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Biological Anthropology

BSc (Hons) - single

Department of Social Sciences

Biological Anthropology is the study of our evolutionary history, responses to environmental challenges, and our relationship to the other primates. The programme is structured around three themes: Human Origins and Archaeology; Primate Evolution, Behaviour and Conservation; and Human-Environment Interactions. To grasp how humans evolved, students use archaeological techniques to uncover the skeletal remains of our ancestors and they look in a comparative perspective at the behaviour of our primate relatives. Biological anthropologists also study aspects of living human populations such as nutrition, child growth, health, genetics, and adjustment to the environment.

Oxford Brookes is one of few UK universities offering a BSc in Biological Anthropology, and the course also includes modules at the interface with Social Anthropology, Geography, Animal Biology, Environmental Sciences, and Psychology. Our Anthropology courses score highly in the National Student Survey, with 95% of students reporting that they are satisfied with their course.

Find out more about Anthropology at Brookes »

Typical offers

UCAS Tariff points: 112

Available start dates

September 2018 / September 2019

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: 3 years
  • Part time: up to 6 years

UCAS code


For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • You'll be at the heart of a thriving academic community - Oxford is a centre for academic debate and thought, with easy access to London. Our students and staff come from from over 40 countries around the world
  • Be taught by published, active researchers - your lecturers are acknowledged experts in their fields, with teaching staff awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for excellence for the MSc in Primate Conservation in 2008. Uniquely, the expertise of the teaching staff includes sociocultural and biological anthropology as well as archaeology and primatology.
  • Active student-led Anthropology Society - you'll be able to attend events for anthropology students throughout the year, both social and academic. In 2016 the Brookes Anthropology Society hosted the national student research conference on behalf of the Royal Anthropological Institute
  • Dedicated support staff - you will be allocated an academic advisor from within the Biological Anthropology teaching staff, and your Student Support Coordinator is available year-round
  • Regular seminar series - in addition to your regular lectures, you have the option to attend a range of seminars featuring invited outside speakers. These include the Anthropology departmental seminar series, Primate Conservation seminar series, and the Europe Japan Research Centre seminar series.

The Biological Anthropology programme guarantees a progressive development of your knowledge and skills. This is achieved primarily through the use of compulsory and prerequisite modules.

The course is broadly structured around three themes: Human Origins and Archaeology; Primate Evolution, Behaviour and Conservation; Human-Environment Interactions.

In the first year you’ll gain an understanding of the key concepts of both the Biological and Social Anthropology via four compulsory introductory modules. This integration will allow you to grow essential disciplinary knowledge and skills for advanced and honours modules in the following two years.

Year 1

Compulsory modules:

  • Introduction to Social Anthropology
  • Deep History
  • Introduction to Biological Anthropology
  • Introduction to Environmental Geography

Recommended modules:

  • Foundation of Biological Psychology
  • Biodiversity

You will also enrol on one or more of our ‘top-up’ modules, Foundations of Cognitive Psychology, plus modules of your choice, from the range of modules available across the university.

Year 2 and 3

In Year 2 you must take one 'compulsory' module, Methods and Analysis in Biological AnthropologyStudents must also take at least one ‘alternative compulsory' module between: 

  • Human Evolutionary Biology and Geography
  • Primate Adaptation and Evolution
  • Human Ecology

This is complemented by a range of modules from within biological anthropology and a selection of modules taught in social anthropology, geography, animal biology, environmental sciences, and psychology which relate closely to themes addressed in biological anthropology.

In year 3 you will take a total of at least 6 honours modules including your own research project for the compulsory Biological Anthropology Dissertation, building on the skills developed during the previous two years. 

Module options include:

  • Environmental Anthropology
  • Human Osteology
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Becoming Independent Researchers
  • Primate Societies
  • Anthropology in Action
  • Current Trends in Biological Anthropology
  • Cross-cultural Psychology
  • Environmental Decision Making
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Anthropology of Relatedness and Personhood
  • Gender, and the Body in Contemporary Japan
  • Cognitive Evolution
  • Dawn of Civilisations
  • Primate Conservation
  • Molecular Anthropology
  • People and Other Animals
  • Culture and Care
  • Biological Anthropology Dissertation
  • Independent Study modules

Study modules

As our courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you can choose from may vary from those shown here.

Year 1

The course is broadly structured around three themes: Human Origins and Archaeology; Primate Evolution, Behaviour and Conservation; Human-Environment Interactions.

