Biology - September 2014 entry

BSc (Hons) - single

A-level: grades BBC or equivalent - preferred A-level subjects include Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Environmental Sciences and Geography.
Clearing places for some of our courses may require grades of ABB or higher at A-level and certain equivalent qualifications. However, there may still be Clearing opportunities for applicants with different grades on other courses.
A pathway within the course is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

This course is run by the Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

Every day we see exciting news stories about biological discoveries made in labs and showing biologists out surveying nature. Research that brings advances in medicine, feeding the world, conserving animals and plants, and in understanding the natural world is vitally important. A Biology degree from Oxford Brookes will enable you to study organisms from the cellular level right up to the level of organisms interacting with their environments. You will gain a wide range of skills including techniques for the study of DNA and proteins, evolution and developmental biology, and field-based methods for species assessment.


Why choose this course

  • This course offers opportunities to study animal, plant and microbial systems from the cellular and sub-cellular levels to the interactions of organisms with the environment. These sciences are at the forefront of the continually expanding global biosciences industry sector.
  • The course structure allows you maintain a broad perspective or to focus on specific themed pathways in cell and molecular biology, evolution and developmental biology and environmental biology. 
  • The activities of our research groups underpin all our teaching. 
  • As well as developing your skills as a biologist, you will have the opportunity to gain invaluable professional experience, which will further enhance your career prospects.
  • At Oxford Brookes, there is a strong emphasis on laboratory and field work. You will develop laboratory expertise in the use of modern microscopy techniques and have the opportunity to undertake residential courses in the Cévennes (in the south of France) and Devon.
  • We have great links with regional biological organisations, providing exciting work placement and career opportunities. As a result, many of our students go on to work in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, conservation organisations, environmental consultancies, forensic science and academic research labs.  One of our students conducted research on mobile applications for recording information in the field for WildKnowledge Ltd. Many use their undergraduate degree as an entry point to graduate studies at MSc and PhD levels.
  • Students have opportunities to work within our research groups which will provide you with valuable work experience.
  • A pathway within the course is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. In order to receive this accreditation you need to take a particular set of modules. These are marked with * in the module lists under 'This course in detail', below.

This course in detail

Year 1 provides a foundation in biodiversity, cell biology, physiology and biochemistry. You will develop skills in safe laboratory and field working, data handling, statistics and information technology. A feature of your first year is a series of tutorials with your academic adviser (a member of the teaching staff who is responsible for overseeing your academic progress). The tutorials are designed to help you adjust to academic life at university and establish good study habits.

In Year 2 and the final year you can choose from modules including molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, microbiology, animal behaviour and plant science, allowing you to either maintain a wide perspective over several inter-related subject areas, or specialise in a focused area.

The final year modules are designed to build on earlier knowledge and skills with an emphasis on self-management and independent learning, thus serving to demonstrate your progression to an honours-level qualification. You will have an opportunity to carry out a research project in an actual research laboratory in order to provide you with practical experience of working as a biologist. Throughout, practical aspects of biology are emphasised through laboratory exercises and fieldwork designed to develop your understanding of the techniques employed by biologists.

Study modules

As courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from that shown below.

Module titles marked with * in the lists below are those that need to be taken in order to benefit from accreditation by CIEEM (see 'Why choose this course?', above).

Year 2 and final year

  • Advanced Topics in Cell Biology
  • Advanced Topics in Wildlife Conservation*
  • Advances in Biotechnology
  • Animal Behaviour*
  • Biochemistry of Cell Function (double)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Enterprise Skills for Life Scientists
  • Environmental Change: Field-Work and Research (double)*
  • Environmental Consultancy
  • Environmental Processes, Pollution and Climate Change (double)*
  • Evolution and Animal Development (double)
  • Field Course: Surveys and Licensing*
  • Genetics
  • Haematology and Immunology
  • Human Structure and Function (double)
  • Independent Study in Life Sciences*
  • Infection, Immunity and Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology 
  • Plant Science*
  • Project (double)*
  • Research Methods for Biology and Environmental Sciences*
  • Science and Humanity*
  • Special Study in Life Sciences
  • Threatened Species*
  • Work Experience

Work placements

The work experience and final-year project modules provide you with opportunities to gain invaluable professional experience in an area of interest to you.  They also enable you to develop links with biological and environmental organisations, which will enhance your career prospects.

Work placements have included research into mobile applications for recording information in the field for WildKnowledge Ltd. Students also have opportunities to work with research groups. These include our world leading Cell Biology and Evolutionary Developmental Biology research groups and our Centre for Ecology, Environment and Conservation.

Field trips

We run three specific field courses in Oxford, the Cévennes (southern France) and Devon, aimed at enabling students to put their skills into practice. 

