The majority of life on earth is found under the sea, but most of it remains to be explored. Tropical reefs, deep-sea trenches, seagrass meadows and frozen polar seas are all individually unique and complex environments, but connected within Earth’s single, vast ocean. By joining our BSc Marine Biology course you will be immersed in this fascinating ocean world.
At Essex you will begin your journey through diverse marine ecosystems from day one. Our team of internationally renowned academic staff will introduce you to ocean systems and marine ecology through their own research on topics as varied as coral reef conservation, fisheries management, animal behaviour, marine biotechnology and microbiology. These are taught alongside key scientific skills including data analysis and interpretation, literature research and presentation skills to give you a concrete foundation for your scientific career.
You will develop the concepts introduced in lectures through extensive, practical, hands-on experience in the laboratories of our STEM Centre, as well as in the field. Our local estuaries and coastal ecosystems are a natural laboratory on our doorstep. You will investigate the diversity of beautiful Essex salt marshes and interact with key people working to improve our coastline, including Essex Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency and Colchester Oyster Fisheries. Later in your degree there will be opportunities to travel to field locations in Scotland, Greece and Indonesia (subject to additional costs) to apply what you have learned. During a trip to Indonesia, in the heart of the Coral Triangle, you will learn to dive and participate in unique underwater research surveys and lectures.
After completing core modules, you will move on to more advanced and specialised modules that are driven by our departmental research expertise.
In the final year you will have the opportunity to select an independent research project through which you can further develop your own interests. Previous topics have included studies on oyster fisheries and water quality with local industry, fieldwork on sea turtle ecology in Greece and identifying coral reef conservation strategies in the Caribbean and Indonesia.
During the field trip to Wakatobi Marine National Park in Indonesia, our students are able to participate in underwater lectures.
You will join field courses covering our local Marine Conservation Zone, tropical Indonesia and the Mediterranean Sea, studying everything from temperate shores and salt marshes to tropical mangroves and coral reefs.
You will use our fantastic new aquatic biology research aquaria, research laboratories and new research vessel.
Our STEM Centre houses some of the best undergraduate science teaching laboratories in the UK, where you be taught advanced research techniques by our expert academic staff.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
If you spend a full year abroad you'll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won't pay any tuition fees to your host university
Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement year with an external organisation. This is usually focussed around your course, and enables you to learn about a particular sector, company or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways.
If you complete a placement year you'll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
As one of the largest schools in our University we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with current, research-led study and high-quality teaching. You will benefit from the wide expertise of our research-active academics and their pioneering work on marine issues of national and global importance.
All of our academic staff conduct their own research and have professional expertise that you will benefit from through your studies. From genes to cells, whole animals and through to communities and ecosystems, our marine biology academics design course materials that make their world-class research accessible and inspiring.
We are proud that one-third of students at the University of Essex are from outside of the UK. The University has a Women's Network to support female staff and students, and the School of Life Sciences has been awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award (2020) reflecting the work carried out by staff in our School to improve equality. Measures include a mentorship scheme, support for postdoctoral research staff and financial help towards childcare costs for academics who wish to attend conferences.
Our School of Life Sciences has received major investment over recent years to fund new teaching laboratories in our STEM Centre and new research aquaria for studies of tropical, temperate, marine and freshwater systems.
You will work in an open and friendly department, with shared staff-student social spaces and during your final-year research project you will work alongside academics and PhD students in shared laboratories. You may choose to use our state-of-the-art research facilities, including everything from environmentally controlled systems for ecological experiments and molecular biology laboratories, to behavioural analysis systems and our advanced bioimaging facility. There are drones available for remote sensing surveys, an advanced bioimaging suite, the latest Oxford Nanopore portable genome sequencers and a 10.5m research vessel, all within the School. Through our global networks we have created national and international field courses in Plymouth, Millport, Greece, and Indonesia to teach you the latest field techniques.
As the world's environmental problems worsen, the demand for qualified marine biologists and ecologists continues to grow.
Your degree in marine biology will open up wide-ranging career opportunities, including further study, careers in conservation, science writing and editing, as well as commercial research or consultancy for governmental or non-governmental organisations.
Our past students have taken up work in research laboratories, consultancies, business and industry, conservation practice and environmental assessment. Some have gone on to work in the commercial sector, while others still have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc or PhD degrees.
Recent graduates now work for the following high-profile organisations:
Marine Biology Research Manager at Hive Ventures
Process Scientist at Thames Water
New Earth Solutions
We also work with our University's Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
“Since graduating from Essex, I started a job at the Environment Agency in the National Fisheries Laboratory, looking at freshwater fish health, ageing and species. It involves lots of elements that I learnt from my studies such as identification and lab skills, which really helped in my application.”
