C400, C500, J700 – 3 years
+44 (0)121 414 3344
+44(0)121 414 3971

Courses available

  • Biological Sciences BSc
    UCAS code: C100
  • Biological Sciences (Biotechnology) BSc
    UCAS code: J700
  • Biological Sciences (Environmental Biology) BSc
    UCAS code: C150
  • Biological Sciences (Genetics) BSc
    UCAS code: C400
  • Biological Sciences (Microbiology) BSc
    UCAS code: C500
  • Biological Sciences (Plant Biology) BSc
    UCAS code: C200
  • Biological Sciences (Zoology) BSc
    UCAS code: C300
  • Biological Sciences MSci
    UCAS code: C105
  • Biological Sciences with Study in Continental Europe BSc
    UCAS code: C101
  • Biological Sciences with Professional Placement BSc
    UCAS code: C102

This programme enables you to understand the origins of life, how organisms function and how they interact in the natural environment. Rapid advances in the biological sciences are having a profound economic, social and environmental impact in areas from medicine to agriculture and conservation.

Our flexible degree programmes offer you a thorough grounding in the biological sciences and the opportunity to follow your own interests as you move through the course. You can choose to specialise from the outset in Genetics, Zoology, Biotechnology, Environmental Biology, Microbiology or Plant Biology, or wait until your second year before committing yourself. Alternatively, you may decide not to specialise at all but stay with a broad-based programme.

About the School of Biosciences

When you join one of our Biological Sciences programmes you will become part of the School of Biosciences. We are a large and friendly department, made up of research, teaching and technical staff, as well as undergraduate students. We have internationally recognised research groups working in fields from human fertility to butterfly conservation.

Our excellence in both teaching and research is recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency and the Research Assessment Exercise. This ensures that we can offer you a sound training in biology, help you to develop important transferable skills and allow you to gain first-hand experience of research.

First year

You will take modules covering the full range of biology, spanning the four levels of organisation from molecules through cells to organisms such as plants and animals, and finally the interactions between organisms and their environment. Up to a third of your time will be spent doing practical work; we feel that this hands-on experience of working with living organisms enhances your understanding of biological concepts.

Second year

In addition to core courses in Molecular Biology and Evolution, you spend two-thirds of your time studying optional modules. We offer you a range of topics including Animal Biology; Topics in Medical Biosciences; Genes and Genomes; Microbes and Man; Molecular Cell Biology; and Ecology. If you are interested in organisms and how they interact in their environment you also have the opportunity to take part in a field course.

Third year

The modules that we offer to final-year students arise from current areas of research in the department and reflect exciting developments in the field of biological sciences. The current list of 24 options includes:

  • Integrative Animal Biology
  • Human Reproductive Biology
  • Current Issues in Biomedical Sciences
  • Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Gene Expression
  • Bacterial and Viral Disease Mechanisms
  • Practical Molecular Microbiology and Fermentation
  • Human Evolution
  • Conservation Biology

Central to your final-year studies is your research project, which makes up one-sixth of your final year. We offer you the opportunity to join one of our 60 research groups, providing the fascinating opportunity to experience research at first hand and to contribute to current research projects. Project work does not necessarily mean you are in the laboratory; some more ecology- based projects involve field work and some students choose to do field work in Brazil in the summer.

Masters year

The undergraduate Masters programme is a natural progression from the research-led teaching you will experience in your first three years. If you join our MSci course you will follow much the same programme as the students on the BSc for your first three years. Half of your Masters year will be devoted to a research project; this is a fantastic opportunity to join one of the research labs in the School of Biosciences and make a contribution to the ongoing research. The rest of your time will be devoted to honing your research skills with modules which will expose you to the latest developments in biology, as well as learning more about how to plan and carry out research and present your findings effectively.

Year abroad

You spend a year studying at one of our partner universities in France, Spain or Germany, and experience European life and culture while acquiring a firm command of the local language. The Erasmus tutor at the partner university will assist you in choosing a suitable set of modules or classes, and in many of the universities you also have the opportunity to carry out a project in a research laboratory if you prefer. You may find that studying biology in France, Germany or Spain is quite different from in the UK. This experience, together with well-developed language skills, greatly enhances your employability and your perspective on your professional and personal life.

