The BSc in Animal Behaviour involves study at an advanced, research-led level and covers behavioural ecology, the mechanisms of animal behaviour, the processes of evolution and speciation, adaptive physiology of animals and animal cognition.
Emphasis is given to current topics like cultural learning, animal communication and molecular ecology. Additional choices include marine biology, marine mammals, neuroscience, and biodiversity and conservation.
Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.
These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.
Standard entry grades: AAAB, including Biology (or Human Biology) and one other science from the following:
Minimum entry grades: AABB, including Biology (or Human Biology) and one other science from the following:
Gateway entry grades: BBBB
Standard entry grades: AAB, including Biology and one other science from the following:
Minimum entry grades: ABB, including Biology and one other science from the following:
Standard entry grades: 36 (HL 6,6,5), including HL6 in Biology and HL6 in one of the following subjects:
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL6 in Biology and HL5 in one of the following subjects:
We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes, please see our entry requirements for more information.
If English is not your first language you will need an overall IELTS score of 6.5, with a minimum score of 6.0 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English Language qualification.
Students must have studied Biology (or Human Biology) at SQA Higher, GCE A-Level or equivalent. Preference will be given to candidates offering strong science qualifications over and above the stated minimum requirements.
General entry requirements
All applicants must have attained the following qualifications, or equivalent, in addition to the specific entry requirements for individual programmes.
SQA National 5 (B) in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:
Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
GCSE (5) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5) from the following:
St Andrews students must meet with their Adviser of Studies at the beginning of Semester 1 in September to complete advising – a compulsory part of the matriculation process. After module choices have been decided, a timetable will be allocated indicating the dates and times of classes.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2020 as 92.7% of St Andrews final-year students gave the University top marks for the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
The University has secured a TEF Gold Award for the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience.
The School of Biology conducts world-class, innovative multidisciplinary research, and in the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014, Biology was ranked second in the UK based on the impact of its research.
Find out more about studying biology at St Andrews.
The BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour is a four-year course run by the School of Biology. Students are provided with high-tech equipment, laboratories and expertise to facilitate learning and to develop the skillset of a modern behavioural biologist.
In the first two years of your degree, you will take the core modules in biology along with modules intended to prepare you for advanced modules in Animal Behaviour specifically.
Alongside biology, in the first year of your studies, you will be required to study an additional two subjects. In the second year you will usually carry on at least one of these subjects, sometimes two. Find out more about how academic years are organised.
In third year, there is a shift from core, broad-themed modules to more specialised modules that allow students to prepare for their Honours degree. In fourth year students continue specific research in their chosen area through student-led, enquiry-based learning.
The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure web page.
Centres of research within the School of Biology offer students the experience of working alongside experts and the opportunity to develop their own research in Honours years.
These facilities include:
The Scottish Oceans Institute houses a modern aquarium and laboratories for molecular, developmental and physiological studies of marine systems. The institute is ideally placed on the seashore near grey and common seal colonies and bottlenose dolphin feeding areas.
The Centre for Biological Diversity has excellent facilities for behavioural, ecological and evolutionary research on small animals (including birds, insects and fish) and on plants.
In first year, modules introduce you to core subject material relevant to all biology degree programmes. Both of the following modules are compulsory.
Biology 1: provides an introduction to molecular and cellular biology. It covers cell diversity and the origins of life, cellular structures and fundamental processes.
Biology 2: provides an introduction to the diversity of life on Earth and addresses key elements of organismal and ecological aspects of life.
In second year, modules are chosen which will best prepare you for your intended degree (or group of possible degrees) and new topics are introduced in some second-year modules such as evolutionary biology and ecology. Students on the Animal Behaviour course must take the following modules:
Comparative Physiology: covers the principles of physiological adaptation in a range of animals, including examples from all major taxa and from all habitats.
Evolutionary Biology: gives an overview of the history and major principles of modern evolutionary biology.
Research Methods in Biology: develops essential academic and transferable skills, with major emphasis on problem solving. This is achieved through a combination of interactive lectures, independent data-handling workshops and group work on a mini research project.
Vertebrate Zoology: explores the diversity of vertebrate animals, beginning with the closest relatives of vertebrates and the evolutionary origins of the group.
