Medical Pharmacology (BSc)

Entry year

2017 2018

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

Cardiff undergraduates acquire a high level of laboratory skills
The School of Medicine's undergraduate students acquire a high level of laboratory skills.

Pharmacology is the study of how drugs and medicines work at cellular and sub-cellular levels to produce useful and sometimes harmful effects. This degree aims to impart a sound mechanistic understanding of bioactive substances, particularly those used for the treatment of human diseases. Such extensive study provides students with skills that make them attractive to academia and wider industries for posts in biomedical research and product development.

Our main aim is to support the development of research-trained scientists.  However, appropriately qualified students may also be eligible to enter the Cardiff University four year Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) programme after completing this BSc degree.  It is not possible to transfer to Medicine after only one year of this BSc course.

Our graduates have a range of opportunities on completion of the course. Many undertake further postgraduate training for biomedical research in academia or the private sector, while others pursue careers in the pharmaceutical industry or other biomedical fields.

Distinctive features

This course is taught by both science and medically qualified staff.  As such it aims to provide a varied pharmacological education encompassing both basic science principles and clinically relevant applications of knowledge. 

Subject to availability, you can spend your third year on a professional placement related to your degree.  Full details of these opportunities will be discussed with the programme team once you are enrolled on the programme.

Key facts

UCAS CodeB210
Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration3 years
ModeFull time
Typical places availableMedical Pharmacology typically has 24 places available.
Typical applications receivedMedical Pharmacology typically receives approx 190 applications.
Admissions tutor(s)

Entry requirements

Typical A level offerAAB to include Chemistry and at least one other science (preferably 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.
Alternative qualificationsAlternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Medicine admissions criteria pages.
English Language requirementsIf you are an overseas applicant and your first language is not English, please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our accepted qualifications.
Other requirementsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

This BSc course is offered in full-time mode over three academic years with 120 credits attained in each year.  In years one and two modules carry 20 credits and are taught across either one or two semesters.  In the final year, the research project module carries 40 credits and is taken over two semesters. This is accompanied by a series of 10 credit advanced research-led modules.

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 September 2017.

Year one

Year one is studied alongside students from the School of Biosciences, following 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, particularly biochemistry, physiology and genetics. These will help facilitate your understanding of how drugs work at molecular and functional levels. 

You will be introduced to the scientific principles that define drug bioavailability and activity within the body. This includes pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, receptor theory and molecular and biochemical pharmacology. Our flagship teaching around drug therapeutics, toxicology and abuse introduces the importance of self-directed study, evidence-based medical science and the bridge between molecular and cellular pharmacology, and the patient as an individual. If you wish to subsequently apply to the Cardiff University four year GEM course, you must declare your interests to the BSc Programme Director at the end of year one.

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

Year two

Topics covered in year two include the study of drugs in neurotransmission, endocrine and paracrine cell signalling, the central nervous system, cardiovascular disease, immunology and chemotherapy. Research techniques and an exclusively practical module will equip students with a sound basis for quantitative and qualitative functional studies. 'Hands-on' training will be delivered in well-equipped laboratories. Those interested in GEM may follow a unique clinical anatomy module which uses cadaveric dissection to investigate the orientation and interpretation of arrangement and function of the human body.

Year three

In year three students study in an intensive medical research-led environment. Modules develop several selected areas in depth such as pharmacogenetics, neuropharmacology, drug development & therapeutics and advanced immunology, cancer and cardiovascular disease. A particular module develops skills of critical analysis in reading scientific papers and fosters the ability to present data accurately and unambiguously.  A key feature of the year is a substantial biomedical research project undertaken by students that promotes development of higher critical applied and analytical skills.

Students work alongside medical students undertaking a one year Intercalated BSc degree in Pharmacology. This provides a valuable platform for interdisciplinary peer-interaction.

Those wishing to apply for the four year GEM course must 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 final BSc Medical Pharmacology degree classification.

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

How will I be taught?

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

On the Medical Pharmacology course, core knowledge and understanding are acquired via lectures, practical classes, seminars, workshops, guided study and problem-solving. Advanced knowledge and understanding are 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.

How will I be supported?

