About the course
Are Olympic athletes born or made? Can exercise be bad for your health? What is the secret behind the world’s fastest sprinter? Studying sports and exercise science will help you to understand the biology, physiology, biomechanics and psychology of sport, exercise and physical activity.
With a science-based approach, studying sports and exercise science at Essex will help you to understand the biology, physiology, biomechanics, nutrition and psychology of sport, exercise and physical activity.
You study topics including:
- How and why different energy systems are deployed at different exercise intensities
- How the principles of mechanics determine the flight of a javelin
- How mind and body interact to influence performance
- How exercise can reduce the risk of getting cancer
- How the body responds and adapts to exercise
Practical work in your first two years provides you with the professional and scientific skills you need to conduct your own research project in your final year, and to make the transition to postgraduate study or on to a fulfilling career in a range of industries, especially sport, health and education.
In short, sports and exercise science will give you a new and exciting perspective on the world of sport, exercise, health and physical fitness.
”From my first lecture I was made to feel welcome in the department. I particularly enjoyed my paid, work-based placement at the University’s applied Human Performance Unit where I was able to gain applied experience working with a variety of athletes under the supervision of experienced sports scientists."
Jay Collison, BSc Sports and Exercise Science, 2014
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you extending your education through providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad in an English-speaking country or employed on a placement, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. Recent destinations include:
- Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
- Queensland University of Technology
- University of Mount Union
- La Trobe University
Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement year with an external organisation. This is usually focussed around your course, and enables you to learn about a particular sector, company or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways.
Organisations our students have recently been placed with include GlaxoSmithKline, Proctor & Gamble, Aquaterra, Astrazeneca, Genzyme, Reckitt Benckiser, Thermofisher, and Isogenica.
Our expert staff
As one of the largest schools at our University, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high quality teaching. Two-thirds of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and you learn from and work alongside our expert staff.
Our research covers a wide spectrum of biology – from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Key academic staff for this course include Dr Valerie Gladwell, who is researching green exercise and the autonomic nervous system in exercise bouts, Dr Paul Freeman, who works on social support in sports, and Dr Gavin Sandercock, who works on geographical and social interactions with exercise.
The University of Essex has a Women's Network to support female staff and students and was awarded the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award in November 2013 in recognition of its continuing work to support women in STEM.
Recent spending by our University has allowed for major refurbishment and expansion of our School of Biological Sciences, including:
- Work in an open and friendly department, with shared staff-student social spaces
- Conduct your final-year research alongside academics and PhD students in shared labs
- Gain valuable experience working with elite athletes in our Human Performance Unit
- State-of-the-art research facilities, from state of the art treadmills, to 7-camera biomechanics systems, to gas and blood analysis systems
- Teaching facilities including new undergraduate laboratories
The sport, fitness, health and leisure sectors are booming and provide a variety of careers for sports and exercise science graduates.
Typical career destinations include healthcare, teaching, and the health and fitness industries or postgraduate study. Our courses develop your skills in numeracy, information technology, communication and time management, which are important to all employers.
Our recent graduates have taken up a wide range of roles, including:
- Senior fitness instruction and personal training
- Coaches and performance analysts for football clubs including Southend United, West Ham United, Dag and Redbridge, and Derby County, and for rugby clubs including Colchester RFC
- Health and safety executive for HM Inspector of Health and Safety
- Essex netball development officer for England Netball
- Girls’ and women’s football development officer for a local council
- Health improvement facilitator for a primary care trust
Other graduates now work in the fields of sports performance, sports management and sports development, health care, teaching, and the health and fitness industry. Many also undertake further postgraduate study.
We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.
For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.
Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.
Ask difficult questions, and develop the skills needed to answer them. In this module, you learn how to critically analyse research literature to find gaps in scientific understanding, and gain the fundamental practical skills needed to create new knowledge.
Develop skills in research design, the application of key methods, the statistical analysis of data, and the interpretation and presentation of research findings. The practical skills that you will develop in this module, such as blood sampling, heart rate monitoring and psychological testing are also the professional competencies expected of Sports Scientists and acquiring them will begin to prepare you for a career in Sports Science support or in the field of exercise and health.
Understanding performance in sport requires knowledge of the basic scientific principles of chemistry, biology and physics, alongside a foundation of maths. You examine these principles in depth, developing your understanding of the human body at both cellular and gross level, and considering how it can be influenced by exercise training and how these changes can be assessed. You apply your theoretical knowledge to real sporting examples including training and fitness testing.
Top athletes can move their bodies with astonishing speed and precision. But how? This module is concerned with the physical and mechanical principles that govern how our bodies move. You consider the effects of force, mass, speed, velocity, acceleration and momentum, and study how our bodies interact with other moving objects. You get hands-on right from the start, investigating theory through a number of laboratory-based practicals.
Is it all in the mind? The margin between victory and defeat is thin, but can an athlete’s psychology really give them an edge? You explore the potential application of Freudian Behavioural and existential psychology on a range of sport and exercise topics, focusing particularly on coaching and training. Investigate how psychology may be used to improve sports performance, and its role in sport with reference to the social forces of racism and sexism.
How can we best fuel our bodies for optimal health and performance? Explore the processes involved in energy production – from the intake of food to digestion, absorption, and eventually assimilation or metabolism of nutrients. Examine what constitutes a “balanced diet” and question whether different types of exercise demand different energy sources, focusing in particular on the chemistry and role of macro- and micronutrients.
