(BSc) Bachelor of Science
University of Essex
University of Essex
Life Sciences (School of)
GCSE: Mathematics C/4.
A-levels: BBB including Biology or Environmental Science (or equivalent). Acceptable A-level equivalents are Life and Health Sciences and Marine Science.
BTEC: D*DD, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
IB: 30 points or three Higher Level certificates with 555. Either must include Higher Level Biology grade 5, plus Standard Level Mathematics grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level. We will accept grade 4 in either Standard Level Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches or Standard Level Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation.
Maths in the IB is not required if you have already achieved GCSE Maths at grade C/4 or above or 4 in IB Middle Years Maths.
We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programme Courses (formerly certificates) at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for.
We can also consider combinations with BTECs or other qualifications in the Career-related programme – the acceptability of BTECs and other qualifications depends on the subject studied, advice on acceptability can be provided. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.
Access to HE Diploma: 6 level 3 credits at Distinction and 39 level 3 credits at Merit, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
T-levels: Merit, depending on subject studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
What if I don’t achieve the grades I hoped?
If your final grades are not as high as you had hoped, the good news is you may still be able to secure a place with us on a course which includes a foundation year. Visit our undergraduate application information page for more details.
What if I have a non-traditional academic background?
Don’t worry. To gain a deeper knowledge of your course suitability, we will look at your educational and employment history, together with your personal statement and reference.
You may be considered for entry into Year 1 of your chosen course. Alternatively, some UK and EU applicants may be considered for Essex Pathways, an additional year of study (known as a foundation year/year 0) helping students gain the necessary skills and knowledge in order to succeed on their chosen course. You can find a list of Essex Pathways courses and entry requirements here
If you are a mature student, further information is here
IELTS (International English Language Testing System) code
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 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 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.
Rules of assessment
Rules of assessment are the rules, principles and frameworks which the University uses to calculate your course progression and final results.
Prof Edgar Turner
Professor of Insect Ecology University of Cambridge
External Examiners provide an independent overview of our courses, offering their expertise and help towards our continual improvement of course content, teaching, learning, and assessment.
External Examiners are normally academics from other higher education institutions, but may be from the industry, business or the profession as appropriate for the course.
They comment on how well courses align with national standards, and on how well the teaching, learning and assessment methods allow students to develop and demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills needed to achieve their awards.
External Examiners who are responsible for awards are key members of Boards of Examiners. These boards make decisions about student progression within their course and about whether students can receive their final award.
- An understanding of marine and freshwater systems, and the varied levels of complexity from molecules to populations and ecosystems.
- An understanding of biological methods and approaches and of the main body of biological and ecological knowledge relevant to aquatic sciences.
- An ability to apply this understanding to critically analyse current aquatic environmental questions (ocean and freshwater) and to suggest solutions.
- A general scientific education including training in handling and interpretation of quantitative information and the ability to plan and carry out desk, laboratory or field based research under supervision.
- The key skills of communication, numeracy, ITC use, problem solving, working with others, self-evaluation and self-improvement, and autonomous learning using marine and freshwater biology as a context and focus.
- The key laboratory, field and workplace skills required for careers in marine and freshwater biology, environmental science and management, or other careers that require an integrated understanding of biological processes, and the chemical and physical natural environment.
- A foundation of knowledge, understanding and skills required for further study and research.
- An awareness of the need for compliance with health, safety and ethical policies in biological work.
- An appreciation of the need for, and importance of, lifelong learning and personal development planning.
Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods
On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:
A: Knowledge and understanding
A1: Basic maths, physics and chemistry that are relevant to marine and freshwater biology and ecology
A2: The different levels of organisation and complexity, from molecules, through cells, organs, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, to biomes and the whole globe
A3: Key ecological processes: energy, mass and element fluxes between components and trophic levels; evolution and adaptation; competition and predation; population dynamics
A4: The different levels of organisation and complexity, from molecules, through cells, tissues, organs, organisms and populations
A5: Knowledge and understanding of local and global biodiversity, particularly for aquatic organisms, used in its widest sense to include genetic, taxonomic, habitat, and biome, some of which is at an advanced level
A6: Appropriate practical scientific methods and approaches: observation, experimentation, modelling; and techniques used in their analysis
A7: Key environmental issues facing the world's aquatic systems, (e.g. natural resource management, conservation and sustainable development, climate change)
Lectures are the principal method of delivery of A1 to A7.
