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Medical Pharmacology (BSc)

Entry year

Study pharmacology at the School of Medicine in Cardiff, one of the top 5 universities in the UK for research excellence.

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Course overview

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 will provide you with skills attractive to academia and wider industries for posts in biomedical research and product development.

You will have the option of applying to join the extended four-year programme where Year 3 is a Professional Placement Year (PPY).

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.

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 without finishing this BSc course.

Distinctive features

*This course is taught by experts in medicine and biomedical sciences. As such it provides an in-depth and varied pharmacological education encompassing both basic science principles and clinically relevant applications of knowledge

*You will gain practical research experience learning from world leading scientists

*You will lead a laboratory based, library-based or data analysis project

*You will achieve a detailed understanding of current scientific issues and concepts relating to the science of pharmacology

*You will be able to design research and present and illustrate the results of your work both orally and in writing

*This is a degree course that will enhance your scientific career.

Professional Placement Year (PPY);

*Having the choice of a PPY will give you significant insight into career opportunities available to you by pursuing this degree programme. Such placements will be undertaken in industry (pharmaceutical or related), government/university research laboratories or some similarly suitable organisations.

*The PPY will provide you with invaluable “employability skills” that will bolster future career prospects and make you very competitive in the toughest of work markets. Spending 9-12 months in an academic or industrial environment will provide you with an understanding of how data is analysed, new information acquired in a research setting and, depending on location, how a business organisation is run.

UCAS codeB210
Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration3 years
ModeFull time
Typical places availableMedical Pharmacology typically has 24 places available.
Typical applications receivedMedical Pharmacology typically receives approx 190 applications.
  • School of Medicine
  • Main Hospital Building
  • University Hospital of Wales
  • Heath Park
  • Cardiff
  • CF14 4XN

Entry requirements

AAB-ABB including Chemistry and one other science (Biology, Physics, Mathematics, or Statistics). A pass in the practical element of the science A Level is normally required. Please note, General Studies will not be accepted. 

The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.

Grades DD in a BTEC Extended Diploma in Applied Science with grade B in A Level Chemistry or grades DM in a BTEC Diploma in Applied Science with grade A in A Level Chemistry 

665 from 3 HL subjects including 6 in Chemistry and a second science subject (Biology, Physics, Mathematics, or Statistics).

Alternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Medicine admissions criteria pages.

IELTS (academic)

At least 7.0 overall with no less than 7.0 in speaking and a minimum of 6.5 all other sub-scores.1


At least 100 with minimum scores of 24 for writing, 22 for listening, 24 for reading and 25 for speaking.

PTE Academic

70 with 70 in speaking and no less than 62 in any of the other skills.

Trinity ISE II/III

III: at least a Merit in all components.

1For Medicine programmes only, IELTS re-sit results will only be considered if completed 12 months after the first date of sitting.

Other accepted qualifications

Please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our other accepted language qualifications.

GCSE English and Maths at grade B/6.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Additional costs

Course specific equipment

You will need a reliable computer with appropriate Internet access, audio and video playback capability and up-to-date virus and malware protection.  It is your responsibility to ensure that all documents and communications provided to the University or uploaded onto University systems are free of viruses and any other malicious code.  An up-to-date, suitably secured web browser enabled for audio and video playback and Adobe Reader will be required as a minimum to view course materials and complete online tasks and assessments.  Word processing software, compatible with Microsoft Word, will be required to complete the summative and formative tasks and assessments.  Other software may also be useful at some points in the programme for conducting data collection/analysis, for instance Microsoft Excel, or producing presentations, for instance Microsoft PowerPoint and may be available through the University free of charge or at a discounted rate.


We have a range of residences to suit your needs and budget. Find out more on our accommodation pages.

Course structure

In each year of the Programme, you will take Modules to the value of 120 credits. In years 1, 2 and 3, you must obtain an overall end of year grade of 40% or above to progress to the next year of study.  The grade achieved in Year 1 does not count towards the final degree mark. The grade achieved in Year 2, 3 and 4 contributes 20%, 10% and 70% to your final degree mark respectively.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

Year one

Year 1 consists of five 20 credit core double modules which run over Autumn and Spring Semesters in conjunction with the School of Biosciences. A 20 credit Pharmacology introductory module is run from the Medical School across the Autumn and Spring semesters. You should develop 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 that define drug bioavailability and activity within the body including pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, receptor theory, therapeutics, toxicology and abuse of drugs.

