Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

B.Sc. (Hons) Biological Sciences (Immunology)

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: School of Biological Sciences
Programme accredited by: N/A
Final award: BSc (Hons)
Programme title: Biological Sciences (Immunology)
UCAS code: C550
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s):
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr M.P. Gallagher
Date of production/revision: April 2012

External summary

Immunology is a degree programme run within the School of Biological sciences, a large School with 6 internationally renowned research Institutes, including the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, where the programme is taught.

Immunology is an interdisciplinary subject concerned with the understanding of the cellular and molecular aspects of immune interactions, and the ability to apply this knowledge to medical, veterinary and biotechnological problems. The Immunology programme in 4th year the basic principles and knowledge underpinning immunology are revisited, but at a more advanced level than in 3rd year. In 4th year the programme also covers a wide range of elective subjects, including the immunology of major infectious diseases such as malaria and helminth infections, stem cell therapy, and study of the haematopoietic system. Inflammation, allergy and autoimmune diseases are also studied. Students in years 1-3 have a wide variety of course choices, as the Biological Sciences degree programme provides a set of overlapping courses leading to different final Honours schools (see Courses and Progression). 

The degree programme in Immunology is designed to produce graduates who will be able to pursue successful careers in a range of professional areas, both within and outside Biology.  Graduates will be capable of original investigation in the laboratory. They will have confidence and competence in data analysis.  They will have developed an awareness of unresolved issues and unanswered questions in specialised subject areas within Immunology.

Educational aims of programme

The degree programme aims to produce a graduate trained in Immunology, capable of independent thinking and analysis and able to communicate clearly both with fellow scientists and with the wider community. 

The programme aims to develop:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Research skills in both the laboratory and library
  • Awareness of emerging issues and unsolved questions in a specialist area in Immunology
  • Graduate attributes including a wide range of generic transferable skills
  • An awareness of the contribution of Edinburgh to the development of the biological sciences.

The programme aims to provide a set of learning skills, sound scientific knowledge and an understanding of underlying principles that enables each student to develop both as a scientist and as an individual. Immunology is a broad ranging discipline and each student can choose courses to suit their academic interests and career aspirations with a wide choice of possible directions. Teaching provides both generic and specialist training. Students are taught experimental methods used to investigate areas of immunology; how to perform and document experiments in a laboratory; how to draw quantitative conclusions from experimental data and how to present results and theoretical knowledge.  Specific courses develop particular skills within a sub discipline.  All students will develop the level of understanding that will allow engagement in debates on current topics in a broader context that may extend to:

  • health care
  • science technology and biotechnology
  • medicine
  • veterinary medicine
  • management of biological data

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

The foundations are laid in courses in the pre-honours years, when students are introduced to basic concepts in Biological Sciences.  These foundations are based on an understanding of chemistry, mathematics and physics, which are taught in a biological context in courses in the first year. Courses in second year develop understanding and background in relevant subjects; these are usually microbiology, genetics, immunology and biochemistry. Work in laboratories develops understanding of experimental research methods. Third year students take 6 courses, of which Immunology 3, Clinical Immunology and Haematology 3B, and Medical Microbiology 3 are most frequently taken. Immunology 3 covers topics such as innate immunity, molecular immunology, cellular immune interactions and the regulation and initiation of immune responses. Immunology practicals and tutorials build on these foundations and develop further understanding in preparation for 4th year.  The wide range of courses offered in later years allows students to specialise in particular subject areas.  The Biological Sciences programme provides students with a wide range of specialist options ranging from the molecular, cellular and biomedical to the whole-organism and ecological.

In 4th year students study core courses in Molecular Immunology, Immunobiology and Experimental Immunology, and take Immunology-specific electives. This develops students’ understanding of the immune system and the use of immunology in medicine, biotechnology and healthcare. Electives in specialised areas allow students to study topics in depth and to interact with staff researching at the forefront of their fields. Literature research, paper analysis, problem solving, tutorials, group and individual presentations also enhance understanding.

Within Immunology, students learn to:

  • carry out scientific research within a team (research project)
  • critically analyse current research literature,
  • appreciate the experimental approaches, methods and limitations in their field
  • analyse and solve biological questions

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

Through a combination of laboratory practicals, research projects and group work, students learn current skills and approaches in biological research. An understanding of scientific method, allied to the ability to construct alternative arguments and hypotheses leads our students to develop an ability to explore and evaluate evidence for and against particular points of view.  Our students will have developed numerical competence.  They will learn to report research data and conclusions through written reports and competent oral presentations, drawing on the outcomes of their skills in research and enquiry.

