Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019


To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: Edinburgh Medical School: Biomedical Sciences
Programme accredited by:
Final award: BSc Hons Biomedical Sciences UTBSCBIOSC2F
Programme title: Biomedical Sciences
UCAS code: C190
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Biomedical Sciences
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Peter Flatman
Date of production/revision: Feb 2018

External summary

Biomedical Sciences is a programme that develops understanding of the functioning of the human body at the molecular, cellular, organ and system levels in health and disease. It develops knowledge that is necessary for the analysis of disease mechanisms and fundamental for new developments and innovation in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Students in years 1 and 2 study a general curriculum that provides a broad scientific foundation in the Biomedical Sciences. Students expand their understanding of the main cellular, molecular and genetic principles that relate to the function of the whole body and interplay between the major body systems. This is embedded in the context of the research activities that continue to challenge and advance these foundational principles. Integrated within this discipline-based learning is the introduction and continued development of core researcher skills - introducing the scientific literature and developing skills in literature searching and analysis of published scientific papers. Year 3 of the Biomedical Sciences programme retains a breadth of study through choices from a spectrum of optional courses including physiology, pharmacology, neuroscience, infectious diseases, reproductive biology, endocrinology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics and developmental biology. This choice exists in parallel with a compulsory course where students learn about the scientific method, structured reasoning, inferences from data, design of experiments and about the range of experimental techniques currently available in the Biomedical Sciences. Emphasis is placed on developing understanding of how key discoveries arise through experiment, how our understanding is labile and changes as new findings arise and how new technologies enable new findings to emerge. The Biomedical Sciences Senior Honours (Year 4) is orientated to research in practice - the process of learning by experiment employing the skill base developed across the programme. A research project is a key element of the final year pairing students with research active staff to pursue a novel research question in a research group environment. Core and elective courses are linked directly to cutting edge research issues in biomedical sciences led by staff actively engaged in that, or a closely related, research area.

The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh has a long established reputation for excellence in biomedical research and teaching. Academic staff, involved in cutting-edge biomedical research programmes rated as internationally-excellent or world class, bring a breadth and depth of research-based knowledge and expertise to their teaching and supervision, providing an outstanding student learning environment that fosters individual intellectual development. By harnessing this research expertise the Biomedical Sciences programme aims to enhance the academic experience of learning through enquiry in a research-rich environment, to encourage a questioning and critical approach to the development of new knowledge, and foster an appreciation of the role of science in society and the role of the University in developing knowledge, the exchange of knowledge and in understanding and harnessing its impact.

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims to equip its graduates with attributes that will prepare them for employment in a wide range of careers being capable of independent thinking and analysis and able to communicate clearly with both fellow scientists and the wider community. These include:

  • discipline-specific knowledge and understanding, including awareness of emerging issues and unsolved questions in Biomedical Sciences.
  • research skills, both experimental and literature-based, including understanding of good laboratory practice and health and safety policies.
  • research-based practice including the design and execution of experimental investigation.
  • an awareness of key issues and developments in the field of Biomedical Sciences.
  • a range of generic skills including communication, critical analysis, management and IT.
  • personal and intellectual skills that give an adaptable and effective approach to study, work and social activities.

The development of each student as a scientist and as an individual is fostered through:

  • the provision of courses that deliver specific biomedical sciences knowledge and its underlying scientific principles
  • opportunities to develop learning skills that encourage an analytical and interpretative approach to problem solving
  • skills related to the design and execution of laboratory-based experimental investigation
  • understanding of the research methodologies that govern the quantification, analysis and interpretation of scientific data.

On graduation the student will have acquired a level of understanding that will enable them to contribute to, and guide, public debate on issues that affect scientific enhancement for present and future generations.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

The programme provides, in the early years, a broad-based knowledge and understanding in a range of Biomedical subjects, thereby, establishing a solid foundation for more advanced analysis and enquiry-led approaches to developing biomedical knowledge in subsequent years. In each year compulsory courses facilitate the development of knowledge and understanding in a wide range of biomedical disciplines. In years 1 and 2 of the programme courses introduce all the major aspects of Biomedical Sciences, including relevant chemical, mathematical and physical principles. The second year, in particular, develops foundational knowledge and learning in relevant subjects including physiology, pharmacology, neuroscience, microbiology, immunology, genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology.

