Medical Pharmacology (BSc)

By studying Medical Pharmacology at Cardiff, you will be learning in one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world.

Medic talking to patients

The subject is at the heart of modern medicine, and graduates are sought after for a range of biomedical research and product-development careers. Our foremost goal is to support the development of research-trained scientists.  However, appropriately qualified students may be eligible to enter the Cardiff University four year Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM, A101) course, directly after completing their Medical Pharmacology degree. Please note it is not possible to change to Medicine after only one year of the BSc course.

Key facts

UCAS CodeB210
Entry pointSeptember 2016
Duration3 years
Studying in WelshThis course offers elements that are taught through the medium of Welsh. Please contact the Admissions tutor for more information.
Typical places availableMedical Pharmacology typically has 24 places available.
Typical applications receivedMedical Pharmacology typically receives approx 190 applications.
Typical A level offerAAB to include Chemistry and at least one other science (preferable Biology) or mathematical subject (see details below) Only one mathematical subject will be considered. General Studies and Critical Thinking are not accepted as a third A Level.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offer2 A levels and the WBQ core, to include A level Chemistry and a second A level science subject (from Biology, Human Biology, Physics, Mathematics or Statistics).
Typical International Baccalaureate offer35 points (excluding Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay). A minimum of 18 points must be achieved in the Higher Level subjects including a 6 in Chemistry and Biology.
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark

Currently, it is the QAA benchmark for Medical Sciences but there is currently (Sept 2013) a proposal submitted by our staff to have a dedicated QAA benchmark generated for the subject of Pharmacology.

Admissions tutor(s)

Dr Derek Lang, Admissions Tutor

Important Legal Information: The programme information currently being published in Course Finder is under review and may be subject to change. The final programme information is due to be published by May 2016 and will be the definitive programme outline which the University intends to offer. Applicants are advised to check the definitive programme information after the update, to ensure that the programme meets their needs.

Medical Pharmacology is the study of how drugs and medicines work at the cellular and molecular level to produce their therapeutic (and sometimes harmful) effects in man. To be able to safely use a drug we need to appreciate not only the rationale and context for its use but also the chemistry of the drug and how the physiological, biochemical and genetic make-up of the individual may affect the way that person responds to the drug. As such, Medical Pharmacology is at the heart of modern medicine.

The BSc programme is run by Cardiff School of Medicine - one of the largest medical schools and one of the most prestigious - rated in the top 10 in the UK and the top 100 world-wide. Following completion of their BSc degree, some graduates undertake further postgraduate training for biomedical research in academia or the private sector, while others pursue careers in the pharmaceutical Industry or other biomedically-orientated fields.

Up to 10 students, who have successfully completed the BSc course and satisfied the appropriate additional entry requirements, have the opportunity to undertake the School of Medicine's 4 year Medicine programme (A101) and go on to train as medical doctors. (Please note that students cannot transfer to Medicine after only one year, they must complete the 3 year Medical Pharmacology BSc course first.)

Wales is a great place to study Medicine, for so many reasons. The course combines early, hands-on clinical learning, with innovative teaching from leaders in their field. These are renowned academics and talented clinicians who are passionate about medical education and, in my experience, always happy to help. We get to see patients early on and experiencing medicine in different communities across Wales helps a lot when it’s time to choose our future specialties.

Amy Butlin, Medical Student

Year one

The year is studied in common with the School of Bioscience students who follow a wide range of degree options in biological, biomolecular and biomedical subjects. The modular syllabus is taught through lectures, tutorials, presentations, practical work and demonstrations. You will achieve a sound understanding of chemical and biological sciences; in particular biochemistry, physiology and genetics to help facilitate understanding of how drugs work at molecular and functional levels. 

