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Durham University


C107 Biosciences MBiol Undergraduate  2019


UCAS code C107
Degree MBiol
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 4 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


Durham University operates a modular system in which you will study six modules each year. The Biosciences MBiol four year degree programme is designed to allow you more choice between modules in each successive year so that you can follow specialised routes within Biological Sciences, or address specific areas of interest, as you progress.

Recommended module combinations (“routes”) to allow various themes of specialisation are available, although these still allow choice at each level of the programme. We have specified recommended routes corresponding to the following subject areas:

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Biomedical Science
  • Cell Biology
  • Genetics
  • Ecology and Environmental Science.

Other module combinations are possible to give courses which specialise in “whole organism” biology, or plant sciences, or microbiology, or which maintain a broad coverage of the whole Biosciences subject area.

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, through a set of four “core” modules covering the following topics:

  • Organisms and Environment
  • Animal Physiology
  • Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

The module-linked tutorial system provides support for taught material and an introduction to essential scientific and transferable skills. 

The Level 1 course also includes an integrated “Scientific Skills” module which covers underpinning chemistry and maths 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. A language module, provided by another department, can be taken as an alternative optional module.

Year 2

The second year of the course allows you to select a degree programme to meet your interests and career ambitions by choosing modules from those available. Choices of modules made for Year 2 then feed forward into the third year. There is 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
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Evolution.

A Year 2 support module, “Research Skills” is also offered, in which skills required for research-led learning at Level 3 are covered. As in Year 1, learning is supported by a module-linked tutorial system.

Year 3

In Year 3 of the MBiol course, there is an emphasis on personal research and research training in close collaboration with members of the Department’s academic staff. You will undertake two major pieces of work, each constituting its own module; a workshop/field course, a literature review and a research module.

The “Workshop” (laboratory based) or “Field Course” (field-based) module both involve research experience; field courses are currently held in South Africa or Scotland (residential field courses can incur an additional fee, which ranged from £150-£750 in 2016). The "Literature Review" module involves the study of current research literature in a topic area selected by you, under the personal supervision of a member of academic staff.

In addition, you will study four modules linked to your interests from those offered. The Year 3 taught modules cover a wide range of topics, which have previously included:

  • Advanced Topics in Ecology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecology in the Anthropocene
  • Crops for the Future
  • Stress and Responses
  • Advanced Topics in Development
  • Biochemistry and Biotechnology
  • Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering
  • Ageing
  • Advanced Cell Biology
  • Genomics
  • Biology of Disease.

Year 4

The fourth year of the MBiol course contains a taught module on the principles and research practice in the biosciences, an additional field course or practical laboratory workshop and a four module (80-credit) Research Project which runs through the entire year. This major Research Project is a key component of the MBiol course and prepares you for research at postgraduate level. Staff in the Department of Biosciences will offer suitable projects over a wide range of topics in modern biological and biomedical sciences. The projects will address the requirements of potential employers, as well as providing an opportunity for you to carry out work at the cutting-edge of biosciences research. The Research Project will be written up as a Master's Dissertation.

We review course structures and core content (in light of e.g. external and student feedback) every year, and will publish finalised core requirements for 2019 entry from September 2018.

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

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 in the first three years of study are 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 and biomedical sciences. At Levels 2 and 3, there are more specialised modules enabling you to focus on a particular sub-discipline, with elements of choice in the programme. As the degree programme progresses, there is an increasing emphasis on showing that biosciences is based on experimental evidence gained through research. At Level 3 lecturing is research-led and 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 your own research activities.

The lectures are supplemented by timetabled surgery sessions, which are used for problem-solving. Lecturing staff answer specific questions about the material they have taught through email, and by personal meetings when necessary; the Department has an "open-office" policy for responding to such queries. Typically, taught modules contain 35 one-hour lectures, two workshops, and one surgery session. You will take five compulsory taught modules at Level 1, six taught modules at Level 2, and four taught modules at Level 3, with two modules aligned to major pieces of research work. In the final year, there is a single taught Masters-level module on research skills, and five module equivalents based on research work.

Practical classes are a major component of contact hours in taught modules, and are an essential part of training in an experimental science like biosciences. Level 1 practical classes are used to train you in the basic techniques required for experimental work in the full range of biological sciences, whereas you will 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 one-two three-hour sessions per week. There are no, or almost no practical classes in taught modules at Level 3, since you will carry out two 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. six-eight hours non-timetabled contact with a supervisor. The fourth year of study will include an additional field course or workshop, and an extended research module extending across the majority of the year. This will involve you in a large amount of on-timetable contact time with supervisory staff, typically involving weekly meetings during the project period, and working in close collaboration with research being carried out in the Department.

The philosophy is to have a directed programme of teaching and learning at Levels 1 and 2, within which you are expected to develop self-guided and motivated learning, leading to a much greater emphasis on independent learning at Level 3, developing to a Masters-level of research in Level 4.

Academic support is provided by a dual system of tutorial classes and academic advisers. Each taught module at Levels 1 and 2 contains two tutorial classes, which are used to deliver specific content related to academic support, via small group interaction between academic staff and students. There is an emphasis on discussion and enhancement of the learning experience. Academic adviser sessions are used to deal with specific issues relevant to the student on a personal level, such as feedback on exam performance. Combined with project supervision, the tutorial/academic adviser system offers you at least fortnightly sessions with a tutor or academic adviser throughout your academic career.

A course leader provides overall academic support for students; this role has proved very successful in dealing with the range of problems encountered by students during their programmes.

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; students can seek to transfer between these degrees at the end of Level 2
  • Continuation on the MBiol degree programme after Level 2 is dependent on achieving satisfactory performance at Level 2, according to University regulations; failure to achieve this standard will result in an automatic transfer to a three year BSc programme
  • 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
  • Typical IB score 37 to include 666 in higher level subjects. Higher level grade 6 Biology or Chemistry and another science Higher Level subject are required
  • 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.
  • 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 £24,300.00 per year

The tuition fees shown for home and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

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 those students who graduated in 2017:

  • 82% are in paid employment or further study 6 months after graduation

Of those in employment:

  • 90% are in graduate level employment
  • Median salary £25,000

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2016/17 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

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

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information

Department of Biosciences


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


  • 8th in the UK for world-leading research impact (REF 2014).
  • 96% of Biological Sciences students were satisfied with their course overall in the National Student Survey 2018 (sector average 84%).
  • 5th in The Complete University Guide 2018.


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.


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