Biochemistry with Preliminary Year (BSc)

The Cardiff Biochemistry degree will introduce you to contemporary research in this fascinating and dynamic subject.

Our Biochemistry degree with Preliminary Year is a four-year course. The Preliminary Year covers key topics in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics and leads to a BSc in any of the subjects offered by the School of Biosciences. The purpose of the Preliminary Year is to provide students who don’t have a sufficient background in science with the basis of scientific knowledge to enable them to thrive in the year one curriculum and beyond.

Biochemistry is the study of biological systems and how they function at the molecular level, and also includes cell and developmental biology. It is a subject that has a rich history of scientific discoveries, from enzymology and metabolic pathways to the discovery of genes and the structure of DNA. Today the subject embraces important new areas, such as genomics, systems and synthetic biology and is central to all aspects of biology.

During this course, you will learn the key role that biochemistry and biomolecular sciences contribute to advances in all biological disciplines, including medicine and biotechnology. You will receive extensive hands-on training in laboratory and (depending on module selection and availability) field research techniques, and gain practical experience of widely transferable skills in computing, statistics, data analysis and presentation.

The programme combines scientific understanding with the development of academic skills (critical appraisal, evaluation and analysis of data) along with the development of practical, presentation and written skills within a scientific context. The course ultimately aims to produce graduates who are employable, well-informed, versatile and enthusiastic ambassadors for science.

The knowledge and skills that you develop during your Biochemistry degree will make you employable in a broad range of careers within all areas of biological and molecular sciences, including pharmaceutical industries, research, publishing and teaching. The analytical and other skills acquired on the course are also an excellent grounding for many other career paths outside of science. Alternatively you may wish to further your studies by pursuing a higher degree.

Distinctive features

Our degrees are closely linked to the research interests of the staff who teach them, allowing you to experience the excitement of learning in an active research environment. We attract substantial external research funding and this will allow you to make use of the latest equipment, techniques and facilities in your project work. The School also houses a permanently staffed Field Station in Borneo, as well as leading the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, one of the University’s flagship Institutes, allowing access to a wide range of exciting training opportunities.

This programme offers a high degree of flexibility with student choice at its core. You have the freedom to decide how your academic experience develops. You can choose to specialise in a particular area or to maintain a wide breadth of learning and explore the interdisciplinary research that underpins much of the School’s success. 

Key facts

UCAS CodeC74C
Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration4 years
ModeFull time
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 415 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 2500 applications.
Typical A level offerAAB-ABB
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerWBQ core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level (at the grades specified).
Typical International Baccalaureate offer34 points.
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course
Admissions tutor(s)

This course is full-time over four academic years (five including the Professional Training Year option), with 120 credits attained in each year. It begins with the Preliminary Year which covers key topics in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, and will underpin future studies.

Year one is made up of six 20-credit modules, with three 40-credit modules taught in year two. In the final year, the research project carries 30 credits and is accompanied by three 30-credit modules.

Year one modules involve lectures and supporting tutorials providing background theoretical knowledge as well as practical classes. Our various degree schemes share a common year one, which covers all aspects of the biosciences and has the big advantage of giving you flexibility of degree choice. Classes provide students with IT skills for biologists and an understanding of statistical analysis of data, and coursework is used to develop written and oral communication skills.

In year two, modules across a wide range of subjects are offered. In all cases, extensive laboratory practicals help to develop practical skills and the ability to critically evaluate experimental data. Set assignments and reading are used to promote self-directed learning and the analysis of primary research literature.

The final year requires much more independent study, and all students must produce a substantial research-based (laboratory, literature, pedagogic or scientific engagement) report. We strive to offer as wide a choice as possible to allow you to tailor the degree to your study goals.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2017/18 academic year. The final modules will be published by July 2017.

Preliminary year

Our Preliminary Year forms the first year of a four-year degree programme leading to a BSc in any of the subjects offered by the School of Biosciences. The purpose of the Preliminary Year is to provide students who don’t have a background in science with the basis of scientific knowledge that will enable them to thrive in the year one curriculum and beyond. It is aimed at AS/A-level students who have good grades but in the wrong subjects, overseas students who do not hold science qualifications equivalent to the UK ‘A’ level, and mature students re-entering the education system.

The Preliminary Year covers key topics in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics with 20 credits of optional modules that may be taken from other Schools, the Centre for Professional Education and/or the School of Modern Languages.

This course is not available for students who have taken appropriate AS/A-levels but not achieved the grades required for first year entry.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Medical Imaging and The Human BodyCE396810 credits
Disease in The Developing WorldCE419010 credits
Structure and Properties of MatterPX010110 credits
Foundations of Modern PhysicsPX020110 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits

Year one

The first year is a common year, covering all aspects of the biosciences. This is designed to reflect the fact that bioscience research is increasingly a multi-disciplinary field.

