BSc (Hons) Genetics

UCAS code Typical offer Length
C400 AAA/AAB (See full entry requirements) 3 years full-time
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Massive innovation in DNA sequencing technologies has revolutionised our knowledge and understanding of living systems, and makes it a particularly exciting time to be studying this subject. Our Genetics course encompasses the molecular studies of genes and genetic engineering, through human genetics and disease, to the genetics of populations. Our increasing knowledge of the human and other genomes will continue to have a great impact on biotechnology, medicine and conservation.

Course overview

By choosing to study Biology (or a specialist degree) at York you will be joining a Department that is consistently rated as one of the top UK departments  for both research and teaching. You will be taught in excellent facilities by enthusiastic staff who are specialists in their chosen field.

All our programmes start with a common first year that covers the major areas of biology from molecular biology through to ecology. From the second year you have the opportunity to personalise your degree by choosing from the range of modules that we offer, within the framework of our Biology degree or one of the specialist degrees. There is also the option of spending an extra year on an industrial placement or at a European university or research institute.

You will learn about biology through a combination of lectures, practicals, seminars and regular small group tutorials (just five students) and also have the opportunity to carry out state-of-the-art research during a 20-week final year research project.

The Department has a friendly, informal and welcoming atmosphere with students being supported throughout their degree by a personal supervisor. We also have a supportive approach to skills development leading to excellent career prospects.

Course content

What you'll study

Year 1

Whether you see yourself as a specialist or a general biologist, it is our philosophy that a sound grounding in all aspects of biology is essential. The first year is an introduction to the main areas of modern biology, and lays the foundation for specialized study in the second and final years.

Year 2

In the second year you begin to focus on your areas of interest, extending your knowledge and deepening your understanding through your choice of modules and tutorials. Students choose from a range of modules and complement these choices with a range of core modules that include tutorials, a group research project, and practical skills options.

Optional Year Away

Students on 4-year programmes spend this year studying in Europe or working in industry.

Final Year
The 20 week research project is your opportunity to work with one of our many research groups and gain hands-on research experience. Based on the research and practical skills gained during years 1 and 2, you will choose a project, and carry this out with supervision by academic staff. Your research work is complemented by a choice of specialist modules and research skills tutorials.

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.

This module will:

  • define academic integrity and academic misconduct;
  • explain why and when you should reference source material and other people's work;
  • provide interactive exercises to help you to assess whether you've understood the concepts;
  • provide answers to FAQs and links to useful resources.


How you'll be taught

You will be taught mainly via a combination of lectures, practical classes and tutorials. Also, you will learn via group and individual project work. There is an opportunity to undertake field work both in the UK and abroad.

Our reputation

The Department of Biology is one of the most highly regarded for its teaching and state-of-the-art facilities. We are committed to teaching undergraduates to the highest standards within an active, lively and inquiring research context. You will be taught by enthusiastic lecturers who are at the forefront of research in their subject area, and you will learn about many of the most interesting and significant areas of contemporary biology.

Teaching facilities

Our brand new teaching laboratories provide excellent facilities and equipment for all our undergraduate students. In your final year, you have access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities in our research laboratories, and to specialist equipment and expertise available in our innovative Technology Facility.

Our approach

We aim to provide a friendly and supportive environment in which to nurture enthusiastic and independent learners. To do this, we have regular small group teaching throughout the programme which provides an opportunity for development of personal and academic skills. We also provide students with academic supervisors who see their students regularly throughout their time at University in order to monitor their progress and act as a first point-of-contact for students amongst the academic staff.

Contact time

Most of the contact time you have in the first two years of the degree is in lectures and practical classes (typically you might expect to spend about 10 hours in lectures and 8 hours in practicals in a typical week in the first two years), which provides students with the core concepts, knowledge and skills to be a graduate biologist. In the final year, the amount of formal contact time is lower. At this stage we expect you to be working more independently. This independent working consists of reading scientific papers in order to support your learning from lectures, and carrying out independent practical work on your research project. We believe that this approach produces graduates with an ability to think and plan independently and communicate effectively. Our graduates are sought-after by employers and often go on to further degrees (Masters or PhD) in order to explore their scientific interests further.

