School of Biological and Marine Sciences

MRes Marine Biology

Marine biology is a broad and dynamic subject, reflecting the diversity of marine ecosystems and the fantastic array of life they contain. Biological marine processes exert massive influences on the Earth's climate and biogeochemical cycling. Closely linked with the diverse research pursuits of scientists at the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and University, this programme allows you to develop research skills in a marine context that are widely applicable.

Careers with this subject

Career opportunities 

Opportunities for trained marine biologists exist within the public and private sector worldwide, including regulatory bodies, government agencies, conservation organisations, environmental consultancies, aquaculture, and fisheries management. The programme also acts as a springboard to an academic career, typically via a PhD.

Advice from graduate Olivia Durkin:

 "Although I may have not followed the typical path of a marine biology graduate, I have always remained flexible in the available job opportunities and therefore gained a very varied skill set, enabling me to adapt to different roles and projects. Do what you enjoy and it’s ok if you don’t end up being the dolphin trainer you thought you might be."

Read more from Olivia in her case study.

Key features
  • Study in Plymouth, an internationally renowned city for marine biological research.
  • Participate in a specifically designed, topical programme jointly hosted by Plymouth University and the Marine Biological Association (MBA) of the UK.
  • Choose between pathways to suit your research interests, biodiversity and ecology or cellular and molecular biology.
  • Benefit from being taught by recognised experts with worldwide links to research organisations and projects. 
  • Draw on our expertise, working alongside research staff on a personal project.
  • Undertake an extensive, original and innovative research project, often in collaboration with MBA Research Fellows, or one of our other partner institutions (Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science and the National Marine Aquarium), either in the UK or abroad.
  • Excellent training for further research. 
  • See the benefit from close links with the research community worldwide.

Places are limited and in great demand. To ensure you have a good chance of securing a place speak to us and apply as early as possible.

Course details
  • Programme overview

  • In your first term you will study core modules which concentrate on building up your general research and academic skills. You’ll also be introduced to the research and organisation of the MBA and the Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre at the University, with a focus upon raising your awareness of potential dissertation topics and advisors. You’ll take a specific module based on your chosen specialisation. The ecology option includes additional training in the analysis of ecological data and conservation/biodiversity assessments. The cellular and molecular option meanwhile focuses on DNA and microbiological techniques, biological imaging, and electrophysiological methods. The majority of time from mid-January onwards is spent on your research project and dissertation. You’ll undertake your project working directly with researchers at the MBA, Plymouth University or one of our other partner institutions. It may also be possible to conduct your project abroad.

    Core modules

    • Postgraduate Research Skills & Methods (BIO5131)

      The module provides the research- and communication-related skills that biology postgraduates require to carry out an original research project at the forefront of their academic discipline. Emphasis is given to the philosophy, design, ethics and management of research, effective communication to a range of audiences, and advice on career management and presentation skills involved in job applications and interviews.

    • Advanced Research in Marine Biology (MBAM5106)

      This module introduces students to marine biological research at the MBA and PU, the approaches and techniques used and the staff, with a focus upon the interdisciplinarity of contemporary marine biology. The module also familiarises the students with MBA practices and facilities, including safe working and risk assessment. Students will be provided with guidance on the preparation of scientific research for publication.

    • Marine Biology MRes Dissertation (MBAM5109)

      The student will complete an independent research project that they have designed. The project can be submitted in a journal paper format or as a dissertation. The write-up will include project aims, research problem to be addressed, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, discussion/synthesis, conclusions, supported by Figures and Tables. The student must defend the work in a viva voce with the External Examiner.

    Optional modules

    • Molecular and Cellular Approaches in Marine Biology (MBAM5107)

      This MBA-based module is an intensive introduction to the advanced molecular and cellular principles, concepts and techniques and that are applied by researchers at the MBA. The students will be actively involved with relevant research groups and will be taught using a lecture/seminar and practical approach.

    • Marine Ecology and Conservation (MBAM5110)

      This module deals with four main areas: fundamental ecology of marine ecosystems, threats and impacts upon marine systems, marine conservation methods & policy and analytical approaches for marine ecological studies.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MRes Marine Biology programme specification 2361

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements

Typically a first-class honours degree or equivalent in a biological subject, or a 2:1 honours degree with a 1st class grade or equivalent in a research project or dissertation. Applications considered from well-qualified graduates in other disciplines with relevant experience or interests –contact us for advice.

Applicants should include in their personal statement a paragraph describing a research project they have been involved with, what the findings of that study were and what the wider relevance of these findings is. Applicants are advised to apply early as the course has limited capacity.

International students: IELTS score of 6.5 overall (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element) or equivalent.

If you have overseas qualifications you can check their comparability with the UK equivalent through Ecctis, who provide an advisory service. 

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is 6.5.

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

New Student 2021-2022 2022-2023
Home £9,950 £10,200
International £16,200 £16,700
Part time (Home) £550 £550
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. For more information about fees and funding please visit

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

The University applies a discretionary alumnus reward where alumni meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • A 20 per cent discount on home tuition fees.
  • Or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.
  • A 10 per cent alumni discount is available on the following programmes: MSc Advanced Psychology, MSc Clinical Psychology, MSc/PgDip Psychology and MSc Occupational Therapy.

For further details, programme exclusions and contact information, please see our alumnus discount policy.

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.

If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Studying marine biology

This programme reflects the breadth and excitement of marine biology through its close links with the diverse research pursuits of a range of leading scientists, in one of the world's foremost locations for marine studies.

You’ll be better prepared for a career in academic marine research or for working independently within a company or governmental organisation.

Find out about our marine biology courses

Marine biology facilities

You’ll benefit from the outstanding facilities and resources of a network of institutions that will aid your development and prime you for a successful career in research.

Find out more about our facilities and resources

Doug Anderson filming with John Spicer and undergraduates at the Marine Station

<p>Dr Clare Ostle prepares to deploy the Continuous Plankton Recorder (Image: Marine Biological Association)</p>
Marine Biological Association 2014 Bioblitz

Marine biology research in Plymouth

Research within this programme

The programme team’s philosophy is to involve you in research groups working at the cutting edge of science, creating experiences and outputs directly relevant to progress to PhD and beyond.

Find out more about our research opportunities.

Research articles

Find out about how Plymouth is a hub for a vast range of marine research.

Meet the staff

Programme Leader

I have a student-centred approach to teaching and a passion for research-informed teaching.

Dr Michael Cunliffe's research combines contemporary omics approaches with analytical biogeochemical techniques and classic microbiological methods.

Read Dr Michael Cunliffe's profile.


Our graduates

Dr Oliver Tills – graduate quote

For me the biggest attraction of the MRes Marine Biology was the opportunity to spend nine months performing my own research. My research focused on variation in the timing of key events during the embryonic development of aquatic organisms.

After finishing the MRes, Oliver won a scholarship for a Plymouth University funded PhD and is now a postdoctoral researcher.

Graduate profile - Dr Lucy Turner

I went on to do a PhD in land crab biology, which meant I carried out fieldwork on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

Lucy is now a Lecturer in Marine Biology at Plymouth University

Read Lucy's profile

Graduate profile - Ellie Vaughan

I had already heard about Plymouth’s great reputation for marine biology, but it wasn’t until I did some work experience during Year 12 at the National Marine Aquarium when I was truly won over.

Ellie tells us about how the University supported her coral reef research.

Read Ellie's profile

Follow us on Social Media

  • The Plymouth University Marine Life Facebook page.