BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

The course

UCAS code
C120
Duration
4 years
Location
Edinburgh
Delivery type
Full-time

Heriot-Watt’s BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences explores key challenges of the modern world. You'll learn from renowned, research-active experts and gain a deep understanding of the fascinating world of living organisms.

Contact

Got questions about this programme?

Contact our enquiries team.

Overview

BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences explores the fundamentals of modern environmental, plant, animal, and cell biology. You’ll experience a multidisciplinary teaching and learning approach, integrating concepts from biology, chemistry, and mathematics to help you develop a holistic understanding of living systems.  

You’ll learn the principles in all the main areas of biological sciences, including:  

  • Ecology  
  • Zoology  
  • Plant Science  
  • Microbiology  
  • Biochemistry  
  • Molecular biology   

Biology has a significant impact on our daily lives. By studying biological sciences, you will gain an understanding of the complexities of biology, be able to apply your knowledge to other related disciplines, and address challenges such as:  

  • Climate change  
  • Biodiversity loss  
  • Emerging diseases  
  • Food science development 
  • Sustainable resource management  

You’ll develop your critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving skills. You’ll learn about scientific concepts, evaluate research findings, and present innovative solutions to complex biological problems using a range of media. You’ll work independently and collaboratively, and engage in group projects, scientific discussions, and research initiatives.  

Hands-on laboratory work and practical field research is prominent throughout the degree, and you’ll have access to our state-of-the-art labs where you can put theoretical knowledge into practice. This will help you gain valuable skills in interpreting and analysing scientific data. Fieldwork also provides an opportunity for you to engage with real-world ecosystems.   

As well as building your skills in biological sciences, you’ll develop sought after soft skills, such as problem-solving, communication, and practical presentation skills. You’ll also understand the vital role of a biologist across a range of professional fields including research and development, quality assurance, environmental monitoring, and public health.  

This industry-focused degree will ensure you have the understanding, knowledge, skills, and personal qualities required to undertake a wide range of careers within the scientific or other employment sectors. 

Our Expertise 

Your learning will be informed by the expertise of our research-active biologists and academics from the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences which sits within the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society (EGIS). 

EGIS is one of the United Kingdom’s leading institutions for multidisciplinary research and teaching in areas critical to economic development and societal equity. Our teams work closely and have links with industry, and experts are regularly invited as guest lecturers in most courses and advise on student research projects.  

The Institute of Life and Earth Sciences is well known for its strong research focus in various areas of biological sciences. Research activities encompass both fundamental and applied research, addressing critical issues in the field and making significant contributions to scientific knowledge. This degree is aligned with our research objectives to advance our understanding of the natural world, address global challenges, and contribute to scientific advancements that benefit society.  

Your learning environment  

BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences is taught though a combination of lectures, tutorials, laboratory practicals, and field work, allowing you to get to know and build relationships with your teaching staff, academics, and peers. You will be assessed by coursework and examinations and will receive support and feedback throughout the programme.  

During your studies, you’ll have access to our high-specification laboratories, the latest technologies and industry-standard equipment.   

Some examples of our facilities and equipment include:  

  • Biology teaching lab, including an audio-visual system to see demonstrations on plasma screens around the room.  
  • Plant growth rooms for the study of plant molecular biology and genetic engineering of cereal plants.  
  • Our research laboratories have equipment to support a range of project activities linked to the cellular, molecular and microbiological sciences, including facilities for cell culture, genome editing, bioimaging and bioinformatics work.  
  • We have access to state-of-the-art sequencing technologies in the form of nanopore sequencers, allowing whole genome sequencing of different organisms and species identification from environmental and other DNA samples. This enhances research into a range of microbial and plant microbiomes.  
  • Our John Muir Aquarium is a flexible, multi-room space that allows for simulation of natural marine conditions. 
  • The Research Vessel Serpula is a custom-built vessel equipped for scientific and diving work and is in Oban. 

Outside of the classroom, you can get involved with the Heriot-Watt Student Union and there are lots of ways to do so including participating in student groups, becoming a student representative or a school officer, and joining societies.   

You may be particularly interested in joining the Marine Biology Society, which is student led and offers anyone with an interest in marine biology the opportunity to meet friends and be supported in your future career aspirations.  

Societies provide a great opportunity to meet likeminded people, get involved in regular social and networking events, and gain insights into career prospects.   

Customise your learning 

You’ll take eight mandatory courses in year one where you will be introduced to principles and practical skills in biology, and principles of mathematics and chemistry. You’ll also take a course designed to inspire awareness of the contribution of your discipline to tackling global challenges and its connection to other disciplines. You’ll work in teams, learn to cope with complexity, gain core study skills, and thrive on ambiguity.  

In year two, you’ll take four mandatory courses which will enhance your research sills, and be introduced to metabolism in human nutrition, microbiology, and cell and molecular biology. You can customise your learning by choosing four courses from a range of biology and non-biological options including psychology.  

You can transfer between our biology degrees until the end of year two, allowing you time at university to make final decisions on your area of specialism and degree of choice. 

Year three offers you the most flexibility in course choices. You’ll choose four courses in semester one from a list of eight biology and non-biological courses such as fundamentals of marketing. Biology-specific course choices range from small molecule to whole animal and marine biology. In semester two, you’ll take the mandatory global research skills and choose three courses ranging from microbiology, human health, environmental biology, and sport and exercise science. A management course is also optional in semester two of year three. 

You’ll conduct your research project in year four and choose six optional courses from a list of over ten courses, allowing you to consolidate final-year learning to your specific biological sciences areas of interest. 

