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BSc (Hons) Molecular Cell Biology

Gain an understanding of life at a molecular level.

Year of entry: 2019

UCAS code


Institution code



3 years full-time (plus optional placement year)

Typical offer

AAA/AAB (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

UK/EU fees

£9,250 per year (2019/20)

International fees

£21,330 per year (2019/20)

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Molecular Cell Biology at York focuses on providing a molecular understanding of life.

On this course you will learn about the structure/function relationships of proteins and nucleic acids through to the molecular mechanisms behind immunology, genetic engineering and cancer. It is ideal for students who have an interest in studying biological systems at the molecular and cellular levels, encompassing areas that are at the forefront of science and technology today.

The Department of Biology will give you the opportunity to learn in new, spacious and modern teaching laboratories which provide excellent facilities for practicals and small group project work, alongside our state-of-the-art computing facilities.

Adding a year in industry or a year abroad are both an option with this course too, so you can benefit from the advantages that a year away can bring.


In recognition of our academic excellence and commitment to developing graduate employability skills, we have received Accreditation or Advanced Accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) for all of the degree programmes we offer (Biology and specialist degrees, Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences). 

Students graduating from one of these degree programmes will be able to state that they have a degree accredited by the Royal Society of Biology, and they will be eligible to attain qualification as a chartered biologist (CBiol) with one year’s further practice (as opposed to three years practice for non-accredited programmes UK-wide).

Highly ranked

The Department of Biology is ranked in the top 10 in the UK by the Guardian University Guide 2019, Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and the Complete University Guide 2019

State-of-the-art facilities

£22 million invested in our teaching facilities including teaching buildings housing state-of-the-art teaching laboratories

Leading research

Department of Biology ranked first in the UK for research impact in the Times Higher Education's ranking of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework results

Course content

This is a flexible and modular course which offers you choices in what you can study. You will take 120 credits each year that you are based within the University. There is the option to spend an additional year in industry or a year in Europe as part of this course. If you do not go away for a year, you will continue to progress through your studies within the University.

Study abroad

We offer the option for you to extend your course to four years with the chance to study abroad. Once you arrive at York, you can apply for a year-long built-in study placement at one of our European partner universities, or a work placement at a host organisation relevant to your degree. With this option, you will continue to develop your scientific knowledge and expertise, live in another country for a year experiencing a different culture, improve your language abilities and gain self-confidence, which are all advantageous when you apply for jobs.

We provide lots of support and assistance to you to help you find a placement, and we will guide you through the process should you choose to take up this option when you are here. Not everyone who applies will be placed, but we make every effort we can to assist you.

If you do decide to study abroad, this will take place during your third year and you will then return to York for your fourth (final) year.

Spend time in industry

You can also apply for a year in industry. This is an additional year following on from your second year of study, spent gaining research experience in industry or a research institute relevant to your degree. Our Student Employability Officers will guide you through the application process and help prepare you for placement interviews, although you will be responsible for securing the placement yourself. If you are lucky enough to be successful with one of your applications, the year in industry has many benefits; developing your expertise in technology, and providing hands-on experience of working in a research environment or a bioscience industry. This is all very valuable experience for future work as a bioscientist in industry or research.

You don’t have to make a decision about taking up the year abroad or year in industry options now - either of these options can be taken once you arrive in York.

Year 1

Stage 1 (the first year) is comprised of core modules which are designed to give you an excellent basis on which to build your future studies and develop your interests.​

In a typical week you will have around 25 hours of contact time, typically six or seven lectures, two or three practicals, a skills workshop and a tutorial. You will also spend time on independent study, consolidating information from lectures and practicals and preparing work for tutorials.

Core modules

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module.

Year 2

Core modules

You will undertake the following core modules:

Option modules

You will choose two of the following options: 

Year 3

Year abroad or year in industry

​If you choose to spend a year abroad or in industry, this will take place in your third year. If you opt to go straight into Year 3 of the course, you will undertake the following:

Core modules

The Research Project is your chance to investigate a topic relevant to your interests from a wide range of projects across the Department.

You'll receive supervision from the project director and often work as part of a research group, giving you hands-on experience of a real research environment. At the end of the project you will produce a 4,000-6,000 word project report and do a presentation on the topic.

Option modules

You will also choose four 20-credit option modules. Please note that option modules offered may vary from year to year.

