Frequently asked questions

We asked the School of Biological Sciences some questions about what it's like to study with them. Here's what they said.

We are adapting our teaching methods and spaces in accordance with the latest COVID guidelines and therefore the information below may be subject to change.

What makes this department at the University of Bristol unique?

Our degree courses are designed to maximise your exposure to the breadth and depth of biological sciences – from animals, plants and microbes to genes and cells, populations and ecosystems. It’s a truly interdisciplinary degree. 

We have strong links with the BBC Natural History Unit and Bristol Zoo, meaning that this is the perfect place to pursue a career in biological sciences and enjoy a diverse, skills-based biology undergraduate programme.

How does the research at the school benefit the experience of the students at the school?

We are very proud to be one of the top ten Biology programmes in the UK (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2020). We are also one of the top five universities for research in the UK (THE analysis of REF 2014). This matters because as a research intensive university, the content of your degree programme will be shaped by the very latest research, delivered by our world-leading experts. We are in a position to train well-rounded biologists because of the depth and breadth of research in our school. This falls under the four broad themes of: evolutionary biology, plants and agricultural sciences, ecology and environmental change, and animal behaviour and sensory biology. Many staff work under more than one of these themes.

What does the school do to welcome students when they first start at Bristol?

It's important to us that our students have a great start at university. Typically, we organise welcome events for our new undergraduates, where they can meet their personal tutor and get acquainted with their coursemates.

At the start of the academic year we also normally run sessions for all new undergraduate students to tell them about the support available within the School and the wider University. We also talk them through such things as how to request coursework extensions, what to do if they are ill, how to apply for alternative exam arrangements and how to apply for extenuating circumstances, amongst other things. We find this helps our students be well equipped with the information they need to settle into university life.

We also typically hold special events for international students and run lab and library induction sessions for all new students.

Biosoc is the School and Student Union-affiliated society for Biology at the University of Bristol. BioSoc is a student-run society open to all members of the University, whether studying Biology or not. Biosoc hold events for new students and also have a “mums and dads” scheme, where groups of first years get linked up with students in higher years. 

What is the first year timetable like for this course?

Based on the 2019/20 academic year, in the first year a typical working week involves 3 x one hour lectures and 1 x three hour practical class per unit, with three units running at one time. There is also continuous assessment from practical classes, tutorials and exams, so students should expect to work 40 hours per week.

During your first few weeks as an undergraduate student you will have lab inductions and introductory lectures on current big ideas in biology, before starting your first-year compulsory biology units.

Where can I find out more about the detailed structure and content of the degree programmes?

You can find detailed information online:

What support does the school offer to new students?

We pride ourselves on having a strong community and being a safe place for all our students to learn and achieve their best during their higher education. We offer a range of pastoral support for our students, which we're happy to talk to you about.

How will the course set me up for my future career?

Our degrees give you broad employment options beyond biology; you will be highly valued by employers outside of science as a numerate graduate with good analytical, problem-solving and communication skills. That is why Bristol is in the top five most targeted universities by top employers (High Fliers 2020). At the same time, a lot of our graduates also progress onto postgraduate degrees and further scientific research.

Are there any employers or other initiatives that the school works with for industry placements?

We currently do not offer industry placements but this is an ongoing project that we are working on. We do organise careers events where alumni talk to students about what jobs they are in now and how they got there. We have recently had Q&A panels with members working in the media (BBC etc.), teaching, law, environment agencies and ecological consultancies, amongst others.

What do graduates go on to do after studying this course at Bristol?

Our undergraduates are highly sought after, moving into roles in education and research, finance and insurance, accounting and management and other professional scientific and technical activities. We have had undergraduates go on to do environmental law and work for Friends of the Earth, as project managers for governmental research organisations, and many have gone on to work for the BBC Natural History Unit. Around 15-20% of our graduates go on to do Masters by Research, PhDs or other biology-related work.

What opportunities are there to study abroad as part of this course?

