Our BSc Ecology and Environmental Biology (including foundation year) course will be suitable for you if your academic qualifications do not yet meet our entry requirements for the three-year version of this course and you want a programme that improves your academic skills to support your academic performance.
This four-year course includes a foundation year (known as Year Zero) which is delivered by our Essex Pathways Department, followed by a further three years of study in our School of Life Sciences. During Year Zero, you study three academic subjects relevant to your chosen course as well as a compulsory academic skills module, with additional English language for non-English speakers. After successful completion of Year Zero, you progress to complete your course with our School of Life Sciences.
Our course explores the diversity of the living world, across levels of biological organisation from genes to individuals, their populations and the communities they form, up to entire ecosystems.
Building on research produced in our School of Life Sciences, you will examine these concepts across terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems, examining taxa from smallest microbes to the largest organisms on Earth.
You will investigate the crucial role of biodiversity in supporting ecosystem functions and securing the flow of ecosystem services on which humanity depends. The strong theoretical, practical and data-handling skills you develop will help you to understand how biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are changing in response to multiple interacting stressors in the Anthropocene (eg climate change, chemical pollution and habitat loss). You will be equipped to design management solutions to tackle current and future challenges to ecosystems and have the option to train in tropical marine biology in Indonesia, as well as environmental biology and ecology on our new Arctic field course.
Sustainability at Essex
To learn about the initiatives and actions the University of Essex is taking to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises, visit our sustainability page.
Why we're great.
You’ll have the option to study in the Mediterranean, Indonesia and the Arctic
You have the opportunity to carry out your own unique ten-week research project under the supervision of our leading academics
Be part of a university that is taking the climate and biodiversity crises seriously
Our expert staff
Our Essex Pathways Department is a gateway to the University of Essex, helping students without standard entry requirements to grow in confidence, unlock their potential, and nurture their ambitions so they can progress in academic study.
As one of the largest schools at Essex, our School of Life Sciences offers a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high quality teaching, where you will learn from and work alongside our expert staff.
The research undertaken in our School of Life Sciences covers a wide spectrum from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Key academic staff for this course include:
Professor Alex Dumbrell – Internationally recognised research program on diverse aspects of ecology and biodiversity
During your three years with our School of Life Sciences, you will also work with many others from our Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Research Group.
The University of Essex has a Women's Network to support female staff and students, and our School was awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award (2020), which reflects the work carried out by staff in our School to continue to improve all aspects of equity, diversity and inclusion.
During Year Zero, you will have access to all of the facilities that the University of Essex has to offer, as well as those provided by our Essex Pathways Department to support you, such as:
We provide computer labs for internet research; classrooms with access to PowerPoint facilities for student presentations; AV facilities for teaching and access to web-based learning materials
Our new Student Services Hub will support you and provide information for all your needs as a student
Our social space is stocked with magazines and newspaper, and provides an informal setting to meet your lecturers, tutors and friends
Our School of Life Sciences has world leading research facilities for aquatic biology, environmental biology, molecular ecology and genomics.
Depending on your choice of pathway and research project you have the opportunity to use these facilities, which include:
Local field sites and collaborators including CEFAS, Lowestoft
Overseas field sites with our collaborators in Indonesia, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean
Remote-sensing drones for field surveys
A 10.5m research and education vessel
Aquariums, mesocosms and other facilities for ecology and behaviour studies
Oxford Nanopore MinION portable genome sequencers, the latest digital and quantitative PCR, and Illumina sequencing platforms
An advanced bioimaging suite to visualise and process images of biological processes in real-time
Laboratories with robotic liquid handling systems and equipment for cell culture, molecular biology and gene editing
Suites of analytical equipment (ICP-MS, GC-MS, LC-MS/MS) for quantifying chemicals in the environment and metabolites from living organisms
In situ sampling of carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour flux from sediments, soils, and terrestrial vegetation
Graduates from this degree will be well equipped to tackle the global ecological crises we face in the 21st century.
