Undergraduate Course

BSc Biological Sciences

Now In Clearing
BSc Biological Sciences

Overview

The details
Biological Sciences
C100
October 2018
Full-time
3 years
Colchester Campus

How can we use gene-editing technology to understand and treat human disease or improve crop yield? What is big data and how can we use it to advance our understanding of biological systems? How are we using synthetic biology to engineer bacteria to clean up oil pollution? How does bioimaging allow us to see inside the molecular machinery of a cell?

Integrative biology brings together all the tools of modern biology to unravel the complexity of living systems. Our BSc Biological Sciences covers the breadth of biology from molecules and cells, to whole organisms and ecosystems. In our School you’ll discover how new developments in technology are driving current research, with research-based teaching delivered by leading scientists investigating global biological challenges.

The vast and diverse world of living organisms offers a huge range of opportunities for study and work, and at Essex we give you the flexibility to shape your degree to suit your interests. Your first year offers broad insights into cell and molecular biology, genetics, ecology and evolution, as well as an overview of animal, plant, and microorganism diversity. Our Integrative Biology pathway allows you to choose from a broad selection of modules across different disciplines. Alternatively you can customise your degree to specialise in an area you enjoy most, choosing from either Human Biology, Molecular and Cell Biology, Biotechnology, or Ecology and Conservation Biology.

Choose to follow one of our five pathways:

  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Integrative Biology

You’ll receive hands-on experience to develop important practical skills both in the lab and in the field throughout your course. In your final year you’ll carry out an independent research project allowing you to pursue your own interests and play your own part in adding to the ever-growing knowledge within biological sciences.

Why we're great.
  • Study in our brand new £13.2m STEM Teaching Centre which is equipped with cutting-edge facilities including modern teaching laboratories and an IT-rich exploratory learning space
  • You have the opportunity to carry out your own unique ten-week research project under the supervision of our leading academics
  • Our students love studying with us! 93% of our biology students expressed overall satisfaction with their course (NSS 2018)

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad (see below).

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are adaptable and mature.

If you spend a full year abroad you'll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee that year. You won't pay any tuition fees to your host university.

Our students currently study abroad at universities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Germany and Sweden.

Placement year

Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement with an external organisation. This is usually focused 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.

If you complete a placement year you'll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.

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 Alex Dumbrell, who specialises in ecology and biodiversity, Dr Tracy Lawson, who researches stomata, using chlorophyll and thermal imaging to measure plant productivity, and Dr Phil Reeves, who works on the molecular mechanism of vision loss.

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.

Specialist facilities

Our School has leading research facilities for cell and molecular biology, genomics, and ecology. Depending on your choice of pathway and research project you have the opportunity to use these facilities, which include:

  • A next-generation genome sequencing facility. Receive training on using the Oxford Nanopore MinION, a portable handheld device that can sequence genome data in real time, which has been used to track recent outbreaks of zika and ebola, and has even been used on the International Space Station
  • A high performance computing cluster with 368 CPUs, 5.4Tb of RAM and 700Tb of storage for analyses of large biological data sets
  • An advanced bioimaging suite to visualise and process images of biological processes in real time
  • An X-ray Crystallography and Macromolecular Interactions facilities for the biophysical characterisation of proteins and other macromolecules
  • Fully automated laboratories with robotic liquid handling systems and equipment for cell culture, molecular biology and gene editing
  • A fleet of remote-sensing drones for carrying out remote field surveys
  • Aquariums, mesocosms and other facilities for ecology and behaviour studies

Your future

Demand for qualified biologists continues to grow and our course will equip you with the analytical and computational skills that are in high demand by employers. Recent graduates have gone on to work in a range of different careers in organisations which include GlaxoSmithKline, the Sainsbury Laboratory (University of Cambridge), ALS Laboratories, the National Health Service, Suffolk County Council, Essex Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Others have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc, MSD (Masters of Research) or PhD degrees.

We work alongside the University’s Employability and Careers Centre to keep you updated on the latest opportunities for relevant work experience, internships, placements, and volunteering.

