It’s hard not to marvel at the diversity of the natural world. From the smallest insect to the largest mammal, Zoology at Royal Holloway, University of London explores how each and every creature has a role to play in the ecology of our planet.
The course examines animal evolution, physiology and diversity, developing your understanding of how animals behave, how they function and how they interact with their environments. A combination of field and lab-based learning lets you make the most of our state-of-the-art mass spectrometry, proteomics and metabolomics facilities, while our marine and freshwater aquaria, glasshouses and plant and animal cell culture facilities mean you can study a diverse range of animal specimens.
Nearby sites of national scientific importance including Windsor Great Park, Box Hill and Chobham Common give you access to biodiverse habitats ideal for fieldwork, while a flexible course structure lets you choose from a range of courses, even within your first year.
The Department of Biological Sciences was ranked 25th in the UK for influential research output by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, and you’ll become a part of this renowned research culture as you complete your third year research project. Zoology students join a friendly, welcoming learning environment with a high staff-to-student ratio, allowing for small group and even one-on-one tuition to maximise your learning.
The transferable skills you’ll learn studying Zoology will make you an attractive prospect to employers in a range of sectors, helping you to join Royal Holloway alumni in areas including environmental monitoring and practical conservation.
Our flexible degree programmes enable you to apply to take a Placement Year, which can be spent studying abroad, working or carrying out voluntary work. You can even do all three if you want to (minimum of three months each)! To recognise the importance of this additional skills development and university experience, your Placement Year will be formally recognised on your degree certificate and will contribute to your overall result. Please note conditions may apply if your degree already includes an integrated year out, please contact the Careers & Employability Service for more information. Find out more
- Field courses in marine biology, practical field ecology, Mediterranean conservation and ecology and the tropical ecosystems of the Borneo rainforest.
- Flexible course structure with a range of courses to personalise your learning in each year of study.
- Learn how ecologists investigate the behaviour of animals and recent advances in behavioural ecology research.
- Enhance your skills in scientific illustration, microscope use, identification and animal handling.
- Learn how to organise data in a logical, presentable and persuasive way.
Core ModulesYear 1
In this module you will develop an understanding of key scientific concepts and effective science communication. You will learn how to process and critique different forms of information, and how to communicate science to both scientific and non-scientific audiences using diverse media, forms and methods. You will also examine ethical issues surrounding research and intervention.
In this module you will develop an understanding of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell biology and the key functions of these structures and organelles. You will look at the origin of life and the principles of natural selection and evolution. You will also learn the practical technique involved in microscopy, including fixation techniques for the analysis of cell ultrastructure and aseptic techniques for bacterial culture.
In this module you will develop an understanding of genes and their behaviour in individuals organisms, in populations, and at the molecular level within the cell. You will look cellular genetics with respect to mitosis, meiosis, inheritance and recombination, and consider the fundamentals of gene expression, its control, and DNA replication. You will examine genome organisation, transcription, and translation, and gain practical experience of using techniques in microscopy, including slide preparation for the observation of chromosomes.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the key concepts of ecology and conservation, working up from organisms to populations and their interactions, through to communities and ecosystems. You will look at ecological patterns and processes and consider the fundamental interactions between species and their abiotic environment. You will also gain practical experience in using ecological sampling techniques, carrying out biostatistical analyses and experimental design.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the fundamental physiological systems that are required to maintain complex multi-cellular animals, specifically those involved in communication, transport and homeostasis. You will look at how systems and specialised organs have evolved and interact to obtain oxygen from the environment whilst maintaining optimal internal conditions for cellular function. You will consider the mechanisms, organisation, functions and integration of the nervous and endocrine systems to show how neural (somatic and autonomic) and hormonal signalling enable an animal to sense and respond both consciously (e.g. movement) and unconsciously (e.g. internal homeostasis). You will also examine the evolution of the closed circulatory system, separated into pulmonary and systemic circuits and driven by a four-chambered heart, essential for the body-wide distribution of nutrients, oxygen and hormones, and for the removal of waste products.
In this module you will develop an understanding of origins of the vertebrate classes and their evolutionary history. You will look at functional aspects of the key morphological and physiological adaptations of vertebrates to life in water, on land and in the air. You will examine the processes of evolution, phylogeny, physiology and biomechanics of vertebrates, and consider the general anatomical organisation of chordates and vertebrates.
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.
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.
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.
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, examining 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.
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.
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.
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules 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
In this module you will develop an understanding of the basics of biochemistry. You will look at some of the key techniques for biochemical analysis, including spectroscopy, and the fundamentals of protein structure. You will examine structure / function relationships in myoglobin, hemoglobin and the serine proteases, and learn to solve biochemical kinetic problems using the Michaelis-Menten equation. You will also consider how to solve thermodynamic problems, including equilibrium constants.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the main concepts of classic protein biochemistry including protein purification, enzyme kinetics, and enzyme structure. You will look at the basic principles behind a number of protein purification techniques, and consider basic enzyme kinetics using the Michaelis-Menten equation and derived methods to analyse kinetic data. You will examine the underlying biochemistry of a variety of analytical methods and their applications in research and diagnostics, gaining practical experience in performing some of these methods in laboratory practicals. You will also analyse the concept of biochemical buffers and learn how to make these from stock solutions.