Lectures direct students to textbooks and on-line material (Years 1 to 3), and research papers (Year 2 and particularly Year 3).
Laboratory and field practicals in Years 1 and 2 complement lectures and develop A1 to A6.
Coursework associated with lecture modules in Years 2 and 3 develop A1 to A7.
The research project in Year 3 teaches and develops A6 and also a range of A1 to A5 (depending on project topic).
Seminars with small groups are used in A1 (mathematics and chemistry, Year 1).
Team work for A7 is developed in the Field Course module (Year 3).
The Skills modules and field courses in different environments in Years 1-3 teach and develop A1 to A7, and particularly integrate A2.
A1 to A7 are assessed by:
Multiple Choice Questions (Year 1)
Essays (Years 2 and 3)
Oral and written practical reports (Years 1 and 2)
Field course reports (Years 2-3)
Exercises in data analysis and interpretation (DAI), (Years 2 and 3)
Unseen written exams: short answer, essay (Years 1 and 2) and questions involving DAI (Years 2 and 3)
The individual Year 3 research project, covering a range of A2 to A6 (depending on project topic) tests understanding in depth and is assessed by an individual written report and an oral presentation.
Team oral and individual written presentations in the Issues module (Year 3) are used to assess A7.
B: Intellectual and cognitive skills
B1: Retrieve, select and collate appropriate aquatic science, ecological, environmental and biological information
B2: Evaluate primary and secondary evidence and arguments
B3: Analyse and interpret quantitative information in graphs, figures, tables and equations and use appropriate statistical tests
B4: Integrate and link information across course components, including material met in different years, from different disciplines and covering different scales of organisation.
B5: Plan and conduct a research task (including risk assessment and ethical approval where appropriate)
B6: Present data correctly, choose and apply an appropriate statistical test and interpret the output
Setting of directed learning topics (Years 1 and 2) develops skills in B1, B2 and B4.
B1 and B2 are partly covered by training in exam essay writing in Year 1, and further developed by setting coursework essays (Years 2 and 3).
B2 and B3 are taught by specific inclusion of data analysis in lectures and classes in Years 2 and 3 and through progressive development of DAI coursework in Years 2 and 3.
B1 to B3 and in some cases B4, are developed through analyses and presentation of results of practical work in Years 1 to 3.
B4 is achieved by progressive subject development through the 3 years.
B5 is taught via team project work on the Year 2 field course and the Year 3 individual research project.
B6 is taught in Year 1 Transferable Skills for Life Sciences module and developed throughout the degree via practical coursework (Years 1 and 2) and in the final year research project.
B1, B2 and B4 are assessed by coursework and exam essays (Years 1 to 3).
B2 and B3 are assessed by coursework and compulsory exam DAI questions (Years 2 and 3), practical reports (Years 1 and 2), field course reports (Years 2 and 3) and the research project report (Year 3).
B4 is assessed by integrative exam questions and coursework.
B1 to B5 are also assessed in the Year 3 individual research project.
B6 is assessed in Year 1 & 2 practicals and Year 1 LSKS module, and in the Year 3 research project.
C: Practical skills
C1: Able to carry out basic experiments and sampling programmes in the laboratory and the field, safely and effectively following a written schedule
C2: Use appropriate laboratory or field equipment safely and efficiency
C3: Able to explain the principles and limitations of a range of more advanced practical techniques
C4: Identify species using hierarchical keys and use classification schemes (e.g. biotic indices, NVC, etc.)
C5: Able to use appropriate software packages for simulations, modelling and statistical analysis.
Skills C1 to C3 are taught in supervised practicals in Years 1 and 2, and one week long field courses in Year 2 and 3.
Lectures in Years 1 to 3 teach aspects of C1 and C3.
Independent project work in research laboratories in Year 3 also develops C1 to C3.
As part of C1 to C3, safety and ethical issues are addressed through practical documentation (Years 1 and 2) and developed by students preparing risk assessments and ethical permissions and consents where appropriate for Year 2 field course and Year 3 research projects.
C4 is taught by using keys and classification schemes in field courses and practicals (Years 1 & 2).
