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Health Sciences Q71

Discover the Science behind human health and illness by studying and earning your qualification in Health Sciences through The Open University.

What is Health Sciences

Health Sciences is focused on the improvement of health through scientific research. This fascinating degree will offer a mixture of compulsory and optional modules showing you how an understanding of scientific disciplines like Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Psychology can be applied to prevent, diagnose and treat both physical and mental illnesses. Throughout this degree there is an emphasis on understanding the scientific method.  Therefore students will learn about developing hypotheses and designing studies to test these hypotheses. A degree in Health Sciences offers a range of highly desirable transferrable skills in the workplace such as an ability to critically analyse sources of information and to construct logical written and spoken arguments for experts and lay audiences.

Our Health Sciences degree allows you to study flexibly – full time or part time - at a pace to suit you and your other life commitments.

"An OU qualification says 'employ me'."

By achieving a Health Sciences qualification with The Open University you’ll be an adaptable graduate with a range of transferable skills that are highly valued in the labour market. The logical, reasoned approach needed for Health Science study means Health Science graduates are well placed to enter both scientific and non-scientific jobs. As an OU student you’ll have full access to our Careers Advisory Service to support your study choices and career planning.

What will I study for my Health Sciences degree?

Here's an outline of what you might study on the Health Sciences degree.
(Exact module titles and codes can vary as new versions are made. Check our latest Science modules for more information.)

Stage 1 Health Sciences

Your study starts with a wide-ranging introduction to the Health Sciences focusing on interesting topics like Pain, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Breast Cancer, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition in the module Science and health: an evidence-based approach (SDK100) (60 credits). Through the study of this module you’ll begin to acquire the fundamental investigative and mathematical skills essential to your development as a health scientist. You will also be supported in your learning of key areas of science like chemistry, biology and physics all of which will support you through your study journey at stages 2 and 3.
Finally you will finish stage 1 of your degree by learning about the discipline of Psychology in Investigating psychology 1 (DE100) (60 credits) where you will cover topics such as Changing Behaviour, Measuring Intelligence, Paying Attention as well as focusing on the design of psychological research studies.

Stage 2 Health Sciences

You’ll then focus on learning about human anatomy and the functioning of bodysystems with the compulsory module Human biology (SK277) (30 credits). In this module you will cover the main bodily systems and their relevance to disease including the digestive system, the nervous system, the circulatory system, the endocrine system, and the respiratory system.
You will then take 60 credits of study made up by from 2 x 30 credit modules. You can study these in your preferred order. These modules are Cell biology (S294) (30 credits), The science of the mind: investigating mental health (SDK228) (30 credits).
Cell biology (S294) (30 credits), considers the basic building blocks of life. Despite their common molecular components, cells show huge diversity. In S294 you’ll study the structure and function of different cell types, from microbes to the more complex cells of plants and animals, and you’ll investigate the importance of cell biology in human health and in technology.
You will also learn about mood disorders, addictions and dementias inThe science of the mind: investigating mental health (SDK228) (30 credits). This module has more of a psychological focus but also covers learning about the biology of the brain and the basis of pharmacological treatments for these mental health conditions.

Practical work is an important aspect of Health Sciences and so we provide various opportunities to enable everyone to have the experience of learning about practical work throughout the modules mentioned so far. However, practical science is the specific focus of the final compulsory module at stage 2 Practical science: biology and health (SXHL288) (30 credits) where you will undertake virtual scientific experiments, developing practical and analytical skills by generating and analysing data sets, and collaborating with your fellow students.

Stage 3 Health Sciences

At Stage 3 you will study more advanced Health Sciences modules which draw on your understanding of the fundamental aspects of biology, epidemiology and public health in Infectious disease and public health (SK320) (30 credits), and of psychology and neuroscience in Signals and perception: the science of the senses (SD329) (30 credits). You will also have the opportunity to develop your skills in evaluating and communicating science in our new module Evaluating contemporary science (S350) (30 credits). This module provides excellent preparation for undertaking the final module in your Health Sciences degreeResearching biology and health science (SXL390) (30 credits) In this capstone module you will need to draw on all of the scientific skills you have been developing throughout your degree to carry out a literature-based research project on a Health Sciences topic. Currently available topics that students can select from include, amongst others, Autism, Ageing, and Stem Cells.

Learning underpinned by research

The Open University doesn’t just teach: it’s a global leader in research and innovation too, with OU research and development ranking in the top third of UK universities. The Faculty of Science which produces most of the Health Sciences modules has a long and distinguished record of conducting high quality, internationally leading research. These researchers contribute to our state of the art curriculum material ensuring that your learning is up to date, informed by scientific research.

What's OU study like?

Our long established, quality distance-learning methods use innovative technologies to provide a modern, blended learning experience. We’re designing our new Health Sciences modules with on-screen delivery in mind, taking advantage of year-on-year developments in new technologies to make your studies with us even more engaging and flexible - on computer, mobile and tablet devices.

You will be immersed in interactive activities during your Health Sciences studies, using a mix of high quality text, graphics, audios and videos to support your learning.

Find out more about what it's like to study science at the Open University.

How much will it cost?

Studying Health Sciences with The Open University is not just flexible but great value for money, whether you live at home or away. 

Are there any formal entry requirements?

No - most of our undergraduate courses (including Health sciences) have no formal entry requirements.

Most people start off their Health Science studies with our compulsory introductory module SDK100 Science and Health: An evidence-based approach. To get the best from it you’ll need some knowledge of core science concepts and mathematical skills, and the ability to read and write to a good standard of English. You can use our online diagnostic tool Are you ready for science study? to help you decide if you’re ready, or if you could do with some extra preparation. Our Access module is great preparation if you feel you need it.

Can I try some study first before committing to a degree?

Absolutely. We’ve got a number of different options available:
• Our Science access module lets you try out the OU’s style of learning. You’ll get your own personal tutor and you may even be able to study for free.
• If you want to try online study without direct tutor support, have a look at our Science: online short courses.

Next steps

Spotlight on our academics

Professor Nacho Romero

Nacho is investigating the blood-brain barrier which is key to our understanding of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

Dr Claire Rostron

Dr Claire Rostron, the Qualification Director for Health Sciences, talks about her research, her role in Open University/BBC co-productions in the area of Health Sciences, and how she has developed innovative up to date teaching material for Health Sciences module SXHL288 Practical Science: Investigating Biology and Health Science.

View our free Open Learn material developed in association with the BBC2 programme ‘Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You’

Did you know?

OU study is based on modules that award you credits (usually 30 or 60 credits for successful completion, depending on the module). You’ll need 360 credit points to be awarded our BSc (Hons) Health Sciences degree – 120 credits from each of Stages 1, 2 and 3 – similar to the three years of a ‘traditional’ full-time university degree program.

Try cell biology

Have a look at our free OpenLearn unit 'A tour of the cell' (12 hours study) which is based on S294 Cell biology

Try human biology

Have a look at our free OpenLearn unit Obesity: Balanced diets and treatment (15 hours of study)  based on SK277 Human biology.

Try mental health

Listen to some audio clips from SDK228 and learn about emotions and emotional disorders including depression in our free Open Learn units ‘Emotions and emotional disorders’ and ‘Understanding depression and anxiety’ which are adapted from SDK228 The science of the mind.

Want to read our health sciences research publications?

You can get a flavour of our published research more broadly in the life, health and chemical sciences through our Open Research Online (ORO) website