School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

Are you passionate about biology in all of its forms? Do you want to study a broad biology degree without the constraints of choosing a specialism too soon, with equal emphasis on lab and field skills? You will build an understanding of biology from microorganisms to mammals, and from woodland to hydrothermal vents, gaining state-of-the-art practical and transferable skills highly sought by employers, graduating ready to shape the future of fields like ecosystem management and biotechnology.

Careers with this subject

Graduates work in areas as diverse as biotechnology, pharmacology, food, ecology, fisheries, the media and environmental consultancy. Many of our graduates go on to study at postgraduate level – gaining MSc or PhD qualifications.

Key features

  • Study the whole spectrum of contemporary biology, on a course consistently praised externally for its outstanding teaching quality and well-constructed programme.
  • Gain theoretical and practical skills in the laboratory and dig deeper into the interplay between biology and real life so you'll graduate with the skills to immediately enter the world of work.
  • Learn on location, through day trips to field courses ( fieldwork costs).
  • Experience practical biology in the real world with an optional work placement between your second and final year.
  • Build the knowledge, skills and practical awareness for a variety of careers.
  • Work with your personal and course tutors to develop key graduate skills to boost your employability.
  • Keep pace with the ever changing discoveries, insights and thinking in ecology, biodiversity, cell biology, animal behaviour and physiology.
  • Be inspired by staff who are leading the way in their subjects, carrying out research that turns heads worldwide. 
  • Boost your practical skills using our specialised facilities including controlled environment chambers, experimental glasshouses, and an electron microscopy unit.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • In your first year, you will obtain a strong foundation across the spectrum of the biological sciences. You will begin with an intensive induction module through which you will obtain key skills in using the scientific literature, data analysis and interpretation, academic writing and presenting and communicating your findings in both written and oral formats. You will then study cell biology, microbiology and the physiology of animals and plants, whilst furthering your transferable skills. You will undertake laboratory-based practicals in a range of different areas that underpin and complement your lecture-based learning. You will have the opportunity to undertake a residential field course or alternative. Recently this has been to Slapton in South Devon, where we studied natural history and taxonomy of wild animals and plants, whilst learning to design and carry out survey work in the field.

    Core modules

    • Introduction to Biology (BIOL119Z)

      This module is designed to give you some fundamental basic skills and information to help you start to become an independent biologist. The module will cover data and information gathering, analysis, evaluation and presentation. Much of the module will be based around field/lab activities providing you with data for analysis and presentation.

    • Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1 (BIOL129Z)

      Skills in fieldwork, e.g. in identification, or in the laboratory, e.g. in liquid handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the progressive acquisition of a range of basic field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 4 modules.

    • Biological Sciences Field Biology (BIOL130Z)

      This module provides an introduction to the natural history, taxonomy, identification and sampling methods for the major groups of organisms with opportunities to explore and test hypotheses based on these concepts in the field and lab.

    • Cells: The Building Blocks of Life (BIOL131Z)

      The cell is the basic building block of life. This module introduces you to the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and the cell biology that allow different cells to do different things including some highly specialised cells of multicellular organisms. The module will then focus on the molecular basis that underlies cell function introducing you to the metabolic pathways and molecules that allow cells to work.

    • Ecology and the Diversity of Life (BIOL132Z)

      This module introduces the fundamental principles of ecology and the diversity of life. It examines patterns of life on Earth, past and present, and how an understanding of these supports efforts to conserve biodiversity and manage resources sustainably. The module also provides an overview of the domains of life on Earth, introducing the remarkable variety of organisms with which we share the planet.

    • Principles of Physiology (BIOL133Z)

      This module is an introduction to the fundamental principles of comparative physiology, and the structure and function of the body systems of plants and fungi as well as animals. The module also introduces the concept of environmental physiology, how organisms respond to their environment.

    • Evolution and Behaviour (MBIO161Z)

      Covers the principles underpinning evolution with a special focus on animal behaviour as adaptive traits. Module covers concepts of the genetic basis of inheritance, population genetics, selection, adaptation, function, fitness and speciation. We will use key examples and practical classes to illustrate key ideas and consider the development of some of the ideas in a historical context.