The course emphasises small group teaching sessions in practical classes and workshops, promoting feedback to and from students. Our ethos is bolstered by pastoral ‘personal tutorials’ and ‘academic pharmacology tutorials’, the latter delivered by postgraduate research students.

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

You are actively encouraged to undertake relevant work experience opportunities within the School of Medicine and supporting references can be provided by staff.

During your final year research project, you will be supervised on a one-to-one basis with a research active member of staff. This supervisor will support your laboratory training, as well as offer guidance on writing the dissertation and orally presenting your findings.

We will provide you with frequent feedback on your work. This comes in a variety of formats and may include oral feedback during tutorials, personalised feedback on written work, feedback lectures, generic written feedback and feedback on tutorial performance.

Coursework will be marked by the Module Leader (or similarly appropriate staff member) who will then provide written feedback on your work. You will also be given formal feedback in relation to unseen written examinations. You will be able to discuss this feedback and your individual assessment/overall performance with the appropriate marker and/or your personal tutor.


How will I be assessed?

Assessment is designed to be appropriate, fair, valid, reliable and supportive of student learning. All assessment methods are evidence-based and employ a broad range of methodologies in recognition of students' diverse academic strengths and different approaches to learning.

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

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

Formative exercises take place before summative activities and types of assessment include the following:

  • Unseen written examinations
  • In course assessments that may be multiple choice question tests, extended essays, practical class reports, summative spot-tests
  • Poster (and other media) presentations
  • Oral communication assessments
  • Research project dissertation (an 8000 word document on your final year laboratory research project)

In year one there is a bias towards use of instruments such as single best answer (SBA) and extended matched questions (EMQs). This is designed to assess knowledge with less emphasis on assessment of higher analytical and critical skills. Summative assessment is undertaken primarily by means of unseen written examinations combined with an in-course element.

In year two students’ ability to integrate and synthesise material is assessed through greater use of summative essays and short answer questions. Such tests are based on a greatly increased knowledge and some modules are assessed wholly by in-course elements.  The remaining modules all have an in-course assessment component.

Formative feedback of knowledge and understanding is concentrated in the first two years of the course. Formative in-course assessments of varying types are provided in several modules. Students typically mark their own work during the session and discuss answers.

In year three students are expected to demonstrate the highest levels of understanding and a broad knowledge in selected areas beyond core material. Understanding and interpreting scientific data is incorporated into questions in unseen written papers, forming the basis of in-course assessment and summative oral student presentation.

What skills will I practise and develop?

You will acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both discipline specific and more generic ‘employability skills’. These include the following:

  • IT competency, including presentation, graphics and statistics packages
  • Performing and interpreting statistical analyses of data
  • Working effectively 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
  • Developing good interview techniques
  • Developing good communication skills (using all media)
  • Populating personal portfolios with relevant material

As a result of engaging fully with this course, you 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 different systems of the body interact to maintain homeostasis, respond to environmental challenges, undertake physical and mental activity in health and in disease, and know the role of drugs in modulating these processes;
  • Describe 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.
  • Appropriately apply acquired scientific skill-sets to undertake further study, research or to work within a clinical healthcare environment.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of pharmacological facts, terms, methods, concepts, principles and relationships and appreciate their importance.
  • Demonstrate technical and organisational skills commensurate with good laboratory practice, safe working practices and the acquisition of sound scientific data.
  • Demonstrate skills of logical and critical evaluation of scientific data.

A large proportion of BSc Medical Pharmacology students go on to study PhD or Masters degrees within 6 months of finishing the course.  Many others go on to study for a degree in Medicine either at Cardiff University, other UK Medical Schools or further afield.  Alternatively, some students use the BSc degree as a well-recognised vehicle to enter careers in teaching, banking and various non-science disciplines. Compared to like for like courses, BSc Medical Pharmacology graduates from Cardiff University have the highest average salary six months after the course (£21k) rising to an average of £35k after 40 months (data taken from the most recent UNISTATS figures).


  • Pharmaceutical Researcher
  • Pharmaceutical Development

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Tuition fees for international students are fixed for the majority of three year undergraduate courses. This means the price you pay in year one will be the same in years two and three. Some courses are exempt, including four and five year programmes and Medical and Dental courses. Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

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

No specific equipment is required.

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