In third year, you will continue to specialise in Animal Behaviour via a wide range of modules covering core topics. Modules that have been offered in previous years include:
Animal Behaviour: A Quantitative Approach
Ecosystems and Conservation
Genes, Cells and Development
In fourth year, you will study your chosen subject area at a deeper scientific level and will also have the opportunity to select from a wide range of small, group-specialised modules. These modules are taught by academics at the forefront of their discipline.
In this year, students also undertake a substantial final year research project. This research project is designed to develop skills in experimental design and problem-solving, the evaluation and interpretation of data, and communication skills. The project is selected and supervised by a member of academic staff and occupies half of the year.
The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules appropriate to the programme for the current academic year can be found in the programme requirements.
The BSc in Animal Behaviour is taught through a combination of:
Typical class sizes include:
First year: lectures 250 to 330, practicals 80 to 100 students
Second year: lectures 80 to 150, practicals 40 to 60 students
Third year: lectures 20 to 70, practicals 20 to 60 students
Fourth year: 5 to 25 students.
Students are provided with teaching microscopes and are taught in state-of-the-art teaching laboratories. Alongside the development of practical biological skills, students are also given the opportunity to expand on their presentation and IT skills.
Fourth-year teaching differs from the typical lecture, seminar and tutorial format which students will experience from years one to three. Fourth year allows you to focus on a major project which occupies half of the year. Working on this project will enable you to develop key research skills which are desired by both prospective employers and by graduate schools offering postgraduate degrees. The project can also lead to your first publication in a scientific journal.
When not attending lectures, tutorials and practical classes you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve:
working on individual and group projects
undertaking research in a laboratory
undertaking research in the library
preparing coursework assignments and presentations
preparing for examinations.
You will be taught by a research-led teaching team with expertise and knowledge of biology. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of tutorials under the supervision of the module leader.
In addition to your studies in the School of Biology, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.
The University’s Student Services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities web page.
From first year to Honours, students studying Animal Behaviour will also have the opportunity to go on field trips to gather data. Those who have a particular interest in ecology or marine biology will be perfectly located in St Andrews on the shores of the east coast. In Honours years, students can explore further afield where recent courses have visited places such as Indonesia and Antarctica.
During first and second year, all modules are assessed by an equal weighting of coursework and written examinations.
In third year, most modules give a higher weighting to examinations, and in fourth year some modules are entirely assessed by coursework, while others include written examinations in addition to coursework.
Most examinations are held at the end of the semester during a dedicated exam diet and revision time is provided beforehand.
The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework within three weeks to help you improve on future assessments.
Undergraduates at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honours and in the relevant programme requirements. Please note that some Schools offer qualified entry to Honours, and this will be clearly specified in the programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.
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There are no additional fees for any of the compulsory modules. However, students may be asked to contribute towards the costs of participation in optional field-trip modules.
Funding and scholarships
The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.
Graduates with a biology degree are in high demand and are keenly sought after by institutions including the government, universities, research centres and major companies. Normally around 40% of graduates succeed in their applications to progress to PhD or Masters programmes and a further 30% to 40% engage in graduate employment destinations.
Biology graduates have gone on to find success in a wide variety of careers including:
professional biologists in biological research, conservation, higher education, and the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries
researchers and advisers in government
advisers, researchers and managers in the National Health Service
marketing and advertising experts.
The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.
Biology students may participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad site.
From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.
Animal Behaviour students have lectures and practicals in purpose-built facilities on the North Haugh. Also at the North Haugh, students can study and access library resources at the JF Allen Science Library. The Bell Pettigrew Museum in the Bute building houses a spectacular zoology collection which includes the arrangement of species to show the evolutionary and taxonomic relationships between animals.
There’s also the opportunity to join the popular student-run Biology Society, which organises regular social meetups and biology-related events throughout the year.
The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings, parks and beaches, providing a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. Find out more about the town of St Andrews.
“A big motivation of mine for studying at St Andrews was the excellent research that is being carried out. As a biologist with the aim of going into research, it was important to me that the university had the facilities and people that would drive me in that direction. I love how personal the teaching style is here – students are welcome to chat to the lecturers and they are always happy to help.”
Rebekka (Vienna, Austria)
School of Biology University of St Andrews Biomedical Sciences Research Complex North Haugh St Andrews KY16 9ST
As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).