Through participation in a combination of different teaching and laboratory experiences, graduates acquire the ability to:

  • carry out individual scientific research within a team (4th year research project)
  • develop critical thinking, including the critical analysis of current literature (synoptic exam, tutorials and 4th year literature presentations)
  • discuss and evaluate scientific arguments (group discussions and dissertation)
  • exchange ideas with scientific colleagues (group discussions and research project)
  • analyse and solve biological questions (experimental immunology)
  • analyse and summarise data, drawing on numerical and statistical analysis skills as appropriate
  • build on existing knowledge to suggest new directions for investigation
  • appreciate experimental approaches, methods and limitations in their field (research project)
  • formulate scientific questions and programmes of research, drawing on expertise in the design and rationale of scientific experiments.

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

The development of critical thinking lies at the core of the Immunology degree programme.  Students develop an increasing competence to deal with intellectual concepts and scientific discussion, and to evaluate contradictory arguments through essay writing, analysing research papers and through laboratory research.  The capacity for independent thinking is most important in the final research project when it is essential for effective experimental design, execution, analysis and communication of results.

Studets acquire the ability to:

  • summarise and interpret the work of others in the context of previous work and likely developments
  • evaluate the strength and weaknesses of scientific evidence, and arrive at independent conclusions
  • understand the relative value of different scientific approaches
  • analyse graphs, figures and tables
  • apply logical thinking in the analysis of new material (synoptic analysis)
  • consider and understand scientific theories
  • formulate, investigate and discuss questions
  • engage in and draw on an understanding of scientific investigations
  • learn and work independently, analysing their own strengths and weaknesses, drawing on written and oral feedback
  • learn analytical methods and to apply them to problem solving
  • formulate, investigate and discuss questions
  • build on existing knowledge to suggest new directions for investigation
  • understand the relevance and importance of explaining scientific ideas and the impact of science to the wider community
  • organise complex arguments and draw these together into a coherent conclusion

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

The development of communication skills occurs throughout the degree programme and is staged so that the students’ development is matched to the SQCF level.  Communication skills are important in several different contexts: to communicate scientific knowledge and discoveries to other scientists, to inform and communicate science to the wider community and to demonstrate graduate attributes to employers.  Skills comprise:

  • oral and written communication that is logical and coherent (project and paper presentations)
  • using communication to work effectively in groups
  • using computer and graphical skills to share biological knowledge and methods of scientific enquiry (e.g. websites/wikis, group problem solving, presentations)
  • creating essays, abstracts, presentations, and problem solving exercises either independently or working in groups
communicating concepts and ideas with the wider public, demonstrating an understanding of the relevance and importance of explaining scientific ideas and the impact of science to the wider community

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

Student personal development is achieved through a number of interconnected learning processes and interaction with other students, staff and their individual Director of Studies.  Development is designed to enable students to grow in confidence and ability throughout the successive SQCF levels. 

Independent activities include:

  • organising individual learning, managing the workload and working to a timetable
  • learning to plan effectively, including individual study
  • working independently on the creation of essays and dissertations.

Collaborative activities include:

  • working in groups on talks, discussions, presentations or laboratory work
  • building confidence from completion of assignments and from successful work experiences in laboratory, projects, presentations, and group discussions.
  • utilising advice gained from discussions with Director of Studies, Course Organisers and Honours Programme organisers
presenting scholarly work that demonstrates an understanding of the aims, methods and considerations in this subject area

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Technical /practical skills are acquired in the first three years mainly through laboratory practicals within individual courses and in the final year through a 10 week Honours project.  Many students will also take courses such as Practical Skills in the Biomedical Sciences that provide an understanding of the scientific approach to investigation, how scientific questions can be tackled, the planning and the analysis of experiments.  Quantitative and statistical skills are taught at all levels and all courses include evaluation and problem solving components related to biological 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 individual working, but as part of a larger research group.  Over the degree programme students gain the following skills/experience:

  • use of flow cytometry and other software tools
  • use of graphics and data analysis software
  • competence in generic laboratory skills (pipetting, use of specialist equipment, solution preparation, handling of biological materials, safety procedures)
  • appreciate the specificity, the accuracy and the limitations of particular techniques
  • tissue culture, flow cytometry, ELISA and/or other immunological assays
  • measurement of biological parameters e.g. antibodies, cell surface marker expression, RNA, DNA
  • library skills (learning to read and analyse research and review papers, understanding the main concepts and identifying unresolved questions)
In the Immunology degree programme technical skills are concentrated in the areas of cellular and molecular immunology, but will depend on the cohort of courses taken by each individual student.  At level 10 students learn specific practical skills related to their choice of Honours project.  For example an Immunology project might involve ELISA, Western blotting, flow cytometry, DNA cloning, and gel electrophoresis. Some projects will comprise animal studies involving collection of blood/tissue samples, infection/immunisation and phenotyping.  All projects involve testing of hypotheses and statistical analysis. All biology students should receive training such that their technical skills are exportable and useful in comparable laboratories.

