Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

BSc Biological Sciences

UCAS code: C100

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Biological Sciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing BSc Biological Sciences

Biological Sciences explores the study of living organisms, covering everything from the interactions of animals in their environment to how genes are expressed.

Our skills-based curriculum will equip you with data analysis, programming and problem-solving skills. It will teach you effective communication, and independent thinking, preparing you to be a part of the next generation of scientific thinkers who apply their skills in various contexts.

We offer 12 different subject areas and you will specialise in one of these honours programmes as you progress through your studies.

In your first two years of study, your compulsory courses will cover aspects of all 12 subject areas we offer. This means that you will be able to choose an honours programme based on your experiences and what interests you.

Our teaching emphasizes a skills-based, research driven curriculum. As a result, not only will you learn key concepts, you will be doing it in an investigative way, collaboratively asking and, as you learn more, answering your own questions. 

In each year you will study a mix of compulsory and optional courses allowing you to tailor your programme based on your interests and experiences. 

You will also gain practical experience through an individual research project in one of our academic research laboratories in the final year.

Year 1

All Biological Sciences students study the same core courses in Year 1. These courses provide a broad base of biological knowledge. They combine fundamental skills to help you prepare for your future, including:

  • computational skills
  • practical skills
  • collaborative skills
  • analytical skills

The skills will be developed in a way that will enable you to articulate them to future employers, whatever your chosen career path.

You will learn core laboratory techniques and research skills, using practical sessions and workshops.

Fieldwork at local sites, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, provides hands-on research and enquiry opportunities. These experiences help you to develop essential aspects of scientific research, such as recording of ideas, observations, results, and conclusions. Biological sciences is a collaborative field in which you will explore questions of biology in research groups throughout the year.

You can also choose optional courses. We recommend courses in biological chemistry but optional courses can be from other academic areas across the University.

Key skills

As an essential part of your studies, you will gain key skills that enhance your long-term employability such as:

  • hypothesis development and experimental design
  • data evaluation and analysis
  • introductory programming
  • communicating your ideas both orally and in writing
  • student led investigative projects

Year 2

Our Year 2 courses build on your learning from Year 1 with a continued focus on practical and analytical skills, while becoming progressively more specialised.

All students study the same core courses which cover topics such as:

  • DNA replication and repair
  • natural selection and the origin of species
  • cellular metabolic processes
  • regulation and control of biological systems
  • programming for data analysis
  • data science techniques for interpretation of biological data

You may also choose to take courses that focus on specific areas of biology such as:

  • evolution of animal body plans and physiological systems across phyla
  • modern plant biology
  • microbial form and function

You can still choose courses from other areas of the University as optional courses.

At the end of Year 2, you will progress into your chosen biological subject specialisation, which will lead to your honours programme of choice.

Year 3

You will specialise in your preferred area of biological sciences, choosing from our subject specialisations:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Cell Biology
  • Development, Regeneration and Stem Cells
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Genetics
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Zoology

Your courses will prepare you for exploring scientific literature, analysis of scientific data and research work. You will also receive further training in laboratory skills and may take courses that concentrate on fieldwork.

You can take a combination of courses that will allow you to swap honours programme at the end of Year 3.

Year 4

You will study your chosen honours programme at a deeper scientific level, and complete an individual research project in one of our academic research laboratories.

You will also take part in seminars and debates on scientific papers with staff and other students. These will develop your verbal presentation, discussion and critical appraisal skills.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2024/25)

Our facilities

In-person teaching for Biological Sciences courses takes place at the University's King's Buildings Campus. The teaching of other courses may be based in other University venues in Edinburgh.

Facilities at King's Buildings

The King's Buildings campus has over 100 years of scientific history and is the centre of science and engineering teaching at Edinburgh.

The School of Biological Sciences is based in several buildings around the campus. From the more traditional lecture theatres in the Ashworth Building to the modern lab facilities in the James Clerk Maxwell Building, we have a variety of teaching spaces, including:

  • lecture theatres
  • tutorial rooms
  • well-equipped teaching laboratories
  • collaborative learning spaces
  • computing suites

Other facilities

As a student, you will have access to libraries and other study spaces across the University and its campuses. There are a variety of physical textbooks and scientific papers available to borrow, as well as a range of online resources that you can use.

In the later years of your programme, you may be involved in projects at related research institutes in the local region.

Study abroad

Study abroad opportunities are optional. These are competitive and are currently completed in Year 3.

What are my choices for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Usually, you will take 3 courses in each semester, so 6 in total over the year. Most courses use a combination of class types that you will have a mix of each week.