The Honours years of the programme provide expert specialised knowledge in Biomedical Sciences that enables students to understand current research and to discuss critically its significance and implications. In third year, Junior Honours, students take five courses. Choices reflect the student’s interests although one is a prescribed compulsory course. In the Senior Honours year students study a core course in Biomedical Sciences. This course develops an in depth understanding of both classical and cutting edge approaches to the study of biomedical sciences. Electives in specialised areas allow students to study topics in depth and to interact with staff engaged in research at the forefront of their field. The wide range of courses offered in the Honours years allows students to specialise in particular areas within a discipline or cover a broad curriculum. Literature research, paper analysis, problem solving, tutorial group and individual presentations also enhance knowledge and understanding

Most importantly, in all years, most courses are designed specifically around the research interests of the academic staff thereby introducing some of the major biomedical issues and controversies of the day.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

The Biomedical Sciences programme has at its core the importance of research to the advancement of scientific and medical practice. Students will engage in developing research skills from the earliest stages of their studies by embarking on group and individual work that requires investigation of the scientific literature and acquisition of practical skills and methodologies. These will be obtained through tutorial, laboratory and project-based sessions. Students will be provided with guidance on the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches and the design of scientifically valid experiments that form the basis of programmes of research. Students will be instructed in the skills required to acquire, analyse and interpret scientific data, including the importance of accurate observation and an appropriate level of numerical and statistical competence. Students will be enabled to develop insight into the evaluation of scientific evidence and its use in the testing of hypotheses and the construction of alternative arguments that might support or contradict particular points of view. Students will also have experience in the written and presentational skills required to communicate and exchange research-based ideas with scientific colleagues and with the wider public.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Individual students are encouraged to develop skills in critical thinking that lie at the core of personal and intellectual autonomy. The Biomedical Sciences programme allows students to build on their existing knowledge and use it to plan their future study opportunities and ultimately focus towards career pathways for professional development.

Students are instructed in the skills that allow the work of others to be accurately and concisely summarised and abstracted.

Independent thinking and the ability to draw together novel but relevant information from a wide range of sources and synthesise coherent conclusions is encouraged through a variety of formats including essay writing, peer and tutor-led discussion groups.

Intellectual and scientific curiosity is fostered through interactions with research active academic staff. Students are encouraged to use initiative, to solve problems for themselves and to overcome setbacks. They are offered opportunities for feedback on their work but it is up to the student to use and act on the advice and comments.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their own learning and development of skills. Ultimately, Biomedical Science graduates should have the skills to reflect on and apply scientific knowledge in order to improve the quality of life and to create wealth.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

The ability to communicate freely and understandably with a range of audiences is essential for the modern Biomedical Scientist. The degree programme allows development in the different forms of communication at all stages and academic levels of the programme.

Students are practised in the creation of coherent written, electronic and oral communications based on independently accumulated information. The acquisition of these skills is spread over a range of different courses and is, therefore, not discipline-specific making them widely transferable.

Students are provided with opportunities to develop discursive/argument-based skills by using previous knowledge and applying it to unfamiliar scenarios in tutor and peer-led discussions.

Group discussions develop skills in listening and arguing specific points. Collaborative skills are also encouraged in group work contexts. Time-management on an individual and a collaborative scale is dictated by balancing workloads across courses in relation to submission deadlines.

Students are expected to communicate and cooperate effectively with their project supervisor, members of the laboratory and with their peers in group work tasks.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Personal development arises as a consequence of interactions with other students, staff and the students’ academic advisors.

Through engaging with the programme of work within the degree programme students adapt to organising their own learning, managing their workload to fit to a defined academic timetable.

From an early stage, the concurrent demands of different components of the programme encourage the development of effective planning.

Personal confidence and its development are fostered through the presentation of academic and research studies and the formative feedback provided on these activities. Self-confidence is also engendered through interactions with academic advisors (Personal Tutors, Course Organisers and Honours Programme organiser) that might review academic progress

The ability to work in large or small groups and the collaborative skills required when working with unfamiliar colleagues is a feature of group work in some of the larger courses in earlier years.

