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BSc (Hons) Forensic Science

BSc (Hons) Forensic Science video
  • UCAS Code:
  • Delivery:
    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

This intriguing and exciting course will provide you with a broad understanding of the theory and practice of forensic science. During your degree you’ll cover crime scene science, toxicology, chemistry, and molecular biology amongst other captivating modules. As with our Forensic Investigation degree, there is a strong practical element, giving you the chance to put your learning into action in our state-of-the-art facilities (click on the Fieldwork tab for more information), as well as on work placements.

You will be provided with theoretical and practical training covering crime scene science, toxicology, chemistry and molecular biology. This course draws on our expertise in forensic archaeology, anthropology, genocide investigation and toxicology. 96% of our final year students agree our staff are good at explaining things – why not come and meet us?

This course has been designed to be one of the most relevant and modern forensic science degrees on offer. A recent theme at international conferences has been mass disasters and therefore this BSc (Hons) Forensic Science course has been designed realising that many forensic investigators work on tsunami, earthquake, genocide or mass transport cases rather than typical crime scenes.

As this course shares the first year of study with BSc (Hons) Forensic Investigation, you can change titles at the end of your first year if you decide to pursue the investigation route.

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.

Key information

Next start date:

September 2017, September 2018


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


3 years full-time with a 5-week placement or 4 years with a 30-week minimum placement

Required subjects:

At least one of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Human Biology, Applied Science, Maths.

Entry requirements:

For 2017 entry (we will use the new UCAS tariff): 104 - 120 tariff points including 3 A-Levels including 32 from one required subject, or equivalent qualifications. BTEC Extended Diploma: DMM. For more information check out our 2017 entry requirements page

International entry requirements:

If English is not your first language, you will need IELTS (Academic) 6.5  (with minimum 5.5 in each of the 4 components) or equivalent. For more information check out our International entry requirements page.

Course details

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.

Field trips are an important part of this course, to ensure you are exposed to as many real-world situations as possible.

Year 1

Core units

  • AAFS Study Skills: Fundamental skills for any scientist are the ability to work with a range of field and lab data. This unit will provide you with the knowledge to perform statistical analysis, create charts, graphs & maps, and write clear and concise reports using appropriate software packages.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Introduction to Forensic Investigation: This unit will provide you with a deeper appreciation of the legal aspects, command structure and operational procedures of UK forensic investigations and provide a deeper insight into a range of forensic sciences available. It will provide you with the theoretical understanding to enhance practical experience in the recovery of physical evidence.

  • Introduction to Forensic Psychology: This unit will demonstrate the way in which psychological research underpins the understanding of deviant and aggressive behaviour and the concept and utility of offender profiling in forensic investigations. As well as providing a critical understanding of the psychological processes at work during interview, you will be introduced to the potential biases inherent in the courtroom environment. To round off, it will provide you with an outline of the possible treatments and disposals available through the UK criminal justice system, with consideration of ‘what works’ with offenders.

Year 2

Core units

  • Biochemistry: Developing your core knowledge from the first year units in biology and chemistry, you will gain an appreciation of systems biology through the introduction of metabolism interconnectivity, and an overview of macromolecules and their metabolism. Topics will include the structure and function of DNA and enzyme structure and kinetics.

  • Crime Scene: This unit aims to provide details on the legal aspects, command structure and operational procedures of UK scene of crime investigations and provide an introduction to a range of forensic sciences. It will also provide practical experience in the recovery of evidence from potential scenes of crime.

  • Forensic Law and Practice: You will critically consider the criminal justice system in England and Wales and engage with the central issues common to any major criminal justice system. You will be equipped with a greater knowledge of criminal procedure including a comprehensive coverage of the entire criminal process from police investigation through to trial process to appeals and rectifications of miscarriages of justice.

  • Forensic Science: The basic scientific and analytical principals underlying the practice of forensic science will be explored in this unit. You will be introduced to a range of basic case types and to the analytical techniques commonly employed in forensic casework.

