Biology: the science of life

Biology is becoming increasingly important. As a field, it is expanding and developing rapidly, and on a global scale. Consequently, those wishing to add their skills and enthusiasm to the biological arena are always in demand. If you are hoping to establish a career in biology, you would be well advised to enhance your attractiveness to employers by spending part of your academic career in the UK.

There are many reasons why studying Biology in the UK is a great idea. As the UK has a leading and international reputation for its research science, both in terms of industry and academia, studying here would lend kudos to your ‘curriculum vitae’ in an increasingly competitive job market. An advantage of courses being taught in English is that it would enable you to better your knowledge and understanding of the undisputed language of international science and commerce. Socialising outside of study hours and being surrounded by the English language in general would provide further opportunities to improve your fluency.

Most universities are very cosmopolitan, as the UK draws in scholars from all corners of the earth. The scientific realm in this country is, like so many other learned spheres, a cultural melting pot that gains much from the exchange and cross-pollination of ideas and values that this diversity facilitates. Studying here would broaden your horizons on both personal and professional levels, enabling you to make links and contacts on a global scale.

There is a wide spectrum of universities from which to choose, ranging from those located in relatively rural settings within easy travelling distance of some of the most picturesque countryside in the world (such as the University of Leeds and the University of Aberdeen), to those situated in the hearts of the bustling, dynamic cities (such as the Universities of London and the University of Newcastle).

The phenomenal pace at which scientific knowledge evolves is often matched and complemented by some of the most up-to-date architecture, apparent in state-of-the-art lecture theatres and research laboratories. Additionally, the UK boasts many international centers of biological excellence, such as the Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens.

As the teaching and training here tends to be vocational, you would be provided with a real preparation for employment. While education elsewhere emphasises cognitive development, our universities stress the important of skills development. Courses here aim to develop students’ key transferable skills, such as recording and interpreting information and data through practicals and fieldworld. The usefulness of computer literacy, measuring and evaluating samples and observation, are stressed also.

Teaching is done through a combination of lectures, practicals, seminar and project work. Assessment is made through a combination of assessed coursework, short tests, exams, practicals and/or a research project. In addition to your academic needs being addressed by your tutors, you would be assigned a personal tutor who would be conscious of the practical needs of young people who may be studying in a foreign country for the first time. Support would be provided whenever it is needed.

To study Biology in the UK, you will need to provide evidence of your academic suitability. You will also need to demonstrate a good standard of English. Personal qualities such as enthusiasm for your subject, dedication, an open-minded approach, thirst for knowledge, attention to detail, self-reliance and team-working skills are important also. Any concerns over your suitability should be discussed with the Admissions Tutor of the relevant department of the universities in which you are interested, or your local careers advisors.

There is a wide range of courses, modules and levels of study from which to choose. Generally, courses consist of smaller units from which you are allowed to build a coherent programme of study. The advantage of this arrangement is that it enables you to focus on a specific area or to maintain a broad coverage.

Bachelor of Science (BSc) courses tend to allow considerable diversity and flexibility in the first year, but encourage greater specialisation later on. This gives you both a broad background and depth of knowledge in a particular area. Should you not want to gain a qualification here, many universities allow you to study for just one or two semesters at a BSc-level. Master of Science (MSc) courses (for post-graduates) aim to develop your understanding of your specialism to the full, with fewer topics studied in more detail. PhD students tend to work with a small team managed by a supervisor whose research interests direct what is studied. Normally, it takes three years to gain a PhD.

Obviously, an article as brief as this can only touch upon a fraction of the options open to student biologists wishing to study in the UK.

For further, more detailed information, consult your college’s careers office, your local British Council office, and/or UK universities direct. Remember to take decisions which could affect your career only after careful consideration of all the information and advice on offer.

comments powered by Disqus