Compulsory modules:

Introduction to Social Anthropology

This module introduces students to the various ways in which anthropologists study humans as social beings. Key concepts and approaches in Social Anthropology are explained and students are also introduced to ethnographic material from a wide range of contexts.

Deep History

This module provides an introduction to the prehistoric past and examines core themes in archaeology and also in human evolution. The module also includes practical work which prepares the students for modules taken in subsequent years.

Introduction to Biological Anthropology

This module examines key issues in understanding humans and non-human primates within the context of biological evolution. Biosocial aspects of human variation and human ecology are also considered.

Introduction to Environmental Geography

This module introduces selected themes in environmental and physical geography, using climate change as a context. The module incorporates themes such as environmental processes and environmental management to build on the key concepts of the interaction of humans with their environment.

Recommended modules:


This module looks at the classification of the living world, the theory of evolution that links all biology and interactions between organisms and their environment. The module concentrates on major structures and patterns in plants, animals and fungi.

Foundations of Biological Psychology

This module will introduce the student to the fundamental concepts and findings of Biological Psychology. It draws on a variety of ideas from Neurophysiology, Psychopharmacology, Neuroanatomy and Perception in relation to human behaviour. 

Top up module:

Foundation of Cognitive Psychology

This module provides an introduction to some key areas in cognitive psychology. Topics include research methods, learning, thinking and problem solving, memory, perception and language, consciousness and intelligence.


Years 2 and 3

Compulsory Modules:

Methods and Analysis in Biological Anthropology

In this module you will be introduced to the methods and analysis used across several fields of biological anthropology, with a focus on evolutionary biology, cladistics, human evolution, primatology, evolutionary psychology and osteology.

Alternative compulsory modules (students must take at least one of these)

Human Evolutionary Biology and Geography

This module explores the development of human evolution from the biological, geographical and archaeological contexts. This module will consider the relationship between the various biological stages in human evolution, changes in society and behaviour as interpreted from the material record.

Primate Adaptation and Evolution

This module explores the similarities and differences between humans and other primates using a comparative approach to examine structure, physiology, and evolutionary history. We will study the emergence, history and modern diversity of humanity and our closest living relatives.

Human Ecology

The module covers 2 main areas in the study of interactions between humans and their biological and social environments: nutrition and disease. The focus throughout the module is to promote an understanding of humans in their ecological and evolutionary context.

Environmental Anthropology

This module takes a biosocial approach to understanding how humans inter-relate with their physical and biotic environment and the implications for human populations past, present and future.

Acceptable modules:

Human Osteology

This module is designed to provide the student with an understanding of the analysis of human bones from archaeological sites, exploring theoretical and practical issues through a combination of lecture and laboratory-based sessions.


This module will focus on the identification of sediments and soils, depositional environments, and dating techniques. Ancient human environmental impacts on the landscape will be explored along with the effects of climatic events on human societies in the archaeological record.

Primate Societies

There are more than 600 species of primates other than humans, and this module explores the diversity of their social behaviour as a background for a better understanding of our own.

Becoming Independent Researchers

The module will develop your awareness of the research activities of the biological anthropology staff and postgraduates and provide opportunities for students to engage with ongoing research within the department.

Anthropology in Action

This module provides students with an opportunity to explore some of the many practical applications of anthropology. The primary function of this module is to encourage and facilitate student engagement with anthropology and appreciation of its practical applications.

Current Trends in Biological Anthropology

This module is designed for delivery of occasional modules offered by visiting lecturers or by Biological Anthropology Staff for trial runs of new modules.

Alternative Acceptable modules (students may take not more than 2 of these as part of their programme)

Cross-cultural Perspectives in Psychology

The module examines the relevance of cross-cultural material to key topics in psychology including emotion, socialisation, the self, the development of cognitive skills, the relationship between language and thought, and intercultural communication.

Environmental Decision Making

This module examines some of the theories that can be used to explain the way environmental decisions are made from the perspective of individuals, organisations and institutions.

Animal Behaviour

An advanced study of the physiological, morphological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying behavioural traits and their variation in animals. The module emphasises the importance of observation and experimentation to our understanding of behaviour.

Anthropology of Relatedness and Personhood

This module introduces students to the anthropology of relatedness to explore the broader economic and political forces that shape relationships within households and family networks. We will consider the different ways in which societies conceptualise, organise and negotiate social relations.   

