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More in this section Biological Sciences

Biochemistry BSc

UCAS code C700
Year of entry 2017
View 2018 entry »
Course Length
3 years full time
Department Biological Sciences »


Gain insights into the intricate, elegant workings of the building blocks of life in Biochemistry at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The programme is informed by world-class research in advanced animal, plant and molecular science, and supported by a recent £16 million investment in state-of-the-art equipment including bioinformatics, mass spectrometry and protein and gene sequencing technology.

This highly flexible programme lets you tailor courses to suit your individual interests in years 2 and 3, letting you specialise in subjects from Pharmacology and Toxicology to Molecular Genetics, Neuroscience to Embryology and Endocrinology.

You’ll gain invaluable laboratory experience from year 1 onwards, and in year 3 you’ll take part in our renowned research culture as you complete your research projects. The School of Biological Sciences was ranked 25th in the UK for influential research output by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, and our high student-to-staff ratio maximises contact time with our internationally respected and enthusiastic academics.

Royal Holloway Biochemistry students are a short journey from sites of national scientific importance including Windsor Great Park and Box Hill, while our on-site glasshouses, marine and freshwater aquaria and plant and animal cell culture facilities provide ample opportunity for rewarding independent study.

The skills and experience you’ll gain studying Biochemistry will make you an attractive prospect to employers. A combination of laboratory experience, groundbreaking research and a wide range of additional skills and competencies have helped our graduates find work in fields from forensic medicine to biotechnology. Pursue your passion for the fascinating principles of biochemistry and graduate with the skills and qualifications you need to find success in your chosen field.

  • Gain invaluable transferrable career skills including practical laboratory experience, data handling and time management skills.
  • Take part in world-class research led by renowned academics, with 76% of our Biological Sciences research ranked world-leading and internationally excellent.
  • Join a close-knit and supportive learning community with a high staff-to-student ratio.
  • Graduate with a Royal Society of Biology accredited degree.

Core modules

Year 1

Principles of Molecular Bioscience

In this module you will develop an understanding of the basics of biological chemistry and how this can explain many molecular processes in the life sciences. You will look at chemical bonding and interactions in the major classes of biomolecules, the role of energy in chemical and biochemical changes, chemical equilibrium and reaction rates, and acid-base phenomena in aqueous solutions, particularly with respect to amino acids and peptides. You will also examine the relationship between structure and function in biology, notably in myoglobin and hemoglobin, and the principles of biological reaction mechanisms. 

Living Systems - Animal and Plant Physiology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the fundamental physiological processes required for communication, obtaining and distributing nutrients, and maintaining the internal environment within multicellular organisms. You will look at how changes in internal and external environments are assessed by animals and plants, and examine the ways in which plants and animals obtain oxygen, carbon dioxide, water and energy, and rid themselves of waste materials. You will also consider the key properties of organ systems which support mobility.

Cell Biology and Genetics

In this module you will develop an understanding of the basic features of microbes and the diversity of microorganisms. You will look at the subcellular features of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, examining the key functions of these structures and organelles. You will consider celluar genetics with respect to mitosis, meiosis, inheritance and recombination, and the fundamentals of genome organisation, transcription and translation. You will also learn practical techniques in microscopy, including slide prepration for the observation of chromosomes, and fixation techniques for the analysis of cell ultrastructure.

Biochemistry - Molecular Basis of Life

In this module you will develop an understanding of the relationships between the structure and function of the various types of biomolecules. You will look at enzyme catalysis and the kinetics of enzyme-catalysed reactions, and how anabolic and catabolic processes are used by oragnisms to store and extract energy from chemical sources. You will also consider the underlying chemistry of a range analytical methods and see how these are used in research and diagnostics, performing these methods in laboratory practicals.

Year 2

Bioenergetics, Biosynthesis and Metabolic Regulations

In this module you will develop an understanding of the major pathways for electron transfer and energy conversion in living systems. You will look at how energy is utilised in biosynthesis, and the role of enzymes, coenzymes and metabolic intermediates. You will examine the priniciple of flux control and metabolic regulation and the mechanisms that balance the activity of key pathways to physiological demands. You will also consider the main features of human energy metabolism and their relationship to obesity and diabetes, and analyse the importance of protein glycosylation and how protein glycans are biosynthesised.

Protein Structure and Function

In this module you will develop an understanding of protein structure, protein folding in vivo, and the principles of protein engineering and protein-protein interaction. You will look at methods for the separation, purification, detection, and structural analysis of proteins, gaining practical experience in using techniques such as SDS-PAGE and Western blotting. You will also examine mechanisms of enzyme catalysis and regulation.