Professional placement

The four-year Biological Sciences with Professional Placement degree programme offers you a valuable opportunity to apply your knowledge in the workplace and to jump-start your professional career. Your one-year placement will typically be in industry or medical research, working for one of a wide range of companies, and governmental and non-profit organisations.

Although you cannot combine the 'with Professional Placement' description with other detailed titles such as Biological Sciences (Genetics), you can take the same optional courses as students with these degree titles. This will be reflected in the transcript of your degree, which can be presented to potential employers to show which areas you have specialised in.

Teaching and assessment

The opportunity to interact with staff and fellow students and to question, discuss and explore your subject, is an important part of the course. You will be able to accomplish this in individual and small group tutorials, discussion groups, and problem solving classes. In lectures, staff with specialist knowledge will be teaching you key concepts, which you will follow up with your own reading.

Laboratory-based practical work is an integral part of our degree programmes: in the first year you will learn many basic practical skills and have the chance to apply them in a range of investigations; later, you will gain experience of important research skills.

As well as formal examinations, each summer you will do a wide range of assessments including essays or reports, data handling or interpretation exercises, poster presentations, seminar presentations, group work and lab reports.

Career opportunities

After investing three or more years at university, you will want to know that you will be in a position to compete for the very best jobs. As one of our graduates, your employment prospects are excellent. Employers value the skills and qualities you will develop on this degree course, such as data analysis, communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

About 60% of our graduates either continue to do a higher degree or work in the life sciences. They enter careers in medical research, genetic counselling, biomedical science, environmental consultancy, wildlife conservation, plant breeding, clinical trials and many more areas. Others go into fields such as management, marketing, publishing and public relations. A growing number of our graduates proceed to graduate-entry programmes in medical schools across the country. (See Birmingham’s Graduate Entry Course in Medicine .)

Which courses should You apply for?

It is not necessary to apply separately for specialisations within the three-year degree programme (ie, Environmental Biology, Plant Biology, Zoology, Genetics, Microbiology, and Biotechnology) because selection criteria are identical to those for the main degree programme – C100. The design of our courses allows you to delay your choice of specialisation until the second year and to transfer between Biological Sciences courses as your interests develop or change.

Our four-year Biological Sciences degree programmes offer the opportunity to gain different types of experience while studying your chosen academic specialisation. These include study in continental Europe, a professional placement and our undergraduate Masters programme. If you are considering any of our four-year options you should apply through UCAS for your preferred four-year option at the outset. You will still retain the flexibility of switching your registration during the second year to one of our three-year degree courses. For reasons of funding, however, applicants to three-year courses may not be allowed to switch to a longer (four-year) option once accepted onto a three-year course.

The Masters and Professional Placement courses have a higher offer than our three-year degree programmes. However, they have a built-in insurance offer: candidates firmly accepting, as their first choice, an offer for one of these courses are guaranteed a place on the corresponding BSc course if they meet the standard offer for the course.

The Biological Sciences with Study in Continental Europe course is not suitable for native or bilingual speakers, as one of the main learning outcomes for the year in Europe is that your language improves. We suggest that students from overseas who would like to spend part of their education in their native country consider the Professional Placement programme. This programme would allow you to apply for work experience in your chosen country.

Entry requirements

  • Number of A levels required: 3
  • Typical offer: AAB–BBB
  • Required subjects and grades: normally Biology/Human Biology and one from Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Geography, Geology, Psychology, Sports Science.
  • For C101: GCSE grade B in an appropriate modern foreign language if not offered at A or AS level
  • General Studies: not accepted, but a good performance may be taken into account if you fail to meet the conditions of the offer
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma: 32–34 points to include Biology and one other science at HL; Chemistry is normally required at either HL or SL

Other qualifications are considered – see the entry requirements section for full details

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