On this course you will usually be taught by a range of staff with relevant expertise and knowledge appropriate to the content of the unit. This will include senior academic staff, qualified professional practitioners, demonstrators, technicians and research students. You will also benefit from regular guest lectures from industry.
Biological Research Skills: This unit provides the fundamental skills to conducting research, much of which takes place in tutorial sessions, allowing you to get to know your core teaching team for the degree. You will perform simple data collection, manipulation and presentation of results in appropriate scientific form, using computer software. You will also learn to search, locate, read and understand relevant scientific literature, formulating scientific arguments and discussion, writing and presenting these ideas as essays, opinions and research papers.
Cell Biology: Cells are the basic unit of life and hence knowledge of cell biology is fundamental to understanding wider concepts in biology. This unit introduces key themes in cell biology to provide a sound underpinning knowledge of cells and the way they function. The unit will equip you with an understanding of cell structure, function, control, basic molecular biology, the interaction of cells with viruses and the basic experimental techniques used to investigate cells.
Chemistry: You will be provided with an understanding of some aspects and processes within fundamental chemistry and analytical chemistry and develop your laboratory skills. The unit will predominately be delivered through lectures and practical laboratory sessions. The laboratory sessions will enable reinforcement of the theoretical concepts by dealing with experimentally generated data and will allow for one-to-one and small group discussions.
Diversity of Life: Gain an understanding of the origin and diversity of life on earth, how the environment and selection have shaped the patterns of distribution of plants, animals and micro-organisms since life first originated some 3.5 billion years ago, and how it is increasingly being influenced by humans. You will have insights into the basis for classifying organisms and in dealing with the relationships among major groups, and examine the organisation and structure of major groups of living (and some fossil) organisms (microbes, protists, higher plants, invertebrates and vertebrates). You will cover aspects of body size and life history strategies.
Human Anatomy & Physiology: Giving you an overview of the structure and function of the human body, you will be introduced to the principal concepts underlying pathophysiological processes that disturb health. Key biological and physiological practical techniques relevant to measuring human health and disease are covered, together with the skills you will need for the analysis and presentation of the resulting data.
Practical Skills in Biology: Knowledge of how to work in a modern laboratory is very much the emphasis of this unit. You will develop logic and common sense for working in laboratories, correctly handle common equipment or apparatus, use biological samples with respect, master essential skills in calculating concentrations (or dilutions) of reagents or buffers, array samples in designing experiments, keep laboratory notebooks, and perform experimental procedures with ‘multi-task’ in mind. This unit will give you the skills to be both confident in designing and executing your own experiments.
Core units - Semester one
Advanced Skills for Biological Sciences: This unit builds and refreshes those academic skills needed for independent research in biology and life sciences. You can collect data from a variety of sources but then how do you make sense of it and synthesise it into a question that can sustain an independent research project? You will learn the necessary survey, experimental design and data analysis techniques for completing a research project independently.
Core units - Semester two
Evolutionary Biology: Providing you with the fundamental understanding of evolutionary theory and population genetics, the unit gives you a broad overview of the factors involved in the species evolution, through an introduction to selection forces, heredity and Mendelian genetics. We will also introduce you to the concept of adaptation to a changing environment and how to apply this in future thinking.
Semester 1 (choose two):
Animal Biology: This unit addresses the developmental, regulatory, physiological, sensory and cognitive processes of a wide range of animals (vertebrates and invertebrates). It provides a sound basis of understanding important differences and similarities in ‘model’ organisms in biomedical research (and the strengths and limitations of using them), and also of how sub-organism or organism level biology influences how individuals act with each other and their environment.
Biochemistry: Providing a foundation for your final year of study in Biomolecules and Advanced Topics in Genetics by covering the fundamental basics of biochemistry, the unit will give you a broad overview of macromolecules (structure and function) and their metabolism. You’ll also have an appreciation of systems biology through the introduction of metabolism interconnectedness.