  • 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.

Option units

Semester 2 (choose one):

  • Advanced Cell Biology: Building on the fundamental principles from year 1, you will examine the operation of cells, and the control, development and modification of cells in multicellular organisms. You will also discover more about stem cell technologies and therapeutic applications, cancer development and cell culture techniques.

  • Advanced Crime Scene: As well as advancing your knowledge and understanding of scene of crime procedures, you will get practical experience of forensic photography, exhibit seizure, documentation &  packaging and the use of chemical enhancement techniques at the crime scene.

  • 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.

  • Case studies in Forensic Science: Discover how forensic science has developed and impacted on the investigation of crime and Criminal Justice System by studying and discussing a selection of cases from the published literature and trial transcripts. You will learn about the process of case investigation in modern policing; how a lawyer/barrister prepares a case for court and understand the role and responsibilities of the forensic expert and the impact that may have on a legal investigation.

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS): On completion of this unit, you will be able to select and plan GIS analysis using the appropriate software and manipulate the software for specific tasks. Emphasis is on data capture and analysis, and the presentation of data as cartographic maps.

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 (Placement)

You may choose to complete an optional 30-week or a short 5 week industrial work placement. You'll get an opportunity to include a period of academic study during this time. The placement year offers a chance to gain experience and make contacts for the future.

Year 3/4 (Final year)

Core units

  • Advanced Forensic Science: You will enhance your knowledge and critical thinking skills associated with the scientific and analytical principals underlying the practice of forensic science in this unit. You will gain in depth knowledge of key areas of forensic science.

  • Forensic Toxicology: This unit aims to provide you with a knowledge and understanding of the complex issues involved with the analysis of common drugs and poisons in human tissues and the ways in which they exert their effects on the body and influence behaviour.

  • Independent Research Project: The Independent Research Project provides you with an opportunity to gain experience of research in a topic of your choice relevant to your degree and to demonstrate your ability to report that research. Such experience is considered essential for those students interested in pursuing academic and/or professional research at a higher level of responsibility and achievement.

Option units

Semester 1 (choose one):

  • Environmental Forensics: Issues in Environmental Forensics range from pollution investigations to wildlife crime at local, national and international levels. You will learn to select appropriate analytical and forensic techniques used in an environmental crime investigation and understand both the legal and cultural issues faced when investigating wildlife crimes nationally, internationally and trans-frontier. You will need an awareness of the organisations involved in investigation and prosecution, so there will be presentations from appropriate organisations and the opportunity to take part in practical activities.

  • The Science of Human Remains: Practical lab sessions will allow you to examine skeletal material of modern humans in archaeological and forensic contexts. You will examine the ways in which disease can inform health status in past societies and how disease, trauma and skeletal pathology can identify individuals in a forensic context.

Semester 2 (choose one):

  • Biomolecules: By the end of this science based 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.

  • Forensic Practice: You will enhance your knowledge and critical thinking skills associated with the scientific and analytical principals underlying the practice of forensic science in this unit. You will gain in depth knowledge of key areas of forensic science.

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

Contact hours

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.

Learning and teaching activities includes demonstrations both indoor and outdoor in excavation and survey technology, artefact handling and investigation. In your second year you get the chance to conduct fieldwork on a 4 week archaeological dig (the Durotriges Project, or Big Dig). Contact time across the different years varies, ensuring an academic basis for learning prior to practice, and a reflective understanding of the task.

Year 1 – 23% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities

  • Learning and teaching: 262 hours
  • Independent learning: 938 hours
  • Non-assessed learning and teaching: 20 hours 

Year 2 – 32% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities

  • Learning and teaching: 376 hours
  • Independent learning: 824 hours
  • Non-assessed learning and teaching: 6 hours

Year 3 - 20% of your time will be spent in timetabled learning & teaching activities

  • Learning and teaching: 333 hours (estimated)
  • Independent learning: 867 hours (estimated)
  • Non-assessed learning and teaching: 6 hours

70% of the course is assessed by coursework

  • Year 1: 75%
  • Year 2: 67%
  • Year 3: 67%

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 specification

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) Forensic Science.

