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Going to University

Choosing your degree

Biology might our choice of degree may be influenced by your careers goals after university; there might be a specific area of biology that you're interested in that you want to pursue after you graduate, or you might have have a specific job role, such as a biomedical scientist, that you want your degree to qualify you for.

Sources to help you decide

Unistats
Unistats lets you compare official information on student satisfaction, graduate destinations and average salaries for undergraduate courses in the UK.

National careers service job profiles
This database contains information on over 800 jobs, including typical work and salary, entry requirements, progression and background information on the sector.

Which? University
This allows you to explore degrees by subject and university, and lets you compare course content, how you will be assessed, and how your time will be divided between independent study, lectures, tutorials, and practical work.

Some things to think about when choosing your degree

Where do you want to study?

You will be living where you study for at least three years, so location might be a factor when deciding which university you want to attend. Think about whether you want to live on a campus university, or in a big city? How long will it take you to travel to visit family and friends?

How long you will study for

Most full-time bachelors degrees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland usually take 3 years. Full-time degrees in Scotland traditionally last four years, typically offering a broad range of subjects in the first two years, and the chance to specialise in your final two years. Studies can take longer if you decide to do a year in industry, combine it with a masters year, study abroad, or undertake a joint honours programme.

What skills and experience you will gain

Think about whether you need specialised knowledge or training that will enable you to enter a certain career; does your degree need to be accredited or recognised by a relevant professional body? If you're already thinking of a career in research, then our Advanced Degree Accreditation is one way to help find courses that will give the opportunity to gain research skills and experience.

Other skills you will develop while studying a biology degree include communication, problem solving, project management, and data analysis, which are valuable when looking for alternative careers in biology.

Course content and delivery

Choosing a degree subject isn't the same as choosing a degree course; the subject is a umbrella term, but the content delivered can vary greatly from university to university. Many bioscience and biology degrees will offer a broad choice of modules in the first year, with the chance to specialise and focus on one area in the second and third years, this can be a good option if you haven't decided on a specialist area, or would like to keep some flexibility in your studies.

Degrees focusing on one area of biology, such as marine biology, genetics, or microbiology, for example, may cover different aspects of the same subject. Compare the modules available and the content, to make sure you will get to cover the parts you are interested in.

Joint or combined honours degrees will give you the flexibility to study more than one area of interest, such as combining you studies with a foreign language. This is great for maintaining a breadth of knowledge and experience, but it does mean that you won't have time to cover the same content as a single honours degree. 

Attending one of the UCAS Higher Education Conventions will give you an opportunity to speak to representatives from a wide variety of universities, while attending an open day will give you in-depth information about the course, university and location.

Applying to university and UCAS

Applications to undergraduate degrees in the UK are made online through UCAS. You can apply to up to five courses per year, and you can only make one application per year.

Although the deadline for most UK courses is the 15th January, most schools and colleges will encourage you to complete you application by November, to allow them enough time to review your choices, make grade predictions and supply references.

Key dates for applications are:

  • 15th October - deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge, and to medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine at most UK universities
  • 15th January - deadline for applications to most other UK courses
  • 25th February - UCAS Extra opens
  • 7th May - you must respond to any university offers received before 31st March
  • 5th June - if you applied before 15th January, you must respond to all outstanding offers by this date
  • 30th June - applications received by UCAS after this date will be entered into clearing
  • 2nd July - last date to apply for UCAS Extra
  • 20th September - this is the last date UCAS will accept applications for courses starting that year
  • 30th September - clearing closes

These are typical dates for applications, but it's best to check the UCAS website for changes to date for 2015 entry.

Funding your studies

UK universities may now charge up to £9,000 per year tuition fees for undergraduate degrees, although it is up to the university to decide how much they want to charge for different courses. Most students from the UK and EU are eligible to apply for a Tuition Fee Loan, if it's their first degree. In addition to the Tuition Fee Loan, there are Maintenance Loans and Grants to help with your living costs, if you're a full-time UK student. These loans and grants are managed by the Student Loans Company, but applications are made depending on whether you are applying from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales.

Additional funding for individual needs is available, either through your local authority for care leavers, or your regional funding body for students with disabilities.

Money Saving Expert will give you loads of impartial advice on student loans, managing your finances and debt, and myth-busting the changes to tuition fees.