Unfortunately we don’t currently offer study abroad components of this course but we do normally have a number of overseas field courses that are popular with our students.

What are the facilities like on campus that students will use to study this course?

On our website we provide a virtual tour of our iconic Life Sciences Building (LSB), which represents a £56 million investment in Biological Sciences. The LSB was designed to encourage open discussion between staff and students with lots of breakout areas and open spaces. We encourage you to take the tour.

How many hours (on average) are required outside of lectures for additional work and study?

We expect students to work 40 hours per week during their degree. In the first year there is typically about 20 hours of contact time per week (lectures, practicals and tutorials). The remaining 20 hours will be taken up with continuous assessment and additional reading.

How do assessments work for the department?

Currently, in the first year we have summative MCQ exams at the end of the year as well as a practical exam. You need to pass in order to progress to the second year, but the mark does not contribute towards your degree. In the second and third year, we move to essay-based exams, as well as individual research projects and literature reviews in year three. For your final degree classification, 25 per cent of your marks are taken from year two and 75 per cent from year three.

What would you say are the main differences between studying at school and study at university?

University helps students make the transition from school to adult life: we treat our students as adults. You'll need to be ready to organise yourself and stay motivated, meet deadlines and attend teaching. University life promotes independence, resilience and maturity.

What are examples of final year projects/dissertations that students have worked on when they study this course?

We provide some examples of final year projects from 2019 below; these change from year to year and depend on the research interests of the academic staff. There is always lots of choice and a diversity of topics!

  • The Importance of Dead Hedges for Small Mammal Conservation: Measuring Activity via Footprint Tracking Tubes in Manor Woods Valley Nature Reserve.
  • The Combined Effects of Habitat Fragmentation and Habitat Corridors on Protist Communities in Experimental Microcosms.
  • Investigating the relationship between collective motion and aggression in Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).
  • Potential predator prey interactions between native cichlid fish species (Oreochromis amphimelas) and invasive cichlid fish species (Oreochromis niloticus).
  • The impacts of settled rainfall on the flower preferences of foraging bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae), specifically Bombus terrestris.
  • An investigation into the capacity of AudioMoth to monitor ultrasonic frequencies in seven different UK bat species.
  • Long Term Impacts of an Extreme Climatic Event on the Behaviour of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins
  • Terrestrial Transparency and its Effectiveness as Camouflage in the Glasswing Butterfly Greta oto.
  • Using freshwater sponges (Spongillida) as natural samplers of environmental DNA (eDNA) within Tanzanian crater lakes.
  • Reduced cGMP catabolism leads to increased growth and earlier flowering in Arabidopsis thaliana.
  • Assessing the structure and state of a fungus-invertebrate community using network analysis.
  • Exploring the plastic biodegradation potential and feeding behaviour of ​Galleriamellonella ​caterpillars.
  • The gleam of eye spots as a defensive adaptation in Lepidoptera.
  • A Study of Flea Prevalence and Owner Treatment habits in Cats in the UK.
  • Validating localisation of kinetoplast-associated protein (KAP3) to the kinetoplast in Trypanosoma brucei during mitotic division.
  • Saturation-based data selection at gene-level improves phylogenomic analysism
  • Investigating and Modelling Loss of Genetic Diversity in Captive Populations for Conservation Purposes.
  • The evolutionary relationship between plant and insect viruses. Did plant viruses really evolve from insect viruses?
  • Investigating the electrostatic relationship between the bumble bee Bombus terrestris and multiple bee pollinated flowers on the Triboelectric series.
  • The ‘mesmerising’ hunting display of the Broadclub cuttlefish Sepia latimanus, and its effect on Brachyuran crab prey.
  • Chloroplast-Peroxisome tethering is actin and microtubule independent.
  • An investigation into the effects of biochar and carbon nanondots on grass.
  • Virus induced drought tolerance of tomato plants.

We have also started offering more 'alternative' projects such as teaching-based projects where students conduct pedagogical research and deliver teaching to local secondary schools.

Edit this page