Gender, and the Body in Contemporary Japan

This module introduces anthropological perspectives on personhood, gender, and the body, and will examine these with reference to ethnographic material from Japan. This will also include a discussion of some issues relating to medical anthropology. 

Level 6 Honours modules (you must take a minimum of 6 credits, including the dissertation, which is a compulsory double module).

Cognitive Evolution

The module will explore the nature of human intelligence, charting and evaluating the evidence for the development of key cognitive traits such as language, culture, tool use and symbolism. We will also assess the cognitive abilities of other animal species.

Dawn of Civilisations

This module will provide an understanding of the relationships between climate, landscape and society in Southwest Asia between 20,000 and 5,000 years ago.

Primate Conservation

In this module, we cover the major challenges facing primates and develop strategies to help conserve our closest relatives. You will gain in an understanding of how species gain their threat status, and how national and international legislation protects them.

Molecular Anthropology

This course covers population genetics, phylogenetics and molecular evolution. It is designed to give you a comprehensive overview of what genetics is about and how these techniques can be applied in an anthropological context.

People and Other Animals

In this module we examine some of the complexities and contradictions evident in people-animal relationships through topics such as animals as food, companion animals and animals as ‘nature’.

Culture and Care

The module gives you an overview of the evolutionary and ecological basis of care, the neuropsychological supports for caring, cultural diversity of care practices, as well as the care of non-human living things and the planet.

Biological Anthropology Dissertation

Each student will chose a subject for study in consultation with members of staff from biological anthropology. The research undertaken should draw on concepts, background literature and research methods from the Field of biological anthropology.

Anthropology Independent Study

Each study must be conducted under the supervision of a specially appointed tutor, within the field of social or biological anthropology. The topic chosen must be amenable to anthropological research.

Field trips

There is an optional visit of the Apenheul Primate Sanctuary in Apendhorn, Holland. This is an optional trip offered to students on the modules Primate Adaptation and Evolution and Primate Societies

This trip is optional and therefore not included within the course fees. You will be responsible for your own accommodation, transport and living costs. Please bear in mind that costs can vary depending on the GBP-Euro exchange rate. On average, the cost for this trip runs at £160 including transport, two nights bed and breakfast, and two days entry to the primate park. 

Study abroad

Anthropology students can benefit greatly from time spent living in a culture that is different from their own, and studying abroad is a popular option.

You may be able to go on a European or international study exchange while you are at Brookes - we have more than 100 partner universities around the world!  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.

Tuition fees are paid as they would be if you remained in the UK, either to Oxford Brookes via your Student Loan or directly to Oxford Brookes according to your preference.  

You will be responsible for all other costs such as accommodation, purchasing your airfares, travel and health insurance and visas. Funding is available through the Erasmus scheme, and also via some international programmes such as the Santander Student Awards.

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.

Additional costs

We do not expect students to purchase any compulsory course books, as they are all available in the library. If students wish to purchase additional books to supplement their reading, this is at their own discretion.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Teaching and learning

Teaching draws on current research by our teaching staff, and all modules include lectures, illustrated lectures or films, seminars, and tutorials. Some modules also include practical classes, group work and excursions. For example, laboratory-based classes are a common feature for the modules concerning human and non-human primate evolution and anatomy as well as Prehistoric Archaeology. Training sessions on analysis (eg statistical analysis) are also provided to help students develop learning, research and IT skills.

All our teaching staff are published, active researchers and acknowledged experts in their field, and the modules we teach draw upon the teaching staff’s current research. Examples include: the archaeology of the earliest human settlements in the Middle East; and research on Primates in Africa and Indonesia.

Uniquely, the expertise of the teaching staff includes sociocultural and biological anthropology as well as archaeology and primatology. These subfields, usually taught in isolation, are brought together in order to improve understanding across disciplinary boundaries.

Approach to assessment

Various forms of assessment are applied throughout your degree. In year 1 assessment is by both coursework and examination. In years 2 and 3 some modules are assessed by coursework, some by examination, but most by a combination of both.

Assessment methods for some modules include exams, coursework essays, in-class tests, group and individual presentations, laboratory practical workbooks and participation in seminars.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2018/19: £9,250. 2019/20: £9,250.

Home/EU - part time fee: 2018/19: £750 per single module. 2019/20: £750 per single module.