Specifically with regard to pharmacology, you will be introduced to the scientific principles which define drug bioavailability and activity within the body including pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, receptor theory and molecular and biochemical pharmacology. Flagship teaching around drug therapeutics, toxicology & abuse introduces the importance of self-directed study, evidence-based medical science (and practice), critical analysis and the bridge between molecular and cellular pharmacology and the patient as an individual. At the end of year 1, students wishing to subsequently apply to the School of Medicine's 4 year Medicine programme (A101) must declare their interests to the BSc Programme Director*”

Module titleModule codeCredits
Biological ChemistryBI101420 credits
Structure and Function of Living OrganismsBI100220 credits
Skills for ScienceBI100120 credits
Genetics and EvolutionBI105120 credits
The Dynamic CellBI100420 credits
Foundations & Principles of PharmacologyME101320 credits

Year two

The second year modules provide a broad coverage of drugs in the domains of neurotransmission, endocrine and paracrine cell signalling, the central nervous system, cardiovascular pharmacology and chemotherapy. A research techniques and an exclusively practical module equip you with a sound basis for quantitative and qualitative functional studies, and give 'hands-on' training in advanced laboratory techniques.Those students interested in GEM may follow a unique clinical anatomy module that utilizes cadaveric dissection to investigate the orientation and interpretation of arrangement and function of the human body.

Year three

The final year students will also integrate with a number of medical students who are undertaking a one year Intercalated BSc degree in Pharmacology, providing a valuable platform for interdisciplinary peer-interaction.

*Students wishing to apply to the School of medicine's 4 year Medicine programme (A101) should note that to remain eligible for this option they are required to pass all assessable elements of the Medical Pharmacology course. An average final module mark of 60% or higher in each year of study is also required. Offers to study GEM are usually based on achieving at least a 2:1 (Upper 2nd Class) final BSc Medical Pharmacology degree classification.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Cancer BiologyME303410 credits
Immunopathology and ImmunotherapyME304610 credits
Molecular Genetics and Cell BiologyME303610 credits
Clinical AnatomyME330120 credits
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.

The School of Medicine provides an educational experience based on academic excellence, rooted in world-leading research and scholarship. The educational experience is informed and led by world-leading research & scholarship and recognised & well-regarded by students, professional bodies, & the University. The School supports every learner in an inclusive and student-centred learning culture.


On the Medical Pharmacology BSc Programme, core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, practical classes, seminars, workshops, guided study and problem-solving learning. More advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by independent study, group- and project- work.

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


Knowledge and understanding are assessed summatively through a variety of exam formats designed to test the depth, breadth, accumulation and application of pharmacological knowledge.

In year one (level 4), there is a bias towards use of instruments such as single best answer (SBA) and extended matched questions (EMQs) - a form of multiple choice question - designed to assess knowledge with less emphasis on assessment of higher analytical and critical skills. Summative assessment is primarily by means of unseen written examinations, generally in combination with an in-course element. In year one, all modules include an in-course element. 

In year two (level 5), the ability to integrate and synthesise material and demonstrate clear understanding is starting to be assessed through greater use of essays as compared to EMQs and short answers in summative assessment. Students are expected to develop and are tested on a greatly increased knowledge base. A number of the modules are assessed wholly by means of in-course instruments with the remainder of modules all having an in-course element.

In year three (level 6), the highest levels of understanding and a broad knowledge of the subject extending in selected areas beyond core material is expected. In addition to assessment of this knowledge, understanding of scientific data and its interpretation is incorporated into questions in unseen written papers and forms the basis of the in-course assessment of the project and summative oral student presentation.

Formative feedback of knowledge and understanding is concentrated in years one and two. Formative In-course assessments using EMQs and MCQs are provided in several year one and two modules. Students typically mark their own work during the session and discuss the correct and incorrect answers. Support tutorials are timetabled in some year-1 modules.

Our teaching & assessment methods are such that by the end of the BSc programme a student should be able to:

  • Describe the scope and range of pharmacological preparations, their origins, development and use.
  • Relate the disciplines of anatomy, physiology, physics, chemistry, psychology, biochemistry and molecular biology (as relevant to understanding and investigating pharmacology.)
  • Appreciate how the different systems of the body interact to maintain homeostasis, respond to environmental challenges, undertake physical and mental activity in health and in disease, and the role of drugs in modulating these processes.
  • Describe the principles that underpin drug development, safety evaluation and the practice of evidence-based therapeutics.
  • Demonstrate how knowledge has advanced in selected areas of pharmacology by evaluating experimental evidence from the scientific literature.