Molecular Biology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the chemical structure of DNA and RNA, and how genes are organised and expressed. You will look at gene characterisation using recombinant DNA technology, and will consider DNA as a template for RNA synthesis. You will also become familiar with molecular biology techiques that are widely used in the life sciences, including the preparation and handling of purified DNA, restriction enzyme digestions, and polymerase chain reaction.

Physical Biochemistry for Life Scientists

In this module you will develop an understanding of the behaviour of macromolecules in solution, looking at the key analytical methods used for their study. You will become familiar with a range of spectrosopic techniques, including fluorescence, phosphorescence and circular dichroism. You will examine the phenomena of surface plasmon resonance measurements, interferometry, and biocalorimetry, and look at the principles of scanning force microscopy (SFM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). You will also consider the importance of the emerging field of nanobiotechnology.

Year 3

Individual Research Project

You will carry out an individual laboratory or theoretical investigation, supervised by an appropriate member of staff, who will provide guidance throughout. You will apply the knowledge and skills learned throughout your studies, and learn to organise data in a logical, presentable and persuasive way. You will produce a report, around 8,000 words in length, and will deliver an oral presentation with a summary of your findings.

Functional Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics

In this module you will develop an understanding of the structure-function relationships in proteins, and how new technologies are being used to exploit protein sequence data. You will look at how genome-wide analyses can be used to examine regulation in biological systems, and consider modes of specific recognition in mediating protein interactions.

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1

Only core modules are taken

Year 2


In this module you will develop an understanding of some of the key concepts in microbiology, including the study of bacteria, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes. You will look at how microbes are distinguished and classified, and discuss bacterial growth and differentiation. You will examine the importance of microorganisms in health and disease, including human welfare issues such as opportunistic infections and the role of microorganisms in cancer.

Plant Life - From Genes to Environment

In this module you will develop an understanding of the life cycle of flowering plants, considering their evolution, developmental and functional biology. You will examine the role and biology of meristems in the structure and building of a plant muticellular body, and the role and mode of action of plant hormones in coordinating development. You will also consider a range of environmental and biotic factors affecting plants, including light, time of day, temperature, drought, and other organism, and how plants respond to the challenges they pose.

Cell Biology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the key methologies used in cell biology, becoming familar with modern microscopy techniques and live cell imaging studies. You will look at the basic mechanisms that regulate the cell cycle and the regulatory mechanisms for DNA synthesis and mitosis. You will examine mitochondria and chlorpolast organelle functions, and the principles of polar bodies and asymmetric cell division. You will assess the basic mechanisms underlying cell shape and mobility, and consider the evolutionary constrains of cellular functions.

Developmental Biology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the processes that lead from a fertilised egg into complex tissues and organisms with well-defined body plans. You will look at the basic cellular and genetic mechanisms that regulate development, and the evolutionary outcomes of developmental changes. You will examine model organisms in which both embryological and genetic approaches have been developed, and will explore axis establishment, segmentation, cellular differentiation, organ development, and the widely-shared signalling pathways that underpin them.

Applications of Molecular Genetics in Biology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the molecular tools and techniques currently available to investigate the genetic diversity of a range of organisms. You will examine how genetically modified organisms can be produced via a number of methodologies, and will consider their application in areas such as crop improvement, pest management, and vaccine development. You will also look at how molecular genetics has improved our understanding of human inherited diseases, and led to development of human gene therapies.

Molecular and Cellular Immunology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the mammalian immune systems at cellular and molecular levels, and how this is determined by antibody structure and function, the complement system, and the impact of immunoglobulin genetics. You will look at the role of T cells as effectors and regulators of immune responses, allergic reactions, transplant rejection, and the HIV virus and the pathogenesis of AIDS on the immune system. You will examine antipody antigen reaction techniques used in immunology, and consider the isolation and purification of lymphocytes, their morphology and abundance.

Neuronal and Cellular Signalling

In this module you will develop an understanding of the structure of the nervous system, including the main types of cells and the transmission of signals within neuronal networks. You will look at the process of synpatic transmittion, including both electrical and chemical synapses. You will examine the different types of neurotransmitters and receptors and the mechanism of intracellular signalling, considering the role of second messenager signalling pathways. You will also enhance your practical skills, such as isolating and characterising synaptosomes and using these for the study of transmitter metabolism.

Pharmacology and Toxicology

In this module you will develop an understanding of drug-receptor interactions and the methods used to characterise drug action. You will look at the factors that influence drug action and drug toxicity within the body, examining the concepts of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion. You will consider the pharmacology of a number of major drug classes, including antihypertensives, antidepressants, analgesics, general and local anaesthetics and drugs affecting the automonic system.