  • Year 2

  • In your second year, you’ll build on your growing knowledge of physiology, plant biology, microbiology and the methods and techniques of biological science. You will undertake team-based microbiology and plant science research projects through which you will gain core transferable skills in team work and working with new people alongside core research and bench skills. You will customise your studies through optional modules in ecology and the physiology of disease. A key part of your second year is a residential field trip to the Azores (or a local alternative) which takes place in late August or early September just before your second year starts. During this course you will study life in extreme environments at geothermal springs and volcanic lakes and will undertake ecological studies of invasive and endemic species in the broad range of unique ecosystems that the Azores offers.
    You can alternatively undertake your second year at one of a selection of overseas universities through our Year Abroad scheme. When you return, you will go straight into your final year, so your degree still takes 3 years overall.

    Core modules

    • Microbial Physiology and Biochemistry (BIOL211Z)

      Diversity, lifestyles, taxonomy and physiology of organisms within the Bacteria and the Archaea, as well as training students in key research and transferable skills through an intensive team laboratory research project. The module focuses on recent developments in microbiology and is highly research-oriented, looking primarily at terrestrial, freshwater, plant and animal host-associated organisms.

    • Molecular Biology (BIOL220Z)

      Starting from the central dogma of molecular biology, this module will introduce the theoretical underpinning of the structure of DNA, its replication, transcription into RNA and translation into protein. The module will also focus on the theory behind the techniques used in recombinant DNA technology and the modulation of gene expression in a range of organisms from different domains, for industrial and research use.

    • Professional Development in Biological Sciences 2 (BIOL225Z)

      Skills in fieldwork or in the laboratory, as well as other transferable skills, e.g. in data handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the continued acquisition of a range of field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 5 modules.

    • Biological Sciences Field Course (BIOL233Z)

      An understanding of how to carry out field biology is fundamental to our degree. On a residential, overseas field course or alternative, you will learn about practical fieldwork while learning about the biology and geography/geology of the fieldwork location. The most recent residential field course was held in the Azores.

    • Methods in Biology (BIOL234Z)

      Using core and programme specific activities this, module equips students to perform key laboratory and field techniques in the biological sciences using appropriate methods with regard for safety and risk assessment. The module embeds core skills such as data analysis and presentation, the use of statistical analysis software (e.g. R) for analysis and data presentation, searching and use of literature and bioinformatics.

    • Plant Ecophysiology (BIOL235Z)

      This module looks at plant-environment interactions in specific habitats, including those affected by human activity. In all cases the challenges associated with the particular environment or biotic interactions are examined as well as the stress responses which may occur in the plants growing there. The features of plants which are well adapted to exploit the opportunities provided by particular habitats are explored.

    Optional modules

    • Systems Physiology: Function and Dysfunction (BHCS2018Z)

      This module examines human physiological mechanisms of function of major body systems at the cellular, tissue, organ and organism level. It also explores mechanisms of dysfunction at the cellular, organ and systems level. The module will emphasize relationships between structure and function and will emphasize correlations between normal physiology and pathophysiology, normal anatomy and pathology, and homeostasis and homeostatic imbalances.

    • Ecology (BIOL214Z)

      An understanding of basic concepts is needed to solve ecological problems. This module explores key concepts in ecology at the levels of individuals, populations and communities. The concepts are supported with examples taken from terrestrial and aquatic systems, and provide a useful insight into the search for general theories in ecology.

  • Optional placement year

  • Many of our students carry out an optional placement year between their second and final years. You can undertake either two 3 month work placements or one 6 month placement, though many of our students opt to spent up to 12 months at their placement provider. You will be supported by a Placement Adviser – a member of academic staff from the School – who will act as your point of contact with the University. Examples of placement providers that our students have been based at in the past have been highly diverse, from nature reserves and bird sanctuaries to Aarhus University, Denmark, undertaking research in cold-loving iron-reducing bacteria, including fieldwork to the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Circle.
    Given the opportunities a Placement Year gives and the positive impact it brings to employability, we strongly encourage all students to give serious consideration to undertaking a Placement Year.