Ecosystems: We will enable you to develop an awareness of the importance of a range of ecosystems and develop your understanding of how ecosystems can be managed to conserve them.
Semester 2 (choose two):
Advanced Cell Biology: This unit will examine the operation of cells and the control, development and modification of cells to fulfil highly specialised roles in multicellular organisms. The unit aims to equip students with a detailed understanding of cell structure and function, control and regulation of cellular processes and the development of multicellular organisms.
Behavioural Ecology: Concepts will include the evolutionary underpinning of behaviour, and an understanding of the ways in which organisms make behavioural decisions. Applications will include how behavioural ecology can be used to understand population ecology, and support nature conservation. Topics covered will include foraging and reproductive behaviour, and the interactions between competitors, and predators and prey. The unit will focus on animals, but will also stress how behavioural ecology can be applied to plants, fungi and protists.
Bonobos, Bones & Bottlenecks: Lectures and lab work will introduce you to the basic principles of modern human variation, adaptation and the evolutionary forces that have influenced them. You will study the core concepts of heredity, adaptation and variation applied to humans and other primates. Attention is also given to all living primates and to the primate fossil record.
Environmental & Societal Challenges: Whilst you consider the relationships between humanity and the environment, you will be introduced to some of the big challenges faced by society today that stem from the impact of humanity on the earth system. By discussions about your place in society and your role in providing solutions to these challenges this unit will further your knowledge of science policy and application.
International Field Trip: Information on each trip will be provided during option selection sessions in the previous year or semester. Each trip will have a key theme or themes (like conservation in practice in China, or preparation for climate change in farming communities in Nepal). Much of the work will involve field-based lectures, discussions and local speakers, but the bulk of activities will involve work on individual projects focussed on specific tasks within these broad concepts. Tutorial sessions will be available daily when on field work with the unit tutors.
Introduction to Toxicology: The basic principles of toxicology will be explored in this unit, designed to offer foundation knowledge for those intending to study toxicology at higher levels or for those intending to study subjects peripheral to toxicology or where a basic understanding of toxicology will be relevant.
Microbiology: Providing detailed knowledge of structure, organisation, metabolism, growth and evolution of viruses, bacteria, protists and fungi, information is also given on microbial motility, adhesion and on some of the diverse metabolic pathways present in microbes, including anaerobic micro-organisms. Selected aspects of microbial ecology, including the microbial loop, will be introduced to enable you to appreciate the roles of microorganisms in natural habitats and in some created by man. There will be a short formal treatment of sterilisation, disinfection, and cryopreservation. Climate change and past environments will be explained from a microbial perspective as well as microbial consortia (e.g. symbioses). Practicals will aim to further elucidate material covered in the lectures and to develop skills in handling, characterising and identifying microorganisms, and we will try to accommodate field work and/or a visit an industrial unit.
Please note that option units require minimum numbers in order to run and may only be available on a semester by semester basis. They may also change from year to year.
Year 3: optional work placement
You may choose to complete an optional a minimum 30-week work placement, or two 5 week placements, which can be carried out anywhere in the world. The placement year offers a chance to gain experience and make contacts for the future.
Year 3/4 (Final year)
Semester 1 (choose two):
Advanced Topics in Genetics: You will consider how this modern discipline underpins all aspects of biology. You will be actively involved in discussions about the ethical issues of genetics and introduced to bioinformatics analysis of data. We will consider the roles pharmacogenomics, epigenetics, endophenotypes and optogenetics play in current research outputs as well as the classical model.
Biological Oceanography: Making use of our fantastic location along the south coast, this unit will give you the opportunity of practical ‘hands on’ study, via field trips to locations such as Poole Bay and Poole Harbour. Through a combination of lectures, group problem-solving sessions and field trips, you will develop knowledge and understanding of the history of biological oceanography, the plankton, the benthos, the overall functioning of the ocean biota, as well as introducing some practical problems in biological oceanography (accumulation of pollutants, ocean acidification, and the possible manipulation of the biological pump).