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.

Placement opportunities

At BU, we recognise that placements are extremely valuable and can give you a head start when it comes to your future career, therefore we now offer every new student the opportunity to undertake an industrial placement as part of their course.

We will provide a great deal of help and support to ensure you achieve a rewarding and satisfying placement. We have many links to outside agencies and organisations to best support you along your professional development. Our dedicated team of placement officers are there to guide and support you through the placement process and experience.

A placement year is a vital part in developing well-rounded and industry-ready graduates. Why not read about some of our students’ experiences?

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 skills to help you stand out in the job market.

How long is my placement?

You will begin your placement after completion of your second year of study for a short period of time, or during your third year of study for a minimum of 30-weeks.

Your application

Background and experience

For this course we are looking for students with:

  • An understanding of what archaeology and forensic sciences are
  • Enthusiasm for applying science to solve problems both in the study of the past and the present
  • An interest in both laboratory and field sciences
  • Good written and oral communication skills, and the ability to think analytically
  • An interest in archaeology, and forensic science (e.g. by attending an excavation, visiting museums, entering science competitions, school project work, or relevant volunteer work).

Students on this course will have a lively interest in the application of science in archaeological and forensic contexts, and have an interest in studying human remains. The study and practice of archaeological and forensic sciences involves a variety of skills, including those used in the field, in the laboratory, and based on wide reading so applicants should be happy learning to work in all these areas. We look for innovative thinkers who are interested in understanding the past and present through practical and scientific investigation.

Applicants will have strong analytical problem-solving and communication skills, both written and oral, as archaeological and forensic sciences involves working well as an individual and also as part of a multi-disciplinary team. We seek students with enquiring minds who are comfortable using science, technology and creative thought to apply in their studies and would encourage applicants who are interested in exploring new ideas and concepts and applying knowledge across disciplines.

Selection methods

We’ll be selecting the candidates for this course by looking at their UCAS applications. You may also be invited to attend an interview. 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.

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.

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

104 - 120 tariff points including 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.

Other 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 (subjects may be specified).

BTEC Qualifications

  • Extended Diploma: This course requires from Distinction, Merit, Merit.

  • Diploma: This course requires at least Distinction, Merit in addition to one A-Level in a required subject or equivalent to achieve 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 at least 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 and include required subjects as appropriate.

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.

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.


Field trips are an important part of this course, to ensure you are exposed to as many real-world situations as possible.

Day visits include the Tank Museum in Bovington, where you will get the chance to examine vehicles and other exhibits at the museum for battle damage which will help you enhance your perception and investigation skills. Forensic investigators need to be extremely perceptive and be able to quickly spot damage or unusual features. The tank museum provides an ideal setting in which to test this perception.

You may also get the chance to visit Purbeck Shooting School for the opportunity to handle and fire high powered rifles and shotguns. After the shooting you can take ‘gun shot residue’ test samples from your hands and clothes for analysis in our forensic laboratories. The Purbeck Shooting School will give an in-depth talk on sporting weapons such as shotguns and rifles to supplement other firearms lectures as part of the course.

We make extensive use of Dorset County Council’s Streetwise facility; a large warehouse with street, beach and domestic scenes in which we can stage large scale crime scenes. Watch a video of students at the Streetwise facility.

We have our own ‘crime-house’ facility and a field station where we are able to simulate mass graves and we also run mock disasters at Bournemouth Airport each year.


This degree will give you a good grounding in forensic and legal principles, including covering crime scene management and biological and chemical analysis. You will graduate with all the skills you need to get ahead in the field, as well as practical knowledge of a range of industry-standard equipment. We have an excellent reputation for producing graduates who are ready for the challenges of the forensic science industry, with 95% of our students in work or further study within six months of completing their course.

