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BSc (Honours) Biology

Our biology degree is for those inspired by the natural world. Studying with the OU will enable you to gain a deeper understanding of the foundations of life and biological processes involved. Explore diverse subject areas from the cellular and molecular levels to whole organism survival. Biology encompasses all living species, explaining their diversity via evolutionary origins. It defines their anatomy and structure, describes their physiology and behaviour, and provides scientific rationales for their habitat requirements and ecosystem interactions.

Key features of the course

  • Gain a contemporary understanding of a range of biology subjects with study of the scientific method throughout.
  • Develop biological data handling, some statistical analysis and technical report-writing, presentation and IT skills.
  • Undertake practical work through home and field investigations, as well as virtual and remote experiments using our award-winning OpenScience Lab.
  • Further develop fieldwork and practical skills through optional short residential schools, where you can also meet other Open University biology students.
  • Awarded interim accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology.

Course Summary

+Shortlist Course

Degree

Degree

  • Also known as an undergraduate or bachelors degree.
  • Internationally respected, universally understood.
  • An essential requirement for many high-level jobs.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of your subject – and the tools to investigate, think critically, form reasoned arguments, solve problems and communicate effectively in new contexts.
  • Progress to higher level study, such as a postgraduate diploma or masters degree.
Course code
R58
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
360
How long it takes
Part time – 6 years
Full time – 3 years
Time limit – 16 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits.

  • You’ll start Stage 1 with a 60-credit introductory science module, then continue with another 60-credit science module.
  • At Stage 2, you’ll study two 30-credit biology modules and choose a further 60 credits from a range of science modules.
  • At Stage 3, you’ll study a 60-credit biology module, choose a further 30-credit module and complete your degree with a 30-credit project module.

Prepare for OU study with an Access module

We offer two starting points depending on how confident you are or how long it’s been since you last studied. Choose to dive straight in with an OU level 1 module, or if you’d prefer some extra preparation, you can get started with an optional Access module. See Entry requirements for more details.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

Stage 1 starts with an interdisciplinary broad science module in which you’ll investigate a series of questions that teach scientific thinking. Your next science module focuses on further key ideas in science and includes distinct practical blocks.
ModulesCredits
You'll study both of the following:
Questions in science (S111)60
Science: concepts and practice (S112)60

Stage 2 (120 credits)

In Stage 2, you’ll study two compulsory 30-credit modules. The first covering the biology and diversity of whole organisms from an evolutionary perspective, including adaptation and natural selection. The other covering cellular biology in greater depth. You’ll also choose another 60 credits from a range of options.
ModulesCredits
You'll study both of the following:
Cell biology (S294)30
The biology of survival (S295)30
You'll choose 60 credits from:
Environmental science (S206)60
Brain, mind and mental health (SK298)30
Human biology (SK299)30
Investigative approaches in biology and chemistry (S285) – planned for October 202130

Stage 3 (120 credits)

In Stage 3, the 60-credit compulsory module explores a range of advanced topics in biological science in more depth. You’ll then choose a complementary 30-credit module. And complete your degree with a 30-credit project module, undertaking your own individual investigation.

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 17 March 2020.


Accessibility

We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. This qualification uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying a mixture of printed and online material. Online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes. Many alternative formats are available
  • working with specialist reading material such as scientific journals
  • using scientific terminology and mathematical, statistical and experimental techniques
  • undertaking practical work, field work or using an online laboratory experience
  • working together with other OU students and tutors in online tutorial rooms
  • using and/or producing data summaries, graphs, tables, diagrams and/or screenshots
  • researching, using and acknowledging/referencing external/third party online material.

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.


Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding.
  • Cognitive skills.
  • Practical and professional skills.
  • Key skills.

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you’ve already completed some study at another university, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – reducing the number of modules you need to study.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. Just tell us what you studied, where and when, and we’ll compare this against the learning outcomes for your chosen course.

For more details and an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.


Classification of your degree

On successfully completing this undergraduate course, you'll be awarded the BSc (Honours) Biology degree. The class of degree (first, upper second, lower second or third-class honours) depends on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.

