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Biology BSc

UCAS code C100
Year of entry 2017
View 2018 entry »
Course Length
3 years full time
Department Biological Sciences »


Biology helps us to understand the world around us – the way that plants and animals interact, the way that different living things evolve and adapt and our own role in the wider natural world. Biology at Royal Holloway, University of London gives you a sound understanding of the structure, function, evolution and diversity of living organisms and the interactions between them.

Our flexible Biology programme lets you tailor your studies to suit your specific interests in your second and third years, giving you the chance to study specialist courses from Practical Field Ecology to Human Physiology, Marine Microbiology to Seed Biology. This broad-based degree offers the opportunity to concentrate on either plants, animals or both.

Study at our biodiverse campus, in reach of sites of special scientific interest including Windsor Great Park, Box Hill and Chobham Common. You’ll have access to our first-class facilities including proteomics and metabolomics facilities, marine and freshwater aquaria, plant and animal cell culture, glasshouses and an electrophysiology suite, with a recent £16 million investment providing specialist equipment for mass spectrometry, bioinformatics and protein and gene sequencing.

Become a part of our renowned research culture in year 3, joining our expert academics in the laboratory as you complete your independent research project. The School of Biological Sciences was ranked 25th in the UK for influential research output by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

You’ll gain invaluable lab experience from year 1 onwards, with lab, field and independent research helping to hone the skills you need to impress potential employers in fields from biotechnology to environmental monitoring and practical conservation

  • Enjoy a flexible combination of lab, field and desk-based learning culminating in rewarding independent research.
  • Take part in world-class research led by renowned academics, with 76% of our Biological Sciences research ranked world-leading and internationally excellent.
  • Learn on a biodiverse campus in reach of sites of special scientific interest including Windsor Great Park, Box Hill and Chobham Common.
  • 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

The Diversity of Life

In this module you will develop an understanding of the five Kingdoms of living organisms. You will look at the basic principles of evolution and natural selection and why these are important for zoological and botantical classification. You will examine the links between functional anatomy and evolutionary development, and assess broader concepts of biodiversity. You will learn techniques in the handling and observation of preserved and live specimens, preparation of taxonomic keys, drawing, data analysis and presentation.

Ecology - Animal Behaviour to Environmental Conservation

In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of ecology and conservation, and examine how these influence animal behaviour. You will look at how organisms adapt to key UK habitats, and the challenges of living in such environments. You will also assess the methods used for studying ecological systems, becoming familiar with common sampling techniques and how to apply and interpret common statistical tests.

Living Systems

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.

Year 2

Invertebrate Biology - Structure, Behaviour and Evolution

In this module you will develop an understanding of invertebrate phyla, looking at their structure, diversity, levels of complexity, life styles, and evolutionary relationships. You will primarily examine body-plans and how structure relates to behaviour, but also consider invertebrate diversity and their ecological importance. You will learn to stain, mount, and interpret microscopic specimens and enhance your skills in scientific illustration, microscope use, identification and animal handling.

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.

Biological Data Analysis and Interpretation

In this module you will develop an understanding of the use of statistical methods in biological sciences. You will examine how questions in biology can be answered using quantitative methods, looking at key concepts of statistical sampling and experimental design. You will consider how to select appropriate tests, how to apply them, and identify what can be deduced from 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.


In this module you will develop an understanding of how organisms have changed through time. You will look at the historical origins of the modern concept of evolution, examinining the evidence for it and the processes that have shaped faunas and floras. You will consider Darwinism and its development, the origin and maintenance of variation, and adaptation and selection. You will analyse how evolution can be studied using phylogenetic methods and the mechanisms of speciation, with a focus on human evolution.

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.

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.

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

Marine Biology

In this moudle you will develop an understanding of the physical and chemical characteristics of the marine environmental and their influence on marine organisms. You will look at of a broad range of marine taxa, in particular invertebrates, but also vertebrates and algae, sampled alive from their natural habitats. You will carry out intertidal sampling (rocky and sandy shores) and sampling from a research vessel (plankton and subtidal benthos), gaining experience of collecting and identifying a range of littoral organisms. You will consider behavioural, ecological and physiological aspects, morphological adaptations, systematic relationships and also the economic significance of selected groups.


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.

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.

Essential Human Physiology in Health and Disease

In this module you will develop an understanding of the function and integration of selected human physiological systems in normal physiology and disease. You will look at endocrine control in the human body, specifically the role of the hypothalamo-pituitary axis and the function and regulation of thyroid hormones. You will examine the organisation and integration of the nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory and systems and the principles of whole muscle physiology. You will also consider the composition and functions of blood and haemostasis, and the the analysis and interpretation of physiological experiments.

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.