Yasmin Harris, BSc Marine Biology, 2019
UK entry requirements
GCSE: Mathematics C/4.
A-levels: BBB including Biology or Environmental Science (or equivalent). Acceptable A-level equivalents are Life and Health Sciences and Marine Science.
BTEC: D*DD, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
IB: 30 points or three Higher Level certificates with 555. Either must include Higher Level Biology grade 5, plus Standard Level Mathematics grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level. We will accept grade 4 in either Standard Level Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches or Standard Level Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation.
Maths in the IB is not required if you have already achieved GCSE Maths at grade C/4 or above or 4 in IB Middle Years Maths.
We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programme Courses (formerly certificates) at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for.
We can also consider combinations with BTECs or other qualifications in the Career-related programme – the acceptability of BTECs and other qualifications depends on the subject studied, advice on acceptability can be provided. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.
Access to HE Diploma: 6 level 3 credits at Distinction and 39 level 3 credits at Merit, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
T-levels: Merit, depending on subject studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.
What if I have a non-traditional academic background? Don’t worry. To gain a deeper knowledge of your course suitability, we will look at your educational and employment history, together with your personal statement and reference.
You may be considered for entry into Year 1 of your chosen course. Alternatively, some UK and EU applicants may be considered for Essex Pathways, an additional year of study (known as a foundation year/year 0) helping students gain the necessary skills and knowledge in order to succeed on their chosen course. You can find a list of Essex Pathways courses and entry requirements here
If you are a mature student, further information is here
International & EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
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Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications
If you are an international student requiring a visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We’ll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we’ll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.
Components and modules explained
Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.
Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.
What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.
Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.
In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.
Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:
The department or school the module will be taught by.
In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.
Develop your skillset and boost your CV. This module prepares you for the coursework, laboratory practicals and research projects that you will encounter during undergraduate study. Get to know referencing systems and learn how to effectively communicate scientific information. Use scientific units and simple algebra and demonstrate understanding of logarithms, exponentials, geometry and elementary calculus. Learn how to design experiments, handle data and display, interpret and analyse basic statistics.
Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, practicals and tutorials, with an emphasis on developing the key transferable skills needed for a career in biosciences.
Develop practical field skills that are critical for any practicing Marine Biologist. Spending one week at the Marine Biological Association of the UK in Plymouth, you gain key knowledge of marine invertebrate and algal identification, classification and distribution, developing skills in experimental design, field data-collection and data analysis. Please note that students make their own travel arrangements for this modules.
As part of this module you will be required to attend a field trip to Plymouth to the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) where you will develop your field research skills in Biology. The cost for this trip is approximately £50, which you will need to pay.
Why do we all look different? Are some illnesses hereditary? Are animals born ready-suited to their environment? From the early theories of Mendel to modern studies in molecular genetics, you explore how scientists have answered these questions over the last 150 years.
Examine how the structure and function of DNA allows genetic material to be expressed, replicated and inherited, and consider how genetic variation leads to adaptive evolution. From developing new technologies in gene cloning to the applications for modern medicine, you explore how geneticists are building on the earlier achievements in this fundamentally important field to enhance our understanding of life on earth.
Microbes are essential for life, and they connect the health of humans, other animals and ecosystems. They help us digest our food, provide us with vitamins and are contribute to our health and wellbeing. Marine microbes provide about one-third of the oxygen we breath. And, by cleaning up pollutants and synthesising valuable products such as antibiotics, microbes are essential for the delivery of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. On the other hand, some microbes cause devastating diseases. Despite major advances in treatment and prevention, incidences of infectious disease continue to rise. You will learn about the vast diversity and evolution of these mostly beneficial microbes and learn about the pathogenicity of the harmful ones. You will examine how different viruses and bacteria invade, interact and replicate within their hosts. A series of four practical sessions in our new teaching laboratory will give you hands-on experience of growing, observing, purifying, counting and even killing microbes. This will provide you with sought-after skills, such as aseptic technique, serial dilution and data analysis.
The diversity of life on planet Earth is breath taking. We share our home with a vast number of species, a large portion of which are animals. We will discover the diversity of animal forms and functions and the role of natural selection in determining individual behaviour such as foraging, breeding and predator escape. You also investigate the idea that nothing in ecology and evolution makes sense in isolation.
