Students study biology in a lab

Biology BSc

Biology, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Plant Sciences and Zoology

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You are viewing this course for 2021-22 entry. 2022-23 entry is also available.

Key details

Course description

You'll learn about how cells and genes work, how organisms age, how populations evolve, and how organisms and ecosystems function. You'll also discover how we can work towards solving pressing global challenges, including antibiotic resistance, ageing, biodiversity, sustainability and climate change.

Our degrees all start with core subject and skills modules that provide the foundation for your studies. As you progress through your degree, you'll have a chance to explore your core subjects in greater depth, choose optional modules across the biosciences to help broaden your knowledge and skills and participate in a research activity. Moving to a different degree course is possible, especially in the first year, and depending on your qualifications.

You'll choose from optional modules that span zoology, ecology and conservation biology and plant sciences. You can mix and match these modules, covering genetics, structure, function, evolution, behaviour and ecology of all organisms, underpinned by the latest research discoveries from our experts across DNA, evolution, biodiversity and beyond.

If you want to study biology but don't meet the entry requirements to go straight into the first year, our Biosciences with a Foundation Year could be for you. After successfully completing the one-year programme, you'll progress onto the first year of one of our biosciences degrees.


The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:

Title: Biology BSc course structure
UCAS code: C100
Years: 2021

In your first year, you'll spend your first week on a field course in Sheffield, collecting and analysing data throughout the city's green spaces and out to the edge of the Peak District. Throughout the year, you'll develop practical skills in the lab, including microscopy and genetics, complemented by regular field trips to zoos, aquariums and nature reserves. You'll also have lectures and take part in small group tutorials where you'll enhance your writing, data analysis and presentation skills as you learn about the latest research findings from our world-leading academics.

Core modules

Skills for Biologists 1

The Skills for Biology module introduces students to the fundamentals of scientific writing, presentation skills, practical skills, experimental design and data analysis, information technology, the role of science in society and career development. Concepts will be introduced in a series of lectures and seminars that students will then develop through practical sessions and independent study using printed and online module material and activities. Key transferable skills will then be developed and integrated using small group tutorials.

30 credits

This course introduces the concept of biodiversity - what it is and how we measure it. Biodiversity will be explored through two case studies: (i) the plant kingdom; (ii) the animal kingdom. Both kingdoms will be considered in terms of their characteristics, classification, evolutionary history, biodiversity and biogeography.

10 credits

This course presents evolution as the central unifying theme of modern biology. It begins with a brief overview of the origin of life and important events in the early history of life on earth. It goes on to explore evolutionary mechanisms: essentially how evolution works. The course finishes with three case studies in evolution.

10 credits
Genes in Populations

Familiarity with classical population and quantitative genetics is fundamental to the modern synthesis of biology. This module provides an introduction to the principles of genetics at the levels of the individual and the population. Topics include Mendelian inheritance and gene interaction, linkage, heritability, sources and maintenance of variation in populations, divergence of populations and speciation. Lectures will emphasise an approach to understanding genetics at the individual and population level by learning how genetic inferences are made through quantitative analyses. Assessment will be by formal examination.

10 credits
Molecular and Cell Biology

In this module, we will explore the basics of genes and genetics and of cell biology, including (i) the structure and replication of DNA, (ii) the molecular biology of gene function, (iii) transcription and translation, (iv) the inheritance of DNA, (v) the generation and consequences of genetic variation,(vi) mitosis, meiosis and recombination, (vii) the structure of plant and animal cells, (viii) the cell cycle, (ix) how cells communicate and (x) how cells move. An emphasis will be placed on how genetics and cell biology can provide great insight into many topics in Biology, e.g. human medicine and agriculture.

10 credits

Optional modules:

Animal Behaviour

This unit will provide an introduction to behaviour, focussing on the four fundamental questions: (i) the evolution of behaviour; (ii) the function of behaviour, (iii) the ontogeny of behaviour and (iv) the causation (or mechanisms) of behaviour. The course will introduce the major concepts and information on specific topics, including sexual behaviour, foraging behaviour and social behaviour in humans and non-humans. A central theme will be the extent to which animal behaviour can inform us about human behaviour and in particular the similarities and differences between the evolutionary approach to animal behaviour and evolutionary psychology.