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

Year 2 consists of six 20 credit core modules run entirely by the School of Medicine. Modules provide a systematic coverage of drugs in the domains of haematology, immunology, neurotransmission, endocrine and paracrine cell signalling, the central nervous system, cardiovascular pharmacology and cancer chemotherapy. Bespoke pharmacological ‘research techniques’ and exclusively ‘practical’ modules 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 graduate entry medicine will follow a clinical anatomy module that utilizes cadaveric dissection to investigate the orientation and interpretation of arrangement and function of the human body.

Year three

The Professional Placement Year provides an opportunity for you to gain first-hand research experience and acquire important practical skills and appreciate the advantages and limitations of different research techniques.  It will be spent within a single organisation that allows greater scope for the project work that is an essential part of your placement assessment. Placements will be undertaken in industry (pharmaceutical or related), government/university research laboratories, or some similarly suitable organisations.  It should be emphasised that the onus is on each individual student to identify their own placement position.  The Medical School will not normally supply such opportunities.

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.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

Core knowledge and understanding will be acquired via lectures, seminars, group discussions, tutorials and other group work.  In years 1 and 2, some modules are specifically devoted to training and practice of written, poster and oral presentation of scientific data.

Year 2 includes a dedicated ‘practical-only’ module and a ‘research techniques’ module, designed to bridge the gap between theory and practice in pharmacology.

If you choose the four-year programme you will follow an experiential Professional Placement lasting 9-12 months. This time will be spent within a single organisation, giving greater scope for the project work.

In the final year high level critical and synthetic activities are developed through presentations and a research project. A 10-credit module is also devoted entirely to training in evaluation of scientific literature.

All level 6 modules require a high level of independent study of published material.

Both the 3 and 4 year BSc (Honours) Programmes in Medical Pharmacology and Medical Pharmacology (with a Professional Placement Year) respectively seek:

  • To stimulate and encourage an attitude of enquiry and interest centred on the acquisition of knowledge to satisfy curiosity and a desire for understanding
  • To provide a broad theoretical and applied pharmacological background should you wish to undertake further study and research in pharmacology, or in a related subject or if you wish to study pharmacology no further than first degree level
  • To provide adequate instruction to permit entry for suitably qualified graduates to Year 2 of the Cardiff University MBBCh Medicine Programme (the A101 course).
  • To stimulate and sustain your enthusiasm for, and enjoyment of, pharmacology and enable you to engage the subsequent phases of your career with initiative and confidence in your ability
  • To encourage an appreciation of social, ethical and commercial aspects of the application and exploitation of pharmacological knowledge and techniques.

Programmes aims:

  • To impart knowledge and develop understanding of pharmacological facts, terms, methods, concepts, principles and relationships and to appreciate their importance
  • To develop technical and organisational skills commensurate with good laboratory practice, safe working practices and the acquisition of sound scientific data
  • To develop the skills of locating and retrieving information from a variety of sources
  • To develop the skills of logical and critical evaluation of: scientific data, the methods by which they were obtained, the statistical analyses used and the inferences and conclusions drawn
  • To develop the ability to communicate, both orally and in written work, and to participate constructively in discussion
  • To gain awareness of the importance of experimental work and of the use of techniques drawn from other disciplines
  • To provide you with a highly rewarding learning experience, drawn from our proven expertise in delivering high calibre scientific teaching and research. The main objective of the degree course is to promote knowledge and understanding at both conceptual and practical levels.

Professional Placement Year aims:

The aims of the Professional Placement Year are intended to provide you with the opportunity to:

  • experience the environment of a real workplace and how needs are identified and resources are acquired, allocated and used for the purpose of achieving organisational objectives
  • organise yourself so that you can receive, quickly understand and carry out instructions to the satisfaction of your employer as a means of developing towards the completion of more responsible work
  • develop the interpersonal skills required to enable you to work efficiently as a member of a team trying to achieve organisational goals
  • acquire and develop technical skills associated with the nature of your work
  • identify, analyse and discuss with experienced practitioners how theoretical concepts are adapted and applied to suit practical requirements
  • apply knowledge that will help you to plan and evaluate future study and career development.