Programme structure and features

This programmes 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 regulations and programme of study, along with the degree programme table can be found at:

http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk/index.php

1st Year

Compulsory courses (Level 8):

  • Origin and Diversity of Life 1 (20 points)
  • Molecules, Genes and Cells 1 (20 points)

Students are required to take a further 80 points of courses.  Those offered by the Schools of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences and two service courses offered by the School of Chemistry are recommended.

2nd Year

Students must take at least three courses (including some required courses) totalling 60 credit points from a selection of Biological and Biomedical Sciences level 8 courses as listed in the degree programme table.

3rd Year (Junior Honours)

Students must take at least four courses (including some required courses) totalling 80 credit points from a selection of Biological and Biomedical Sciences level 9 courses as listed in the degree programme table.

4th Year (Senior Honours)

The courses taken depend on the senior honours specialisation chosen by the student.  In all programmes there are at least 80 credit points of compulsory courses including a Research Project course (40 points) and core courses each worth 10 or 20 credit points.  Elective courses, each worth 10 credit points are also available.

Exit Qualifications

The criteria for exit awards of Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education, Undergraduate Diploma of Higher Education and BSc Ordinary in a Designated Discipline are listed at https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/SBSUndergraduateIntranet/Exit+qualifications

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
  • Workshops
  • Laboratories
  • Field Work
  • Tutorials
  • Discussion Groups/Project Groups
  • Problem based learning activities. Example: as part of the Origin and Diversity of Life 1 course, students learn how to record and present practical procedures and outcomes, and how to analyse results.
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors

In Year 2:

  • Lectures
  • Laboratories
  • Workshops
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Problem based learning activities. Example: as part of The Dynamic Cell 2 course students attend problem based tutorial sessions.
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors

In Year 3

  • Lectures
  • Laboratories
  • Workshops
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Presentations
  • Problem based learning activities. Example: as part of the Molecular Cell Biology 3 course students review academic papers, write abstracts and give a presentation.
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors

In Year 4

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Presentations
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Project work in a research laboratory; students carry out their own research at the frontier of knowledge and can make a genuine contribution to the progress of original research.  This also involves reviewing relevant papers, analysing data, writing a report and giving a presentation.

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 131690
Year 225750
Year 327730
Year 445550

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses are be assessed by a diverse range of methods and often takes the form of formative work which provides the student with on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for credit.

In Year 1

  • Laboratory Reports; formative feedback is provided early in the first semester followed by summative feedback contributing to course results.
  • Essays; students are provided with written feedback
  • Assessed Problems; students are provided with written feedback
  • On-line Tests; on-line feedback with explanations
  • Written Degree Examinations; students are invited to feedback sessions with course organisers to view their examination scripts.
  • Example: as part of the Origins and Diversity of Life 1 course students are provided with on-line feedback for their essay, including video feedback.

In Year 2

  • Laboratory Reports
  • Essays; students are provided with written feedback
  • Class Tests
  • Multiple Choice Tests
  • Assessed Problems; students are provided with written feedback
  • Written Degree Examinations; students are invited to feedback sessions with course organisers to view their examination scripts.

In Year 3

  • Laboratory Reports
  • Essays; students are provided with written feedback
  • Class Tests
  • Assessed Problems
  • Oral Presentations; feedback is provided by peers and staff
  • Written Degree Examinations; students are invited to feedback sessions with course organisers to view their examination scripts.

In Year 4

  • Project Reports and Presentations
  • Essays; students are provided with written feedback
  • Oral Presentations; feedback is provided by peers and staff
  • Written Degree Examinations; students are invited to feedback sessions with course organisers to view their examination scripts.

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 1581329
Year 2591427
Year 3561232
Year 4421345

Career opportunities

Graduates in Biological & Biomedical Sciences are highly valued.  The broad analytical and scientific skills you gain equip you for a variety of careers.  Previous graduates have been employed in the food, environmental and healthcare industries, or have moved into non-science sectors, including teaching, marketing, accountancy and policy research.  Some of our graduates also choose further study before entering successful academic or industry–based research careers.

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 support.

Courses are administered and run through Teaching Organisations.  These produce detailed course guides 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.