Overall workload

As a guide, students on this course typically spend their time as follows:

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Lectures and seminars336 hours
312 hours
396 hours
Independent study864 hours
888 hours
804 hours

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17.


How you'll be assessed

Our modules are assessed by a combination of closed examinations and openly assessed work. We design our exams to assess conceptual understanding as well as important facts about the subject. The exams also contain problem-solving questions which we think should be fundamental to any scientific discipline. Openly assessed work is typically based on practical classes, and may take the form of a practical write-up or problem questions.

In the first year, exams involve short questions and answers, but as the course progresses exams contain a higher proportion of essay-based questions. Your essay writing skills should improve as you progress through the programme, supported by essay writing you have to do in tutorials. The proportion of open assessment also increases in the final year, where major openly assessed pieces of work are the research project and a research dissertation. 

You need to pass the first year in order to progress to Year 2, but this does not contribute to your overall degree mark. The second year counts for 40% of the degree mark, and the final year counts for 60% of the degree mark.


We work hard to provide you with feedback on your performance as you progress through the degree programme. Following your assessments, we return marks and feedback to you promptly, and we return all scripts from first and second year work to you. We also provide past papers (with specimen answers) for you to test yourself, to get an idea of what to expect in examinations. 

We also ask for your feedback on our teaching and assessment, so that we can adapt and change the way we run the programmes as appropriate to make sure we are offering a good experience to our students. There is student representation on the major teaching committees in the Department, as well as a Student Staff Liaison Group that meets regularly to discuss student issues.

Percentage of the course typically assessed by coursework and exams

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Written exams76%67%50%
Practical exams3%0%3%

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17.


Careers and employability

Around 70% of our graduates go on to study for a higher degree or pursue a scientific career.

Employment opportunities are diverse, ranging from biological and biomedical research and development, to careers in science communication, the health service, forensic science, environmental health and wildlife conservation. Our graduates are not confined to science-related careers, and a significant number enter jobs within finance, public and private sector management, social and health service work, the media and law. The chart below shows destinations of our recent graduate over the last three years:

Biology careers chart

We provide support for careers and employability in a number of ways both through the University’s Careers Service and the Biology Careers pages. To get more of an idea of the career routes some of our graduates have taken, visit our Biology Alumni pages.



How to apply

Application to all of our courses is through UCAS. Although applications should reach UCAS by the January deadline, we do consider applications received after this date, particularly if there are special circumstances.

Our decision about whether to make an offer of a place is usually based on information on the UCAS form, including your personal statement, reference, and academic grades or predictions. We invite candidates for interview only where there are special circumstances or unusual qualifications.

Diverse applicants

We wish to encourage applications from students from a diverse range of backgrounds, and consider all applications equally, irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, educational background or nationality.  More details for applicants with disabilities, mature and international applicants can be found via the menu on the left.

Essential subjects

Biology and a second science at A2. We consider the following subjects to be sciences for the purpose of admissions: Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Geography, Environmental Science, Psychology, Statistics and Computer Science. Human Biology is acceptable in place of Biology. 

Entry requirements

A levels

Typical offers

AAA/AAB including Biology and a second science. We exclude General Studies from our offers. 

International Baccalaureate

Typical offer

36/35 points including 6 in Higher Level Biology and 6 in another Higher Level science subject. 

If English is not your first language then we would also require either 4 in Higher Level English B or 5 in Standard Level English B.

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers

Typical offer

AA/AB in Biology and a second science in Advanced Highers, plus AAAAA/AAAAB in Highers.

Irish Leaving Certificate

Typical offer

H2,H2,H2,H2,H2,H3/H2,H2,H2,H2,H3,H3, including Biology and a second science at higher level.