Field course: Identification and Methodology
You will experience a one week trip to the Cévennes in the South of France. Cévennes is a most spectacular and diverse landscape that is rich in natural history. You will identify animals and plants in the field and apply a wide range of field techniques learnt in the classroom.

Field course: Surveys and Licensing
You visit a range of local environments to gain field techniques for assessing key habitat types and species for UK flora and fauna.

Environmental Change: Field Work and Research
You go to South Devon for a week to investigate environmental change using experimental design and advanced data analysis.

Please note: your course tuition fee covers the cost of mandatory field trips. The cost of an optional field trip is not included in your course tuition fee, and a separate fee will apply. Please contact our Enquiry Centre (see right for details) if you would like more information about the field trip(s) on this course.

There are also opportunities to gain real-life experience of environmental consultancy or other work experience. For example, some students have researched the population dynamics of tigers and their prey in the Ranthambore National Park in northern India.

Study abroad

Great opportunities to study or work abroad

You may be able to go on a European or international study exchange while you are at Brookes. Most exchanges take place in the second year.

Studying abroad provides an amazing opportunity to add value to your studies by:
  • increasing your employability within an international market
  • boosting your language skills
  • building your confidence in adapting to new situations
  • improving your knowledge of different cultures.
While on exchange you will gain credits which count towards your degree.

We have more than 100 partner universities around the world. Funding is available through the Erasmus scheme, and also via some international programmes such as the Santander Student Awards.
There is also a European work placement programme which gives you the chance to work abroad as part of your studies.

For more information, visit our pages on studying abroad and exchanges

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.

Teaching, learning and assessment

Teaching and learning

Various teaching methods are used, including lectures, group projects and practical exercises, all backed up by good library and IT resources. Throughout your course, emphasis will be placed on general transferable skills such as public speaking, computer use and report writing; these skills often form part of the assessment of individual modules.

The courses are taught by specialist staff who are actively involved in research work. This work is included in module content and students  have opportunities to participate in research projects, reinforcing our commitment to integrate research into teaching.

Approach to assessment

Assessment methods include essays, reviews, laboratory/field notebooks, scientific reports, posters, creating web pages and oral presentations. All these activities develop digital and information literacy. Reflective learning is encouraged through use of self, peer and staff formative feedback on assignments, group work and project work, and reflective diaries (developing critical self-awareness and personal literacy).

Learning outcomes

On satisfactory completion of the course, you will have gained:

1. Academic literacy

  • integrate the core processes within plants, animals and microbes from sub-cellular to community levels into an understanding of their function and context
  • apply practical and analytical methodologies within biology;
  • articulate the central roles of biology in the development of ideas about evolutionary processes and the diversity of life
  • interpret the interconnectedness of biological and environmental systems.
2. Research literacy

  • research, review, synthesise, summarise and analyse subject-specific information
  • demonstrate the practice of scientific enquiry
  • independently design and conduct studies to investigate biological phenomena
  • select and use competently and safely appropriate field and/or laboratory methods and techniques for the study of biological phenomena
  • observe, gather, evaluate, interpret and integrate ideas and evidence in the biological domain to support findings and hypotheses
  • apply numerical problem-solving skills in biological contexts
  • record and report findings using accepted scientific formats.
3. Critical self-awareness and personal literacy

  • demonstrate confidence and flexibility as independent learners to enhance employability
  • work productively with others, taking leadership and supportive roles
  • communicate ideas and findings, both verbally and in writing, with clarity and in a manner appropriate to diverse audiences
  • reflect on outcomes in order to evaluate the performance of oneself and others.
4. Digital and information literacy

  • use information technology to observe, gather, evaluate, interpret and integrate ideas and evidence to support findings and hypotheses
  • select and use appropriate digital data handling tools in the context of biology (also fits 1)
  • record and report findings using accepted scientific formats (also fits 1 and 2)
5. Global citizenship

  • articulate the major contributions, power and potential of biology as a multidisciplinary science to the welfare and development of society (also fits 1)
  • justify a position on the ethical concerns of biological research
  • compare the perceived value and utility of wildlife to different cultures and sectors of society.

How to apply / Entry requirements

Typical offers

A-level: grades BBC or equivalent - preferred A-level subjects include Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Environmental Sciences and Geography.
Clearing places for some of our courses may require grades of ABB or higher at A-level and certain equivalent qualifications. However, there may still be Clearing opportunities for applicants with different grades on other courses.

IB Diploma: 30 points

Students studying more than one science subject may receive a lower offer.

We seek to admit students who have the potential to make good scientists and accept that qualifications are not the only indicator of future potential. Other typical offers include:

  • A-level grades BB plus 2 AS-levels at grade C (equivalent to 280 UCAS tariff points)
  • 1 12-unit vocational A-level grade BB plus 1 A-level or 2 AS-levels grade C
  • other recognised qualifications, eg BTEC Nationals or Scottish qualifications (equivalent to 280 UCAS points).