The common first year course provides a grounding in essential subjects, including a Biological Chemistry module that present topics at the chemistry/biology interface and explores modern analytical techniques. The Biochemical components of the first year course include topics such as structure and function of proteins (including enzymes), DNA structure and replication, gene organisation and expression, genetic manipulation techniques, lipid and carbohydrate biochemistry, and key aspects of metabolism.

The modern, modular syllabus is delivered through lectures, tutorials, presentations, and practical classes carried out in spacious, well-equipped laboratories. It provides a firm foundation in all the biological disciplines, including biological chemistry, cell biology, microbiology, genetics, evolution, anatomy and physiology, animal and plant biology, and ecology, as well as focusing on developing practical and academic scientific skills. Modules may begin by overlapping with A-level studies, but will soon progress to greater depth and scope.

The common first year system has the big advantage of giving you flexibility of degree choice. The aim of this approach is to expose you to all areas of the biosciences, so that you are better able to operate within the increasingly interdisciplinary bioscience disciplines. The common year one structure also enables you to diversify your subject focus in year two, should you wish to, or keep a strong focus on one particular discipline.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Structure and Function of Living OrganismsBI100220 credits
Organisms and EnvironmentBI100320 credits
Genetics and EvolutionBI105120 credits
Skills for ScienceBI100120 credits
The Dynamic CellBI100420 credits
Biological ChemistryBI101420 credits

Year two

Your second year will put greater emphasis on the experimental basis of biochemistry and related areas of the biomolecular sciences such as molecular, cell and developmental biology. You will undertake practicals that cover modern research techniques such as recombinant DNA manipulation and analysis, protein and lipid biochemistry and microbiology, with a strong focus on data analysis and interpretation.

You will also build on your year one knowledge to develop a sound grounding in more advanced areas of gene function, molecular genetics, protein biochemistry, metabolism, cell biology, development, evolution and cell signalling.

This will ensure that you have the necessary skills and awareness of key techniques in preparation for whatever aspect of biochemistry becomes your chosen area of specialisation, both in the final year of the course and in your subsequent career.

In year two, you have a choice of three from up to 12 available modules, giving a total of 120 Credits.

During year two, you can also opt to switch to the five-year course with a Professional Training Year, which is taken after the second year, subject to an appropriate training place being identified.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Animal Diversity and AdaptationBI213140 credits
Applications of GeneticsBI213240 credits
Ecology and ConservationBI213340 credits
Cell BiologyBI223140 credits
BiochemistryBI223240 credits
Stem Cells, Differentiation and DevelopmentBI223340 credits
Molecular Biology of the GeneBI223440 credits
PhysiologyBI233140 credits
Concepts of DiseaseBI233240 credits
Practical AnatomyBI233340 credits
Brain and BehaviourBI243140 credits
Fundamental NeuroscienceBI243240 credits

Year three

In your final year, there is a strong emphasis on independent learning, and you can investigate areas of current importance in biochemistry, such as synthetic biology and protein structure, genetic engineering, stem cell biology and tissue engineering. Your research skills will be developed further during your final year project that allows you to investigate a topic in much greater depth.

Tutorials and research seminars on wider aspects of the subject, including medical and industrial applications, will extend the scope of your learning.

As well as a 30-credit research project, you will complete three 30-credit modules (from a choice of 18). Modules cover a range of topics including synthetic biology and protein engineering, advanced cell biology, bioinformatics and functional genomics, and genes and genomes.

At the start of the final year, you will also have the option of applying to transfer to the MBiochem course with integrated Master’s, depending on satisfactory academic progress and space availability.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

The School of Biosciences provides a student-centred educational experience based on academic excellence. Importantly, educational experience is informed and led by world-leading research, and it is highly acclaimed by students and professional bodies. We seek to support every learner in an inclusive learning culture.

On the Biochemistry course, core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, practical classes or field work, research seminars, workshops and tutorials. Advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by independent study, group work and project work.

Students are expected to undertake independent study and increasing independence of learning is expected as the course progresses.

Selected elements of the course may be available through the medium of Welsh and students are also able to request a Welsh-speaking Personal Tutor for pastoral and academic support.

Students with disabilities will be fully supported in co-ordination with the University’s Disability and Dyslexia Support Service.

How will I be supported?

All of the academic staff in the School of Biosciences are experienced researchers in their respective fields and are passionate about sharing their knowledge and expertise with students.

The primary interaction with academic staff will be during lectures, laboratory practical sessions, workshops or small-group teaching sessions (tutorials). Students will also be allocated a Personal Tutor who will provide pastoral support and academic advice throughout the course.

Lecturing staff are contactable in association with teaching sessions or by email, and operate either an ‘open door’ policy for students who have specific queries about course material, or a system of booking meeting times. Each degree scheme also has a degree scheme co-ordinator who can advise on academic issues. Each year of study has a year co-ordinator who can advise on administrative issues related to the course of study. There is also a convenient Undergraduate Office with friendly and experienced administrators who can answer most administrative queries.