“Biology has always been the subject that's interested me the most, and choosing BSc Biological Sciences as opposed to a specialised biology course meant that I could get a taste for a range of disciplines and make an informed decision as to what I'd like to pursue for a career. But doing a placement year was definitely the best decision I made; I can't stress enough how much easier it made things for me when applying for jobs. Having a good degree obviously also helps a lot, but gaining work experience in the field really helps you stand out. I’m now working as a Medical Lab Assistant in the microbiology department at my local hospital, hoping to become HCPC-registered and progress up to a Trainee Biomedical Scientist position in the near future.”

Sam Williams, BSc Biological Sciences (including Placement Year), 2016

Entry requirements

Clearing entry requirements

If you have already received your results, use our Clearing application form to apply for 2018 entry through Clearing. You will be asked to provide details of your qualifications and grades.

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.

Structure

Example structure

We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of compulsory and optional modules chosen from lists. Below is just one example structure from the current academic year of a combination of modules you could take. Your course structure could differ based on the modules you choose.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore all modules listed are subject to change. To view the compulsory modules and full list of optional modules currently on offer, please view the programme specification via the link below.

Molecular Cell Biology

The building blocks of life, plants and animals depend on the actions of individual cells. Investigate the biochemical characteristics of the small molecules and large macromolecules that allow cells to function. You examine the origins of life, cell structure and function, energy transductions, synthesis of molecules, and the eukaryotic cell cycle.

View Molecular Cell Biology on our Module Directory

Genetics and Evolution

Why do we all look different? Are some illnesses hereditary? Are animals born ready-suited to their environment? From the early theories of Mendel to modern studies in molecular genetics, you explore how scientists have answered these questions over the last 150 years. Examine how the structure and function of DNA allows genetic material to be expressed, replicated and inherited, and consider how genetic variation leads to adaptive evolution. From developing new technologies in gene cloning to the applications for modern medicine, you explore how geneticists are building on the earlier achievements in this fundamentally important field to enhance our understanding of life on earth.

View Genetics and Evolution on our Module Directory

Microbiology

Get to know the culprits of some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Despite major advances in treatment and prevention, incidences of infectious disease continue to rise. Vast diversity, rapid evolution and the opportunistic nature of micro-organisms present a significant challenge. You examine how different viruses and bacteria invade, interact and replicate within living hosts, and explore the consequent impact on ecology, industry and disease. A series of four practical sessions allows you to get hands-on and develop valuable skills. You learn how to purify, observe, count and kill micro-organisms in our purpose-built labs, gaining experience of aseptic techniques, serial dilution, response to antibiotics, and staining.

View Microbiology on our Module Directory

Plant Biology and Ecosystems

Living life on a knife’s edge – explore the vital role plants play in our biosphere, their diversity and intricate relationships that support our planet. Examine the value of these natural resources; examine the consequences we face when the balance is disturbed. From studying how plants affect and are affected by their environment you learn what we can expect from a changing world. Examine how we influence the world around us. You apply this knowledge to the field, learning to collect, present, analyse and eventually interpret data. Understanding the fundamentals of ecology and plant diversity allows you to explore possible solutions to our environmental problems.

View Plant Biology and Ecosystems on our Module Directory

Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour

The diversity of life on planet Earth is breath taking. We share our home with a vast number of species, a large portion of which are animals. We will discover the diversity of animal forms and functions and the role of natural selection in determining individual behaviour such as foraging, breeding and predator escape. You also investigate the idea that nothing in ecology and evolution makes sense in isolation.

View Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour on our Module Directory

Scientific and Transferable Skills for Biosciences

Develop your skillset and boost your CV. This module prepares you for the coursework, laboratory practicals and research projects that you will encounter during undergraduate study. Get to know referencing systems and learn how to effectively communicate scientific information. Use scientific units and simple algebra and demonstrate understanding of logarithms, exponentials, geometry and elementary calculus. Learn how to design experiments, handle data and display, interpret and analyse basic statistics. Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, practicals and tutorials, with an emphasis on developing the key transferable skills needed for a career in biosciences.

