Biological Sciences (Including Foundation Year)

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Academic Year of Entry: 2023/24 - 2024/25
Course overview
(BSc) Bachelor of Science
Biological Sciences (Including Foundation Year)
University of Essex
University of Essex
Essex Pathways
Colchester Campus
Honours Degree


Professional accreditation


Admission criteria

UK applicants:

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.

Standard offer:

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.

EU applicants:

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.

International applicants:

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.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) code

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 5.5 overall. Specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Student 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 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.

Additional Notes

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.

Course qualifiers

A course qualifier is a bracketed addition to your course title to denote a specialisation or pathway that you have achieved via the completion of specific modules during your course. The specific module requirements for each qualifier title are noted below. Eligibility for any selected qualifier will be determined by the department and confirmed by the final year Board of Examiners. If the required modules are not successfully completed, your course title will remain as described above without any bracketed addition. Selection of a course qualifier is optional and student can register preferences or opt-out via Online Module Enrolment (eNROL).


Rules of assessment

Rules of assessment are the rules, principles and frameworks which the University uses to calculate your course progression and final results.

Additional notes


External examiners

Staff photo
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.

eNROL, the module enrolment system, is now open until Monday 21 October 2024 8:59AM, for students wishing to make changes to their module options.


Core You must take this module.
You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study.
You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Compulsory You must take this module.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Optional You can choose which module to study.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.

Year 1 - 2023/24

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Min Credits Max Credits
01  BS141-4-FY-CO  Quantitative methods for Life Sciences  Core  15  15 
02  BS101-4-AU-CO  Molecular Cell Biology  Core  15  15 
03  BS102-4-AU-CO  Genetics and Evolution  Core  15  15 
04  BS113-4-AU-CO  Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour  Core  15  15 
05  BS104-4-SP-CO  Microbiology  Core  15  15 
06  BS111-4-AU-CO  Plant Biology and Ecosystems  Core  15  15 
07    BS131-4-SP or BS112-4-AU or BS106-4-AU  Core with Options  15  15 
08  BS143-4-AP-CO  Transferable Skills in Life Sciences  Compulsory  15  15 

Year 2 - 2024/25

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Min Credits Max Credits
01    BS211-5-AP or BS257-5-AP  Compulsory with Options  15  15 
02    Option(s) from list  Optional  30  30 
03    Option(s) from list  Optional  30  30 
04    Option(s) from list  Optional  30  30 
05    Option from list  Optional  15  15 
06    BS417-6-SU or BS418-6-SU  Core with Options 

Year 3 - 2025/26

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Min Credits Max Credits
01  BS832-6-FY-CO  Research Project in Life Sciences  Compulsory  45  45 
02    BS303-6-SU or option from list  Compulsory with Options  15  15 
03    Option(s) from list  Optional  30  30 
04    Option(s) from list  Optional  30  30 

Exit awards

A module is given one of the following statuses: 'core' – meaning it must be taken and passed; 'compulsory' – meaning it must be taken; or 'optional' – meaning that students can choose the module from a designated list. The rules of assessment may allow for limited condonement of fails in 'compulsory' or 'optional' modules, but 'core' modules cannot be failed. The status of the module may be different in any exit awards which are available for the course. Exam Boards will consider students' eligibility for an exit award if they fail the main award or do not complete their studies.

Programme aims

  • An understanding of living 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, evolutionary and ecological knowledge.
  • An ability to analyse current biological and ecological questions 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 biological science as a context and focus.
  • The key laboratory, field and workplace skills required for careers in biological sciences, or other careers that require an integrated understanding of biological processes.
  • 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 physics, maths and chemistry that are relevant to biological sciences

    A2: The different levels of organisation and complexity, from molecules, through cells, tissues, organs, organisms and populations

    A3: The structural and functional organisation of cells including key cellular, genetic and developmental processes and their regulation some of which is at an advanced level

    A4: The organisation of cells into multicellular organisms including cell and organism metabolism and physiology

    A5: Key biological processes at either the molecular or population level 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 biological issues facing society (e.g. cloning, GMOs, animal experimentation)

    Learning methods

    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 reviews 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-A5 and A7 (depending on project topic).

    Team work for A7 is developed in the Issues module (Year 3).

    The ‘‘Skills’‘ module and Summer course (laboratory or field) in Year 2/3 teaches and develops A1 to A6. Seminars with small groups are used in A1 (mathematics and chemistry, Year 1).

    Assessment methods

    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). Laboratory or field reports (Year 2 and 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 A7 (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 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 logistics, risk assessment and ethical approval where appropriate)

    B6: Present data correctly, choose and apply an appropriate statistical test and interpret the output

    Learning methods

    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 tutorials and further developed by 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; the summer course (laboratory or field) and the "Issues" course in Year 3.

    B5 is taught via team project work in the skills module, summer course (field) in Year 2/3 and the Year 3 individual research project module.

    B6 is taught in Year 1 LSKS module and developed throughout the degree via practical coursework (Years 1 and 2) and in the final year research project.

    Assessment methods

    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 in the laboratory and the field safely and effectively following a written schedule.

    C2: Use appropriate laboratory equipment safely and efficiently

    C3: Able to explain the principles and limitations of a range of more advanced practical techniques

    C4: Use appropriate techniques to study diversity at different levels (e.g. identification of species using hierarchical keys and sequence databases)

    C5: Able to use appropriate software packages for simulations, modelling and statistical analysis.

    Learning methods

    Skills C1 to C3 are taught in supervised practicals in Years 1 and 2, and one week long summer course (laboratory or field) in Year 2.

    Lectures in Years 1 to 3 teach aspects of C1 and C3.

    Independent project work in research laboratories or in the field in Year 3 also teaches and 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 3 research projects.

    C4 is taught in Skills modules in Years 1 and 2, and developed in lecture courses and the finaL year research project depending on the options and topics.

    C5 is addressed through IT and statistics training in Year 1, and the use of more specialised software is taught or developed in practicals, the summer course (laboratory or field) in Year 2 and the project in Year 3.

    Assessment methods

    C1 is assessed through Year 1 practicals, Year 2 summer field course , skills module, and the Year 3 research project.

    C2 is assessed in some Year 1 and 2 practicals.

    C3 is assessed in many practicals in Years 1 and 2 and in theory exams in Year 1 to 3.

    C4 is assessed in the summer field course and practicals in Year 2.

    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

    Learning methods

    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 and lecture modules, the summer course (laboratory or field) (Years 1 and 2) 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 year.
    Most coursework from Year 2 onwards must be word-processed, and other computer produced work is required for some practical assignments in Year 2, in the Year 3 research project and in the Issues module.

    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 the Issues/Field Course module, and in supervised project work (Year 3).

    Team work (D5) is introduced in some Year 1 practicals and developed in the summer course (laboratory or field) (Year 2), in Year 2 practicals and in the Year 3 Issues/Field Course module.

    D6 is addressed in the LSKS module in Year 1, including introduction to PDP, developed through the provision of explicit direct learning tasks (Years 1 and 2), increasing amounts of student managed learning from Year 1 to Year 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.

    Assessment methods

    Written skills (D1) are assessed through essays in coursework and exams (Years 1 to 3), in practical reports (Years 1 and 2), in the Issues module and the research project report (Year 3).
    Oral presentation skills (D1) are assessed in the Year 2 summer course (field) and in some practicals, in Year 3 Issues 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 the Year 3 Issues Module, 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 in the Issues 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.


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