You will choose between two and four modules from the following:
  • Advanced Topics in Neuroscience (20 credits)
  • Cancer Cell and Molecular Biology (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Molecular Biology (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Cell Biology (20 credits)
You will then choose any remaining modules (up to two) from the following:
  • Advanced Topics in Evolution and Genetics in Ecology (20 credits)
  • Specialised Topics in Infection and Immunity (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Biotechnology (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Microbiology (20 credits)
  • Genes and Development (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Ecology (20 credits)
  • Conservation, Climate Change and Biodiversity (20 credits)
  • Human and Medical Genetics (20 credits)
  • Molecular Recognition (20 credits)

Year 4

If you chose to spend a year abroad or in industry for your third year, on your return you will undertake stage 3 of the degree course. These modules are described in the Year 3 section.

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.

Learning by design

Every course at York has been designed to provide clear and ambitious learning outcomes. These learning outcomes give you an understanding of what you will be able to do at the end of the course. We develop each course by designing modules that grow your abilities towards the learning outcomes and help you to explain what you can offer to employers. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Provide thorough explanations that demonstrate a deep understanding of the principles, concepts and theories on the structure, function, and development of living organisms, through critical evaluations of the primary scientific literature in Molecular Cell Biology.
  • Formulate hypotheses, design and execute experiments for the collection, analysis and modelling of biological data, that tests biological systems to produce figures, graphs and tables that are explained in comprehensive laboratory report.
  • Thoroughly evaluate experimental, analytical and quantitative techniques and methodologies, and first-hand practical experience and training in laboratories or the field, to demonstrate an awareness and appreciation of the application of these approaches in tackling the major global challenges in Biology of the 21st century.
  • Work effectively as an individual, in teams and laboratory groups to solve biological problems by applying logical reasoning and lateral thinking to develop safe, ethical and socially responsible solutions that may benefit humankind.
  • Communicate and interpret complex information with clarity and precision through critical reviews in written, oral and other explanations, questioning dogma and demonstrating impact at the forefront of research in Molecular Cell Biology to real-world and global issues for expert, professional, business, industrial and lay audiences.
  • Demonstrate independence, originality, and a deep understanding of cutting-edge practice and technology in Biology, apply numerical, quantitative, and computer-based transferable skills to a range of working environments including laboratories, fieldwork, education, industry, business, health services, policy, government, and media.

Fees and funding

The fees and funding figures below are for 2019 entry. If you take a year abroad or year in industry you'll pay a reduced rate of fees for that year.

Annual tuition fees

UK/EU International
£9,250 £21,330

Additional costs

We currently ask you to provide your own lab coat which costs around £20. Text books and course books are all available in the library or online. We do recommend books you might find useful, reading lists are provided to you when you start your modules, but it is not compulsory for you to buy the books. You will be given a course textbook by the Department at no additional cost.

Costs for students going abroad or into industry will vary depending on what sort of placement it is and what sort of financial assistance is available.

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK, EU or international student.

Fees for subsequent years

  • UK/EU: further increases within the government fee cap will apply in subsequent academic years. We will notify you of any increase as soon as we can.
  • International: fees for international students are subject to annual increases. Increases are currently capped at 2% per annum.

More information

For more information about tuition fees, any reduced fees for study abroad and work placement years, scholarships, tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and living costs see undergraduate fees and funding.


We offer a number of scholarships to help cover tuition fees and living costs.

Home/EU students

International students

Department of Biology Undergraduate International Scholarship: up to £10,000 for the duration of the course.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching Excellence Framework Gold Award

“Students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes”

The TEF Panel, Office for Students, June 2018

Our Gold Teaching Excellence Framework award demonstrates our commitment to the delivery of consistently outstanding teaching and learning for our students.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Teaching format

Teaching is delivered by academic scientists with additional contributions from clinical researchers. Throughout your course there will be strong links between your studies, scientific research and clinical applications. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. You may be taught by the following methods:


Cutting-edge research informs all our teaching activities, and our friendly, approachable, and accessible staff are experts in their respective fields. Small-group teaching and tutorials for five students are an important part of our courses. There is a very wide range of tutorials to choose from and they help develop your essay writing, problem solving and communication skills. Tutorials are one of the opportunities we offer to have informal scientific discussions with a member of staff about topical issues.


You will attend lectures where we will deliver stimulating and thought-provoking perspectives on the major global challenges in biosciences of the 21st century.