10 credits
Animal Physiology, Reproduction and Development

This course is an introduction to the physiology, reproduction and development of animals. The course will explore how animals acquire and process energy, nutrients and water, and will examine fertilisation in mammals and embryonic development in a range of vertebrates.

10 credits
Ecosystems, Climate and Environmental Change

The module provides an introduction to ecosystem development and processes, how these are impacted by environmental change, and how ecosystems influence climate. It uses examples of both British and globally important ecosystems to understand the effects of environment on vegetation change and succession. It describes the importance of climate in the geographical distribution of terrestrial ecosystems, and the responses of ecosystems to disturbance. The prediction of the responses of ecosystems to global environmental change is also explored.

10 credits
How Plants Work: Physiology, Reproduction & Development

This course is an introduction to the physiology, reproduction, development and growth of plants and fungi. The course will explore: the ways in which plants and fungi acquire and process energy, nutrients and water; and how plants and fungal colonies reproduce, grow and develop. Particular attention will be paid to the relationship between structure and function.

10 credits
Population and Community Ecology 1

This unit provides an introduction to the ecology of individuals, populations and communities. The ecology of individuals includes a consideration of resource acquisition, territoriality, reproduction and life history trade-offs. Population ecology includes a consideration of population growth and regulation, interspecific competition, and niche differentiation. Communitiy ecology is concerned with describing and understanding the diversity and stability of ecological communities; including a consideration of intraspecific competition, predation and predator-prey interactions. This unit also considers aspects of applied ecology including: conservation principles and priorities, sustainable harvesting of populations, pest control and management.

10 credits

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

Learning and assessment


Our research-embedded teaching ensures you’ll gain knowledge and understanding from the forefront of the full breadth of biology, from the cell and molecular level through to whole organisms and biodiversity.

You’ll learn through lectures, small group tutorials and workshops, field courses, research projects and practical sessions in the lab and field. Our biology course benefits from exceptional teaching across all three bioscience subject areas, including biochemistry and biomedical science.

To support your learning, you’ll have access to a virtual learning environment with interactive course materials. You'll also have a personal tutor throughout your course, to give you advice and guidance on both academic and pastoral issues.

We invest to create the right environment for you. That means outstanding facilities, study spaces and support, including 24/7 online access to our online library service.

Study spaces and computers are available to offer you choice and flexibility for your study. Our five library sites give you access to over 1.3 million books and periodicals. You can access your library account and our rich digital collections from anywhere on or off campus. Other library services include study skills training to improve your grades, and tailored advice from experts in your subject.

Learning support facilities and library opening hours


Throughout the course you will be assessed through a variety of methods, including exams, tests, presentations, coursework and practical work.

Programme specification

This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.

Find programme specification for this course

Entry requirements

With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible

Standard offer
Access Sheffield offer

The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Biology and a second science

The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Biology and a second science

A Levels + additional qualifications | ABB, including Biology and a second science + B in the EPQ; ABB, including Biology and a second science + B in Core Maths ABB, including Biology and a second science + B in the EPQ; ABB, including Biology and a second science + B in Core Maths

International Baccalaureate | 34, 6, 5 in Higher Level Biology and a second science 33 with 5 in Higher Level Biology and a second science

BTEC | DD in Applied Science (with Distinctions in all Biology units if Biology not offered at A Level) + A in an A Level science DD in Applied Science (with Distinctions in all Biology Units if not offer at A level) + B in an A level Science

Scottish Highers + 1 Advanced Higher | AAABB, including a science subject + B in Biology AABBB including a science subject + B in Biology

Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels | B + AA in Biology and a second science B + AB in Biology and a second science

Access to HE Diploma | 60 credits overall in a Science Subject with 45 at level 3 including 36 credits at Distinctions to include Biology and a second science, and 9 credits at Merit. Applicants are considered individually. 60 credits overall in a Science Subject with 45 at level 3 including 30 credits at Distinctions to include Biology and a second science, and 15 credits at Merit. Applicants are considered individually.