Year 1

Scheduled learning and teaching activities


Guided independent study




Year 2

Scheduled learning and teaching activities


Guided independent study




Year 3

Scheduled learning and teaching activities


Guided independent study




How will I be supported?

You will be assigned a Personal Tutor at the start of term for help and support with academic and pastoral needs. You will normally stay with your assigned Personal Tutors for the duration of the course. Within the first week of term you should organise a meeting with your Personal Tutor to say “Hello” and arrange future meetings.  Each first year student will also be assigned a “parent” from the current year 2.  This is designed to welcome you to Cardiff, socially integrate you to the course and importantly provide a friendly face.

Should you need information or advice, your Personal Tutor should be your first contact. The Programme Director can also be consulted on any matter at any time.

 Course Handbooks will provide further details on the support available once you begin the course.

How will I be assessed?

Knowledge and understanding are assessed summatively through a variety of exam formats designed to test the depth, breadth, accumulation and application of pharmacological knowledge. Full details of module assessments may be found in Module Handbooks and the Assessment Handbook for the programme.

In Year 1 (level 4), there is a bias towards use of instruments such as single best answer (SBA), multiple choice questions (MCQ) and written short answer questions designed to assess knowledge with less emphasis on 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 1, all modules include an in-course element.

In Year 2 (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 MCQ in summative assessment. You will be expected to develop a greatly increased knowledge base. Some of the modules are examined wholly by means of in-course assessments, with the remainder of modules all having an in-course element.

In Year 3 (level 5), the Professional Placement will be assessed as follows:

  • Placement Supervisor's Assessment (15%)

  • Critical Incident Reflective Portfolio (15%)

  • Written Report (70%)

In the Final Year (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 for the project and summative oral student presentation.

Formative feedback of knowledge and understanding is concentrated in years 1 and 2.  Formative in-course assessments of varying types are provided in several year 1 and 2 modules and will also be included in the Placement Year.  You may be tasked with peer marking followed by discussion of the correct and incorrect answers.


Formative feedback will be communicated through electronic and written means in a timely manner.  Summative feedback on assessment will be delivered within the timeframe set by the University.

Assessment methods (2017/18 data)

Year 1

Written exams


Practical exams




Year 2

Written exams


Practical exams




Year 3

Written exams


Practical exams




What skills will I practise and develop?

Core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, practical classes, seminars, guided study and problem-solving learning.  More advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by group and project work. You are also expected to undertake independent study, and increasing independence of learning is expected as the Programme progresses.

The Professional Placement Year provides an opportunity for you to gain first-hand research experience, demonstrating how new information is acquired.  Such an experience will allow you to acquire important practical skills and appreciate the advantages and limitations of different research techniques.  During the placement, you will acquire group and team working skills, while also being able to plan and carry out experimental work individually.

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.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you should be able to demonstrate:

  • the scope and range of pharmacological preparations, including acquisition of coherent and detailed knowledge regarding their origins, development and use from previous and current literature
  • the related disciplines of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and  molecular biology as relevant to understanding and investigating pharmacology
  • 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
  • the principles that underpin drug development, safety evaluation and the practice of evidence-based therapeutics
  • the complex biological and other inter-relationships involved in the health of individuals, communities and populations
  • how knowledge has advanced in selected areas of pharmacology by critical evaluation and a sceptical approach to experimental evidence from the past and most recent scientific literature
  • how to apply the methods and techniques that they have learned to review, consolidate, extend and apply this in order to initiate and carry out various projects
  • how the underlying concepts and principles described above are applied outside the context in which they were first studied, including the application of these principles in an employment context
  • the main methods of enquiry in pharmacological research and the ability to be sceptical and evaluate critically the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems.

On successful completion of the PPY you should be able to:

  • demonstrate a critical understanding of the methodologies/experimental/analytical techniques used during your placement and apply such knowledge in a wider context
  • demonstrate the use of initiative in dealing with issues/problems in the working environment
  • describe and define information from the scientific literature relevant to your placement, and in doing so evidence a critical understanding of the subject area
  • recognise the limits of such knowledge, and relate the influence this may have on analyses and interpretations of acquired data
  • demonstrate how a critical understanding of underlying concepts and principles learned during your first two years at University has been applied in an employment context
  • identify and reflect on opportunities for informal learning and explain how such experiences have impacted on your personal objectives and development
  • demonstrate a range of skills and attributes which will enhance your graduate employability (awareness of application/selection interview processes, communication, report-writing, time management, self-motivation, independence, adaptability and team working/networking).