We consider BTEC qualifications but there are specific units that are required, please get in touch with the department for further details.

European Baccalaureate

Typical offer

Overall score of 85%/80%, including individual scores of 85% and 75% in Biology and a second science plus 65% in English.

Other qualifications

EU qualifications

Bulgaria Diploma Za Sredno Obrazovanie: GPA of 5.8/5.5 including individual scores of 6 and 5 in Biology and a second science plus an acceptable English language qualification.

Cyprus Apolytirion: 19 points overall plus grades A and B in A level Biology and a second science plus an acceptable English language qualification.

France: FB: 15/14 points overall including individual scores of 14 and 12 in Biology and a second science plus 12 in English. OIB: 14/13 points overall including individual scores of 14 and 12 in Biology and a second science plus 12 in English.

Greece Apolytirion: 19 points overall plus grades A and B in A level Biology and a second science plus an acceptable English language qualification.

Hungary Erettsegi Matura: Grades 5,5,5,5,5 / 5, 5, 5, 5, 4 in five subjects including Biology and a second science plus an acceptable English language qualification.

Italy Diploma di Esame di Stato: 90%/87% overall including individual scores of 9 and 8.5 in Biology and a second science plus an acceptable English language qualification.

Lithuania Brandos Atestatas: 9 overall plus 85% in three state examinations including Biology and a second science plus an acceptable English language qualification.

Romania Diploma de Bacalaureat: 9/8.8 overall including individual scores of 9 and 8.5 in Biology and a second science plus an acceptable English language qualification.

Non-Eu qualifications

Hong Kong: AAA/AAB in Advanced Level or pass the HKDSE with 5,5,4 in Elective subjects including Biology and a second science.

India: An overall score of 85% in Standard XII, including individual scores of 85% and 80% in Biology and a second science plus at least 80% in English.

USA: GPA of 3.0 in HSGD plus three AP subjects with scores of 5,5,4 / 5, 4, 4 including Biology and a second science,
OR three SAT subjects at 700, 700, 700 / 700, 700, 650, including Biology and a second science, OR a combination of both qualifications, OR at least the first year of an Associate Degree in science.

English Language Requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English should be able to show evidence of their English language ability. For some European countries, the English language requirement may be fulfilled by achieving a satisfactory English grade in the relevant country's state or school examinations. Please contact us for information about the specific requirements for your own country.

We accept the following qualifications:

  • IELTS: 6.5, with a minimum of 6.0 in each component
  • Pearson: 61, with a minimum of 55 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (taken from January 2015): 176, with a minimum of 169 each component
  • TOEFL: 87 overall, with a minimum of 21 in Listening, 21 in Reading, 21 in Speaking, 21 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE III: Merit in all components


Mature students

To secure a place as a mature student on a degree programme in Biology or related programmes at York, we would be looking for recent qualifications in Biology and a second science at a sufficiently advanced level to cope with the course, together with evidence of some of the key skills needed for studying at degree level. If you do not already have these qualifications, a good way forward would be for you to take A levels (see essential subjects above), possibly on a part-time basis, at your local college.

Access to Higher Education Diploma in Science

Alternatively, you could take an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Science at your local college. Access courses are designed to prepare adults for entry to degree courses, and provide the opportunity to study the necessary subjects at a level equivalent to A level, as well as ensuring that you have the key skills needed for higher level study, such as English, numeracy and ICT.

The Diploma must include Biology and either Chemistry or Maths modules at level 3.

Typical offer

Obtain Access to HE Diploma in Science with 30 credits achieved from units awarded Distinction and 15/9 awarded Merit or higher.

Other options for this subject

During the first year it is possible to change between Genetics and any of our other degree programmes in BiologyBiotechnology & Microbiology, Ecology, or Molecular Cell Biology.

Any questions?

Contact our friendly Admissions Office if you've got any questions:

Monica Bandeira
Admissions Officer

01904 328548


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