    Core modules

    • Biology:Placement (APIE303)

      All students on our degrees have the option of undertaking a (minimum of 6 month) work placement at a company or university anywhere in the world undertaking some kind of work (usually research-based) relating to their programme of study.

  • Final year

  • In your final year of study, you will study from a range of optional modules, allowing you to specialise in plant biotechnology, environmental microbiology, global change biology, bioprospecting, animal nutrition, and ecotoxicology. You will also choose between two advanced skills modules, allowing you to specialise in key practical-focused areas that have been developed to give you industry-relevant skills not typically found within undergraduate programmes. In common with all honours degrees in the UK, a major part of your final year is your research project, in which you will apply the skills and understanding you have developed through your studies to a piece of research, supervised by a member of academic staff.

    Core modules

    • Ecotoxicology (BIOL311Z)

      This module provides a detailed analysis of the concepts and principles of ecotoxicology, with an emphasis on evaluation of ecotoxicological techniques and methods for assessment of impacts of pollutants on the aquatic environment.

    • SoBMS Project (PROJ302Z)

      This module provides an opportunity to undertake a research project on an individually developed topic and experience the entire process of scholarly research: from problem formulation, through the design and execution of an investigation, analysis of results and presentation of outcomes. It will develop skills in independent working and self-awareness in relation to personal, professional and academic development.

    Optional modules

    • Plant Biotechnology (BIOL301Z)

      Despite the increasing importance of 'food security' in a changing world, plant biotechnology has had much negative publicity. This module will give students an appreciation of the science and also the ethical and social issues that surround the subject and show why these techniques are so important to secure our food supply.

    • Global Change Biology (BIOL310Z)

      This module provides the student with an in-depth overview of the likely consequences of climate change for plant and animal species biology and distribution over the coming century. From this starting point we will show how an understanding of climate change biology is vital for conservation theory and practice over coming decades.

    • Animal Nutrition (BIOL320Z)

      This module examines the principles and practice of animal nutrition for a range of animal species. It provides an understanding of feds, feed evaluation, diet formulation and feeding. The module also examines the impact of ingredient, physical, manufacturing and legal constraints on the production of diets.

    • Pharmacology and Natural Products (BIOL321Z)

      Natural products (NPs) from diverse sources are used by humans including many compounds that affect organisms at cellular and molecular levels. This module will give you an understanding of the generalised mechanism of action of such compounds, their synthesis and an overview of specific compounds, their actions and uses from an array of biological sources and in a number of clinical and industrial contexts.

    • Aquatic Microbial Ecology (BIOL322Z)

      This module covers methodologies and current research in aquatic microbial ecology. You will study microbial life from all three domains of life - the Eukarya, Bacteria and Archaea as well as viruses. You will cover freshwater (lakes, rivers), marine (polar ice caps, neuston, benthic plain, hydrothermal vents) and hypersaline (playas, soda lakes) ecosystems as well as flora and fauna of these ecosystems as habitats.

    • Advanced Behaviour Analysis Techniques (BIOL323Z)

      Learn to use a range of modern animal behaviour analysis techniques in a variety of settings, such as labs, farms, zoos etc. Cover how you identify and follow individual animals to collect social data and construct a social network, how to analyse animal movement and how we can test and train animals to assess behavioural changes - and how to communicate, to a wider audience, the importance of these techniques.

    • Advanced Bioinformatics and Phylogenetics (BIOL324Z)

      Technological advances have generated a substantial increase in the amount and speed of data production. You will build expertise in skills used for data analysis, essential for working in the life sciences (big data sets, bioinformatics, phylogenetics, image analysis and genomics etc.) to address questions in biology, ecology, evolution and behaviour; and communicating these complex ideas to the wider public.

