Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: Biological Sciences

Why choose Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We're ranked in the UK's top 5 universities and the world's top 25 universities for biological sciences in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018.

  • Our programmes will give you a solid grounding in fundamental topics allowing you to specialise in Year 3 and complete an independent research project in Year 4.

  • You will be taught in state-of-the-art laboratories and in interactive computing studio facilities.

  • You will be taught by staff whose research was ranked 3rd in the UK by research quality (Research Fortnight REF 2014) following the UK government’s Research Excellence Framework 2014.

Study abroad

I knew the University had a great reputation and excellent teaching and facilities. It is internationally respected for its contribution to scientific research, and the possibility of one day playing a part in that really appealed to me.

Ellie Carr 2nd year BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences
Ellie Carr 2nd year BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

Biology is the study of life and embraces many different areas of both biological and biomedical interest. Studies range from exploring molecular structures, to understanding how genes work, the development and behaviour of microorganisms, plants and animals, their evolution, and their environmental interactions and impacts. It reveals core scientific knowledge of how cells and organisms function, and results in applications that underpin up-to-the-minute technological and scientific advances.

The School of Biological Sciences offers several programmes spanning the breath of biology.

On our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences or Biological Sciences with Management, you enter a general programme where you will be able to experience a range of courses before choosing your final subject specialisation. A number of these courses are in areas that you will not have had the opportunity to study before. We therefore offer a flexible learning experience, where you can tailor your programme to whichever career path you choose.

You will be taught in an internationally reputed research environment, with access to modern facilities. You will also be directly involved in research projects as part of your training.


Please apply for only one of the programmes in this group. You should also choose a subject specialisation on your application so we can appoint you a Personal Tutor within the field where your interests currently lie. If you have no subject specialisation preference at this stage, choose Biological Sciences (C100).

If you are interested in Biological Sciences with Management (C1N1) please put this choice on your application to ensure you are enrolled on the relevant compulsory business course. Regardless of application choice, you will have the flexibility to change programmes within Biological Sciences provided the required courses have been passed.

Year 1

As an integral part of your studies, you will gain key skills which will enhance your long-term employability.

In addition, 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.

There will be compulsory courses dependent on your chosen programme path and you can also choose option courses, which can be from other academic areas from across the University.

Year 2

You will begin to specialise in a specific biological sciences area. There are opportunities to study within areas such as molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, genetics, ecology, evolution, and animal and plant biology.

You can still choose courses from other areas of the University as option course choices. 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 a chosen area of biology, 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 or zoology.

These prepare you for exploring scientific literature, analysis of scientific data and research work. Courses involve training in laboratory skills, with specific courses concentrating on fieldwork. Some students can also take the opportunity to study abroad.

Year 4

You will study your chosen subject area at a deeper scientific level. Taking part in seminars and debates on scientific papers with staff and other students will develop your presentation, discussion and critical appraisal skills. All students undertake an individual research project.

Are there additional costs?

You may incur additional costs of up to £150 for each year of your programme for purchasing books or other compulsory study material.

Additional costs may also be incurred for field or residential courses. You may choose to take more than one of these courses. All Year 4 students will attend a compulsory field or residential course. Currently, field or residential course costs vary on average from £150 to £300 per course for transport and accommodation. The costs for field courses will be due to be paid in the year the course is taken.

(Revised 6 June 2018: updated to clarify that all Year 4 students will attend a compulsory field or residential course.)

Our facilities

Teaching for biological sciences courses takes place at the University's King's Buildings. The teaching of other courses may be based in other University venues in Edinburgh.

Later years can involve projects at allied research institutes in the local region. You will also have access to the University's libraries and computer laboratories. Much of the study material is available online.


Some students can apply for 12-month placements between Years 3 and 4. Students who accept a placement will take an interruption of studies to undertake it. Placements are independent from university studies and do not contribute towards the final classification.

Please also be aware that there are restrictions for some students due to visa requirements.

Immigration and visas

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad on a student exchange.

How will I learn?

Most courses combine lectures, tutorials and practical or workshop sessions and you will be involved in individual study and team projects. Years 1 and 2 usually involve nine hours of lectures, eight hours of practicals and two hours of tutorials each week.

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

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through in-course assessments and examinations. A research project or dissertation will form an important part of your final-year assessment.

The analytical and scientific skills you will gain will equip you for a variety of careers. The core skills which you develop will enhance your employability.

Our graduates go on to a range of careers. These include industry-based occupations. Some choose further study before entering successful academic or other career paths.