Ultimately the ability to work independently and sustainably is a core skill that all students aspire to achieve and is engendered in the learning environment generated within the School and University.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

A broad range of technical/practical skills are acquired in all years of the programme through laboratory practicals within individual courses. Specific microbiological, immunological, physiological and biochemical laboratory skills relevant to biomedical research are incorporated into courses within the programme. In the final year an 11 week Honours project is undertaken which can either be a library-based group project or a laboratory-based projects.

Quantitative and statistical skills are taught at all levels and all courses include evaluation and problem solving components related to biomedical techniques. Many of the communication and analytical skills learnt from such technical work are integral to the graduate attributes listed in the sections on intellectual autonomy, communication and personal effectiveness. Work in laboratories is usually in pairs or larger groups requiring cooperation and joint input. Work in Honours projects involves both individual responsibilities and responsibilities related to working as part of a larger group. Over the degree programme, as part of the core components of study, students gain the following skills/experience:

  • design and rationale of scientific experiments
  • use of bioinformatic and other software tools
  • use of graphics and data analysis software
  • competence in generic laboratory skills (pipetting/weighing/solution preparation, handling of biological materials, safety procedures )
  • measurement of biological parameters e.g. DNA, proteins, enzyme activity
  • preparation of laboratory reports

Out with these common skills, specific skill sets of individual students will depend on the elective courses undertaken and the nature of the specific Honours project and can vary widely. However all Biomedical Sciences students should receive training such that their technical skills are exportable and useful in comparable laboratories.

Programme structure and features

The programme fits within the general structure of the University’s Curriculum Framework.

Courses and Progression

Students take courses totalling 120 credit points in each year of the programme. The programme is full-time for 4 years, except where direct entry into 2nd year has been permitted.

The Degree Programme Table can be found at:


Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning strategies employed at the University of Edinburgh consist of a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims. The graduate attributes listed above are met through a teaching and learning framework (detailed below) which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Teaching and Learning Activities

In Year 1: Lectures Practical Classes Tutorials Facilitated Group Discussion Group Projects Problem based learning Presentations One to one and group meetings with Personal Tutor

In Year 2: Lectures Practical Classes Tutorials Seminars Problem based learning One to one and group meetings with Personal Tutor

In Year 3 Lectures Practical Classes Workshops Tutorials Seminars Presentations Problem based learning One to one and group meetings with Personal Tutor

In Year 4 Lectures Seminars Tutorials Presentations Problem based learning activities Original Research Project under the supervision of a staff member and working in groups. Also available are projects that encompasses (1) laboratory-based experimental work OR (2) analysis and interpretation of new or previously generated/collected data OR (3) library based investigative research addressing a specific question/topic. The projects also involve reviewing relevant published scientific papers, writing a review essay on subject matter relating to the research topic, analysing data, writing a report and presenting findings. One to one and group meetings with Personal Tutor

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 127730
Year 227730
Year 321790
Year 417830

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses are assessed by a diverse range of summative methods. These are widely supported by formative work which provides the student with on-going feedback.

Detailed information on assessment methods and strategies can be found via the Degree Programme Table at: http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk/17-18_Archive_at_14-09-2017/dpt/utbscbiosc2f.htm

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 1431245
Year 2581428
Year 362038
Year 427073

Career opportunities

Graduates of this programme may embark on research careers, either in an academic or a commercial environment. The combination of practical, hands-on study of human anatomy with detailed study of developmental mechanisms offered by this programme will provide graduates with a set of skills and knowledge attractive to a wide range of employers. Graduates with a combination of anatomical knowledge and scientific research skills are scarce and should therefore have a strong advantage in finding employment. The emphasis placed on developing transferrable skills, including problem solving and communication skills, will also help students beyond graduation.

Other items

Each student is assigned a Personal Tutor who provides both academic and pastoral guidance. Throughout a student’s time at the university the Personal Tutor guides the student in choice of courses and provides general pastoral support.

The programme is administered and run through the Biomedical Teaching Organisation.

Detailed course guides are provided for new students and for continuing students. These guides provide details of courses and also advise students on assessment and general university policy and regulations.