Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

BSc Biological Sciences (Plant Science)

UCAS code: C200

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Biological Sciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing BSc Biological Sciences (Plant Science)

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.

As well as conserving biodiversity, we need to develop sustainable systems of plant production to secure supplies of food, fibre and industrial feedstock. In addition, bioenergy and synthetic biology are rapidly expanding areas within which Plant Science is at the forefront.

Areas of study

You will investigate how plants:

  • grow and develop
  • respond to and interact with their environment
  • evolve and diversify
  • are used

Why Edinburgh?

We have a strong international reputation for plant science research and offer many research opportunities. This ranges from fundamental topics, such as how plants sense time, to applied studies on the future of food production and the biotechnological use of plants as vaccines.

We study plants ranging from single-celled algae, to liverworts, snapdragons and crop plants to answer a wide variety of biological questions.

There is close collaboration with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Your final year project can be based there, or at one of the many plant research institutes in the area.

Flexibility

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 biological sciences subject areas, including plant science. Regardless of your initial application choice, you will have the opportunity to explore aspects of each of our programmes in the early years and choose to specialise in whichever one interests you.

Year 1

All biological sciences students study the same core courses in Year 1. These courses provide a broad foundation in biology, practical and analytical skills.

You will learn core laboratory techniques, and study modern biology subjects which span the breadth of the biological sciences subject areas, and may also include biological chemistry.

You can also choose optional courses. These can be from other academic areas across the University.

Key skills

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

  • Data evaluation and analysis
  • Introductory programming
  • Communicating your ideas both orally and in writing
  • Project design

Year 2

You will begin to specialise in a specific area of biological sciences, choosing courses that cover topics such as:

  • molecular and cellular biology
  • biochemistry
  • biotechnology
  • genetics
  • ecology
  • evolution
  • animal and plant biology

We give you all the information you need to build your programme around your interests. We will usually encourage you to take a combination of courses that allows you to choose from more than one of the specialisations available.

The compulsory (and recommended) courses for Plant Science cover topics such as:

  • plant hybridisation and evolution
  • plant hormones and cell signalling
  • DNA replication
  • origin of hereditary variation

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

Specialisations

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 training in laboratory skills and may take courses that concentrate on fieldwork.

In Plant Science, some of the things you will learn about are:

  • acclimation and adaptation of plants to diverse environmental stresses
  • construction and functions of different plant tissues and organs
  • how plants work and how this knowledge is being used in crop improvement and biotechnology

It is possible to take a combination of courses that will allow you to swap honours programme at the end of Year 3.

You may have the opportunity to study abroad.

Year 4

You will study Plant Science at a deeper scientific level exploring topics such as:

  • the diversity of land plants
  • plant biotechnology
  • molecular mechanisms of the clock gene in plants
  • plant identification in the field

You will undertake an individual research project working in one of our academic research laboratories.

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

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, and full of character, Ashworth Building to the more modern Swann Building we have a variety of teaching spaces including:

  • lecture theatres
  • tutorial rooms
  • well-equipped teaching laboratories
  • modern group study spaces
  • computer laboratories

Other resources

As a student, you will also have access to the University's libraries and other study spaces across the University.

Lots of your study material is available online and we also have a variety of physical textbooks and scientific papers available to borrow.

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

Study abroad

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

What are my options 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. The main ways we teach are through:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • practical or workshop sessions
  • individual study
  • team projects

Teaching time

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

  • nine hours of lectures
  • eight hours of practicals or workshops
  • two hours of tutorials

The timetable can vary from week to week, often practical classes are every other week. Classes are designed to complement each other - usually what's being taught in lectures will be reflected in the tutorial and practical work, giving a chance to apply knowledge to real scenarios.

As well as time spent in classes, you will need to spend some time outside of class consolidating what you've learnt, preparing for practicals or tutorials, or completing coursework. This could be around 15-20 hours of individual study each week.

In later years, you will undertake more personal study and research. You will also be linked with a research group and complete an in-depth project as an important part of your final-year assessment.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a mixture of in-course assessments and examinations. Often the purpose of our assessments are to see how you apply the knowledge you have learnt to the questions or assignments you are given.

Types of assessment could include:

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

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

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 graduating. 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, 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, and we are pleased to be able to support your career journey.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAA - AAAB (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB.
  • IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 32 points with 555 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 555 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. If you don't have a grade A in one of Biology or Chemistry, you must have an A in either 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. If you don't have a grade A in one of Biology or Chemistry, you must have an A in either 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 666 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).

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

SQA, GCSE and IB

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
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • 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.
  • 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 62 with at least 54 in each component.

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

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

English language requirements

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.

Additional costs

Study material

You may incur 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

You may also incur additional costs for field or residential courses. You may choose to take more than one of these courses. All Year 4 students attend a compulsory field or residential course.

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.

Funding

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