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C103 Biological Sciences BSc Undergraduate  2017


UCAS code C103
Degree BSc
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A-Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications

Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 1200

Course Summary


Year 1

The first year covers fundamental aspects of biology including evolution, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, physiology, and an overview of the diversity of organisms. The module-linked tutorial system provides support for taught material and an introduction to essential scientific and transferable skills. 

The level 1 course includes an integrated scientific skills module designed to support learning in the other modules. In addition, an optional module provides an introduction to all aspects of current research in the biosciences

Year 2

In the second year, students follow either a biological sciences or biomedical sciences route. Those who register for a degree in Biological Sciences or are following the biological sciences route in MBiol Biosciences access a wide range of module choices Those registered for Biomedical Science or following the biomedical science route in MBiol Biosciences, follow a more focussed route on the science of human disease. 

Students studying Biological Sciences can choose six modules (120 credits) from a wide range of module themes, which have previously included:

  • Biochemistry
  • Ecology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Structure and Function
  • Cell Signalling
  • Applied Physiology
  • Plant and Algal Physiology
  • Behaviour
  • Medical Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Evolution

Year 3

In the final year there is an emphasis on personal research and research training in close collaboration with members of the School’s academic staff. All students undertake three major pieces of work. The scientific Literature Review and field course or laboratory workshop helps students develop high-level practical skills. (Residential field courses can incur an additional fee, which ranged from £150-£750 in 2015). They can then select a Project. The Project may be a Research Project based in the laboratory or field and provides the student with the opportunity to carry out an in-depth investigation on a subject allied to the research interests of an academic member of staff. Alternatively, students can elect to take a different type of project, which have included: Biological Enterprise; Contemporary Issues in the Biosciences or Biology into Schools. Biological Enterprise students will learn about commercial exploitation of a scientific discovery and apply the principles of starting a business in the biotechnology sector. This option is popular with entrepreneurially-inclined students and those wanting to learn about translation of scientific advances into products and services. Students who are considering a career in teaching may wish to take the Biology into Schools module, in which students design and deliver biology teaching material in local primary or secondary schools. Contemporary issues projects are designed to provide students with the skills to communicate science to the public.

Students also take three taught modules chosen from a wide range, which have included:

  • Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Global Change Biology
  • Crops for the Future
  • Stress and Responses
  • Advanced Topics in Development
  • Biochemistry and Biotechnology
  • Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering
  • Ageing and Age-related diseases
  • Advanced Cell Biology

Placement and year abroad degrees

Students can elect to follow a placement degree route during level 2. On transferring to a degree with placement you will undertake a 40-week placement between your second and final years, for the award of the appropriate Honours Degree with Placement. The School has links with a wide range of private, public and voluntary sector bodies that provide work experience opportunities for undergraduates. Placements are typically with organisations such as the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Natural History Museum, biotechnology companies such as AstraZeneca, pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline, government agencies, such as the Food & Environmental Research Agency and NHS laboratories, such as those at the James Cook University Hospital.

Alternatively, students may be able take a degree with year abroad, in which case a year at a selected partner university in a range of overseas destinations (including Canada, Australia and China) is added between your second and third year at Durham. The year abroad is a normal year at the host institution, although marks for assessments and exams taken abroad do not contribute to the Durham degree outcome. Places on "Year Abroad" degree programmes are limited and are subject to a competitive selection process in Durham during level 2.

Course Detail

To find out more about the modules available to students studying at Durham University please click here.

Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.

Course Learning and Teaching

The main method of programme delivery is lectures, supplemented by practical classes and workshops. Lectures represent the largest proportion of the allocated contact hours, and allow the effective delivery of large amounts of knowledge, which forms the factual basis of a science subject. At level 1 the emphasis is on core knowledge across the broad spectrum of the sub-disciplines of biological sciences. At levels 2 and 3, there are more specialised modules enabling students to focus on a particular sub-discipline, with elements of choice in the programme. There is an increasing emphasis as the lecture programme progresses on showing that biosciences is based on experimental evidence gained through research, so that at level 3 lecturing is research-led by being based on staff research interests. The proportion of the programme delivered through lectures is less at level 3 than in preceding years, to allow a greater emphasis on students' own research activities. The lectures are supplemented by timetabled surgery sessions, which are used for revision and problem solving. Lecturing staff answer specific questions about the material they have taught through email, and by personal meetings when necessary; the School has an "open-office" policy for responding to such queries. Typically, taught modules contain 35 one hour lecture slots, 2 workshops, and 1 surgery session. Students take 5 compulsory taught modules at level 1, 6 taught modules at level 2, and 3 taught modules at level 3, with three modules aligned to major pieces of research work.

