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Programme Specification for the 2021/2 academic year

MSci (Hons) Marine Biology

1. Programme Details

Programme nameMSci (Hons) Marine Biology Programme codeUFX4BIOBIOCE
Study mode(s)Full Time
Academic year2021/2
Campus(es)Cornwall Campus
NQF Level of the Final Award7 (Masters)

2. Description of the Programme

The MSci (Hons) Marine Biology programme focuses on understanding the biology of marine organisms and their ecosystems. We place special emphasis on whole animal biology, biodiversity, ecology and behaviour. The programme is delivered by internationally recognised research active staff in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC) and the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) both based at our Penryn Campus. Staff from these research institutes work at the cutting edge of applied and pure research on whole-organism biology, with particular focus on large marine vertebrates, including fish (bony fish and sharks), marine turtles, seabirds and cetaceans. The programme utilises expertise from across the institutes to provide you with the skills, concepts and experience to understand all aspects of marine ecosystems and the pressures they face, ranging from overexploitation to climate change. The programme encourages an interdisciplinary approach to learning and research will expose you to a wide range of theoretical and practical techniques used to study marine ecosystems, from rocky shores to open-oceans and from shallow surface seas to deep-water habitats. This interface between research and learning provides critical skills for career opportunities across a wide range of scientific disciplines beyond education.

The final year provides an opportunity to work on an intensive research project, focused on a specialised area aligned with one of our leading research groups. You will also undertake a literature review module and a statistics module, building essential high-level skills. The remainder of your time will be spent on a two week intensive field course in which your scientific field-research, debating and presentation skills will be further developed.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any visa costs and, if necessary, purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations. You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, eg. walking boots, rucksack, mosquito net, sleeping bag, binoculars. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen. Details of specialist equipment, vaccinations and visas that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

The degree programme aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of modern marine biology, including:

  • the evolutionary origin and history of marine taxa;
  • how marine organisms interact and function in the wild;
  • how genes and the environment interact to shape the full diversity of marine life form and function;
  • the physiological mechanisms that underpin the full spectrum of life histories in the sea;
  • understanding issues in policy and development relevant to marine biology;
  • socio-economic importance of marine biology and role of marine biologists in addressing key issues.

The main aim of our programme is to show how these different approaches are complementary and together lead to a fuller understanding of marine biology. As a marine biologist you will gain in depth knowledge of the diversity, evolution and function of marine life, with specialised knowledge of some taxonomic groups. Teaching is delivered by leading researchers who provide a thorough grounding in the core concepts and principles of marine biology, and give lectures and seminars on cutting-edge topics in which they are actively engaged in research. Moreover, core staff have extensive experience of synthesising and applying their research to solving marine biological issues, demonstrating wider significance of this work.

Additionally the final year aims to help you develop your research skills to an advanced level through participation in a large research project. The literature review module and statistics module support this research project with essential high-level research skills. The field course then challenges you to put these skills to use, to train others in their use, and to experience collaborative work with partner organisations around the world.

We use a combination of traditional teaching methods such as lectures, seminars, and tutorials, together with innovative teaching and learning methods such as video-conferencing, web-casting, blogging and online discussion forums. Together these create a stimulating and effective learning environment. Similarly, our assessment ranges from more conventional examinations and essays to writing research reports and proposals, talks and poster presentations. We have standard assessment criteria for coursework essays, exams, oral presentations, posters, dissertations and lab reports. A strength of the programme is the emphasis on field courses and boat-work and the opportunity to ‘learn by doing’ – to carry out independent research projects on animals in the wild and learn principles of scientific enquiry which can be applied to tackle a range of evolutionary, ecological and practical problems in marine biology.

4. Programme Structure

5. Programme Modules

The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules. Constituent modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme.

You may take optional modules as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

You may take elective modules up to 30 credits outside of the programme in the first, second and third stages as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

If you have mobility or health disabilities that prevent you from undertaking intensive fieldwork, reasonable adjustments and/or alternative assessment can be considered in agreement with the Director of Education.

You are also permitted to take the 5-credit module LES3910 Professional Development Experience in any year. Registration on this module is subject to a competitive application process. If taken, this module will not count towards progression or award calculation.

Stage 1

90 credits of compulsory modules, 30 credits of optional modules.

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
BIO1411 Genetics 15No
BIO1427 Zoology 30No
BIO1428 Marine Biology 15No
BIO1429 Evolution 15No
BIO1430 Skills and Careers 15No

Optional Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
BioP S1 BSc-MSci MB opt 2021-2
BIO1425 Microbes 15 No
BIO1420 Physiology 15 No
BIO1426 Ecology and Conservation 15 No
BIO1427 Zoology 30 No

Stage 2

75 credits of compulsory modules, 45 credits of optional modules.

a It is compulsory to take a field course in the second year. You must select at least one field course module from BIO2436, BIO2442, and BIO2444. BIO2442 is the default free module and may be substituted with BIO2436 or BIO2444. If you are unable to go on a field course, you will be required to take BIO2450 Biosciences Penryn Virtual Field Course instead; BIO2450 is only available if you are not going on the field course.

b You may take either GEO2449 or LES2002 (you cannot choose more than one module from this group).