Year 3

Biology of Parasitic Diseases

In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of parasitism and the protective mechanisms used by immuno-competent hosts to limit the spread of infection. You will look at the biological strategies used by a range of unicellular and multicellular organisms to colonise host causing disease in human and non-human hosts. You will consider studies on the pathology and the cellular immunity elicited by various parasites, and the immune evasion strategies used by widely distributed human parasites to protect themselves from immune attack. You will also address the principles and prospects of anti-parasitic vaccination in the 21st Century.

Climate Change - Plants and the Environment

In this module you will develop an understanding of the effects of climate change on the interaction between plants and the environment. You will critically evaluate the application of novel technologies to crop improvement, and assess the relationship between growth and reponses to the environment. You will also consider issues surrounding human uses of plants and conservation.

Molecular and Medical Microbiology

In this module you will develop an understanding of medical microbiology with particular reference to bacteria and pathogenic eukaryotes. You will look at pathogen mechanisms for infection, the host immune response to infection, vaccine development, gastrointestinal health and disease, resistance to antibiotics, anti-parasite chemotherapy and the genetic and biochemical validation of parasite drug targets in the kinetoplastidae. You will examine the role of probiotics in health and disease, and consider a range of microbiological and molecular diagnostics techniques.

Seed Biology - Molecular and Conservation Biology to Industrial Applications

In this module you will develop an understanding of the importance of seeds and fruits for food chain security, the seed industry, and ecosystem conservation. You will look at the principles and importance of seed banking and the seed conservation work at Kew's Millenium Seed Bank to mitigate against climate change. You will examine the developmental and biochemical processes of seed storage reserve deposition, germination and reserve mobilisation, including the environmental control of seed germinsation. You will analyse the key advantages of the seed habit, considering the morphological diversity of modern seeds and fruits which have evolved.

Applications of Advanced Molecular Biology Methods

In this module you will develop an understanding of the transformation technologies used in the study of gene expression, gene therapy and biotechnological applications of genetically modified organisms. You will consider how molecular biology research is employed in a range of systems, including animal and plant models, as well as the simple social amoeba, Dictyostelium. You will also analyse the use of molecular genetics in the study of circadian rhythms.

Cell and Molecular Biology of Cancer

In this module you will develop an understanding of advanced concepts and recent advances in fundamentally important areas of cell biology revelant to cancer, including developments in microscopy, imaging and molecular genetic techniques. You will look at current concepts in molecular cell biology, such as cell-cell adhesion and signalling, stem cells in development and in diseases, and cancer and the role of the cytoskeleton. You will examine topics in cancer biology including oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes and caretaker genes, and the signalling and regulatory pathways these are involved in. You will also examine the diagnosis and rational of cancer therapies.

Human Embryology and Endocrinology

In this module you will develop an understanding of human embryos and the development and function of particular endocrine systems. You will look at embryonic development, including gastrulation and specification of the axes, and the initial steps in the formation and patterning of the brain and spinal cord. You will examine craniofacial development, pharyngeal gland formation and sex determination, analysing the cellular and molecular processes involved in detail. You will also consider some of the birth defects that can arise, the genetic and environmental insults that cause them, and investigations which inform their prevention.

Cell and Molecular Neuroscience

In this module you will develop an understanding of the basic principles of brain development and the molecular mechanisms which regulate this, including the synthesis, storage and release of neurotransmitters. You will look at the molecular basis of learning and memory, considering brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and bipolar disorder. You will assess the problem of brain damage in preterm babies and infants, and the methods available to help provide neuroprotection, with insights from a clinical practitioner.

Molecular Basis of Inherited Disease

In this module you will develop an understanding of the theory, technology, and clinical practice of human molecular genetics. You will look at a range of genetic disorders and inborn errors of metabolism such as muscular dystrophies, cystic fibrosis, haemophilia, lysosomal storage disorders, haemoglobinopathies, mitochondrial respiratory chain disorders, neurotransmitter synthesis disorders, lipoprotein diseases and primary immunodeficiencies. You will examine the concepts and significance of human inherited disease gene mapping and consider the importance of the human genome project.

Special Study - Dissertation

You will carry out a literature research project on a biological or biochemical topic of your choice, producing a written report around 7,500 words in length. You will critically evaluate recent scientific literature on your chosen topic, highlighting how data has been used to generate and test hypotheses.

Practical classes are a major part of all first and almost all second-year course units and include experiments that are integral to the course units. Practical classes are either laboratory-based or field-based with laboratory follow-up. In addition to formal teaching, small-group tuition takes place throughout the three years.