View Scientific and Transferable Skills for Biosciences on our Module Directory

Enterprise and Employability for the Biosciences (Assessed in Following Year)

This module gives students the opportunity to further develop practical and experimental design skills, which are central to studies in cellular and molecular biology. Skills will be focused on improving your CV and further training in producing high quality scientific reports.

View Enterprise and Employability for the Biosciences (Assessed in Following Year) on our Module Directory

Marine Ecology (optional)

The marine realm covers 70% of the Earth's surface. It contains ice-covered seas and hydrothermal vents, muddy estuaries, deep ocean trenches and the clear blue open sea. The oceans and seas are also integral to the whole earth-ocean-atmosphere system, which controls the climate and conditions for life on Earth. Discover the different marine environments, the organisms that inhabit them and their ecological interactions. You also investigate the physical and chemical conditions that determine the diversity of marine life and consider how human activity is influencing marine ecosystems, through overfishing, pollution, and climate change.

View Marine Ecology (optional) on our Module Directory

Professional Skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists (optional)

In this career-focused module you develop skills specific to your discipline, such as information retrieval, data-analysis and interpretation techniques, as well as a broader range of transferable skills, such as communication, team-work, numeracy and attention to detail. Learn how to best approach job applications, including CV and cover letter writing, aptitude testing and the interview process.

View Professional Skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists (optional) on our Module Directory

Environmental Biology and Ecophysiology Field Course (optional)

New approaches to environmental biology focus on examining species interactions, rather than individual taxa in isolation, requiring a sophisticated, interdisciplinary skill set, which incorporates field, lab, and high-tech remote sensing work. Our one week, residential field course in Portugal is designed to get you thinking like a researcher, and to develop your knowledge of the most recent approaches in field biology. You will acquire crucial field-work skills alongside skills in experimental design, data analysis, and oral presentation. Please note that the cost of this trip is approximately £150.

View Environmental Biology and Ecophysiology Field Course (optional) on our Module Directory

Immunity in Health and Disease (optional)

Our bodies are under attack. So how do we defend ourselves against foreign invaders? Explore the anatomical and structural components of the immune system and assess what happens in the event of immunodysfunction. Utilising real-world case-studies (eg AIDS), and looking at specific examples (eg allergy and transplantation) you will review important aspects of clinical immunology and immuno-pathology, gaining an understanding of auto-immunity and immune-deficiencies. You will also consider the future of human immunology – evaluating how far vaccines can protect us against disease. Using the knowledge you have gained you will be able to identify areas of current immunology understanding that could lead to positive medical intervention.

View Immunity in Health and Disease (optional) on our Module Directory

Cell Biology (optional)

The study of cells is at the centre of modern biology.  Learn how cellular components determine cell structure and function, how cells communicate and how signaling pathways regulate cell fate.  You also explore the regulation of the cell cycle and cell death and learn about changes that occur in cells that have become cancerous. A solid understanding of cell biology opens doors to more specialist topics, such as plant biotechnology and cancer biology.

View Cell Biology (optional) on our Module Directory

Plant Molecular Physiology and Genetics (optional)

The aim of this module is to provide a view of how a fundamental understanding of plant processes can impact on the production of plants for the 21st century. Learn the essential processes and constraints on plant growth and development, and explore how innovative technological approaches in plant sciences may provide real solutions to our future predicted global food shortage. You’ll look into key aspects of plant physiology such as different photosynthetic mechanisms, and modern approaches to manipulating plant performance and growth.

View Plant Molecular Physiology and Genetics (optional) on our Module Directory

Biodiversity and Conservation (optional)

Human activity is resulting in an ever-accelerating rate of extinction of biodiversity. Many species in the tropics are becoming extinct even before they have been described by science, while many more are threatened worldwide, including in the UK. Considering the need for biodiversity conservation, you work alongside some of the key employers in the sector including Essex Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency. Topics include sustainable fisheries and agriculture, climate change, environmental law and captive breeding and re-introduction.