Mature students - explore other routes for mature students

English language requirements

You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

Equivalent English language qualifications

Visa and immigration requirements

Other requirements
  • Human Biology is acceptable instead of Biology. Second science from Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Environmental Science, or Geography

  • GCSE Maths grade 4 or grade C

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Biology, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Plant Sciences and Zoology

Arthur Willis Environment Centre

Biosciences at Sheffield is home to over 120 lecturers who are actively involved in research at the cutting edge of their field. You'll learn from scientists who are helping to solve some of the biggest global challenges, from understanding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our food systems and discovering how to absorb up to 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, to combating the biodiversity and climate crises.

Our staff are drawn from across the biosciences and are engaged in research in a wide range of areas, from molecular biology, human health and disease, to evolution, biodiversity, conservation, genetics and sustainability.

We’re a close-knit community where every student gets the support and encouragement needed to achieve their best work. Whether it’s joining one of our student-led societies and taking part in nights out, trips abroad and quizzes with lecturers, or volunteering, fundraising and organising your own events, there are lots of opportunities to get involved.

Biosciences students are based across Firth Court, the Alfred Denny, Florey and Addison buildings. We are at the heart of the University campus, adjacent to the Students' Union and just a 15-minute walk from the city centre.


Our students have access to world-class laboratory and computing resources for biological research and are trained in specialist teaching laboratories, supported by teaching assistants and our technician team.

Biosciences at Sheffield is home to state-of-the-art facilities, including super resolution light, cryo-electron and atomic force microscopy, NMR and X-ray facilities, a Biological Mass Spectrometry facility and the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility, which provides molecular genetics facilities and training to the UK science community.

We also have controlled environment facilities that can simulate any past, present and future climate, entomology resources, experimental gardens, leading equipment for DNA analysis, and the Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology on campus.

Biosciences at Sheffield

Why choose Sheffield?

The University of Sheffield

  A Top 100 university 2021
QS World University Rankings

  Top 10% of all UK universities
Research Excellence Framework 2014

  No 1 Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2019, 2018, 2017

Biology, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Plant Sciences and Zoology

Top 10 in the UK for Biological Sciences

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021

Top 5 for Biological Sciences Research

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Top 20 in the world for Ecology

Shanghai Ranking

Our graduates are among the UK's top ten most targeted by leading employers

High Fliers Research 2020

Graduate careers

Biology, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Plant Sciences and Zoology

Our courses equip students for a wide range of careers, from scientific roles to graduate schemes with top employers. Whether you want to pursue a career in science, apply your skills in industry, or continue your studies, bioscience graduates are highly sought after due to their specialist laboratory and field skills, ability to solve problems, handle and analyse data, and effectively communicate complex ideas to a range of audiences.

As well as progressing onto a masters programme or PhD, our students secure roles in leading scientific organisations like Cancer Research, GSK, RB and Mondelez, and organisations linked to ecology and conservation such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum and the Environment Agency.

Transferable skills are embedded and developed throughout our degrees, which means year on year many of our graduates join big employers like Google, PwC, the BBC, Deloitte, United Kingdom Civil Service, Aldi and the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme. You can also apply your degree to other varied careers including bioinformatics, marketing and science communication, teaching and science policy.

Jennie Smith

My course helped me secure a PhD scholarship to study marine biology in Australia!

Jennie Smith MBiolSci Biology

From gaining field experience through her field course in Borneo, to studying Heliconius butterflies as a research assistant in Ecuador, Jennie made the most of her time at Sheffield.

Fees and funding


Additional costs

The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.

Examples of what’s included and excluded

Funding your study

Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.

Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.

Visit us

University open days

There are four open days every year, usually in June, July, September and October. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.

Open days: book your place

Taster days

At various times in the year we run online taster sessions to help Year 12 students experience what it is like to study at the University of Sheffield.

Upcoming taster sessions

Applicant days

If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our applicant days, which take place between November and April. These applicant days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.

Campus tours

Campus tours run regularly throughout the year, at 1pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Book your place on a campus tour

Apply for this course

Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:

The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

Our student protection plan

Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer

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