You'll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 


Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this qualification.

At The Open University we believe education should be open to all, so we provide a high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Even though there are no entry requirements, there are some skills that you’ll need to succeed. If you’re not quite ready for OU study we can guide you to resources that prepare you, many of which are free.

Answer a few quick questions to check whether you’re ready for study success

  • Stage 1 includes a compulsory module, Questions in science (S111) – check you’re ready to study this module.

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
  • This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.
Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner

Preparing for study with an Access module

Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to an OU level 1 module. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.

You’ll also benefit from:

  • feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
  • support from a dedicated team throughout your study
  • detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is our:

Science, technology and maths Access module

What you will study

This multidisciplinary module is an ideal starting point if you have little or no previous knowledge of the sciences, technology and mathematics. It'll help develop your study skills in advance of your OU qualification, and you get to explore a number of STEM subjects including science, engineering and design, environment, mathematics, and computing and IT.

View full details of Science, technology and maths Access module

In this section:
How much will it cost?
Ways to pay for your qualification and other support

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread, or even reduce, the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • If, like most OU students, you study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year, you'll take six years to complete an honours degree.
  • Our current fee for 60 credits is £3,096*.
  • Our current fee for 120 credits – which is equivalent to a year's full-time study – is £6,192*.
  • At current prices, the total cost of your qualification would be £18,576*.
  • .

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2021. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you start studying.

Residential schools

This qualification includes science modules that include or are associated with an optional residential/laboratory school. For each school you choose to attend, you must pay an additional charge to cover costs such as tuition, accommodation and meals (see individual module descriptions for more information). You must also pay for your travel to and from the venue.


Skills for career development

On completion of your biology degree, you’ll be an adaptable graduate with a range of transferable skills that are highly valued in the wider jobs market. You’ll have developed analytical, numerical and problem-solving abilities and gained proficiency in data handling, using computers as well as have team-working and communication skills. Employers may also look for evidence of practical laboratory or fieldwork experience to support the skills gained throughout the degree. Even if your future job doesn’t involve practical work, your experiences of designing, carrying out, trouble shooting and persistence in online or home-based investigations demonstrate valuable employability requirements.

Career relevance

Employers of biology graduates include central and local government, the NHS, the water and horticultural industries, food and drink companies, media and communications, multinational oil companies, the pharmaceutical industry, conservation bodies, schools and universities – in roles such as:

  • biotechnology and biomedical engineering
  • data analysis, bioinformatics and diagnostics
  • environmental management, protection and conservation
  • exploration and extraction of natural resources
  • health and healthcare-related professions
  • product design and development
  • research, investigation and laboratory work
  • science information management
  • science communication
  • scientific and medical sales
  • teaching (science is a shortage subject at secondary school level; there may be training incentives)
  • waste management, recycling and sustainability.

Accreditation

This programme has been awarded interim accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology. Degree accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology acknowledges academic excellence in the biosciences, and highlights degrees that educate the research and development leaders and innovators of the future. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates have met defined learning outcomes, including gaining substantial research experience. Following a successful demonstration to the Society that these graduate attributes have been attained, and graduation of the first cohort of students from the programme, the programme may be awarded full accreditation.
RSB-Accredited-Degree-logo.jpg

Other careers

Biology graduates displaying self-awareness, interpersonal skills and problem-solving abilities are well-placed to enter scientific and non-scientific careers. The logical approach developed is relevant to a range of employment sectors including financial, business and the public sector. OU study prepares you for careers beyond your degree subject keeping future options open.

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice – including online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point (note that some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree):

  • analytical scientist
  • bioinformatics data analyst
  • botanist
  • countryside manager
  • laboratory technician
  • industrial researcher
  • research scientist
  • science administrator or manager
  • science communicator
  • science teacher
  • scientific journalist
  • technical consultant
  • technical writer        
  • toxicologist
  • zoologist.

Register for this course

Start dates
Credit transfer: apply by 17/12/2020

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