Feedback
Feedback on your study, work, and progress will take many forms, from formal written comments on your submitted work to more informal conversations and advice during classes and practicals, or from your Personal Tutor. Throughout the course, we will provide detailed feedback on all assessed coursework. This is normally provided online through the ‘Grademark’ system, allowing you to conveniently access your feedback via a computer or tablet device. You will also have the opportunity to discuss your academic and personal development progress with your Personal Tutor, and to discuss examination essay papers in order to improve your performance. During practical work and the research project, you will receive additional regular feedback from the supervising academic.

How will I be assessed?

Preliminary Year modules involve lectures and supporting tutorials providing background theoretical knowledge, as well as practical classes. The course covers aspects of Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics normally addressed in A-Level syllabi. The course will also provide students with basic IT skills and an understanding of statistical analysis of data. Coursework is used to develop writing and oral communication skills. Assessments may be summative and count towards the final module mark, or formative, helping you to learn and practice key skills and knowledge through feedback.  Final examinations at the end of each module comprise a machine-marked structured answer section (assessing breadth of knowledge) and a written answer section (assessing depth of knowledge in specific topics).  

The first and second year modules are normally assessed through a combination of coursework and examinations. All modules include coursework assessments, which may take the form of written practical reports, structured reports, class tests, structured answer tests, group work, poster and oral presentations and computing/statistical problem-solving exercises.  Assessments may be summative and count towards the final module mark, or formative, helping you to learn and practice key skills and knowledge through feedback.  Final examinations at the end of each module comprise a machine-marked structured answer section (assessing breadth of knowledge) and a written answer section (assessing depth of knowledge in specific topics).   

In the final year, taught modules are assessed by examination and extended analytical coursework. Your final year research project is assessed by a supervisor’s evaluation and a written report.

What skills will I practise and develop?

Throughout the course, students will develop scientific competencies as well as key transferable ‘employability skills’ that will be invaluable whatever your future career choice. These include:

  • independent learning and self-directed study;
  • collating, organising and analysing information to create logical and persuasive arguments;
  • analytical thinking and problem solving;
  • communicating complex ideas in a clear, effective way (using all media);
  • working effectively in a team and as an individual;
  • IT competency, including presentation, graphics and statistics packages;
  • performing and interpreting statistical analyses of data;
  • effective time management and organisational skills.

As a result of engaging fully with this course, you should be able to:

  • critically analyse, synthesise and summarise information from a variety of sources;
  • discuss the relationships between structure/formation and function/regulation of molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, organisms and populations;
  • effectively communicate scientific, and other, information to a variety of audiences, including the general public, using a range of formats and approaches;
  • discuss current issues of research, investigation and/or debate;
  • synthesise an argument or point of view, based on solid data and evidence;
  • determine the validity and rigour of statistical outcomes;
  • build on knowledge and understanding of the role and impact of intellectual property (IP) within a research environment;
  • work effectively within a group-based environment, both as a leader and a member of a team;
  • demonstrate the skills necessary for independent lifelong learning (for example working independently, time management, organisational, enterprise and knowledge transfer skills);
  • identify, and work towards, targets for personal, academic, professional and career development;
  • demonstrate leadership and planning skills for setting, and meeting, achievable goals within the workplace.

A significant proportion of our BSc Biochemistry graduates go on to study PhD or Master’s degrees. Many others have successful careers in science-related fields such as biotechnology research and development, medical or scientific publishing, pharmaceutical industries, and molecular biology, amongst many others.

Our graduates also have many transferable skills that are attractive to a wide range of employers in more general areas of industry, commerce, public service, administration and management. Finally, a degree in Biochemistry can act as a stepping stone to further training in professional areas including teaching, medicine, dentistry, nursing, veterinary science or accounting.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Additional costs

Field courses which take place abroad will incur an additional cost – primarily to cover student travel and accommodation. We strive to keep these to a minimum, for example we maintain our own Field Station and staff in Borneo, whose costs are not recovered from charges to students. We also offer some excellent Wales-based field courses which do not incur additional costs.

No additional charges are made for other aspects of tuition, although some services (such as student printing on demand) may incur a charge.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

No specific equipment is required. The University will provide IT facilities (in a communal space), laboratories equipped with specialist equipment, and all specialist software required for the course.

Students are advised to have a personal laptop computer or equivalent.

This four-year course does not include any formal work placements. However, we strongly encourage students to undertake informal work placements during the summer vacations in order to enhance employability. The School provides support for finding and obtaining work placements via the School’s Employability Advisor.

Field work is possible as part of some modules, including an extended field work experience as part of our second year ecology and conservation module.

We run several specialised, project-based field courses that run in a variety of locations. Our range of field courses typically includes Rainforest Biodiversity (Borneo), Tropical Marine Ecology (Tobago and Borneo), Estuarine Ecology (Severn Estuary), River Ecology (Cardiff), and Forest Floor Ecology (Cardiff). All of these filed courses include an independent research project, often involving the behaviour or ecology of animals.

Depending on module choices, availability and timetabling constraints, Biochemistry students may have the option of taking one of our field courses.

Field courses can on occasion be affected by travel constraints, staff availability or numbers.


Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.