What Can You Apply For?
We offer degrees in a variety of subject areas spanning the breadth of biological sciences.
All applications should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
There are 14 different Biological Sciences degrees available to apply for through UCAS:
- BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences
- BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences with Management
- BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences specialised within one of our 12 Honours programme disciplines.
You only need to apply for one as the entrance requirements are the same for all programmes.
Regardless of your initial application choice, you will have the opportunity to explore aspects of each of our programmes in the early years and, with the right combination of courses, can choose to specialise in whichever one interests you. You will choose your Honours Programme at the end of year 2 and we will give you all the information you need to take the right combination of courses and leave your options open.
Year 2 entry
If you have, or are expected to achieve, particularly high-level qualifications, then you can apply specifically for second year (year 2) entry to our degree programmes through UCAS. This would mean that the BSc Honours degree would take three years instead of the normal four years. Please note this option is not available for our Biological Sciences with Management programmes as there is are compulsory business courses which must be taken in year 1.
If you have already applied and have accepted an offer for year 1 entry, we may offer you the chance to start in year 2 if you achieve the required grades for year 2 entry. In this case, we will let you know towards the end of the summer, and will work with you in Welcome Week to help you decide whether you would like to enter into year 1 or 2.
If you start in Year 2 you would be required to make more specific course choices immediately. This reduces some of the flexibility in your course choice and may affect which Honours programmes you can pursue.
Year 2 entry requirements are published on the degree finder website and are the same for all programmes.
Read more about each of the programmes you can apply for in the boxes below.
Biological Sciences explores the study of living organisms, covering everything from the interactions of animals in their environment to how genes are expressed. We offer 12 different subject areas and you will specialise in one of these as you progress through your studies. In the first two years your compulsory courses will cover aspects of all 12 subject areas we offer. This means that you will be able to choose a specialism based on your experiences and what interests you.
Choosing this programme on your UCAS application is a good option if you are not sure which specialism you are interested in and want to keep maximum flexibility at this stage.
In the Biological Sciences with Management programme you will take a combination of courses from the School of Biological Sciences and the Business School.
In addition to the many skills developed through our biological sciences teaching, our Biological Sciences with Management programme provides you with a wide set of additional skills suitable for careers in management, commerce or communication. It will allow you to use your knowledge of biological sciences in a wide context.
Biochemistry is the study of living systems at the cellular and molecular level. This dynamic field draws on a variety of subjects and has widespread application. Biochemistry applies a knowledge of chemistry and physical sciences to investigate the basic life processes. On this programme you will study the molecular structure and function of macromolecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, as well as the properties of complex biological systems including whole organisms.
Although firmly based in approaches that expand our understanding of the structure and function of biological molecules, biochemistry is an interdisciplinary science and incorporates numerous aspects of molecular biology, molecular genetics, bioinformatics and biotechnology. The subject has a major impact on modern medical research and upon the pharmaceutical, bioengineering, agricultural and environmental industries.
Based on the research strengths of the prestigious Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology and Institute of Cell Biology; Biotechnology is one of the most dynamic areas of modern biology. Biotechnology takes the knowledge derived from basic biological research and uses it to make new products or new technologies that are useful to society.
This programme explores the basic principles and knowledge underpinning biotechnology, as well as giving an appreciation of the processes involved in converting an idea into a product. Topics studied include microbial biotechnology, genetic and cloning technologies, biological production methods, novel approaches to drug design based on protein technologies, plant cell technology and bioassay systems.
Modern cell biology is a dynamic discipline that combines the interests and techniques of many scientific fields including molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology and biochemistry. Cell biologists investigate the basic structural and functional units of life: the cells that compose all living organisms. They aim to understand: cellular structure, composition and regulation; the organelles that cells contain; cell growth, nuclear and cellular division, and cell death. Understanding how cells work is fundamental to many areas of biology and is of particular importance to biomedical fields such as cancer research.
On our cell biology programme you will explore these areas and learn about topics such as how to analyse genomic data, how cells communicate, and about cell cycle control.
Scientists have been intrigued for many years about how multicellular organisms develop and differentiate the correct cells, tissues and organs in the correct place at the correct time, such that the whole organism can function as a unit. Now developmental biology is undergoing a revolution. The ability to manipulate and mutate genes, to introduce new genes into embryos, and to suppress gene expression in specific cells at specific times in development, is allowing us to really understand how genes control development. Analysis of related genes in different species has shown that the same developmental mechanisms are often used in vertebrates, invertebrates and plants.
This programme covers everything from basic anatomy, embryology and morphogenesis, to the molecular control of gene expression and evolution using many organisms - plant and animal, vertebrate and invertebrate - as examples.
Ecology is critical to understanding and managing human effects on the planet. Ecologists seek to understand the causes and consequences of biological variation at all levels, and they search for the underlying rules that govern change and stasis in natural systems.
In our ecology programme, you will study organisms in relation to their physical and biological environment. The physical environment includes the soil, water and atmosphere; the biological environment includes influences that organisms have on one another. Ecology provides ideas and conceptual tools that help in the protection, conservation and management of the environment and vital biological resources. It involves vacation field courses and important practical skills.