Depending on the optional courses you choose, your weekly timetable in Year 1 and Year 2 is likely to involve:

  • lectures or discussion sessions, with preparatory material
  • tutorials
  • practical or workshop sessions
  • individual study
  • team projects

The timetable can vary from week to week and classes are designed to complement each other. Usually, the theory you are taught will be reflected in the workshop, tutorial or practical work, giving you a chance to apply your knowledge to real scenarios.

As well as time spent in classes, you will need to spend some time outside of class consolidating what you have learnt, preparing for lectures, workshops, practicals or tutorials, or completing coursework.

In later years, you will complete more personal study and research. In your final year you will complete an in-depth project with one of our research groups.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a mixture of in-course assessments and examinations. The purpose of our assessments is to give you the opportunity to:

  • practice the relevant skills or conceptual understanding
  • get feedback
  • show us you can apply the knowledge you've learnt to the questions or assignments you're given

Types of assessment could include:

  • regular quizzes
  • practical reports
  • problem solving questions
  • scientific paper analysis
  • tutorial presentations

A research project or dissertation will form an important part of your assessment during the final year.

The skills you will gain from a Biological Sciences degree are transferable and highly valued across many career pathways. They include:

  • problem-solving
  • analytical and quantitative reasoning skills
  • presentation and communication
  • group working and collaboration
  • time management

Our Careers Service is available to help you throughout your time with us and for 2 years after the end date of your course.

We have a dedicated School Careers Consultant who runs drop-ins for students and can help with things like CV and application writing and preparation for interviews.

We also run a series of workshops during your studies including 'finding work experience' and 'preparing for placement' that you are free to attend.

Our graduates

Biological Sciences students go on to work or study in a range of different fields, within and outside of science. This can include:

  • further academic research - Master's degree, PhD
  • practical research - lab technician, industrial roles, field assistant, conservation
  • professional qualifications - teaching, medicine, veterinary medicine, law
  • science policy - government, NGOs, charities
  • science communication - journalism, publishing, media relations, outreach
  • other - finance, management

Previous graduates have secured roles in both research and industry and have been employed by a variety of different organisations.

The career path you choose is up to you and will depend on your experiences, skills, values, and interests.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAB (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB in one set of exams.
  • IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 32 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: AABB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 32 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: Biology and Chemistry, both at B or above. You must have a grade A in one of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Applications of Mathematics or Physics. Advanced Higher Biology and Chemistry are recommended. National 5s: English at C and Mathematics or Physics at B. We accept Higher Applications of Mathematics at C in place of National 5 Mathematics at B.
  • A Levels: Biology and Chemistry, both at B or above. You must have a grade A in one of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics. GCSEs: Mathematics or Physics at B or 6 and English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: Biology and Chemistry at 5. SL: Mathematics: Analysis and approaches, Mathematics: Applications and interpretation, or Physics at 6 and English at 5.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

For direct entry to second year the standard requirements must be exceeded, including the following:

  • SQA Advanced Highers: AAA in one set of exams to include Biology, Chemistry, and either Mathematics or Physics.
  • A Levels: A*AA in one set of exams in Biology, Chemistry, and either Mathematics or Physics.
  • IB: 38 points with 766 at HL to include Biology, Chemistry, and either Mathematics (Analysis and approaches or Applications and interpretation) or Physics at 6.
Other entry pathways

Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).

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.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 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 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)


We normally make offers to the highest qualified applicants. If competition for places is high this may mean that offers will only be made to applicants who are predicted, or who have achieved, above the single set of grades or the upper grade level in a range. Any conditional offer made may require you to achieve grades above the upper grade level. Therefore, achieving the top of our standard entry requirements does not guarantee a place on the relevant degree.

Apply to one Biological Sciences programme

Please apply for only one Biological Sciences degree as we are only able to consider one application to this subject area. You will have the opportunity to switch between programmes in later years provided the required courses have been passed. For our Biological Sciences with Management programme (C1N1) you must take the compulsory business courses from year 1.

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BSc Biological Sciences

Additional costs

Study material

You may have to pay additional costs of up to £150 each year for books or other compulsory study material. Many compulsory books are available in the library or as a digital copy.

Field or residential courses

As a Year 4 student, you must attend at least one field or residential course.

Some of our programmes also offer you the chance to attend a field or residential course in Year 3, but it is not compulsory.

The costs for field courses will be due to be paid in the year the course is taken.

Currently, field or residential course costs vary from (on average) £150 to £300 per course for transport and accommodation.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding

More information

How to apply

School: Biological Sciences

College: Science and Engineering