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.
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Biology page. 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:
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.
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 entrance requirements as outlined on their pages.
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.
Faculty entry requirements
You must also meet the Faculty of Science minimum qualifications. These vary depending on which qualifications you hold.
SQA National 5 (B) or equivalent in English and two SQA Highers from the following:
Computing Science or equivalent
GCSE (B or 5) in English, English Language or English Literature, and one GCE A-Level from the following:
Computing Science or equivalent
Passes in other examinations at equivalent levels and subjects may be accepted by the Dean of the Faculty. 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.
The University publishes its expected timetables before the advising process, and aims to provide each student with a personalised timetable once module choices have been made and confirmed during matriculation.
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.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2019 as 95% 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 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.
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 webpage.
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 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.
Research Methods in Biology (compulsory): 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.
Cell Biology: introduces the concept of ‘a cell’, moving on to discuss different types of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell.
Evolutionary Biology: gives an overview of the history and major principles of modern evolutionary biology.
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.
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 Systems: explores how cells interact with one another to form complex tissues and organisms.
Comparative Physiology: covers the principles of physiological adaptation in a range of animals, including examples from all major taxa and from all habitats.
Ecology: introduces basic concepts in population and community ecology and how they relate to biodiversity.
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:
Animal Behaviour: A Quantitative Approach
Protein Structure and Function
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 available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
The BSc in Biology is taught through a combination of:
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 other timetabled sessions 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 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.
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 webpage.
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 in 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 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 visit the common reporting scale webpage.
Visit St Andrews
If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at a visiting day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.
Students need to cover costs for lab and course materials of up to £25 each year. There are also additional charges of up to £100 in third year for either a field trip, a reading party excursion or a biochemistry lab class. Substantial additional expedition costs apply to some fourth-year modules, including demand-driven modules such as Polar Ecology and Scientific Diving.
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
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 our 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.
Biology 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. One other area available for biology students is the Bell Pettigrew Museum in the Bute building, a spectacular zoology museum which includes the arrangement of species to show evolutionary 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 and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh make it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland.
“Studying at St Andrews has given me much more than just education. It has instantly given me the feeling of home and it never ceases to amaze me how much the University cares about the wellbeing of the students. Thanks to the flexibility of the schedules, I was able to engage in other sciences besides Biology in the first year, and explore different aspects of the subject in the second year."
Katarina (Bratislava, Slovakia)
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).