In 2012, 100% of the School's graduates had secured employment or engaged in further study within six months of graduation. Employers included: various NHS Trusts, HM Forces and the Public Health Service.


  • Pharmaceutical Researcher
  • Pharmaceutical Development


3 Year(s)

Next intake

September 2016

Places available

Typical places available

The School admits 24 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes

Applications received

Typical applications received



QAA subject benchmark

QAA subject benchmark

Currently, it is the QAA benchmark for Medical Sciences but there is currently (Sept 2013) a proposal submitted by our staff to have a dedicated QAA benchmark generated for the subject of Pharmacology.

What are the aims of this Programme?

Pharmacology is the study of how drugs and medicines work at the cellular and sub-cellular level to produce their useful (and sometimes harmful) effects in Man.

This 3 year BSc degree programme aims produces graduates with a sound understanding of the biological effects and mechanisms of action of a wide range of bioactive substances, in particular those used for the treatment of human diseases. The graduate pharmacologist is sought by the pharmaceutical industry for posts in biomedical research and product development; by the governmental research organisations and by academic institutions for research and teaching.

In addition, for a number of BSc students on our course, there is the option of pursuing ‘graduate entry medicine’ at Cardiff University, following successful completion of the BSc course.

What is expected of me?

Students must attend all lectures and tutorials whenever possible. Attendance at timetabled laboratory sessions and all summative assessment sessions is mandatory.

Students are expected to behave as professional adults during teaching sessions and to treat the teaching staff and their colleagues with consideration, respect and courtesy. 

Students are expected to adhere to the Cardiff University policy on Dignity at Work and Study.

How is this Programme Structured?

The BSc Programme is offered in full-time mode over three academic years.  120 credits are attained in each year.  In the first two years the majority of modules carry 10 or 20 credits and are taught within a single semester and examined at the end of that semester.  In the third year, the research project module carries 40 credits and is undertaken by the student over two semesters.

YEAR 1:The Medical Pharmacology first year is studied in common with School of Biosciences (BIOSI) students entering Cardiff University who follow a wide range of degree options in biological, biomolecular and biomedical subjects. In year 1, students are given a sound understanding of chemical and biological sciences; in particular biochemistry, physiology and genetics, to help facilitate understanding of how drugs work at molecular and functional levels. Specifically with regard to pharmacology, you will study 2 modules designed to introduce the scientific principles which define drug bioavailability and activity within the body including pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, receptor theory, therapeutics, toxicology and abuse of drugs.

YEAR 2:Following the ‘Common First Year’, the second year modules provide a systematic coverage of drugs in the domains of haematology, immunology, neurotransmission, endocrine and paracrine cell signaling, the central nervous system, cardiovascular pharmacology and chemotherapy. Bespoke pharmacological ‘research techniques’ and exclusively ‘practical’ modules equip students with a sound basis for quantitative and qualitative functional studies, and give ‘hands-on’ training in advanced laboratory techniques. Supporting modules from biochemistry and physiology provide important interdisciplinary bonding.

30% of the final year marks from year 2 contribute to the Final BSc Degree mark at the end of year 3.

YEAR 3:In the final BSc year, students study in an intensive medical research-led environment. Modules develop several selected areas in depth such as pharmacogenetics, neuropharmacology, drug development, immunology, cancer and vascular biology, and provide more practical experience in specialised techniques. One module is designed to develop skills of critical analysis in reading scientific papers and to promote the ability to present data accurately and unambiguously.

A key feature of the year is a 40-credit laboratory-based biomedical research project undertaken by students that promotes development of higher critical and analytical skills.

The final year students will also integrate with a number of medical students who are undertaking an Intercalated BSc degree in Pharmacology (a 1 year course that is not the same as a 3 year BSc programme.)

All students should refer to their specific BSc Module Handbooks and the Medical Pharmacology Assessments & Regulations Handbook for more detailed information as to the course structure and assessment strategy.