The marine realm covers 70% of the Earth's surface. It contains ice-covered seas and hydrothermal vents, muddy estuaries, deep ocean trenches and the clear blue open sea. The oceans and seas are also integral to the whole earth-ocean-atmosphere system, which controls the climate and conditions for life on Earth. Discover the different marine environments, the organisms that inhabit them and their ecological interactions. You also investigate the physical and chemical conditions that determine the diversity of marine life and consider how human activity is influencing marine ecosystems, through overfishing, pollution, and climate change.
You will develop your transferable skills in scientific writing (including referencing and avoiding plagiarism), teamwork and communication through oral presentations, study and research skills (including essay writing, lecture note taking, use of library and databases). Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, and tutorials. The emphasis will be on small group, tutorial-style teaching and interaction with other students on this module, with assessments tailored to your degree subject area.
Our oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the planets water. This vast underwater world supports a huge diversity of living organisms – get to know them. You learn how to assess biodiversity, measure species distribution and regulate populations. Systems of particular focus include biodiversity hot-spots such as coral reefs and rocky shores. You also have chance to practically apply your skills, examining the biodiversity of muddy and sandy shores, and investigating the morphological and genetic diversity in marine amphipods.
Professional skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists
In this career-focused module you develop skills specific to your discipline, such as information retrieval, data-analysis and interpretation techniques, as well as a broader range of transferable skills, such as communication, team-work, numeracy and attention to detail. Learn how to best approach job applications, including CV and cover letter writing, aptitude testing and the interview process.
The importance of marine vertebrates to our aquatic systems cannot be underestimated, yet some of our most iconic underwater species are under serious threat. This module focuses on the taxonomy, physiology, ecology and conservation of the top predators and keystone species, including (but not limited to), whales, dolphins, sharks, rays, manatees, marine turtles and sea snakes.
Estuarine and Coastal Ecology Field Module (Assessed in Following Year)
This module concentrates on the relationship between biological diversity, and aspects of water chemistry and habitat structure in different coastal environments situated along an estuarine gradient. We will be using the Colne / Blackwater estuary complex as our field site.
This module aims to prepare you for carrying out an individual scientific investigation on a topic relating to your degree. Develop skills to identify a suitable question and then design an experimental approach to obtain data addressing this question. The assessment focuses on your analysis and presentation of these data in a suitable scientific paper format report, on the research, understanding and critical writing about the scientific literature relating to your project. Your oral project presentation skills and response to questions, the planning and management of your project work, your progress reflection and your employability skills will also be evaluated.
Investigate the relationship between water chemistry and habitat structure, and biological diversity of coastal environments. Getting hands-on in the local Colne/Blackwater estuary you gain experience in assessing environmental variables, sampling protocols and general fieldwork skills. You learn to identify a wide variety of animals and plants at different salinities, as well as associated habitats such as freshwater grazing marshes and salt marshes. You are also trained in commonly used lab techniques, such as measuring phosphate concentrations and sediment properties.
Fisheries provide food and employment to millions of people across the globe. Get to know the social and economic drivers of fishing and explore the subsequent impact on marine ecosystems. You gain an understanding of the scale and significance of fisheries and learn to critically analyse the methods used to assess their efficacy.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely
Benefit from teaching at our local marine biology field centre
Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework
Conduct a research project into marine biology in your final year of study
Fees and funding
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.
Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.
The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are 'L' and 'S' respectively.
You can find further information on how to apply, including information on transferring from another university, applying if you are not currently at a school or college, and applying for readmission on our How to apply and entry requirements page.
If you are an undergraduate student residing in the UK who has received an offer to study with us in October 2023, you will receive an email invitation to book onto one of our Applicant Days. Our Colchester Campus Applicant Days run from February to May 2023 on various Wednesdays and Saturdays, and our Southend Campus Applicant Days run from March to June 2023 on various weekdays and Saturdays. Applicant Days provide the opportunity to meet your department, tour our campus and accommodation, and chat to current students. We appreciate that travelling to university events can be expensive. This is why we have increased our Applicant Day Travel Bursary cap, allowing you to claim up to £150 as reimbursement for travel expenses. For further information about Applicant Days, including Terms and Conditions and eligibility criteria for our Travel Bursary, please visit our Applicant Days webpage.
If you are an overseas offer-holder, you will be invited to attend one of our virtual events. However, you are more than welcome to join us at one of our in-person Applicant Days if you are able to, so if you’d like to book a place, please contact our Applicant Day Team at email@example.com
Visit Colchester Campus
Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.
If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tours allows you to explore our University from the comfort of your home. Check out our Colchester virtual tour and Southend virtual tour to see accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.
Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.
At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.
The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.
The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and
Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.