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • the use of a range of established techniques to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information, and to propose solutions to problems arising from that analysis
  • effective communication of information, arguments, and analysis, in a variety of forms, to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • the ability to undertake further training, develop existing skills, and acquire new competences that will enable you to assume significant responsibility within organisations
  • the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of initiative, personal responsibility and decision-making in complex and unpredictable contexts 
  • the ability to manage your own learning, and to make use of scholarly reviews and primary sources.

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • an in depth conceptual understanding of current knowledge and critical analysis
  • the application of evidence-based medicine and deal with complex issues systematically and creatively
  • an ability for problem solving and decision-making by enabling  the effective utilisation of evidence and communication of important concepts to colleagues and others
  • the ability, through the research-focused elements, to develop and enhance skills in literature review, critical evaluation, research design, research methodologies, data collection, data analysis and research principles
  • the promotion of practical skills through fostering an interdisciplinary evidence-based learning environment where professionals learn about best practice within their own profession
  • an appreciation of where your input and skills can be used effectively to complement those of other professionals involved in various fields including pure research, drug development and patient care
  • assessment through reflection and show your ability to translate the research evidence into the working environment and critically appraise, in an objective manner, your own practice
  • the development of excellent oral and written communication skills to aid team working and dissemination of research.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

•     effective communication skills (using all media)

•     sensitivity to ethical implications of advances in pharmacological and health related fields

•     the construction of reasoned arguments and implement an evidence-based approach or practice

•     independent learning and thinking

•     effective working as an individual and in a team

•     effective time management and the ability to meet deadlines

•     enhanced self-directed study

•     good critical analysis/evaluation of data and written reports

•     imagination and innovation in their approach to new situations and problems

•     flexibility and creativity within organisational and professional contexts.


Careers and placements

Career prospects

This course can lead to careers in medical and scientific research, pharmaceutical and biological industries.

A large proportion of BSc Medical Pharmacology students continue their study by pursuing a PhD or master’s degree programme. Many go on to study for a degree in Medicine.

Alternatively, some students use the BSc degree as a well-recognised vehicle to enter careers in dentistry, veterinary science, NHS laboratories, scientific information, medical writing, patent law, graduate entry managerial programmes, teaching and various non-science disciplines


  • Pharmaceutical Researcher
  • Pharmaceutical Development


Once on the B210 Medical Pharmacology course, you will have the option of applying to join the extended four-year programme where Year 3 is a Professional Placement Year (PPY).

Students undertaking a PPY will be taught jointly with those on the three-year course, and the content of the two programmes will be identical, apart from the year spent in employment. You will begin selecting and arranging your placement at the start of Year 2, with the full support of the Medical Pharmacology PPY Coordinator. It should be emphasised that the onus is on each individual student to identify their own placement position.  The Medical School will not normally supply such opportunities. 

Support will involve providing information on the opportunities available, help with CV writing, filling in application forms, preparation for interviews and anything else as appropriate.  Placements can be sourced from competitive schemes advertised on the internet, industrial and/or academic contacts of the pharmacology staff or by direct contact between yourself and appropriate providers. Payments (as stipend or wages) while on placement will be at the total discretion of the provider and may vary considerably depending on the type of project undertaken.

The year will be spent with a single organisation that gives greater scope for the project work that is an essential part of every placement. Such placements will be undertaken in industry (pharmaceutical or related), government/University research laboratories, or some similarly suitable organisations. While on placement, you will be assigned a PPY Tutor (member of Medical Pharmacology teaching staff, usually your Personal Tutor), who will keep in close contact to monitor your progress. At the end of the placement year you will be assessed via reports on the scientific work undertaken (written – in the form of a scientific paper (70%), a critical incident reflective portfolio (15%) and a report from the placement provider (on a predesigned form, 15%).

Those students unsuccessful in securing a PPY position will be switched back to the standard three-year programme.

The PPY FAQ and Handbook documents provide detailed information as to how you will be supported before, during and after your placement.


Next Undergraduate Open Day

Saturday 26 October




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