Practical classes are a major component of contact hours, and are an essential part of training in an experimental science like biology. Level 1 practical classes are used to train students in the basic techniques required for experimental work in the full range of biological sciences, whereas students specialise in specific techniques and areas of experimental work through module choice at level 2. The practical classes are supplemented by workshops in which data handling techniques are taught. At both levels 1 and 2, the load of practical classes overall is 1-2 three hour sessions per week. There are no, or almost no practical classes at level 3, since the students carry out three research modules at this level. The first is a field course or laboratory-based extended workshop, both of which offer approximately two working weeks' contact between students and staff. The second is a literature review, with a topic chosen from current areas of interest in biological sciences. This involves approx. 6-8h non-timetabled contact with a supervisor. The third research module is a project, either in the lab or field, or in interfacing with the commercial sector (biology enterprise), or in school-based education, or in research programme design, or in science communication of contemporary topics in biosciences. All involve the student in a large amount of contact time with staff that is not formally timetabled, but which averages approx. 16-40h.

The philosophy is to have a directed programme of teaching and learning at levels 1 and 2, within which the student is expected to develop self-guided and motivated learning, leading to a much greater emphasis on independent learning at level 3. Academic support is provided by a dual system of tutorials and academic advisers. Tutorials in small group format are used to deliver specific content related to academic support, whereas the academic adviser sessions are at personal level, and are used to deal with specific issues relevant to the individual student, such as feedback on exam performance. The tutorial/academic adviser system offers students at least fortnightly sessions with a tutor or academic adviser throughout their academic career.

A course leader provides overall academic support for students; this role has proved very successful.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study. Please contact our Admissions Selectors
  • Biology or Chemistry or Human Biology at A-level or equivalent, plus another science subject at A-level or equivalent is required. Psychology, Maths and Geography are all considered sciences for the purposes of admissions. Although PE is accepted as a third A-level, it is not a science for the purpose of admissions
  • There is no advantage in applying for both MBiol and BSc degrees
  • We do not accept two AS-levels in place of one A-level
  • We do not include General Studies or Critical Thinking as part of our offer
  • We will be reviewing our entry requirements for 2017 entry in the summer of 2016 and will publish finalised entry requirements for 2017 entry before 1 September 2016
  • If you do not satisfy our general entry requirements, the Foundation Centre offers multidisciplinary degrees to prepare you for a range of specified degree courses
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

Science A-levels

Applicants taking Science A-levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A-levels with an English examination board.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £9,250.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £22,000.00 per year

Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities

Department of Biosciences

A degree in bioscience from Durham will give you an excellent start to your working life.

Not only will you receive an outstanding education in bioscience, you will also gain valuable transferrable skills to prepare you for future challenges, enhance your personal development, and improve your employment prospects. Durham bioscience graduates readily find employment in a range of careers, including further higher education such as university postgraduate research, medicine, teaching; the NHS sector; industrial research and development and biotechnology within the private sector; management; accountancy; conservation; ecological and environmental services; broadcast and print science journalism; environmental and biological patent law; the civil service; and the armed services. Graduates of the Biomedical Sciences degree also enter the NHS as trainee clinical scientists.

Of thse students who graduated in 2015:

  • 91% are in paid employment or further study 6 months after graduation

Of those in employment:

  • 85% are in graduate level employment
  • Median salary £21,889

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2014/15 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found here:

Approximately 30% of graduates progress onto higher level study following their degree in Biological Sciences. Some remain within their academic field of interest and pursue a taught or research Masters at Durham, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Imperial College, Warwick and King's College, London. PhD study is popular and graduates regularly compete successfully for funded places at Durham, York, Manchester, Exeter, Imperial College, Cambridge, University College London and Oxford. Others take a different route and pursue professional postgraduate programmes in law, journalism, finance and teaching to name but a few. Some students pursue careers in medicine and have competed successfully for a place on medicine degree courses at UK universities, including Durham, Southampton, Warwick, and Nottingham.

Employment development opportunities

The Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre collaborates closely with the Biological Sciences Department. The link Careers Adviser delivers presentations to each year group on a range of areas including options with the subject, career decision making, successful applications and interviews, and advice for those considering further study. Additional CV drop in clinics are offered in the department where students can have 1 to 1 help and advice from the link Careers Adviser.

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information

Department of Biosciences


The science of the twenty-first-century.

Bioscience is the fundamental science of life and recent key developments make the twenty-first century the most exciting era in which important biological challenges will be met and resolved. Our bioscientists have developed new technologies for human healthcare and are tackling challenges that include climate change, biodiversity conservation and feeding an increasing human population.

The Department of Biosciences has excellent facilities for both teaching and research, offering high quality undergraduate courses and a supportive environment for our staff and students. Many of our graduates go on to postgraduate study at universities across the UK and overseas and will take up graduate entry to Medicine courses whilst others work in the biosciences sector, the NHS or pharmaceutical industry.

  • Ranked 8th in the UK for World-leading research impact (REF 2014).
  • 92% of our Biological and Biomedical Science students said that they found their course intellectually stimulating in the National Students Survey 2014 (sector-wide average 89%).
  • Ranked 5th in The Complete University Guide 2016.


For a current list of staff, please see the Biosciences Department web pages.


We have custom-designed buildings, equipped with modern teaching aids that create a stimulating learning environment. During their Research Projects undergraduates have access to the latest technology for electron and confocal laser scanning microscopy, transgenic studies, DNA analysis and proteomics, bioinformatics, remote sensing, ecological field sampling and computer modelling. We are close to extensive woodlands and a botanic garden, which provide additional teaching resources and opportunities for fieldwork.