In this module you will develop an understanding of specific human physiological systems in health and disease. You will look at how these systems function under normal conditions and consider the consequences of dysfunction and/or dysregulation resulting from genetic or acquired disease. You will consider how special sensory systems convert light, sound and position/movement into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain and how our ability to sense the environment can be disrupted by diseased or damaged receptors. You will examine skeletal muscle function, how movement is controlled and sensed by the somatic nervous system and the causes and consequences of selected muscle and nerve disorders. You will also cover aspects of basic haematology, including the fluid and formed elements of blood and their roles in inflammation and the control of bleeding following vessel damage.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how biological and ecological principles can help develop sustainable solutions to the problems encountered in the 21st Century. You will look at how ecological principles can be used to tackle conservation challenges and consider the importance of ongoing management of ecosystems which have been altered by humans. You will gain practical experience in using ecological sampling techniques and learn how to apply and interpret elementary statistical tests.
In this module you will develop an understanding of global biomes and ecosystems as well as biogeochemical cycles and energy flow through them. You will look at the key features of UK ecosystems and consider current ecological issues. You will examine the major principles of ecological science and gain practical experience in using sampling techniques, biostatistical analyses and experiemental design. You will also analyse variation in climate around the globe, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystsems, ecosystem services and habitat conservation.
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.
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.
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 analysis and interpretation of physiological experiments.
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.
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.
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.
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 the development of human gene therapies.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the physical and chemical characteristics of the marine environment 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 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 techniques that are widely used in the life sciences, including the preparation and handling of purified DNA, restriction enzyme digestions, and polymerase chain reaction.
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.
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 publications on your chosen topic, highlighting how data has been used to generate and test hypotheses.
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.
In this module you will develop an 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.
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 analyse the conservational importance of beneficial insects such as pollinators and saproxylic (dead wood-feeding) species, considering reasons for their decline.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the ecology of the Aljezur 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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of population and community ecology, focussing on the forces 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.
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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the historical background of major questions in evolutionary ecology, focussing on studies using vertebrate systems. You will look at the interactions between and within species and consider the evolutionary effects of competitors, mutualists, predators, prey and pathogens. You will examine specific topics such as life-history theory, evolutionary medicine, phenotypic plasticity, ecological specification and the evolution of sex.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the physiological mechanisms underpinning adaptation to hostile environmental conditions such as anoxia, high hydrostatic pressure and extreme temperatures. You will look at how animals perform extreme feats such as high-speed running, flying, and swimming, perform long-distance migrations, and enter periods of hibernation and torpor. You will also consider how physiology, morphology and anatomy combine to allow survival in harsh environments and make extreme behaviours possible.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the variety of rhythms in nature and their importance. You will look at the rhythms throughout biology, in microbes, plants and animals, and consider the impact of the internal circadian clock on behaviour, physiology, environmental responses and wider implications for fitness. You will examine how the clock interacts with environmental signals, how the clock can be set to the right time, how the clock can moderate environmental responses, and how the clock can allow measurement of day length for the timing of annual events.
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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of advanced concepts and recent advances in fundamentally important areas of cell biology relevant 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 signaling, 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 signaling and regulatory pathways these are involved in. You will also examine the diagnosis and rationale of cancer therapies.
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.
Teaching & assessment
Each year you will take modules worth a total of 120 credits, with most individual modules worth 15 credits. In your final year, your Individual Research Project is worth 30 credits.
The first year is formative, while outcomes of your second and third year contribute one third and two-thirds of your final degree classification respectively.
You will attend a mixture of lectures, seminars and small-group tutorials, with class sizes that range from 6 to 180 students. Practical classes are a major part of all first and second year modules, and include experiments that are integral to the subject, helping to familarise you with the material and augment your understanding of key topics. These are either laboratory-based or field-based with laboratory follow-up. In your third year, you will complete an individual research project supervised by one of our academics, and you may have the opportunity to contribute towards a published scientific paper. The individual research project is assessed on the basis of a written report, supervisor assessment, and an oral presentation.
During your first and second years, you will complete essays and reports, and sit written examinations. In your third year, assignments include a range of activities, such as preparation of posters, oral presentations, creation of leaflets and podcasts, coursework essays, mock research grant applications and scientific news-and-views articles, as well as analysis of data from online repositories in mini-research projects.
A Levels: ABB-BBB
- A-level Biology, plus a pass in the practical element.
- At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.
Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall, with no subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. No subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.
For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, the International Study Centre offers the following pathway programmes:
● International Foundation Year - for progression to the first year of an undergraduate degree.
● International Year One - for progression to the second year of an undergraduate degree. You can join the International Year One in January 2021 and progress to degree study in September 2021.
Your future career
By studying Zoology with us you’ll gain the invaluable skills and experience you need to work in a wide range of sectors, with a combination of lab experience and independent research making you an attractive prospect for potential employers. You can also go on to further education like Graduate Entry Veterinary Medicine or study for a Masters in our vibrant scientific community at Royal Holloway.
The Department of Biological Sciences is a close-knit community, with our alumni regularly returning to share their knowledge and experience with current students.
Fees & funding
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250
EU and International students tuition fee per year**: £22,600
Other essential costs***: £223
How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, scholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.
*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2020/21, the fee will be £9,250 for that year. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2021/22 has not yet been confirmed.
**The Government has confirmed that EU nationals starting a degree in 2020/21 will pay the same fee as UK students for the duration of their course. For EU nationals starting a degree in 2021/22, the UK Government has recently confirmed that you will not be eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2021, we will award an automatic fee reduction which brings your fee into line with the fee paid by UK students. This will apply for the duration of your course.
Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions. Fees shown above are for 2020/21 and are displayed for indicative purposes only.
***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.