Industry  

We work closely with industry to ensure our course content is up-to-date and reflects the current and emerging needs of industry and employers. You’ll gain the right blend of knowledge, practical skills, and soft skills to set you up for life after graduation.   

David Hunter, Biology student

Heriot-Watt first appealed to me because of its location. The University also has a good reputation within science and engineering and graduate employment.

David Hunter, Biological Sciences BSc (Hons)

Course content

Year 1

Semester 1

  • Introductory Biology 1   
  • Practical Skills in Biology 
  • Shaping Tomorrow Together A 
  • Mathematics for Scientists 1 

Semester 2

  • Biology Practical 
  • Introductory Biology 2  
  • Chemistry for the Life Sciences   
  • Shaping Tomorrow Together B 

Year 2

Semester 1

Core courses in Semester 1:

  • Metabolism in Human Nutrition  
  • Research Methods in Biology 

Optional courses include:

  • Human Physiology
  • Science and Exploitation of Plants
  • Management in a Global Context

Semester 2

Core courses in Semester 2:

  • Introduction to Microbiology 
  • Cell and Molecular Biology  

Optional courses include:

  • The Biosphere
  • Animal Biology
  • Chemistry for the Life Sciences
  • Social Psychology

Year 3

Semester 1

Optional courses in Semester 1 include:

  • Biotechnology
  • Introduction to Food Microbiology
  • Pathobiology of Human Disease
  • Molecular Biology
  • Practical Marine Biology
  • Marine Biodiversity
  • Introduction to Process Technology
  • Fundamentals of Marketing

Semester 2

Core courses in Semester 2:

  • Global Research Skills 

Optional courses in Semester 2 include:

  • Applied Studies in Human Health
  • Marine Environmental Biology
  • Medical Microbiology
  • Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Physiology
  • Operations Management

Year 4

Semester 1

Core courses in Semester 1:

  • Honours Research Project - Execution  

Optional courses in Semester 1 include:

  • Scientific Management of Marine Environments
  • Marine Biological Survey and Analysis
  • Receptor Signalling in Health and Disease
  • Stressors and Sustainability
  • Immunology
  • Microorganisms in Human Health and Drug Discovery
  • Microbial Molecular Ecology

Semester 2

Core courses in Semester 2:

  • Honours Research Project – Dissemination 

Optional courses in Semester 2 include:

  • Management of Marine Developments and Protected Areas
  • Aquatic Toxicology
  • Molecular Toxicology
  • Genomics and Proteomics in Disease
  • Plant Health
  • Antibiotics and stress responses in E. coli
  • Marine Fisheries Biology  

Discover Uni course data

Discover Uni provides data on each university's degree courses across a range of measures including student satisfaction, graduate jobs and salaries.

Employability

Work and study

This is what our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences students are doing 15 months after graduating:

  • 55% are working
  • 20% are studying
  • 20% are working and studying.

Salary

  • The average salary of students 15 months after graduating: £25000
  • The average UK salary of students 15 months after graduating from a similar course: £24000

Potential career paths

  • Natural and social science professionals
  • Science, engineering and technology associate professionals

Entry requirements

Year 1

Standard entry requirements

  • Highers AABB (including a science subject)
  • A-Levels BBC - ABB (including a Maths or Science subject)
  • Int. Baccalaureate 27 points to include a science subject at Higher Level 5
  • BTEC DMM (in relevant subject)
  • HNC C in graded unit (in relevant HNC)

Minimum entry requirements*

  • Highers BBBC (including a science subject at B)
  • A-Levels BBC (including a Maths or Science subject)

Additional information
Suitable science subjects are Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Human Biology, Mathematics and Physics.

* Minimum: under our Fair Access Policy, we will relax our standard entry requirements for Scottish students depending on their circumstances. Our minimum requirements will apply if you:

  • live in an area within the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation lowest 20% (SIMD20), or
  • are care experienced.

We can also make exceptions for some Scottish students with grades above minimum but below standard. Read more about our Minimum and standard entry requirements

Year 2

  • Advanced Highers BB (including Biology or Human Biology plus Highers AABB)
  • A-Levels ABB (including Biology or Human Biology)
  • Int. Baccalaureate 32 points (with Biology or Human Biology)
  • HNC B in graded unit (in relevant HNC)
  • HND BB in graded units (in relevant HND)
  • BTEC DDM (in relevant subject)

Year 3

  • HND AB in graded units (in relevant HND)

Additional information

English language requirements

The minimum requirement for English language for all our undergraduate Biology courses is IELTS 6.0. Please see our English language requirements.

Fees

Tuition fees for 2024 entry
Status* Scotland England / Wales / N Ireland / Rep of Ireland International**
Fee Paid by SAAS £9,250 £24,048

* Your residency 'status' is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the three years before the start of your course. Find out more about tuition fees.

** 'International' includes applicants from European Union countries who do not hold Pre-Settled or Settled status in UK. (This does not include students from the Republic of Ireland - see above). Read more about the application process for EU nationals.

Additional costs

You may incur additional costs in the course of your studies at Heriot-Watt over and above tuition fees in an academic year. Depending on your programme of study, these may include: protective equipment, field trips, professional memberships, studio fees, required course texts or other study resources.

Scholarships and bursaries

Featured scholarships

Bursaries for students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales

In addition to government loans and grants towards the costs of fees and living costs, we are offering generous financial support to attract and support eligible undergraduate students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales:

  • Heriot-Watt University Bursary (up to £3,100 per year)
View details about the Heriot-Watt University Bursary

View our full range of undergraduate scholarships.