Practicals are designed to help you to develop laboratory skills and to become familiar with a wide range of practical techniques, training you to use methods precisely and encouraging you to objectively assess the reliability of your results. 


Workshops are also an important feature of our programme and they provide an additional dimension to most modules. You will often collaborate in small groups in problem solving and other learning activities in our flexible learning workshops. You will design your own experiments and work together on the findings from the latest research papers, or investigate the application of new technologies to the global challenges in the biosciences.

Skills and group work

Each term during the first two years, students take modules designed to develop more generic scientific and transferable skills. Some modules focus on specific scientific techniques, while others develop skills in problem solving, experimental design and data analysis. 

We encourage you to develop important communication skills, including working in groups to plan and carry out experiments that investigate a scientific problem, and you will present your work as an oral presentation or poster.

Overall workload

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

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Lectures and seminars336 hours312 hours396 hours

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

The rest of your time on the course will be spent on independent study. This may include preparation for lectures and seminars, follow-up work, wider reading, practice completion of assessment tasks, or revision.

Everyone learns at a different rate, so the number of hours will vary from person to person. In UK higher education the expectation is that full-time students will spend 1200 hours a year learning.


Teaching and learning in the Department of Biology is based in a £22m state-of-the-art facility, which is equipped with laboratories, a flexible workshop and creative learning lounge, computer rooms, specialist tissue culture and fluorescence microscopy suites.

Teaching location

This course is based in the Department of Biology which is on Campus West. The majority of teaching takes place within Biology, with some additional teaching taking place at other locations on Campus West.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

​You will be assessed via a mixture of closed exams and continuous assessment. Although you must perform to a satisfactory level, Stage 1 (which is your first year) does not count towards the final degree, which is determined by work in Stage 2 (40%) and Stage 3 (60%). If you undertake a year abroad or in industry this is marked by pass/fail.

Throughout your course we will provide you with feedback on your work and assignments, which will give you an indication of the progress you are making in your studies.

Percentage of the course typically assessed by coursework and exams

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Written exams76%60%42%
Practical exams3%0%3%

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

Careers and skills

A degree in Biology provides an excellent basis for science or health-related careers, and for a wide range of other occupations and professions from management and finance, to journalism and teaching. 

Studying Biology will develop your critical thinking and research skills, and prepare you to be competitive for entry into relevant postgraduate degree programmes.

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.

Career opportunities

  • Zoo keeper assistant
  • Experimental officer
  • Research analyst
  • Graduate purchaser
  • Business development executive
  • Ecological consultant
  • Accountancy
  • Laboratory technician
  • Clinic coordinator
  • Healthcare assistant
  • Data manager
  • Postgraduate study
  • PhD

Transferable skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication skills
  • Teamworking skills
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Data interpretation and presentation
  • Independent study skills
  • Logical and critical thinking
  • Creativity and innovation
  • IT literacy

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
A levels

A typical offer would be AAA/AAB including 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, Geology, Environmental Science, Psychology, Statistics and Computer Science. Human Biology is acceptable in place of Biology. 

We exclude General Studies from our offers. 


Access to Higher Education Diploma Pass the Access to HE Diploma with 36-39 credits at Distinction and 6-9 credits at Merit or higher. Must include Biology and Chemistry modules at Level 3. For further information please contact the department.
BTEC DDD We consider BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Applied Science with all 7 mandatory units plus 3 units from 8,9,10,11,12,17 and 20 OR 2 from this list plus 1 unit from 13,14, 18 and 19.
European Baccalaureate Overall score of 85%/80%, including individual scores of 85% and 75% in Biology and a second science plus 65% in English.
International Baccalaureate 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.
Irish leaving Certificate H2,H2,H2,H2,H2,H3/H2,H2,H2,H2,H3,H3, including Biology and a second science at higher level.
Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers AA/AB in Biology and a second science in Advanced Highers, plus AAAAA/AAAAB in Highers.
Other qualifications

If you achieve a B or higher at EPQ, you will be eligible for a reduced offer, one grade below our typical offer.

Mature students

To secure a place as a mature student on this course you will need recent qualifications in Biology and another science at a sufficiently advanced level, together with evidence of some of the key skills needed for studying at degree level. 

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. 

  • IELTS: 6.5, with a minimum of 6.0 in each component
  • Pearson: 61, with a minimum of 55 in each component
  • C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency: 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


To apply to York, you will need to complete an online application via UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

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