Explore the individual systems involved in maintaining our bodies’ internal environments – respiratory, cardiovascular, urinary and immune. Examine how each system’s organ structures inform function, how they work together as a whole, and the ways they maintain homeostasis under the stresses of exercise and disease.
In the Sports Science summer school you apply some of the basic science and research skills that you acquired in lectures and practical classes during your first year to the identification and investigation of research questions relevant to performance in a variety of sports. You also have an opportunity to develop your group working and communications skills whilst indulging in the simple enjoyment of participating in novel sporting experiences. You’ll practise and extend your skills in processing, evaluating and analysing data, basic tools of a sports scientist's trade. You’ll also be provided with a structured opportunity to think about your future, about how the academic, sporting and social experiences of your University life are contributing to your development as an individual and what you need to do to fulfil your hopes and potential.
Your biggest competition to date: the graduate job market. This module gives you a crucial head-start, ensuring you can both practically apply and effectively communicate your skills to the real-world and future employers.
During the Sports Science summer school you will identify and consequently investigate a chosen research question, working as part of a team to process, evaluate and analyse data. You will also have chance to prepare for life beyond graduation, developing a written strategy for optimising your employability, updating your skills e-portfolio and CV, and examining the job application process in detail.
How do our bodies respond and adapt to exercise and training? You review the structure and function of the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, assessing how they respond to physical strain, and how they contribute to the limitations of human performance. You also consider how the nervous and endocrine systems are affected as well as the overall influence of environmental temperature and altitude.
To optimize performance in sports or rehabilitation, we first need to understand it. Biomechanics provide an interesting tool to do so. You start by exploring the most common and basic human movement: walking. You will learn about research on human gait and how we can use biomechanics to better understand human movement and enhance performance. In a practical, you will collect your own data and perform scientific experiments to understand and characterize the effect of footwear on performance, moving on to other cyclic movements, such as wheelchair exercise and mobility in the context of rehabilitation.
You also consider how biomechanics can help to prevent injuries in Paralympic wheelchair athletes, or improve mobility for persons in a wheelchair. Learn how to apply biomechanics in the multi-disciplinary context of sport sciences by modelling cyclic sports performance using an energy flow model.
Can mental strength really give an athlete the edge? Explore psychological phenomena such as emotion, mood and cognition and assess the impact it has on human performance. You also examine the difference between ability and skill, theories of motor development and strategies used to change behaviour.
What are the major causes of sports injuries, and what are the best methods for treatment and prevention? Identify the causes, signs and symptoms of sport-specific injuries. Discover the anatomical and physiology mechanisms that underlie injuries and discuss the mechanisms that allow recovery. You also gain practical skills, learning to design and evaluate an exercise rehabilitation plan – considering the various phases of exercise rehabilitation.
Examine contemporary issues in the science of sport and exercise, and their implications on the health and performance of individuals, groups, or society. You have the opportunity to examine selected issues in depth from a range of options, engage with cutting-edge research, develop informed opinions on the topics, and to present information in different formats.
Do supplements work? Can a clean athlete ever beat a drug cheat? You’ll be introduced to the use of nutritional and biochemical manipulations of human performance. Explore the use of dietary (macronutrient) manipulations and permitted nutritional supplements (ergogenic aids) as well as banned performance-enhancing drugs. In particular, you will look at the biochemical and physiological mechanisms of how these aids work and the methods by which their efficacy can be tested.
In this module you will study human movement. You’ll look at a range of different techniques and instruments used to measure different motions in particular, walking, running and throwing across a range of subjects, from elite athletes to the disabled and learn how to analyse and interpret the results. You’ll also have the opportunity to operate video analysis equipment and use a force plate.
This module will develop your skills to perform a thorough needs analysis of sports, individuals, and/or teams, investigate psychological strategies that are used to enhance performance, and examine how to develop interventions based on the current research literature. You will also explore the role of technology to enhance the delivery of sport psychology services. The module builds on Year 1 and 2 Sport and Performance Psychology modules and will focus on the application of scientific principles to enhance athletic performance.
While exploring the ways in which sport and exercise can have a positive effect on mental health you will begin to learn the language of applied psychology. By the end of the course you’ll have learned about several mental health issues and have discovered how sport and exercise interventions can be beneficial to them. You will also consider the impact of injury or the end of a sporting career has on one's personal psychology.
Investigate the effects of extreme conditions on the human body. You explore physiological responses to altitude and acceleration, spaceflight and microgravity, intense gaseous and marine pressures, extremes of hot and cold. You also gain understanding of the effects of starvation, dehydration and air pollution on human survival and performance.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Practical work in your first two years
- Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
- Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely
- Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework
- Contribute towards real-world research projects in your final year of study
UK entry requirements
A-levels: BCC, including B in one science subject or Mathematics (PE and Psychology count as science A-levels)
GCSE: Mathematics and Science C
If you do not meet the GCSE Science requirement but you have A-level Science or equivalent, please contact Undergraduate Admissions for advice before applying
BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM (in relevant subjects).
IB: 28 points, including Higher Level Science or Mathematics grade 5, and Standard Level Mathematics and Science grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Please note that Standard Level Maths in the IB is not required if you have already achieved GCSE Maths at grade C or above.
Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.
International and EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries.
for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the
high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
English language requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.
Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications
If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.
Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.
Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.
The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.
Applicant Days and interviews
Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our applicant days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.
Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your applicant day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.
If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you plan a visit to the University.
Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:
- tour our campus and accommodation
- find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
- meet our students and staff
Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing email@example.com and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.
If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.
Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.