If your combination of qualifications doesn't match our typical offer, please contact our Admissions Tutor.

Specific entry requirements

GCSE: Mathematics, English Language and Double Integrated Science (or equivalent) at grade C minimum

You must have studied science post-16, either at A-level or equivalent qualification. If you do not have a background in science, we encourage you to consider our Life Sciences foundation year, taught at Abingdon and Witney College. This enables you direct entry into year 1 of Biology.

Please also see the University's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

Please see the University's standard English language requirements

International and EU applications

Preparation courses for EU students

We offer a range of courses to help students meet the academic and English language entry requirements for their courses and also familiarise them with university life.

Find out more about the international foundation pathways we offer and our pre-sessional English language courses.

Country specific entry requirements

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information and local representatives who can help you to apply, please have a look at our country specific information pages.

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the University's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

How to apply

Full-time students should apply for this course through UCAS.

 Part-time students should apply directly to the university.

Conditions of acceptance

When you accept our offer, you agree to the conditions of acceptance. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Credit transfer

Oxford Brookes operates the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). All undergraduate single modules are equivalent to 7.5 ECTS credits and double modules to 15 ECTS credits. More about ECTS credits.

Student experience

Why Oxford is a great place to study this course

Oxford is surrounded by over 100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest including Otmoor, Wytham Woods and Cothill Fen to name a few. Easy access to these sites provide excellent opportunities for fieldwork and we endeavour to make full use of the opportunities our local environment offers.

As a student in Oxford you'll be at the heart of the UK's most successful economic region and in a centre for leading industries which provides you with a host of learning opportunities. Students also benefit from our strong links with local organisations such as NERC's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Because Oxford is one of the world's great academic cities, it is a key centre of debate, with conferences, seminars and forums taking place across education, science, the arts and many other subjects.

In addition to our own excellent libraries and resource centres, our students have access to the world-renowned Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Science Library and can gain free entry to the Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum.

Support for students studying Biology

Our Personal and Academic Support System (PASS) is gaining national and international recognition for its proactive approach to personal tutoring. It recognises that students need to make various adjustments as they move into higher education, whether from school or employment.

The system encompasses three elements:

  • a structured group tutorial programme
  • an academic adviser who will help you to plan your degree programme and future career
  • interaction with other students on your course.

The first stage includes regular seminars covering a wide range of subjects including research skills, understanding assessment criteria and making the most of coursework feedback. Our programme also helps students adjust to university life by developing their transferable skills.

Secondly, our academic staff monitor your progress regularly to check that you are maximising your potential. If you experience academic difficulties we can arrange for you to receive academic mentoring support.

Thirdly, if you are faced with challenges that affect your ability to study, such as illness, bereavement, depression, financial difficulties or accommodation issues, we will work with you in finding a way forward. Please talk to your academic adviser or our student support team. Oxford Brookes also offers a range of excellent services to support you.

Specialist facilities

The department has a range of specially-designed facilities for studying biology and environmental science related subjects. For example, the developmental biology area boasts both a butterfly lab and a laboratory dedicated to one of the most studied organisms in developmental biology, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Furthermore, we have a number of environmentally-controlled rooms and cabinets.

Alongside a range of microscopes enabling study of specimens from the organism to the cell level, the department also has a vast array of equipment for fieldwork and laboratory-based research at its disposal. From mass and atomic absorption spectrometers to bat detectors, moth traps and pond nets, students will get hands-on with chemical analyses and ecological surveys.

General support services

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.

After graduation

Professional accreditation

A pathway within the course is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). In order to receive this accreditation you need to take a particular set of modules. These are marked with * in the module lists under 'This course in detail', above.

After graduation, those working in a biological discipline may apply for membership of the Society of Biology.

Career prospects

There has never been a more exciting time to be a biologist. Bioscientists are at the heart of the action in today’s world. They frequently work with chemists and physicists to contribute to improvements in such areas as health, sport, medicine, conservation and the food industry.

This course will equip you for a variety of stimulating roles in biological and environmental organisations or academia. For example, recent graduates have been employed as field trial officers, forensic scientists, environmental health officers or teachers, or worked for Pfizer, the Health Protection Agency or the UN. Our students have a very good record of gaining employment that is relevant to their degree subject. Your broad-based understanding is often an advantage over narrower specialisms and employers value the transferable skills you gain from our degrees.

Some of our students choose not to pursue their subject specialism but use their degree to gain degree-level employment in a wide range of contexts including management, journalism and the media, finance and other areas of commerce, law, computing and the leisure industry.

Further study

Some of our graduates go on to further study at postgraduate level, for example our MSc degree in Conservation Ecology