Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology MSc, PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgDip

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Synthetic biology is a multidisciplinary area that seeks to provide novel solutions for medicine, manufacturing and agriculture, by creating new biological components and systems that do not already exist in nature. Synthetic biology strives to make the engineering of biology easier and more predictable by applying key engineering principles to biology such as standardisation and modularisation, thereby accelerating the creation of novel products, services and industries.

Our Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology MSc is a fast-paced and dynamic programme of study. Your studies will draw on the latest research in the fields of synthetic biology, (bio)engineering and biotechnology. Through this programme, you will have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for developing innovative solutions and tackle the pressing global challenges we are facing:

  • rapidly changing human demographics and resulting health pressures
  • growing demand for more and healthier food
  • resource shortages
  • sustainable fuel transition and a cleaner environment

Throughout this interactive degree, you will be encouraged to engage with academic experts from different disciplines, as well as industry experts, who contribute to the discussions and provide guest lectures. You will engage in practical learning, participate in group activities and offer your critical analysis of the topics.

The programme combines the teaching of theory and academic knowledge, with the development of applied and practical skills. We aim to equip our synthetic biology graduates with the skills required for further education and research, and for employment in the growing synthetic biology sector and other related industries.

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses (semesters 1 and 2)
  • research project (semester 3)

You will be taught various synthetic biology-related topics across the compulsory courses, and will select your optional courses to tailor your learning to your own education or career goals.

In these courses, you will learn through a variety of activities, including:

  • lectures
  • workshops, tutorials, practicals
  • presentations, seminars
  • group discussions and group projects
  • problem-based learning activities
  • research projects

Research project

The dissertation project will be your opportunity to conduct research on a topic of your choice. You will carry out research at the frontier of knowledge and can make a genuine contribution to the progress of original research. This will involve reviewing relevant papers, generating and analysing data, developing new and critical ideas, and writing a project dissertation.

We work with a wide multidisciplinary network of academics to propose a diversity of research topics, and also with external organisations and companies, to offer a wider range of project opportunities and enhance the real-world relevance of your degree.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSynthetic Biology and Biotechnology1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
PgDipSynthetic Biology and Biotechnology9 MonthsFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

By the end of the programme you will have gained:

  • a strong background knowledge in the fields underlying synthetic biology and biotechnology
  • the ability to think about the future development of research & technology, its implementation and its implications
  • an understanding of how biotechnology relates to real-world biological problems
  • an understanding of the limitations and public concerns regarding the nascent field of synthetic biology, including a thorough examination of the philosophical, legal, ethical and social issues surrounding the area
  • the ability to approach the technology transfer problem, equipped with the skills to analyse the problem in scientific and practical terms
  • a broad understanding of research responsibility including the requirement for rigorous and robust testing of theories and the need for honesty and integrity in experimental reporting and reviewing

The Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology MSc aims to provide businesses, industry, academia and governments with an annual cohort of graduates with the high-level knowledge necessary to promote innovative bio-based solutions to pressing global challenges.

You will enhance your career prospects by acquiring current marketable knowledge and developing advanced analytical and presentation skills, within the social and intellectual sphere of a leading European university. The programme offers a wide range of research projects that can be tailored to best suit your career goals: e.g. academic research, industry projects (companies and start-ups), science communication, etc. The School of Biological Sciences offers a research-rich environment in which you can develop as a scientist and an entrepreneur. We have fantastic resources through the University department 'Edinburgh Innovations' to help you successfully nurture your entrepreneurial ideas and launch your own enterprise.

Our graduates

Our graduates have been successful in securing employment in the synthetic biology and biotechnology sector. In addition, some alumni have gone on to create their own successful businesses. Although there is not a 'typical' job our graduates go on to do, they work or study in organisations around the world.

Careers Service

Our Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Check out some of our alumni's profiles:

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, with a strong background in molecular biology. You should also have a strong background in one or more of the following areas: biotechnology, biochemistry, genetics or related sciences, with evidence of quantitative and computer science skills.

We may also consider your application if you have a background in engineering (particularly bioengineering), physics or mathematics and can show evidence of molecular biology knowledge.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSynthetic Biology and Biotechnology1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
PgDipSynthetic Biology and Biotechnology9 MonthsFull-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Programme Director, Elise Cachat
  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Programme Director, Elise Cachat
  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD