BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science

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The course

UCAS code
4 years
Delivery type

Heriot-Watt's BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science combines cutting-edge teaching with world-leading sports performance facilities at Oriam, Scotland’s National Sports Performance Centre.


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Our Sport and Exercise Science programme provides you with a comprehensive understanding of the physiological, biomechanical, and psychological factors that influence athletic performance.

Students will get the opportunity to study a blend of essential and elective modules in traditional sports, exercise, and health sciences, offering you the flexibility to shape your academic journey based on your personal interests and career aspirations.

This programme focuses on the principles of Sport and Exercise, including:

  • Physiology,
  • Anatomy,
  • Psychology,
  • Biomechanics,
  • Applied aspects of these disciplines such as elite sport performance and strength and conditioning.

By studying Sport and Exercise Science, you’ll explore evidence-based strategies for promoting health and preventing lifestyle-related diseases and the impact this has on our daily lives.

You’ll learn to plan, conduct, and analyse results of practical work in the field and laboratory. This is crucial as you apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios. You’ll use a range of media to critically analyse and interpret scientific data.

As well as developing expertise in sport and exercise science, our programme builds sought after soft skills, such as problem-solving, communication skills, and practical IT skills. It will also help you understand the vital role of a sport scientist in professional fields including performance sport, exercise prescription and adherence, research and public health.

Oriam, Scotland's Sports Performance Centre

Oriam is a centre of sporting excellence, research collaboration, and community engagement. It supports athletes, coaches, researchers, and students in their pursuit of greatness in sports performance and provides a platform for innovation and development in the field of sports science.

Along with providing unique teaching facilities, Oriam is also the training facility for elite sports teams and their respective academies such as Scottish Rugby Union, the Scottish Football Association, Heart of Midlothian FC, and Scottish Squash.

Elite sports and exercise facilities

Heriot-Watt provides our Sports and Exercise students with exclusive facilities for the study of human physiological function and exercise performance.

For strength testing, we have systems to measure isometric and isokinetic strength. We can measure oxygen consumption at base level through to maximal exercise on a treadmill or arm and leg cycle ergometers. These measurements can be complemented with automated blood pressure measurement and EMG capabilities.

Body composition can be measured using air displacement plethysmography, while a full diagnostic testing system for lung function provides the ability to make both static and ambulatory cardio-respiratory measurements.

You can simulate altitude with a hypoxic generator and elevate inspired oxygen concentration. We can even measure biochemical parameters to study changes in metabolism during exercise, including blood gases, pH, lactate, sodium and potassium ions, haematocrit, glucose and cholesterol.

Sport and exercise psychology resources include questionnaires and interviewing equipment. Additionally, exercise physiology labs can be used to perform psycho-physiological research. Our molecular exercise physiology laboratories have:

  • RNA and molecular biology laboratories which explore the cellular processes in a wide range of applications across plant, animal and human health.
  • Human cell culture facilities where cells can be grown under controlled conditions.
  • A cutting-edge human performance laboratory that provides support and guidance to improve fitness.
  • Advanced proteomics detection methods (MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer) to analyse gene expression in yeast and bacteria.
  • Equipment for studying immune cell function (flow cytometry)
  • General equipment for carrying out molecular sciences (plate readers, real-time qPCR and confocal microscopy).


Heriot-Watt Sports Union offers over 30 sports clubs ranging from traditional football/soccer and rugby to mountaineering and ultimate frisbee. The sport clubs offer you the opportunity to grow in your sport, meet likeminded friends and make use of the first-class facilities available.

Sport scholarships programme

For elite athletes we offer a range of scholarships as part of the Sports Union Sport scholarships programme

Course content

Year 1

Semester 1

  • Introduction to biology 1
  • Introduction to psychology 1
  • Shaping tomorrow together A
  • Principles of sport and exercise science

Semester 2

  • Introduction to biology 2
  • Introduction to psychology 2
  • Shaping tomorrow together B
  • Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Physiology

Year 2

Semester 1

  • Systemic Physiology and Anatomy
  • Metabolism in Human Nutrition
  • The Context of Sport and Exercise Science*
  • Developing as a Professional in Sport and Exercise
*The Context of Sport and Exercise Science

This course puts sport and exercise into a wider context by exploring its impact on society, from a local level to an international level. You will learn how race, gender and ability can impact involvement in sport and exercise and explore the ways in which sport and exercise can impact health, community, business and the wider economy. 