C5 is addressed through IT and statistics training in Year 1, and the use of more specialised software is taught or developed in practicals and field courses and the project in Years 3.
C1 is assessed through Year 1 practicals, Year 2 field courses and the Year 3 research project.
C2 is assessed in some Years 1 practicals.
C3 is assessed in many practicals in Years 1 and 2 and in theory exams in Years 1 to 3.
C4 is assessed by keying out assignments/ID tests in years 1 and 2 practicals and the years 2 and 3 field course.
C5 is assessed in several Year 2 practicals, the Skills module and in the final year Research Project module.
D: Key skills
D1: Able to write clearly in: a) logically argued essays; b) longer reports, including basic scientific papers; c) a variety of other pieces of work for different target audiences; d) e-communications, in particular email. Plan, write and give oral presentations
D2: (i) Use of current networked PC operating systems for normal file management,
(ii) Use current common word-processing, spreadsheet, web browsing and email packages,
(iii) Ability to locate and use on-line catalogues and databases
D3: (i) Use appropriate precision, scales, units, scientific notation, ratios, fractions, percentages, powers of 10, logarithms and exponentials.
(ii) Use simple algebra and trigonometry.
(iii) Use approximations for mental arithmetic estimation and verification.
D4: Explore, analyse and find effective solutions for problems involving moderately complex information.
D5: Work effectively as part of a team to collect data and/or to produce reports and presentations
D6: Study independently, set realistic targets, plan work and time to meet targets within deadlines. Reflect on assessed work, feedback, and progress; Plan, record and document personal development
Essay writing skills (D1) are taught in Year 1 tutorials, the LSKS module and developed in all subsequent modules.
Additional guidance on Essay and Scientific Paper Format writing is given in the on-line "Academic Skills" WebCT course.
Required length of essays and reports grows from Year 1 to 3.
Oral presentation skills (D1) are developed in some practicals, field courses and lecture modules (Years 2 and 3) and the Research Project module in Year 3.
IT use (D2) is taught in Year 1, particularly in the LSKS module and developed throughout all years.
Most coursework from Year 2 onwards must be word-processed, and other computer produced work is required for some practical assignments in Year 2 and in the Year 3 research project.
Library, on line catalogue and web skills (D2) are taught in Year 1; developed by provision of module-related material on the Web and through preparation of the research project report (Year 3).
Web-based material (D2) is used in several modules including practicals.
D3 is taught in lectures and seminars (Year 1) and developed in many subsequent modules (Year 1 to Year 3).
D4 is taught through DAI questions in Years 2 and 3, and in some practical classes, and developed in supervised project work (Year 3).
Team work (D5) is introduced in some Year 1 practicals, used in Year 2 practicals and the Year 3 field course module.
D6 is addressed in the LSKS module in Year 1, including introduction to PDP, developed through the provision of explicit directed learning tasks (Years 1 and 2), increasing amounts of student managed learning from Years 1 to 3, attendance monitoring, rigid deadlines, feedback on assignments and discussions with personal tutor.
D6 planning component is developed in the Year 3 Research Project module.
Students are also directed to Key Skills Online, an online learning package which students can undertake at their own pace.
Written skills (D1) are assessed through essays in coursework and exams (Years 0, 1 to 3) and in practical reports (Years 0, 1 and 2), in the field course module and the research project report (Year 3).
Oral presentation skills (D1) are assessed in year 2 field course and the practical module and in the Year 3 Research Project module.
IT and Maths skills (D2 and D3) are assessed through worksheets and exams in Year 1.
Thereafter, practical work, coursework and exam questions throughout the degree course assess numerical skills.
Most coursework from year 2 onwards has to be prepared by computer and submitted on-line.
Problem solving (D4) is assessed in some of the Year 2 practicals, in DAI questions in Years 2 and 3 exams and in the final year research project.
D5 is assessed through team presentations in some Year 2 practical work and skills module and in the Year 3 field course module.
D6 is assessed indirectly by examining directed learning material (Years 1 and 2), by awarding marks for evidence of additional reading and by imposing strict deadlines for coursework assignments.
D6 PDP is assessed in year 1 LSKS through the development of a cv and e-portfolio, and is developed in Year 2 Skills module.
The planning component of D6 is assessed in the Year 3 Research Project module.