Demand for qualified life scientists 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 the Sainsbury Laboratory (University of Cambridge), Suffolk County Council, Essex Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Others have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc, MSD (Masters by Research) or PhD degrees.
We also work with our University's Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
UK entry requirements
All applications for degree courses with a foundation year will be considered individually, whether you
think you might not have the grades to enter the first year of a degree course;
have non-traditional qualifications or experience (e.g. you haven’t studied A-levels or a BTEC);
are returning to university after some time away from education; or
are looking for more support during the transition into university study.
Our standard offer is 72 UCAS tariff points from at least two full A-levels, or equivalent, to include a science subject.
Examples of the above tariff may include:
A-levels: DDD (including a science subject)
BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma: MMP (in a science subject)
T-levels: Pass with E in core, depending on subject studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
For this course we require level 3 (i.e. A-level, BTEC, etc.) scientific study.
Considered science subjects from all qualifications include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Maths, Geography, Sports Science and Applied Science.
All applicants must also hold GCSE Maths and Science at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent). We may be able to consider a pass in an OFQUAL regulated Level 2 Functional Skills Maths where you cannot meet the requirements for Maths at GCSE level. However, you are advised to try to retake GCSE Mathematics if possible as this will better prepare you for university study and future employment.
If you are unsure whether you meet the entry criteria, please get in touch for advice.
Mature applicants and non-traditional academic backgrounds:
We welcome applications from mature students (over 21) and students with non-traditional academic backgrounds (might not have gone on from school to take level 3 qualifications). We will consider your educational and employment history, along with your personal statement and reference, to gain a rounded view of your suitability for the course.
We might not need evidence of level 3 scientific study where you have relevant work experience in a scientific field, or where you have previous successful study at degree level.
You will still need to meet our GCSE requirements.
Essex Pathways Department can consider those with EU nationality and residence in the EU. If you would like to know more about the eligibility requirements for Essex Pathways Department, including if we could consider an application from you, please get in touch for advice.
We will require the equivalent of the entry requirements detailed above from an acceptable high school qualification, including a specified grade in Maths and an acceptable science subject.
Essex Pathways Department is unable to accept applications from international students. Foundation pathways for international students are available at the University of Essex International College and are delivered and awarded by Kaplan, in partnership with the University of Essex. Successful completion will enable you to progress to the relevant degree course at the University of Essex.
International & EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
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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 required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications
If you are an international student requiring a Student 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.
Our Year 0 courses are only open to UK and EU applicants. If you’re an international student, but do not meet the English language or academic requirements for direct admission to your chosen degree, you could prepare and gain entry through a pathway course. Find out more about opportunities available to you at the University of Essex International College.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We’ll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we’ll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.
Components and modules explained
Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.
Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.
What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.
Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.
In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.
Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:
The department or school the module will be taught by.
In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.
The module aims to provide you with a general understanding and curiosity about biology with a balance of plant biology, animal biology and microbiology. This involves an understanding of the diversity, lifecycles and evolution of life on Earth, together with the biological processes that enable organisms to live, sense and adapt to the ecosystems that they inhabit. It will develop an appreciation of the relevance of sustainability to all aspects of scientific developments relating to biological sciences.
The module aims to provide you with the knowledge and understanding of chemistry needed to underpin advanced study in biology. This involves an understanding of the basic facts, concepts and terminology of chemistry relevant to modern biology.
The module covers the mathematical skills needed to proceed to any degree course within the School of Life Sciences. The syllabus covers the mathematics of basic arithmetic and algebra, graphs and rates of change as well as statistical distributions and hypothesis testing. The associated work in classes and lab sessions develops the skills used to solve problems applicable to the study of biological sciences, with classwork and online assignments being set and full solutions provided as part of the feedback process.
This blended-learning module is designed to support students in their academic subject disciplines and to strengthen their confidence in key skills areas such as: academic writing, research, academic integrity, collaborative and reflective practices.