Please note:the award of a BSc (Hons) degree is conditional on successful progression in all years of the course.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this Programme?

No: enthusiasm and an enquiring mind are all that are required. All specialist equipment relating to the subject will be made available to the students in-course.

What skills will I practise and develop?

In addition to theoretical and practical skill-sets that are taught as part of the student’s pharmacological training, the programme emphasises development of translational skills that enhance employability. These include:

·         IT competency e.g. the Internet, databases, spreadsheets, word processing, graphics and statistics packages

·         Performing and interpreting statistical analyses of data

·         Working effectively both as an individual and in a team

·         Demonstrating effective time management and the ability to meet deadlines

·         Showing awareness of ethical issues relating to biological sciences

·         Enhancing self-directed study skills

·         Developing good interview techniques

·         Developing good communication skills (using all media)

·         Populating personal portfolios with relevant material

How will I be taught?

Core knowledge and understanding of the subject is acquired via lectures, practical classes, seminars, small group tutorials, guided study and problem-solving- based learning. 

More advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by independent study, group and project work. For some modules, visits to healthcare facilities and communities where pharmacology plays an important role, are also undertaken.

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

Taught modules are ‘required’ in Years 1 and 2 (i.e. they must be passed if progression through the course is sought). Modules in Year 3 are a mixture of optional and compulsory.

The course is a maximum of 3 years, there is no ‘sandwich year’ / Professional Training Year option for this course.

How will I be assessed?


Taught modules within this programme are assessed using formative and summative exercises.

Formative exercises prelude summative activities (all summative assessment is mapped to the Learning Outcomes described for each module). The types of assessment are as follows:

·         Unseen written examinations (end of module)

·         In course assessments that may be extended essays, practical class reports, summative spot-tests (in-lecture)

·         Poster (and other media) presentations

·         Oral communication assessments

·         Research project dissertation (an 8000 word document that is an account of the student’s final year lab research project experimentation)


Feedback on formative and summative assessments is given in the form of verbal and/or written reports, individualised for each student. Students who perform poorly are offered academic and pastoral support in an attempt to help them attain the required levels of assessment scores. 

How will I be supported?

The programme emphasises small group teaching sessions in terms of practical classes and workshops. This approach also facilitates feedback to and from students. This ethos is bolstered by both pastoral ‘personal tutorials’ and also ‘academic pharmacology tutorials’ (delivered by postgraduate pharmacology students who have insight into the BSc course).

All relevant teaching materials are uploaded to Learning Central on a weekly basis during the semesters and staff have an ‘open door’ policy for students.

Students are actively encouraged to undertake relevant work experience opportunities within MEDIC (supporting references are provided by staff).

During the final year research project, students are supervised on a one to one basis with a research active member of staff within MEDIC. The project supervisor supports the laboratory training of the student and provides guidance on writing the dissertation and the oral presentation that forms the assessed components of the project module.

What are the Learning Outcomes of this Programme?

On graduating from this programme of study, an individual should be able to:

·      Apply appropriately their acquired scientific skill-sets: to undertake further study; to research in pharmacology, or in a related subject; to work within a clinical healthcare environment.

·      Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of pharmacological facts, terms, methods, concepts, principles and relationships and to appreciate their importance.

·      Demonstrate technical and organisational skills commensurate with good laboratory practice, safe working practices and the acquisition of sound scientific data.

·      Demonstrate the skills of logical and critical evaluation of: scientific data, including the methods by which the data were obtained, the statistical analyses used and the inferences and conclusions drawn.

·      Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in written work, and to participate constructively in discussion.

·      Appreciate the importance of experimental work and of the use of techniques drawn from other disciplines.

Other information

Our prime directive is to train and graduate pharmacology scientists (with all the career opportunities that affords), but of the 24 students that are accepted onto the course each year there is also the option to pursue a medical degree following their BSc: up to a maximum of 10 students may ultimately offered places on the Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) A101 course offered by Cardiff University School of Medicine (following completion of their BSc degree), any additional A101 places offered are at the discretion of the School of Medicine - so competition is high.

