Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

B.Sc. (Hons) Biological Sciences (Honours specialisation) with Management

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 (Honours specialisation) with Management
UCAS code: C1N1
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s):
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr M.P. Gallagher
Date of production/revision: May 2012

External summary

The degree programme in Biological Sciences 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, field studies and library.  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 Biological Sciences.

Graduates who intend to develop careers outside Biological Sciences will have a broad range of transferable skills.  Graduates will have experience of a range of computer software packages, some specialised and others of general use in written and graphical presentations.  This programme allows students to study some management-related courses during a biological sciences degree.

The various specialist areas within the Biological Sciences degree programme can be investigated through a selection of required and elective courses.  These allow the student to develop generic transferable skills which are acquired while they follow a programme path of increasing specialisation.  Alongside a depth of knowledge in Biological Sciences, graduates will have developed an understanding of management along with a breadth of skills and experience, including interpersonal skills, critical judgement and computer literacy.

In Edinburgh it is possible to enter the Biological Sciences degree programme and to have a taste of many different areas of Biological Sciences.  The university has a large School of Biological Sciences, as well as a School of Biomedical Sciences, allowing the choice of courses ranging from ecology to biomedical sciences to biochemistry thereby permitting students to make their own path through the degree programme.  This enables students to experience a wide range of subject areas before choosing to specialise.  The broad subject areas covered by the schools also permit students to experience research projects which can be chosen from a wide range of topics.

Educational aims of programme

The degree programme aims to produce a graduate trained in biological sciences, capable of independent thinking and analysis and able to communicate clearly both with fellow scientists and with the wider community.  Graduates should demonstrate the standards and values of Edinburgh University.

The programme aims to develop:

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

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. Biology is a broad ranging set of overlapping disciplines so that the education provided is aimed at enabling each student on graduation to progress their career with a wide choice of possible directions. Teaching provides both generic and specialist training. Students are taught experimental methods used to investigate areas of biology; 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 subdiscipline.  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:

  • environmental issues
  • health care
  • science technology and biotechnology
  • climate change and its consequences
  • biodiversity
  • sustainability
  • evolutionary relationships including functional and behavioural adaptations
  • 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 as well as Biological Sciences and Management subjects.  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 later years build progressively on these foundations and develop further understanding of experimental research methods.  The wide range of courses offered in later years allows a student 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.

Within each specialised area of Biological Sciences, 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:

  • develop critical thinking, including the critical analysis of current literature
  • discuss and evaluate scientific arguments
  • exchange ideas with scientific colleagues, including carrying out scientific research within a team (research project)
  • analyse and solve biological questions
  • analyse and summarise data, drawing on numerical and statistical analysis skills as appropriate
  • build on existing knowledge to suggest new directions for investigation
  • an appreciation of the experimental approaches, methods and limitations in their field
  • 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 intellectual training provided in the Biological Sciences degree programme.  Students develop an increasing competence to deal with intellectual concepts and scientific discussion, and to evaluate contradictory arguments through both essay writing and laboratory research.

Students acquire the ability to:

  • organise complex arguments and draw these together into a coherent conclusion
  • understand the relative value of different scientific approaches
  • summarise and interpret the work of others in the context of previous work and likely developments
  • evaluate the strength and weaknesses of scientific evidence, thereby being able to arrive at independent conclusions
  • analyse graphs, figures and tables
  • practise and record accurate observation
  • acquire knowledge of opportunities and career pathways for professional development
  • 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
  • apply logical thinking in the analysis of new material  (synoptic analysis)
  • learn analytical methods and to apply them to problem solving
  • consider and understand scientific theories
  • formulate, investigate and discuss questions
  • engage and draw on an understanding of scientific investigations
  • 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

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, poster and paper presentations), drawing on computer, graphical and numerical skills where appropriate
  • using communication to work effectively in groups, while respecting the views of others
  • utilising computer and graphical skills to share biological knowledge and methods of scientific enquiry (e.g. websites, interstudent problem solving, presentations)
  • creating essays, reports, laboratory reports, 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 Personal Tutor.  Development is designed to enable students to grow in confidence and ability throughout the successive SQCF levels.  These processes include:

  • working in groups on projects, group talks or laboratory work
  • collaborating efficiently and productively with others in the process of learning and presentation
  • developing career plans through individual and class sessions with careers staff and with biology staff
  • building confidence from completion of assignments and from successful work experiences in laboratory, projects, presentations, and essays.
  • organising individual learning, managing the workload and working to a timetable
  • learning to plan effectively, including individual study
  • utilising advice gained from discussions with Personal Tutor, Course Organisers and Honours Programme organisers
  • presenting scholarly work that demonstrates an understanding of the aims, methods and considerations in this subject area 
  • working independently on the creation of essays and reports.

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 6-8 week Honours project. In addition many students will 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 working as part of a larger group. Over the degree programme students gain the following skills/experience:

  • use of bioinformatic 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
  • cell culture
  • measurement of biological parameters e.g. DNA, proteins, enzyme activity
  • library skills (learning to read and analyse research and review papers, understanding the main concepts and identifying unresolved questions)
  • the ability to be aware of, to select and effectively use appropriate business data, information sources and research methodologies to carry out research into business and management issues for projects, dissertations and presentations
Specific skill sets will depend on the areas studied and the specific Honours project and can vary widely. For example molecular work might involve DNA isolation, DNA amplification, cloning, sequencing and gel electrophoresis whereas animal studies would involve field collection of data, testing of models and statistical analysis. However 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)
  • Business Studies 1 (40 points)

Students are required to take a further 40 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 totalling 60 credit points from a selection of Biological and Biomedical Sciences level 8 courses and 40 points from courses from the Business School as listed in the degree programme table.

3rd Year (Junior Honours)

Students must take at least four courses totalling 80 credit points from a selection of Biological and Biomedical Sciences level 9 courses and 20 points from courses from the Business School or School of Economics 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.  20 points must be from courses from the Business School or School of Economics.

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 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 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 129710
Year 223770
Year 331690
Year 442580

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 1511138
Year 2601129
Year 3531532
Year 4253243

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.