Insects, Plants and Fungi - Ecology & Applications

In this module you will develop an understanding of the effects of herbivorous insects on plants and the ways in which plants defend themselves against attack. You will consider how insects can be beneficial to plants, examining their role in pollination, and how fungi mediate interactions between insects and their hosts, including pathogens, endophytes and mycorrhizas.

Practical Field Ecology

In this module you will develop an understanding of how to design and analyse ecological experiments. You will perform simple investigations into several different taxonomic groups such as mammals, invertebrates and plants, and consider the difficulties of designing experiments in the field, compared to controlled conditions. You will gain experience with techniques such as field sampling, identification using keys, and quantitative population estimation, as you carry out fieldwork in and around the College campus, with some daily excursions.

Animal Behaviour

In this module you will develop an understanding of the causation, development, function and evolution of animal behaviour, assessing the variety of behaviour occurring across the range of animal taxa and in different ecological situations. You will examine the major theories that seek to explain animal behaviour, such as kin selection, optimal foraging and game theory. You will look at the main methods used to study behaviour, including observation, experiment and the comparative approach, and consider how they can be applied to the study of different types of behavioural questions.

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.

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.

Year 3

Conservation Biology

In this module you will develop and understanding of the major threats to biodiversity, including habitat loss and fragmentation, alien species, global climate change, intensive agriculture, pollution, and over-harvesting. You will look at the population and ecological processes that lead to species and habitat decline, and assess how conservation biology can be applied to redress this. You will also examine current areas of research in conservation biology, their ethical implications, and agri-environmental management plans.

Entomology - Pure and Applied

In this module you will develop an understanding of insect biology, addressing aspects of their physiology and biology. You will look at why insects are the most numerous animals on the planet and examine the practical applications of entomology. You will assess modern methods of crop production and pest control, and will analyse the conservational importance of beneficial insects such as pollinators and saproxylic (dead wood feeding) species, considering reasons for their decline.

Mediterranean Island Conservation and Ecology Field Course

In this module you will develop an understanding of the ecology of the Alentejo region of Portugal, and the conservation threats presented by tourism, infrastructure development and agricultural change. You will look at conservation ecology in marine, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, with a focus on key species and habitats. You will carry out practical work, including an ecological risk assessment for coastal ecosystems, invertebrate sampling in native cork forest, bird monitoring, river-based surveys for invasive crayfish and otters, marine surveys, pollinator surveys on invasive plants, and kayak-based surveys for aquatic infauna.

Population and Community Ecology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of population and community ecology, focussing on the forcs which structure communities of animals and plants. You will look at population growth, inter- and intra-specific competition, trophic relations and the factors which regulate populations, and will examine the ecological processes that contribute to community organisation, such as food web structure, body size, succession and natural disturbances. You will also consider the role of population and community ecology in the maintenance of biodiversity.

Behavioural Ecology

In this module you will develop an understanding of how ecologists investigate the behaviour of animals, looking at recent advances in behavioural ecology research. You will analyse the functional and evolutionary hypotheses that seek to explain how animals find and use key resources, such as food, breeding territories and mates, and consider how simple models, such as game theory, can be used to test these.

Marine Ecology and Biodiversity

In this module you will develop an understanding of the diversity habitats in the marine environment and the range of responses seen in marine biota. You will look at the diversity of organisms, considering the key processes operating in coral reefs, the deep ocean and hydrothermal vent systems. You will consider the behaviour and conservation of marine species, the impact of marine pollution and climate change on marine biodiversity, and examine the adaptation of mammals to marine life.

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

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.

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.

Each year you take courses worth a total of four units. Each course is worth either one unit or half a unit.

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 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 subject: Biology, plus a Pass in the practical element

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, with a minimum of 32 points overall.
BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction, Distinction, Distinction in a relevant subject plus grade C in A2 Biology. A Pass is required in the practical element of the A level.
BTEC National Extended Diploma Distinction, Distinction in a relevant subject plus grade B in A2 Biology. A Pass is required in the practical element of the A level.
BTEC National Extended Certificate Distinction plus A levels grade BB including Biology. A Pass is required in the practical element of the A level.
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 (only acceptable when combined with the Higher grades as published).
Scottish Highers

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

Irish Leaving Certificate

H2,H2,H3,H3,H3 inc Biology.

Access to Higher Education Diploma

Pass with at least 30 level 3 credits at Distinction and 15 level 3 credits at Merit, including 12 level 3 credits in Biology.

Other UK qualifications

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

Please select a qualification

Please select a qualification

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 Biology at Royal Holloway, University of London and take invaluable skills and experience into your future career. You’ll gain lab-based experience from year 1 onwards, and pick up a range of transferrable skills from your field work and independent research projects.

Our alumni are building careers in fields including biotechnology, environmental monitoring and medical research. A close-knit graduate network means you’ll benefit from the knowledge and connections of Royal Holloway alumni, who regularly visit to share their experiences with current students.

  • 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***: £413

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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