The students are supported through the use of subject-specific materials tailored to their chosen degrees with alignment of assessments between academic subject modules and the skills module.
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.
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.
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.
You will develop your transferable skills in scientific writing (including referencing and avoiding plagiarism), teamwork and communication through oral presentations, study and research skills (including essay writing, lecture note taking, use of library and databases). Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, and tutorials. The emphasis will be on small group, tutorial-style teaching and interaction with other students on this module, with assessments tailored to your degree subject area.
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.
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.
Microbes are essential for life, and they connect the health of humans, other animals and ecosystems. They help us digest our food, provide us with vitamins and are contribute to our health and wellbeing. Marine microbes provide about one-third of the oxygen we breath. And, by cleaning up pollutants and synthesising valuable products such as antibiotics, microbes are essential for the delivery of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. On the other hand, some microbes cause devastating diseases. Despite major advances in treatment and prevention, incidences of infectious disease continue to rise. You will learn about the vast diversity and evolution of these mostly beneficial microbes and learn about the pathogenicity of the harmful ones. You will examine how different viruses and bacteria invade, interact and replicate within their hosts. A series of four practical sessions in our new teaching laboratory will give you hands-on experience of growing, observing, purifying, counting and even killing microbes. This will provide you with sought-after skills, such as aseptic technique, serial dilution and data analysis.
Examine how competition, predation, herbivory, mutualism, disease and parasitism affect the distribution, abundance and growth of populations, and how populations interact to affect the structure and dynamics of ecological communities. You apply this ecological knowledge to real-world problems, such as pest control and conservation.
Professional skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists
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.
This module will develop your understanding of how researchers examine the molecular components of life to better understand the ecology of living organisms. This feeds directly into modern approaches for conservation biology, monitoring ecosystems, examining species iterations, and advancing our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary relationships supporting a living planet. This module will be delivered via a series of lectures and lab practicals, with a balanced emphasis on both applying knowledge and understanding theory.
This module aims to prepare you for carrying out an individual scientific investigation on a topic relating to your degree. Develop skills to identify a suitable question and then design an experimental approach to obtain data addressing this question. The assessment focuses on your analysis and presentation of these data in a suitable scientific paper format report, on the research, understanding and critical writing about the scientific literature relating to your project. Your oral project presentation skills and response to questions, the planning and management of your project work, your progress reflection and your employability skills will also be evaluated.
This module provides you with a thorough understanding of biogeography theory, and how this and spatial ecology tools can be applied to issues of environmental and climate change and feed into policy and management solutions for mitigating associated impacts.
We will examine current biogeography and spatial ecology topics. These will include both contemporary and historical drivers of species distributions, the role of climate change in shaping these distributions, and how species traits underpin where they do, don't, can and can't exist. Building on this theory, you will explore management and policy solutions to mitigating environmental and climate change, and how biogeography tools and theory are put into practice.
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.
You can find further information on how to apply, including information on transferring from another university, applying if you are not currently at a school or college, and applying for readmission on our How to apply and entry requirements page.
If you are an undergraduate student residing in the UK who has received an offer to study with us in October 2023, you will receive an email invitation to book onto one of our Applicant Days. Our Colchester Campus Applicant Days run from February to May 2023 on various Wednesdays and Saturdays, and our Southend Campus Applicant Days run from March to June 2023 on various weekdays and Saturdays. Applicant Days provide the opportunity to meet your department, tour our campus and accommodation, and chat to current students. We appreciate that travelling to university events can be expensive. This is why we have increased our Applicant Day Travel Bursary cap, allowing you to claim up to £150 as reimbursement for travel expenses. For further information about Applicant Days, including Terms and Conditions and eligibility criteria for our Travel Bursary, please visit our Applicant Days webpage.
Visit Colchester Campus
Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.
If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tours allows you to explore our University from the comfort of your home. Check out our Colchester virtual tour and Southend virtual tour to see 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.
At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.
The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.
The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and
Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.