Marine Biology BSc (Honours) 2024 entry

The information on this page is for 2024 entry. If you are considering applying for 2025 entry or later, some of these details may differ and we advise you to check the page again before you apply. To receive a notification of when applications open for 2025 entry, please register your interest.

Dive into the marine world and study the many exciting  marine ecosystems a from the deep sea to coasts and estuaries and from the tropics to the poles. Through the course of your BSc in Marine Biology you will gain a thorough understanding of the diversity and biology of marine life from tiny cells and algae to invertebrates, fish, and marine mammals. You will experience research-led teaching from leaders in their fields  and cover a broad range of topics including marine molecular ecology and microbiology, and the ecology, evolution,  biology and behaviour of marine life.  

You will be introduced to, and gain practice in, cutting-edge methods used to gather and analyse data from marine environments and the organisms inhabiting them.  

St Andrews’ location on the shores of the North Sea makes it the ideal place to study marine wildlife in its natural habitat. Teaching takes advantage of this and you will have the opportunity to learn not only in the lab but also out in the field. The School of Biology has the world-renowned Scottish Oceans Institute, which incorporates the world-class Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) Students will have the opportunity to interact with scientists working at the SOI and SMRU through small group teaching, practicals, research projects and community building events at the SOI. 

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

UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2028
Four years full time
School of Biology
“I chose to study at St Andrews due to the leading research that takes place in the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) located here. I am interested in studying marine mammals and both the coastal location of St Andrews (dolphins have been seen passing through here!) and the facilities and opportunities that the SOI has to offer was a huge incentive for me to apply here.  The lectures are taught by researchers who are at the forefront of areas of marine biology that I am particularly interested in. The field trips are also a great opportunity to meet people who study the same subject as you and are a lot of fun!”
Headshot of a girl on St Andrews Beach
- Oxford, England

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.

  • 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 Marine 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 Marine Biology 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 marine 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 marine biology specifically. In your second year, you will take ‘The Oceans’, an introduction to marine biology that will introduce you to the marine environment and the organisms that live there. 

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. You will take modules such as ‘The Biology of Marine Organisms’ and ‘Methods in Aquatic Biology’ to delve more deeply into marine biology. In fourth year, students have a range of highly specialised, small group modules to choose from and will conduct a student-led, enquiry based honours project in close collaboration with a researcher in the SOI.  

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. Many members of the CBD also run active field studies as part of their research, allowing access to field-based projects as well as laboratory studies.
  • The Biomedical Sciences Research Complex offers large multi-group laboratories that are focused on structural biology, molecular microbiology, virology, chemical biology and molecular medicine. 

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.


Typically, you will take core 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 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, evolution, cellular structures and fundamental processes. 
  • Biology 2: provides an introduction to the diversity of life on Earth and addresses key elements of organismal, behavioural and ecological aspects of life.

In second year, modules are chosen which will best prepare you for Marine Biology, and new topics are introduced in some second-year modules such as evolutionary biology and ecology. Students on the Marine Biology course must take the following modules:  

  • Ecology: introduces essential concepts in population and community ecology and how they relate to biodiversity. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 

Students must also take one of the following modules: 

  • 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. 
  • 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 Marine Biology via a wide range of modules covering core topics. Third year marine biology students take the following modules:

  • Biology of Marine Organisms 
  • Ecosystems and Conservation 
  • Evolution
  • Genes, Cells and Development 
  • Methods in Aquatic Biology
  • Statistical and Quantitative Skills for Biologists
  • and a choice of Genes, Cells and Development or Animal Behaviour: A Quantitative Approach. 

At the beginning of third year, you will also participate in a residential field course during which you will design and carry out a field data collection project.

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. 

Fourth year modules include modules such as: 

  • Tropical Marine Biology 
  • Fisheries Research 
  • Foraging in Marine Mammals 
  • Biological Oceanography 
  • And many others... 

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 supervised by a member of academic staff. This project 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 Marine Biology is taught through a combination of:  

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

Alongside the development of practical biological skills, students are also given the opportunity to expand on their presentation, writing 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 research 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.   

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. 

When not attending lectures, tutorials and labs, 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. 

Field trips 

From first year to Honours, students studying Marine 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 North Sea. In Honours years, students can explore further afield, where recent courses have visited places such as Indonesia, Egypt and Antarctica. 

During first year, Biology modules are entirely assessed by coursework. During second and third year, all modules are assessed by an equal weighting of coursework and written examinations. 

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 of Biology aims to provide feedback on every assessment 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. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.

You will be taught by leading researchers in the field with an emphasis on research-led teaching. 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 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.



England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Channel Islands, Isle of Man

EU and overseas

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

Additional costs

There are no additional fees for any of the compulsory modules. However, all students need to cover the costs of a laboratory coat and dissection kit and may be asked to contribute towards the costs of participation in optional residential field-trip modules.

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.


Graduates from the School of Biology have a wide range of skills sought by employers: 

  • laboratory and field data collection 
  • data handling and presentation 
  • problem-solving 
  • teamwork 
  • planning 
  • organisation and communication skills. 

Biology graduates have secured employment as: 

  • clinical scientists 
  • consultant ecologists 
  • marine mammal scientists 
  • museum curators 
  • outreach coordinators
  • scientific writers
  • school teachers. 

Beyond biology, recent graduates have gained employment in a wide variety of business sectors such as marketing and finance. Others have gone on to study for a wide range of Masters and PhD programmes in the UK and overseas. 

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

+44 (0)1334 46 3401
School of Biology
Biomedical Sciences Research Complex
North Haugh
St Andrews
KY16 9ST

School of Biology website

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