Semester 2

  • Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Performance *
  • Physical Activity and Health
  • Fundamentals Sport and Exercise Psychology
  • Elective
*Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Performance

This course builds upon knowledge of physiology, anatomy, and biomechanics; and contextualises it within strength and conditioning. You will develop an appreciation of effective coaching practices in sport. 

Year 3

Semester 1

  • Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise Performance*
  • Applied Aspects of Sport and Exercise Performance
  • Physiology of Sport and Exercise Performance
  • Nutrition for Sport and Exercise Performance*
*Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise Performance

This introductory course in biomechanics will link the theoretical and practical aspects of biomechanics as they relate to human motion and performance analysis in sport. You will learn to evaluate and explain sporting techniques in relation to human motion from a kinematic and kinetic perspective. You will also learn to use 2D/ 3D motion analysis software to collect, analyse and interpret data relating to sporting technique. 

*Nutrition for Sport and Exercise

This course introduces you to the physiological mechanisms that control energy metabolism during exercise. You will learn about the metabolic pathways used when macronutrients are used as fuel/ You will also examine how exercise duration and intensity may affect substrate selection, and how the recommended diet of an athlete may differ to that of a sedentary individual. 

Semester 2

  • Research methods
  • Professional Practice in Sport and Exercise Science
  • Elective

Year 4

Semester 1

  • Applied Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise Performance*
  • Applied Psychology of Sport and Exercise Performance*
  • Applied Physiology of Sport and Exercise Performance
*Applied Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise Performance

This course will teach analysis of human movement with emphasis on practical demonstrations and laboratory-based research using 3D motion capture systems together with other performance analysis tools. You will gain key knowledge related to current practices in biomechanics, with a focus on performance, as well as the prevention and rehabilitation of common musculoskeletal injuries and dysfunctions.

*Applied Psychology of Sport and Exercise Performance

This course builds on previous psychology learning and explores how a person-centred approach can be used to help athletes, coaches and clients. You will explore how applied psychologists work with clients learn to design relevant courses of support, addressing specific client needs based on preferred sports psychology models. 

Semester 2

  • Research Project for Sport and Exercise Science*
  • Project dissemination
  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sport and Exercise Performance
*Research Project for Sports and Exercise Science

This course provides you with the opportunity to undertake a self-led independent study within your chosen area of sport and exercise science. The research project will give you the chance to demonstrate critical engagement within a chosen topic.

Examples of topics within this discipline are: 

  • The impact of pop music on fitness training
  • Assessment of injury factors in football
  • Decision making in elite netball
  • Hydrating impacts of milk, water, squash
  • The impact of respiratory physiology on health

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Potential career paths

A sport and exercise science degree can open a variety of career opportunities in fields related to sports, health, fitness, and performance. Some potential job roles include:

  • Sports, Natural or Social Scientist
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Strength and Conditioning Specialist
  • Coaching
  • Teaching
  • Exercise Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Health Promotion Specialist
  • Sports Management/Administration
  • Researcher/Academic

These are just a few examples, and the specific career paths available may vary depending on your interests, specialisation within the field, and additional qualifications you may gain along the way.

Entry requirements

Year 1

Standard entry requirements

  • Highers AABB (including a science subject, this can be psychology, sport science or physical education)
  • A-Levels BBC – ABB (including a 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 BCC (including a science subject)

Additional information
Suitable science subjects are Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Human Biology, Psychology, Physical Education, Sport Science, 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

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.


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.

Sports scholarships

For elite athletes we offer a range of Scholarships as part of the Sport Scholarships Programme

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.