Criteria for following the ‘Medical Route’ of the  Pharmacology BSc course in Year 2:

Students wishing to be considered for the Graduate-entry Medicine course (A101) at Cardiff University must formally register their request with the Medical Pharmacology BSc Programme Director at the end of their 1st year of study. These students will be expected to meet/exceed and take note of the following requirements:

a)      In addition to the criteria for entry onto the Medical Pharmacology BSc programme, candidates must ALSO have obtained GCSE/GCE O-Level passes in English* Language AND mathematics at grade B or higher. In addition, candidates must reach the required standard in the Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT), taken in the September before entering the third year of study, as determined by Cardiff University School of Medicine. Students must pass the GAMSAT examination before October 15th of their 3rd year. Information relating to the GAMSAT exam may be found at:  

There is a financial cost to sit this examination.

* Welsh Language may not be substituted in this instance as the Medical course is delivered in English language.

b)      Applying through UCAS (as ‘independent applicants’), provide a satisfactory academic reference (e.g. from the Medical Pharmacology BSc Programme Director or BSc Personal Tutor), a curriculum vitae and a personal statement (maximum of 400 words) explaining why they wish to undertake a graduate degree in medicine following their Medical Pharmacology degree. This should highlight both academic and non-academic achievements that they feel make them suitable candidates for Medicine.

c)      Pass all the assessable elements of the Medical Pharmacology course in the first two years of the course with a combined end-of-year module average mark of 60% or higher in each year of study. Note also:

 i.            A student who drops below the 60% combined module average score will not be eligible for consideration for the A101 course.

 ii.            A student who fails more than 20 credits or 2 modules at 1st attempt (with no valid extenuating circumstances) will not be eligible for A101 consideration.

 iii.            A student must pass their failed modules at 2nd attempt. A pass at 2nd attempt will be capped at either 40%. Any modules failed at 2nd attempt (without valid extenuating circumstances) will preclude a student from being considered for the A101 course. The student’s capped module marks will also be used in determining the end of year average mark (see then point i)).

d)      Following a satisfactory GAMSAT performance and assessment of their personal statement, curriculum vitae, and academic reference, if a student is then invited to interview (i.e. it is not a guaranteed aspect of being a student on the Medical Pharmacology programme) to determine their suitability to study medicine and performs satisfactorily therein, the student will be offered a conditional place on the A101 course, following graduation (subject to e) and f) below). The interview will be conducted by the Undergraduate Medical Admissions Department in the student’s 3rd year of BSc study and will be identical to that used for prospective graduate entry candidates applying to undertake the 5 year MBBCh course.

e)      Students must satisfy the requirements for Graduate Entry onto the MBBCh A101 course, detailed in Cardiff University School of Medicine’s Admissions Policy: GCSE and A-level requirements, which are those for the Medical Pharmacology course). These will include satisfactory completion of a Health Questionnaire, Disclosure Form and a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check or similar, prior to admission onto the A101 course.

f)       Places on the A101 Medicine course are subject to students attaining a 1st class or 2:1 Honours BSc degree in Medical Pharmacology at the end of their 3rd year of study.

In the event that more than 10 students meet the above requirements, it is at the discretion of the Medical Admissions Team, how many students in total may be considered for the MBBCh A101 programme.

Students and/or applicants should also please note the following:

a)      Medical Pharmacology students may not transfer directly into Year 1 the MBBCh course following their first year of BSc study (irrespective of whether they have passed all their modules or not).

b)      BSc students are not guaranteed an interview for the A101 course (invitation to interview is a function of the strength of your UCAS application.)

c)      First year MBBCh students may transfer into the first year of the Medical Pharmacology BSc Programme if there is capacity in the year group.

Second or third year BIOSI or MBBCh students may transfer into the second year of the Medical Pharmacology BSc Programme if there is capacity in the year group.

Admissions tutors

Dr Derek Lang, Admissions Tutor

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.


Get information and advice about making an application, find out when the key dates are and learn more about our admissions criteria.

How to apply
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