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

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

BSc Biological Sciences Programme Specification September 2024 0004

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

104 - 128

To include A level Biology and a second relevant subject (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Environmental Science or Environmental Studies, Applied Science, Marine Science).
BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma/RQF National Extended Diploma: DDM to DDD in Science. Note that this is subject to the exact modules you have studied, please contact stating explicitly the full list of modules within your qualification.
International Baccalaureate: 28-32 points overall to include Higher Level Biology and a second relevant  Science subject. English and Maths can be considered within. 
Access To Higher Education: Science-based diplomas, 33 credits in science-based units at merit including a minimum of 12 credits in biology units and 21 credits in a second science subject. 
We would usually expect GCSE English and Mathematics at grade C / 4, or equivalent.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.
For candidates that do not have traditional qualifications, our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences with Foundation Year course provides a route onto this degree.
Please note that we do interview some applicants for this programme, at the Admissions Tutor's discretion. 

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,250 £9,250
International £16,300 £18,100
Part time (Home) £770 £770
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. More information about fees and funding.

Undergraduate scholarships for international students

To reward outstanding achievement the University of Plymouth offers scholarship schemes to help towards funding your studies.

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Science and Engineering and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Additional fieldwork and equipment costs.

Tuition fees for optional placement years

The fee for all undergraduate students completing any part of their placement year in the UK in 2023/2024 is £1,850.
The fee for all undergraduate students completing their whole placement year outside the UK in 2023/2024 is £1,385.
Learn more about placement year tuition fees

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 
UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 
To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Progression routes

International progression routes

The University of Plymouth International College (UPIC) offers foundation, first-year and pre-masters programmes that lead to University of Plymouth degrees. Courses are specially designed for EU and international students who are missing the grades for direct entry to the University, and include full duration visa sponsorship. You can start in January, May or September, benefitting from small class sizes, top-quality tuition and 24/7 student support.
Find out more at or contact our team at

Academic and personal support

Your personal tutor will provide both academic and personal support and guidance throughout your years at Plymouth. We take special pride in the enthusiasm of our staff and the quality of our student support. Personal development planning is integrated into our degree courses through the personal tutor system and gives time for you to plan and reflect on your learning and to apply it to objectives and opportunities that are relevant to you. We offer a wide range of specialist advice, including a dedicated study skills unit, which provides online support and workshops to support your learning.

Optional work placement

All our courses offer you the opportunity to enrich your course and career prospects through taking up an approved work placement as part of your degree course. This takes place at the end of your second year and must last a minimum of 6 months. This experience can be vital in gaining employment once you've finished your degree.

Field trips

As a core part of our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences course, you will have the opportunity to participate in two residential field trips, or an alternative.
Find out more about these opportunities 

Career opportunities with biological sciences

The course is specifically designed to cover a wide range of topics across biology with a focus on practical lab and field based skills meaning you will be highly employable across a range of careers in the wider context of biology. Graduates go on to work in areas from conservation organisations and ecological consultants to drug companies and industrial research labs. Many choose to continue their studies going on to both masters and doctoral level degrees on the way to careers in scientific research or academia.
Thanks to the broad coverage of our course, you will be very well prepared to go into teaching biology at school level. Alternatively, the key graduate skills that you will obtain allow you to move on to careers away from biology as diverse as law and management.
Hunting for pasture armyworms

An introduction to the Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates Lab

“The purpose of this still developing facility is to support both our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching – students use the lab when they set up projects or during specific training practical sessions within courses. I think not only does it give them very strong practical experience, it gives them a greater appreciation of how you actually care for species and the amount of work and planning that goes into that.”
Professor Richard Preziosi 
Head of School of Biological and Marine Sciences

Graduate experience

Graduates Abdullah and Ziad discuss their time studying BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences at the University of Plymouth.

Graduate profiles

Find out what some of our graduates are doing now

Marco Fluri

Marco Fluri

Nicholas Berkley - BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences graduate

Nicholas Berkley

Tom Hathway

Tom Hathway


Meet our school technical staff   

Our technical staff are integral to the delivery of all our programmes and bring a diverse range of expertise and skills to support students in laboratories, workshops, and the field. 
*These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Discover Uni is updated annually in September.
This course has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.