Evolutionary Biology is at the centre of modern biology, spanning the subject from genomes to whole organisms. All organisms, past and present, are related in a common phylogenetic tree; and all the diverse and extraordinary adaptations that allow organisms to function have evolved through natural selection. Our understanding of the history of life, and the mechanism by which it has evolved, has influenced virtually every aspect of human society - from literature to medicine. However, evolutionary biology is not simply a historical science. Information on evolution, and the application of principles learned from the study of evolution, also have many practical uses in diverse fields such as geology, plant and animal breeding, computer science and epidemiology.
This programme will give you a thorough grounding in the principles of evolutionary biology, and will provide an opportunity to study the application of these principles to a wide variety of questions, ranging from molecular to social evolution.
Genetics is the study of biological variation and its inheritance, and therefore of the fundamental control mechanisms of living systems. It has a central place in biology and interconnects with many disciplines, such as biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, plant biology and zoology. There are applications of genetics from the molecular to the quantitative level in medicine, biotechnology and conservation. On this programme, you'll study the molecular and cellular sides of genetics including basic genetic analysis, chromosome theory and disease development. In addition you will also examine population genetics and evolutionary biology including the origin of hereditary variation and the behaviour of genetic variation in populations.
Genetics is involved in controversial areas such as the use of genetically engineered crops and the biological and ethical issues around human therapeutic cloning. Genetics students, in addition to being informed about the basic science, are encouraged to consider how these issues impact on society.
Immunology is a rapidly evolving subject at the forefront of advances in science and medicine. It looks at the ways in which animals react to infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, as well as to tumours and organ transplantation. It describes how immune responses are initiated, developed and regulated and is fundamental to the treatment of important disorders including allergy, autoimmune diseases and immune deficiencies. Immunology is also central to the understanding of resistance and susceptibility to infectious diseases, transplantation science and to vaccine development.
Immunology honours students will study cell growth and differentiation and how immune responses function. Understanding immunology is important for working in a range of medical and infectious diseases contexts, and for development of suitable therapies and novel biotechnological advances.
Molecular Biology is the study of biological systems at the molecular level, which has opened up since the discovery of the structure of DNA. It provides new approaches to solving biological problems such as the development of multi-cellular organisms, genome organisation and evolution. It is also being applied to radically change aspects of medicine, agriculture and industry, principally through the techniques of genetic engineering.
On this programme, you will learn how combined genetic and molecular approaches have led to the understanding of fundamental biological and cellular processes, and you will be introduced to molecular cloning and genetic manipulation techniques central to the study of organisms ranging in complexity from viruses to humans.
Molecular genetics is a biological discipline that underlies the majority of modern biological research. Much modern genetics is concerned with the molecular mechanisms by which genes are expressed and regulated, and the ways in which they control the properties of cells and organisms. Genetics has been revolutionised in recent years by the availability of large DNA sequence datasets, including full genome sequences for many species. This has also facilitated the study of many human traits, including diseases, that have a major genetic component but whose inheritance involves more than a single gene.
Molecular genetics impacts on almost every aspect of our lives - from human genetics and health to infectious disease, what we eat and drink and how we live. Our molecular genetics students explore topics such as gene expression and RNA processing, and what happens when these processes go wrong.
How plants grow and develop, how they respond to and interact with the environment, and how they evolve and diversify, is of great importance to human survival and wellbeing. We have a strong international reputation for plant science research in subjects ranging from the regulation of growth and development, disease resistance, starch and cell wall metabolism, to evolution. We also have links with evolutionary biologists at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. This enthusiasm and diversity in plant science research is reflected in its teaching programmes.
Many aspects of plant biology are covered in first and second year courses, and increasing specialisation is possible in third year. Our Honours students take a core course that examines many important aspects of contemporary plant science, from the biology and ethics of genetic manipulation to the use of DNA to study evolution. Whether your interests are in pure or applied science and whether you prefer to work at the environmental, organismal or molecular level, now is an exciting time to be a plant scientist.
Zoology is the study of animals at all levels, from their molecular and cell biology to their behaviour and evolution. No matter how these animals fit into their environment, there is an underlying need to understand their behaviour, population dynamics, physiology, and the way they interact with other species and their environments. It provides a broad training for a biologist and our graduates go on to a wide range of careers.
Zoology Honours students usually study animal biology and evolutionary courses in year 2. Year 3 sees students take a mixture of courses, learning about aspects of animal diversity, behavioural ecology and spending time in the field. In the final year, students take a selection of courses and about half of their time is spent on a research project in one of these areas.
At the University of Edinburgh there 2 separate departments:
- School of Biological Sciences in the College of Science and Engineering.
- Deanery of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.
The Deanery of Biomedical Sciences offers degree programmes including
- Anatomy and Development
- Biomedical Sciences
- Infectious Diseases
- Medical Sciences
- Reproductive Biology
There is a small amount of overlap, students from both departments will often take courses from the other, but course organisation and admissions are done entirely separately.
Find out more about courses in the Deanery of Biomedical Sciences on their website: