Biology BSc (Honours) 2023 entry

Biology involves the study of life at all levels of organisation, from the molecular biology of virus replication to the study of animals and plants in their natural habitats. Biology also touches on many aspects of contemporary life, from drug design and investigating the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease, to the migration and conservation of marine mammals. 

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the Biology Integrated Masters course, which allows you to graduate with a Master in Biology.  

UCAS code
C100
Start date
September 2023
End date
September 2027
Duration
Four years full time
School
School of Biology
“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

Entry requirements

The University offers different entry requirements, depending on your background. 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.

For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject-specific entry requirements as outlined on their pages.

  • Standard entry grades:
    AAAB, including Biology (or Human Biology) and one other science from the following: Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    AABB, including Biology (or Human Biology) and one other science from the following: Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics.
    Gateway entry grades:
    Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades, but meet the University's contextual criteria, may be interested in one of the University’s Gateway programmes.
  • Standard entry grades:
    AAB, including Biology and one other science from the following: Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    ABB, including Biology and one other science from the following: Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics.
  • Standard entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,6,5), including HL6 in Biology and HL6 in one of the following subjects: Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL6 in Biology and HL5 in one of the following subjects: Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics.

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:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing science
    • Geography
    • Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.
  • GCSE (5) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing Science
    • Geography
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.

Other qualifications

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes. Please see our entry requirements for more information.

More information on how to apply via other entry routes or accreditation of prior learning and experience can be found on the University’s entry requirements web page.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

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.

Alternative study options

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the following:

Direct entry to second year

Well-qualified school leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course.

Integrated Masters

It is possible to take Biology as a five-year Integrated Masters course, allowing you to graduate with a Master of Science.

Gateway programmes

Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades but meet the University's contextual criteria may be interested in the Gateway to Science programme.

Study abroad

Biology students can apply to participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to apply to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad site

International applicants

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. Find out more about approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The BSc in Biology is a four-year course run by the School of Biology. Biology at St Andrews provides students with high-tech equipment, laboratories and expertise to facilitate learning and to develop the skillset of a modern biologist.

In the first two years of your degree you will be introduced to core material relevant to all biology degree programmes such as animal and plant biology, molecular biology, cell biology and genetics.

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. 

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.  
  • The Biomedical Sciences Research Complex offers large multi-group laboratories which are focused on structural biology, molecular microbiology, virology, chemical biology and molecular medicine. 

Field trips 

From first year to Honours, students studying biology 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. 

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.

Modules

In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours) you will take the required modules in biology alongside modules in at least one other subject.

Typically, you will take core biology modules during your first two years and advanced modules during your third and fourth year (known as Honours).

In first year, modules introduce you to core subject material relevant to all degree programmes in areas such as animal and plant biology, molecular biology, cell biology and genetics. 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. 

Compulsory

  • 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. 

You also take three of the modules listed below. 

  • Applied Molecular Biology: examines case studies to provide examples of how molecular biology techniques are applied in research to address real-life questions and problems. 
  • Biochemistry: a number of central metabolic pathways and their control are studied in detail, alongside examples of their importance in disease and recent metabolomic studies. 
  • Cell Biology: introduces the concept of ‘a cell’, moving on to discuss different types of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell. 
  • Cell Systems: explores how cells interact with one another to form complex tissues and organisms. 
  • Ecology: introduces essential concepts in population and community ecology and how they relate to biodiversity. 
  • Evolutionary Biology: gives an overview of the history and major principles of modern evolutionary biology.
  • Animal Behaviour:  covers the four ways in which we explain behaviour in a range of animals, including examples from all major taxa and from all habitats. 
  • Invertebrate Zoology: surveys the major invertebrate groups, emphasising the diversity of body plans while demonstrating how the common functional requirements such as feeding, reproduction, respiration and excretion are achieved. 
  • Molecular Biology: provides an introduction to modern molecular biology, covering fundamental biological processes such as transcription, translation, and DNA replication and repair. 
  • The Oceans: introduces basic concepts in biological and physical oceanography, and provides an understanding of how physical processes such as circulation patterns, waves and tides affect plants and animals living in the different ocean biomes. 
  • 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 biology via a wide range of modules covering core topics. Modules that have been offered in previous years include: 

  • Advanced Biochemistry 
  • Animal Behaviour: A Quantitative Approach 
  • Evolution 
  • Genes, Cells and Development 
  • Protein Structure and Function 
  • Terrestrial Zoology. 

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 occupies half of the year and is selected and supervised by a member of academic staff.  

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.

Teaching

The BSc in Biology is taught through a combination of:

  • lectures 
  • seminars 
  • tutorials 
  • practical classes 
  • field work 
  • research projects.

Typical class sizes include:

  • First year: lectures 250 to 300 students, practicals 80 to 100 students 
  • Second year: lectures 80 to 175 students, practicals 40 to 60 students 
  • Third year: lectures 20 to 140 students, practicals 20 to 60 students 
  • Fourth year: 5 to 25 students per module.

The practical elements of the course taught in the laboratory and in the field enable you to learn the wide range of skills required of a modern biologist. 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 the library or in PC classrooms 
  • preparing coursework assignments and presentations 
  • preparing for examinations. 

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 still include written examinations in addition to coursework.

Group activities may also be assessed, and in this case marking methods will be communicated to you in advance.

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.

You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge of biology. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of laboratory classes and seminars under the supervision of the module leader.

You can find contact information for all biology staff on the School of Biology’s website

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.

Fees

Scotland
Tuition fees have yet to be set.

England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland
£9250

Channel Islands, Isle of Man
£9250

EU and overseas
£28190

More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page.

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.

Joint Honours degrees

You can also take Biology as part of a joint Honours degree in which you will take core modules of your chosen subjects.

Course name UCAS code
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and ChemistryC761
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and Computer ScienceF899
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and Earth SciencesCFC6
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and EconomicsCL11
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and GeographyCF18
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and MathematicsCG11
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and PhilosophyCV16
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and Psychology (BPS Recognition Route)CC18
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and StatisticsCG13
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and Sustainable DevelopmentF896

The joint option with Psychology can also be taken as a degree programme with British Psychological Society accreditation.

"With" degrees

You can take Biology as part of a "with" Honours degree in which the majority of the course deals with the first name subject. St Andrews offers the following "with" degrees in Biology:

  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology with Arabic - UCAS code CT16
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology with French - UCAS code CCR1
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) Psychology with Biology - UCAS code C8C1

"With" degrees taken with French are also available 'With Integrated Year Abroad'.

Careers

Biology graduates are in high demand and are keenly sought after by institutions including the government, universities, research centres and major companies. 
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 
  • journalists 
  • advisers, researchers and managers in the National
  • Health Service 
  • teachers 
  • forensic scientists 
  • management consultants 
  • 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.

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Undergraduate visiting days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online or in-person visiting days.

Contact us

Phone
+44 (0)1334 46 3401
Email
biology@st-andrews.ac.uk
Address
School of Biology
Biomedical Sciences Research Complex
North Haugh
St Andrews
KY16 9ST

School of Biology website

Discover Uni

Discover Uni provides official statistics about higher education courses taken from national surveys and data collected from universities and colleges about all their students. You can use this data to compare information for different degree programmes to help you make a decision about what and where to study.