Our graduates have taken jobs with a range of organisations, including forensic science or hospital labs, local authority enforcement agencies and with crime scene investigation teams. Among the roles you can go into are:

  • Forensic Scientist
  • Lab technician
  • PNC operator
  • Biological scientists and biochemists

Industries worked in

  • Forensic science
  • Forensic and biomedical research
  • Education
  • Law enforcement
  • Healthcare.

Further study

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.

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.

No hidden extras

Course specific material(s) included in your tuition fee:

  • Lab coats, safety glasses
  • Compulsory/assessed fieldwork

As a student at BU we will provide many things to support you and there will also be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying at BU. The information below will help you understand our provision and what you need to budget for.

What you can expect from us

All of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including, lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of support and services, many of these are included on the Next Steps insert enclosed with your offer letter.

  • One set of study-related consumables such as a memory stick/ DVD
  • Materials for laboratory and field-based teaching activity
  • Support for placements (UK or abroad) and fieldwork
  • A range of student services – advisors, help desks, counsellors, placement support and careers service
  • The Library – access to a wide range of electronic resources (databases, e-journals and e-books), print and multimedia collections, subject librarians and study spaces
  • IT labs (some open 24/7), wireless network, AV equipment to borrow
  • Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme
  • Disability and additional learning support
  • The BU Language Centre to help you develop/improve foreign or English language skills
  • 24 hours a day, 365 days a year security team.

Costs of living and other expenses you need to consider

  • Accommodation and living costs: view our price guide
  • Text books: remember that our award-winning library is stocked with a large range of text books for all courses, as well as online resources such as industry journals, free of charge
  • General stationery and other supplies such as print and presentation materials: the Students’ Union shops stock a wide range of stationery supplies on both campuses
  • Travel to, from and between BU campuses: our bus service operates in the local areas offering a subsided travel rate; we also have a large number of secure bike storage compounds
  • SportBU membership: check out our student membership packages, sports events, varsity teams, information about our new facilities and more on the SportBU webpages
  • Fieldwork travel, outdoor wear and footwear (where applicable)
  • Telephone and travel costs incurred when undertaking interviews for coursework/securing placements.
  • A fee will be payable towards the cost of an Educational Psychology Assessment if this is required in connection with additional learning support. BU pays for approximately two-thirds of the cost of this assessment for UK students. For more details and current pricing please visit the Student section of the website

Repeat Units

If you need to repeat one or more units during the course of your studies, you may be required to pay an additional fee of £1,500 per 20 credit unit.  

Financial help available from BU

We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to students who are beginning their studies at BU. Our website also provides details on living costs, budgeting and paying your tuition fees.

What our students say

Zoe Fradley

The career prospects for students on this course are very broad as it covers many different areas such as labwork, law or the investigation route.

What our staff say

Professor David Osselton

You will participate in many practical exercises in our unique purpose-designed facilities. Our Crime Scene Training Centre has bedrooms, a lounge-kitchen-diner, a bank and a drugs lab.

What placement employers say

Karen Taylor

Thank you for organising S’s internship. She was a pleasure to host, gets on with her tasks and communicates well with all members of the team – a real credit to BU and to herself.


Forensics laboratory

Forensics lab

Learn about the latest equipment we have in our forensics lab and find out how it can prepare you for work.

Crime scene training facility

Crime scene training facility

Find out more about our crime scene training facility, where you can gain practical experience of forensic fieldwork.

Instruments lab

Analytical facilities

Discover what equipment we have in our instrument labs and how this can enhance your studies.

Additional information

Fees and funding

Fees and funding

Find out about fees and funding, including scholarships and bursaries.

Open Days

Open Days

Discover what makes Open Days so enjoyable and useful – and register to attend one of our events.

International students

International students

We have a strong international student community. Find all the practical advice and information you need here.