View Biodiversity and Conservation (optional) on our Module Directory

Microbial Diversity and Biotechnology (optional)

Microbes have been on the Earth for at least 3.5 billion years; they tolerate or require a huge range of physico-chemical extremes and perform a remarkable array of functions. This module will examine the diversity of microbes, and how they can be applied for the benefit of society and the environment, for example by bioremediation of contaminated land, recovery of oil and metals, production of biofuels and therapeutic compounds.

View Microbial Diversity and Biotechnology (optional) on our Module Directory

Coral Reef Biology (optional)

You’ll gain an insight into biology and ecology of tropical coral reef systems. By explaining the nature of the connection between coral reefs and tropical biomes, we help you gain a thorough understanding of the ecological functioning of coral reef systems. We explore the biology of coral reef systems, the landscape ecology of tropical coastal marine systems and examine the importance of the threats to these systems and the options for management.

View Coral Reef Biology (optional) on our Module Directory

Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module (optional)

Investigate the relationship between water chemistry and habitat structure, and biological diversity of coastal environments. Getting hands-on in the local Colne/Blackwater estuary you gain experience in assessing environmental variables, sampling protocols and general fieldwork skills. You learn to identify a wide variety of animals and plants at different salinities, as well as associated habitats such as freshwater grazing marshes and salt marshes. You are also trained in commonly used lab techniques, such as measuring phosphate concentrations and sediment properties.

View Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module (optional) on our Module Directory

Plant Biotechnology (optional)

Today’s global society has 8 billion mouths to feed. So how can we use our knowledge of modern plant science to improve agricultural productivity? From genetically-engineered disease resistance, to using water and nutrients more efficiently, you consider the potential impact and implications of the latest thinking and technology.

View Plant Biotechnology (optional) on our Module Directory

Stem Cell Biology and Ageing (optional)

This module describes the fundamental principles of stem cell biology and molecular mechanisms and factors that define their 'stemness'. It also covers the processes that govern their differentiation into specific cell types.

View Stem Cell Biology and Ageing (optional) on our Module Directory

Pollution: Impacts and Management (optional)

Pollution is the introduction of substances that are harmful to the environment. It can be local or widespread. Using a range of examples you consider the major pollutants in atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic environments, their sources and ecological effects, as well as potential ways of controlling them.

View Pollution: Impacts and Management (optional) on our Module Directory

Animal Behaviour (optional)

Be introduced to the key concepts of animal behaviour from an ethological and comparative cognition viewpoint. By taking a critical look at published work and research and identifying the frameworks that underlie animal behaviour, you will become familiar with aspects such as the evolution of behaviour and the cognitive capabilities of different species.

View Animal Behaviour (optional) on our Module Directory

Research Project in Biomolecular Science (optional)

This module gives you the chance to conduct an individual scientific investigation on a topic relating to your degree specialisation. Develop skills to identify a suitable question and then design an experimental approach to obtain data addressing this question. This module assesses your analysis and presentation of these data in a suitable scientific paper format report and the research, understanding and critical writing about the scientific literature relating to your project as well as your oral project presentation skills and response to questions, the planning and management of your project work, your progress reflection and your employability skills.

View Research Project in Biomolecular Science (optional) on our Module Directory

Placement

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.

Year abroad

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.

Teaching

  • Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
  • Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely
  • Participate in specialist field trips

Assessment

  • Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee

£9,250

International fee

£16,170

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

Home and EU fee information

International fee information

What's next

Open Days

Our events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. We run a number of Open Days throughout the year which enable you to discover what our 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 book a campus tour here.

2018 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, September 15, 2018
  • Saturday, October 27, 2018

How to apply during Clearing

Once you’ve checked that we have the right course for you, applying couldn’t be simpler. Fill in our quick and easy Clearing application form with as much detail as you can. We’ll then take a look and get back to you with a decision. There’s no need to call us to apply; just do it all online.

Find out more about Clearing

Interviews

We don’t interview all applicants during Clearing, however, we will only make offers for the following course after a successful interview:

  • BA Multimedia Journalism
  • BSc Nursing (Adult)
  • BSc Nursing (Mental Health)
  • BA Social Work

The interview allows our academics to find out more about you, and in turn you’ll be able to ask us any questions you might have. Further details will be emailed to you if you are shortlisted for interview.


Apply now
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