Marine Conservation: This unit aims to enable you to critically evaluate approaches to the conservation and management of marine biodiversity including fisheries and protected areas. You will also examine legal processes and mechanisms that are applied to the conservation of marine and coastal environments.
Pathophysiology: The detailed study of the molecular bases of a number of important clinical states will be a major component of the unit. We aim to develop your knowledge and understanding of the principal biological mechanisms involved in a range of pathological processes, inherited, malignant, infectious and degenerative diseases including cancer, inherited disease, heart disease, diabetes, infectious diseases, immunological conditions and organ-specific disorders. The transmission of infections, the role of the scientist in control and prevention of disease will be discussed, together with the social and political issues raised by such measures such as vaccination, hygiene and sanitation.
Semester 2 (choose two):
Biomolecules: By the end of this unit you will be conversant with the concepts and approaches of holism compared with reductionism in modern biological sciences. It will review the principles of biology and modern biotechnologies from molecular levels to systems biology, such as DNA analysis, DNA profiling, functional genomics, gene expression and complementary DNA (cDNA) microarray, proteomics and protein interactions, epigenetics, bioinformatics, recombinant DNA, and biotechnology.
Parasitology & Epidemiology: The necessary tools to understand and discuss parasitology and disease epidemiology will be provided to present a broad overview of how parasites influence human and wildlife health, behaviour and population dynamics. You will learn to appreciate how policies are adapted to protect public health and the health of farmed and wildlife populations. Quantitative skills will be enhanced by performing survival analysis and evaluating potential disease impacts. Identification of parasites will also be covered.
Primate Behavioural Ecology: This unit will provide you with an understanding of how primate behaviour can be interpreted from an evolutionary viewpoint, and how human and non-human primates’ behavioural strategies are adapted to the social and ecological environment in which they live. The unit is aimed at stimulating discussion and the critical analysis of theories.
Topics in Wildlife Conservation: You will critically evaluate currently important topics in wildlife conservation from a range of perspectives, and develop your skills in evaluating ecological data in the context of conservation ecology and your powers of reflection on your own perspective and ability to appreciate and integrate other perspectives within conservation ecology.
Please note that option units require minimum numbers in order to run and may only be available on a semester by semester basis. They may also change from year to year.
Scheduled learning and teaching activities
The hours below give an indication of how you can expect to spend your time during each year of this course. You will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops and practical sessions. Your independent learning could include reading books and journal articles, working on group projects, preparing presentations, conducting library research and writing your assignments. On this coruse, you will benefit from a variety of teaching methods including laboratory based practicals, lectures and fieldwork.
In your third year you will have the opportunity to solve real world biological problems by observation and recoding of biological science activity in both the field and lab which will be heavily independently based.
Year 1 – 21% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities
- Learning and teaching: 247 hours
- Independent learning: 953 hours
- Non-assessed learning and teaching: 20 hours
Year 2 – 26% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities
- Learning and teaching: 310 hours
- Independent learning: 890 hours
- Non-assessed learning and teaching: 6 hours
Year 3 - 15% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities
- Learning and teaching: 304 hours
- Independent learning: 896 hours
- Non-assessed learning and teaching: 6 hours
72% of the course is assessed by coursework
- Year 1 75%
- Year 2 67%
- Final year 75%
Throughout the course you will be assessed by coursework culminating in your final year research project, but you will also undertake group work and written exams.
Programme specifications provide definitive records of the University's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.
Download the programme specification for BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.
All statistics shown are taken from Unistats, Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), BU institutional data and Ipsos MORI (National Student Survey) unless otherwise stated.
How long is my placement?
You can begin your placement after completion of your second year of study and you must complete a minimum of 5 weeks, or 30 weeks during your third year of study.
At BU, we recognise that placements are extremely valuable and can give you a head start when it comes to your future career so we offer every student the opportunity to undertake a work placement as part of their course.
