TSR Wiki > University > Choosing a Subject > University Courses > Biology Degree


Course Overview

Universities offering Biological Sciences

Have a look at the list of universities that offer Biological Science courses and similar: UCAS Course Search Tool


Academic Requirements

Academic Requirements vary between institutions, but as a guide Chemistry is a desirable subject almost everywhere, however Maths and Physics (and occasionally Geography and Psychology) are often accepted as sciences. Biology is of course essential.

Grade requirements vary from A*AA at Oxford and Cambridge, to AAB or ABB at most other 'Top twenty' universities such as Warwick, York, Durham and Bristol, with Universities outside the Top 20 often still requiring 250+ points but this being expressed in terms of points, not grades.

UCAS Form & Personal Statement

Course Structure

Biological Sciences at Oxford

Life as a Biological Sciences Student

Your life studying Biological Sciences will vary a great deal depending on the path you choose within that course. Most universities will have a common first year (i.e. students wishing to study cell biology, epidemiology, ecology, behaviour and physiology would all study the same core subjects in the first year). This ensures that everybody is up to speed to begin with, and that you actually make an educated choice about what to do with your life! A surprising number of people fall in love with whatever their Biology teacher at school enjoyed best purely because their enthusiasm was contagious - at uni things may be very different.

Most courses will contain a considerable number of lectures in first year, and accompanying practical work. This will likely include lab work for cellular biology, genetics and epidemiology and field work for more 'outdoorsy subjects' like ecology or environmental change. In 2nd and 3rd year as you specialise in your chosen field you may abandon lab work entirely, or begin to work there 9-5.

You will almost always be required to undertake a final research project. At some universities this will be a group effort based upon a professors research, in which you conduct the same experiments and pool results. At others you will pick some individual projects from a list and be assigned them by ballot. If you're very lucky (e.g. at Oxford) then you can write your own project title and find somebody to supervise you.

Try to consider factors when choosing a course such as how much lab work you want to do; the size and quality of the labs; the number of essays or sets of problems you are expected to complete; and the freedom you will have to choose your own research. Also look at the number of Option Modules you can choose from.

Graduate Destinations

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best Universities for Biology? There is no easy answer to this as 'best' is subjective and what is right for others may not be right for you. Biology courses vary immensely as it is such a wide discipline so it is strongly recommended you pick a course that suits your individual interests and a University that has strengths in your preferred area(s)

Generally speaking, unis that are considered 'good' for Biology include:

Oxford Cambridge York Imperial UCL Durham Manchester (Life Sciences Faculty) Bristol Bath (especially for molecular)

Recommended Reading

Despite being told that background reading will help you out at interview, it's often hard to know what to read since Biology doesn't immediately seem like a literature-based subject. New Scientist is a good place to start, although if you mention this in your personal statement remember that it's a magazine and NOT a journal. Two journals that are worth dipping into are Nature and Science, both available to some degree online. It's worth having a look at their website just for the "headlines" so to speak. Try to keep up to date on breaking science news such as the Zika virus etc - don't just take the public tag-line or you could find yourself embarrassed at interview.

If you find it easier to read books than cope with journals, which to be honest are a bit much for most A-level students, then some recommended books are:

  • The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins. Probably the most famous popular science book.
  • The Extended Phenotype - Richard Dawkins
  • On the Origin of Species - Charles Darwin
  • Power, Sex, Suicide - Nick Lane. A book about mitochondria. Quite heavy, but absolutely fascinating!
  • Genome - Matt Ridley. Quirky, easy writing about genetics.
  • The Seven Daughters of Eve - Bryan Sykes. Describes his use of mitochondrial DNA to trace migration patterns, etc. Very easy to read, although perhaps a little sensationalist.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
  • Y: The Descent of Men - Steve Jones
  • The Double Helix - James Watson. An autobiographical account by the man himself, giving you an insight into the background behind the discovery.
  • Nature Via Nurture - Matt Ridley. Ridley takes on the age old question: is it nature or nurture that makes us who we are?
  • "The Ancestor's Tale" - Richard Dawkins. Dawkins takes the reader back in evolution through major phylogenetic divergence to the dawn of life on Earth.
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