International - full time: 2018/19: £13,150 2019/20: £13,410

Please note tuition fees for Home/EU students may increase in subsequent years both for new and continuing students in line with an inflationary amount determined by government. Tuition fees for International students may increase in subsequent years both for new and continuing students.

Oxford Brookes University intends to maintain its fees for new and returning home and EU students at the maximum permitted level.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

For general sources of financial support, see:

Typical offers

UCAS Tariff points: 112

A-Level: BBC

Wherever possible we make our conditional offers using the UCAS Tariff. This combination of A-level grades would be just one way of achieving the UCAS Tariff points for this course.


Specific entry requirements

Please also see the University's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

Please see the University's standard English language requirements

Pathways courses for international and EU students

If you do not meet the entry requirements for this degree, or if you would like more preparation before you start, you can take an  international foundation course. Once you enrol, you will have a guaranteed pathway to this degree if you pass your foundation course with the required grades.

If you only need to meet the language requirements, you can take our  pre-sessional English course. You will develop key language and study skills for academic success and you will not need to take an external language test to progress to your degree.

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.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. 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.

Why Oxford is a great place to study this course

Oxford is one of the UK's top cities for culture and has a worldwide reputation for academic excellence, providing the perfect backdrop for student life. The world famous Pitt Rivers and Natural History Museums are on your doorstep - as is the Ashmolean Museum and Bodleian Libraries, all invaluable resources for anthropologists. London’s many museums are also a short journey away using one of Oxford's many public transport links.

Support for students studying Biological Anthropology

There is extensive support available. Each student is assigned an academic advisor, whose role it is to offer academic and pastoral guidance throughout the programme of study. The Subject Coordinator is also on hand to help counsel students and monitor their programmes and progression. They provide a programme handbook which contains all the vital information. 

Our student support coordinators are there for you from the day you arrive to the day you leave, helping with anything from module planning to supporting you with any personal issues you may experience. They organise induction programmes and events throughout the year, and offer a friendly face when you need one. 

Students will receive training in study skills in their first year modules and are encouraged to contact module leaders and academic advisors with any problems. 

The wider University offers a variety of support services, including medical services and counselling. The University also has a career centre offering guidance on future career choices. Finally, students may join their Student Union, which is there to support and represent students.

Specialist facilities

The department offices are located in the Gibbs Building on the Headington Campus. Teaching for seminars and lectures takes place in the John Henry Brookes Building and in the Gibbs Building, situated just a mile from Oxford’s beautiful and historic city centre.

The main university library is also on the Headington Campus and holds an impressive selection of books and journals. You can also take advantage of the Library Electronic Information Network (LEIN), giving you access to a range of bibliographical searching tools, databases and electronic journals in anthropology.

Other facilities include:

  • a student collaborative working space that houses a range of course materials
  • the Europe-Japan Research Centre which runs a regular seminar series open to all students
  • the Anthropology Centre for Conservation, the Environment and Development (ACCEND) which holds conferences and seminars open to all students, including the regular Primate Conservation seminar series
  • the Geography and Anthropology laboratory which is used for research and teaching
  • the Japan Room, used to introduce students to aspects of social life in Japan.

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.

Career prospects

Biological Anthropology, with its comparative perspective as well as its emphasis on research and human interactions with the environment, gives students flexibility and a wider view of the world which often proves attractive to employers. Our graduates have made successful careers in a wide variety of professions, including research at universities and colleges, contract archaeologists, international development, non-governmental organisations, charity organisations, environment and conservation organisations, zoo keepers or officers, teaching, film and journalism, museum and heritage management, and forensic (medical/legal) consultation (skeletal identification or DNA fingerprinting) for law enforcement agencies. Students also often go on to postgraduate study.

Visiting speakers from various employment sectors including government, international development, non-governmental organisations and charities, and environmental conservation, are invited to deliver lectures and seminars. Researchers from national and international institutions are invited to weekly seminar series hosted by our Faculty Research Centres which include The Anthropology Centre for Conservation, Environment and Development, The Europe Japan Research Centre, The Centre for Global Politics, Economy and Society, and the seminar series hosted by the Primate Conservation MSc course. Students also have access to the events hosted by the University Careers and Employment Centre.

Further study

Many of our graduates are currently engaged in further study in Anthropology and also in a range of other subjects, such as Environmental Studies, Archaeology, Geography, Animal Biology, Conservation Ecology, and Primate Conservation, with many choosing to continue these studies at Oxford Brookes.