We provide a great deal of help and support to ensure you achieve a rewarding and satisfying placement. What’s more, you can also choose to take your placement abroad, giving you the opportunity to develop yourself personally, academically, and professionally and gain transferable skills to help you stand out in the job market.A placement year is a vital part in developing well-rounded and industry-ready graduates. Why not read about some of our students’ experiences?
Through the Student Environment Research Team (SERT), you can also gain experience and practical skills, as a volunteer, through a wide range of short projects relevant to your professional practice. Each SERT project and its report is viewable on the web so you can demonstrate the skills you have gained to future employers.
For this course we are looking for applicants who:
- Can demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of chemistry and biology
- Have basic laboratory skills
- Can demonstrate good written and oral communication skills.
We welcome students with a wide range of interests and with a science background. You will have problem-solving skills and a proven ability to express yourself well orally and in writing, as well as working well in groups and as an individual. We are looking for applicants who are interested in finding out how life works and a general interest in the natural world. Strong candidates would be those who have done some volunteer or other work to expand their practical skills in the laboratory.
Our offer making process
Our offer making will typically be based on your three main graded qualifications, including any required subjects. Additional study may be valuable for breadth of study, and we will look at a range of qualifications and subjects, including the Extended Project Qualification and General Studies, although these may not be part of our offer.
If you do not meet the criteria of your original offer, we may still offer you a place. We will review your whole application and consider all academic qualifications (including those not in the offer) and the rest of the application to see if you have the academic potential to succeed on the course. If we feel the answer is yes, we will still confirm your place.
How we'll assess your application
We look at individual applications and make a tailored offer based on your potential to succeed on the course considering a range of factors, including your academic achievements, work and other experience, predicted grades, reference and personal statement, and in some cases, your performance at an interview/selection test.
If you meet one or more of our contextual data indicators for educational disadvantage (such as being in care, living in a low participation neighbourhood or in an area with less advantaged socio-economic characteristics), your offer could be between 6-20 points below the published tariff.
We’ll be selecting the candidates for this course by looking at their UCAS applications. For that reason, make sure your application really stands out from the crowd, and leave us in no doubt as to why you should be joining BU. You can find some handy hints about filling in your UCAS form on our how to apply webpages.
Unconditional offer scheme
Our Unconditional Offer Scheme seeks to reward exceptional applicants who are predicted to achieve top academic results. The scheme is offered to applicants on all courses who are predicted AAA at A-level/triple Distinction in BTEC Extended Diploma, or above, or equivalent, subject to any course selection measures and meeting other entry criteria (i.e. required qualifications). What’s more we’ll recognise your achievement if you meet these grades with an Academic Excellence Scholarship from £1,500 when you arrive*.
We believe that unconditional offers will reduce pressure on applicants who will continue to strive to achieve the best grades possible. Excellent grades will become a part of applicants’ CVs and are also required for BU’s scholarships. International qualifications are considered in the scheme; however applicants must satisfy the English language requirements. *Our scholarships are subject to terms, conditions and eligibility criteria, detailed on our scholarships pages.
2017 entry requirements
The new UCAS Tariff will be used for September 2017 entry.
The entry requirements for this course are 104 to 120 tariff points from 3 A-Levels including 32 from one required subject, or equivalent qualifications. BTEC Extended Diploma DMM.
UCAS have created a helpful calculator so you can calculate points to use for courses starting from September 2017 onwards.
Excluded subjects: This course does not accept General Studies
Numeracy and literacy: We need to be sure that you can express yourself in written English and have basic numeracy skills. We look at Level 2 of the National Qualifications Framework, which includes, but is not limited to, GCSEs, iGCSEs, Key Skills and Functional Skills Level 2. If you do not have formal qualifications to this level or have alternatives, we may still be able to consider your application – please contact the askBU Enquiry Service to find out more.
GCSEs: A minimum of 4 GCSEs grades A* - C (or grade 4 or above in the newly reformed GCSE grading) including a Science, Maths and English or equivalent qualifications.