All students are assigned a personal tutor as a point of contact through the three years of the course. Support is also provided to students via the comprehensive e-learning facility ‘Moodle’, which features lecture handouts and other supporting materials including lecture slides, self-test quizzes, relevant video clips and scientific papers. 

During the first and second year, continuous assessment (based on essays and reports you’ll write during the course unit) makes up 25-30% of your course mark – the remaining 70-75% is based on written examinations taken during the summer term. In the second year exams count for one third of your final degree mark.

In the third year you will complete an individual research project supervised by one of our academics. In previous years several of our students have contributed to published scientific papers. The individual research project is assessed on the basis of a written report, supervisor in-course assessment and an oral presentation. Marks from most third-year lecture course units are 20% by continuous assessment and 80% by final examination. Third year assignments include preparation of presentations, posters, mock research grant applications and scientific news-and-views articles, as well as analysis of data from online repositories.

Typical offers

Typical offers
A-levels ABB-BBB
Required/preferred subjects

Required subjects: Biology and Chemistry, plus a Pass in the practical element of both subjects

The offer given will take into consideration:
  • The educational context in which academic achievements have been gained.
  • Whether the Extended Project Qualification is being taken,

At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C including English and Mathematics.

Other UK Qualifications
International Baccalaureate

6,5,5 at Higher Level including Biology and Chemistry, with a minimum of 32 points overall.

BTEC Extended Diploma

Distinction, Distinction, Distinction in Applied Science plus grade C in A2 Chemistry OR grade C in A2 Biology. Alternatively, Distinction, Distinction, Distinction in Health and Social Care and grade C in A2 Chemistry. A Pass is required in the practical element of the A level.

BTEC National Extended Diploma

Distinction, Distinction in Applied Science and grade B in A2 Chemistry or Biology. Alternatively, Distinction, Distinction in Health and Social Care and grades BB in A2 Chemistry and A2 Biology. A Pass is required in the practical elements of the A levels.

BTEC National Extended Certificate

Distinction plus grades B,B in A2 Chemistry and Biology. A Pass is required in the practical elements of the A levels.

Welsh Baccalaureate

Requirements are as for A-levels where one non-subject-specified A-level can be replaced by the same grade in the Welsh Baccalaureate - Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate.

Scottish Advanced Highers

AB including Biology and Chemistry (only acceptable when combined with the required Higher grades as published).

Scottish Highers

AABBB (only acceptable when combined with the required Advanced Higher grades as published).

Irish Leaving Certificate

H2, H2, H3, H3, H3 including Biology and Chemistry.

Access to Higher Education Diploma

Pass with at least 30 level 3 credits at Distinction and 15 level 3 credits at Merit, including 6 level 3 credits in Biology and 6 level 3 credits in Chemistry.

Other UK qualifications

Please select your UK qualification from the drop-down list below

Please select a qualification

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International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

English language
IELTS 6.5 overall and minimum of 5.5 in each subscore for equivalencies please see here.

For more information about entry requirements for your country please visit our International pages. For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, we offer an International Foundation Year, run by Study Group at the Royal Holloway International Study Centre. Upon successful completion, students can progress on to selected undergraduate degree programmes at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Study Biochemistry at Royal Holloway, University of London and gain the skills and experience you need to move into the workplace. 90% of our graduates are in work or higher education within six months of graduating, and a close graduate network means you can draw on the knowledge and connections of illustrious visiting alumni. 

You’ll gain invaluable laboratory experience throughout the duration of your studies and you can choose to complete a lab-based research project in your third year, helping to develop the transferrable skills employers look for in successful candidates. Royal Holloway Biological Sciences alumni have gone on to careers in sectors including medical research, forensic science, clinical trials coordination and biotechnology.

  • 90% of Life Sciences graduates in work or further education within six months of graduating.
  • A close-knit graduate network to draw on, with alumni often visiting Royal Holloway to share their experiences.
  • Summer placements offered to help students gain invaluable work experience. 

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £9,250

International students tuition fee per year 2017/18**: £15,600

Other essential costs***: £232

How do I pay for it? Find out more.

*Tuition fees for UK and EU nationals starting a degree in the academic year 2017/18 will be £9,250 for that year. This amount is subject to the UK Parliament approving a change to fee and loan regulations that has been proposed by the UK Government. In the future, should the proposed changes to fee and loan regulations allow it, Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees for UK and EU nationals annually. If relevant UK legislation continues to permit it, Royal Holloway will maintain parity between the tuition fees charged to UK and EU students for the duration of their degree studies.

**Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees for international fee paying students annually. Tuition fees are unlikely to rise more than 5 per cent each year. For further information on tuition fees please see Royal Holloway’s Terms & Conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

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