We have outlined below other qualifications that we consider for this course. If you are studying a qualification that is not listed, please contact the askBU Enquiry Service. It may be that we can still consider it.
Access Courses: BU welcomes Access to HE Diploma applicants. This course requires applicants to Pass the Access to HE Diploma (Science) (with 60 Credits - at least 45 at level 3, remainder at level 2 or equivalent). Any combination of grades to meet the overall tariff is acceptable.
Extended Diploma: This course requires from Distinction, Merit, Merit in a required subject.
Diploma: This course requires at least Distinction, Merit in addition to one A-level in a required subject to acheive the overall tariff.
90-credit Diploma: The 90-credit Diploma will be accepted as part of your overall tariff but it must be accompanied by A-levels or equivalent qualifications.
Subsidiary Diploma: This course requires a Distinction in addition to two A-levels in required subjects.
A combination of BTEC qualifications to meet the overall course tariff is also acceptable.
Cambridge Pre-U Diploma: We welcome applicants studying the Cambridge Pre-U Diploma or a combination of Pre-U subjects and A-levels.
European Baccalaureate: Applicants are required to achieve a minimum score of 71-75% overall.
International Baccalaureate (Diploma): The IB Diploma is welcomed as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB). This course requires 28-31 points including 5 points from each of the 3 Higher Level subjects.
Scottish Qualifications: Scottish Advanced Highers, Scottish Highers and other Scottish qualifications are all welcomed providing that your results meet the overall course tariff.
Welsh Baccalaureate: The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma is welcomed alongside A-Levels or equivalent, to meet the overall course tariff.
OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technical Qualification: The OCR Extended Diploma or a combination of one Diploma plus one Introductory Diploma is acceptable for entry to this course.
- Extended Diploma: This course requires Distinction, Merit, Merit in a required subject.
Other combinations of OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technical qualifications to meet the overall course tariff may be acceptable.
Extended Project Qualification: The grade achieved for the Extended Project may be taken into account when considering whether or not to accept a candidate who has marginally failed to meet the conditions of their offer.
Deferred Entry: We are happy to consider applicants for deferred entry.
International entry requirements
English language requirements
If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:
IELTS (Academic) 6.5 with minimum 5.5 in each component, or equivalent.
View further information about our English language requirements.
If you do not meet the English language requirement for your degree then why not join our Pre-Sessional English course? Successful completion of our Pre-Sessional English course will meet your English language requirement, without the need to re-take IELTS.
Academic entry requirements
You can find details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our entry requirements for non-UK students’ page.
Your degree will be centred around developing the skills you need to work in professional practice, as well as equipping you with a variety of transferable skills that will give you a range of career options. Our staff have a wealth of research, educational and consultancy experience and are therefore well-placed to ensure you are ready for the world of work once you graduate. Within six months of finishing their course, 90%* of our students are in work or further study.
They work for a range of organisations, including the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, NHS, Sigma Aldrich and the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative.
Industries worked in
- Environmental science
- Forensic and biomedical research
Once you have completed an undergraduate Honours degree, you can further develop your education by studying for a postgraduate degree. Please visit our Postgraduate section for further details about our range of Master's degrees. Many graduates go straight on to Doctoral level study in medicine, genetics and neuroscience.
*All statistics shown are taken from Unistats, Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), BU institutional data and Ipsos MORI (National Student Survey) unless otherwise stated.
Meet our staff
Professor Richard Stillman
Head of the Department of Life & Environmental Science, Professor Richard Stillman is an applied ecologist with an interest in predicting how environmental change and management influence animal populations. His research aims to advise policy makers, conservationists and industry on the best ways of reconciling the interests of wildlife with those of humans.
Dr Wei-Jun Liang
Programme Leader for the course, Dr Wei-Jun Liang is a biological scientist and his main area of interest is cell and molecular biology.
Read more about the specialist interests of our Life & Environmental Sciences staff online, or register now to meet us!