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
BIO2426 Analysis of Biological Data 15No
BIO2432 Exploitation of the Sea 15No
BIO2437 Biology of Aquatic Vertebrates 15No
BIO2438 Marine Ecology 15No
BioP S2 BSc-MSci MB field courses 2021-2 [See note a above]
BIO2436 Pembrokeshire Field Course 15 No
BIO2442 Scillies Field Course 15 No
BIO2444 Scotland Field Course 15 No
BIO2450 Biosciences Penryn Virtual Field Course 15 No

Optional Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
BioP S2 BSc-MSci MB opt 2021-2
BIO2406 Biodiversity and Conservation 15 No
BIO2414 Evolutionary Ecology 15 No
BIO2432 Exploitation of the Sea 15 No
BIO2427 Animal Ecophysiology 15 No
BIO2428 Development of Behaviour 15 No
BIO2430 Behavioural Ecology 15 No
BIO2439 Biology of Birds 15 No
BIO2446 Molecular Ecology 15 No
CSC2010M Oceans and Human Health 15 No
GEO2428B Atmosphere and Ocean Systems 15 No
GEO2441 Remote Sensing for Environmental Management 15 No
GEO2451 Ice Sheets: Glaciology, Climate and the Oceans 15 No
BIO2423 Wildlife Disease 15 No
BIO2453 Spatial Ecology 15 No
ECM2911 Mathematics of the Environment 15 No
GEO2457 Physical Ocean Processes 15 No
BioP Employability opt [See note b above]
LES2002 Workplace Learning 15 No
GEO2449 Green Consultants 15 No

Stage 3

75 credits of compulsory modules, 45 credits of optional modules.

c It is compulsory to take a field course in the third year. BIO3429 is the default free module and may be substituted with either BIO3418, BIO3419, BIO3438, or BIO3423. If you are unable to take a field course, you will be required to take BIO3407 Literature Review in Evolution and Ecology and 15 other credits. BIO3407 is only available if you are not going on the field course.

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
BIO3136 Research Project 40Yes
LES3001 Preparing to Graduate 5No
BioP SF BSc-S3 MSci MB field courses 2021-2 [See note c above]
BIO3418 Galapagos Islands Field Course 30 No
BIO3419 Yukon-Alaska Field Course 30 No
BIO3423 Azores Field Course 30 No
BIO3429 Northern Spain Field Course 30 No
BIO3430 Tropical Biodiversity and Conservation: Costa Rica Field Course 30 No
BIO3438 Human-Wildlife Coexistence in Costa Rica Field Course 30 No
BIO3407 Literature Review in Evolution and Ecology 15 No

Optional Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
BioP SF BSc-MSci MB opt 2021-2
BIO3116 Marine Vertebrate Conservation 15 No
BIO3131 Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15 No
BIO3135 Human Behavioural Ecology 15 No
BIO3400 Living in Groups 15 No
BIO3409 Symbiosis in Marine Systems 15 No
BIO3410 Sensory Ecology 15 No
BIO3415 Ecological Responses to Climate Change 15 No
BIO3420 Evolutionary Biology of Health and Disease 15 No
BIO3421 Animal Migration 15 No
BIO3411 Science in Society 15 No
BIO3401 Coevolutionary Interactions 15 No
BIO3413 Animal Life Histories 15 No
BIO3422 Animal Cognition 15 No
CSC4011M Living with Environmental Change 15 No
CSC4013M Frontiers of Global Health 15 No
GEO3455 Marine Climate and Environmental Change 15 No
GEO3458 Marine and Coastal Sustainability 15 No
BIO3407 Literature Review in Evolution and Ecology 15 No
BIO3433 Ocean Management and Conservation 15 No
BIO3434 Major Transitions in Evolutionary History 15 No

Stage 4

120 credits of compulsory modules

d You must choose either LESM007 or BIOM4043

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
BIOM052 Academic Research Project 60Yes
BioP LESM007 - BIOM4043 [See note d above]
LESM007 Global Challenges Field Course (MSci) 30 No
BIOM4043 Rewilding the United Kingdom 30 No
LESM003 Literature Review in the Life Sciences 15No
LESM005 Applied Data Analysis 15No

6. Programme Outcomes Linked to Teaching, Learning and Assessment Methods

Intended Learning Outcomes
A: Specialised Subject Skills and Knowledge

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
On successfully completing this programme you will be able to:
Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be...
...accommodated and facilitated by the following learning and teaching activities (in/out of class):...and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

1. Describe basic ecology, evolutionary biology and animal behaviour, and aspects of organismal and molecular biology that are relevant to the study of marine biology.
2. Conduct laboratory and field work research and investigations appropriate to the subject of marine biology, ecology, behaviour and evolution.
3. Develop a rigorous scientific approach in synthesising information and concepts, exercising evaluative judgement and rational analysis. You will be trained in written and verbal communication of scientific information and ideas.
4. Apply logical thinking, problem solving and numeracy skills to solve current and future problems relevant to marine biology.

Teaching and learning activities are designed to encourage a progressive acquisition of subject knowledge and skills by moving from study methods that have a greater degree of support and assistance towards more independent learning and the world beyond education. Teaching and learning activities include: lectures, laboratory classes, research project or dissertation, boat-work, problem solving and a residential field course. You will undertake a range of modules combining explicit subject-based learning to general training in scientific reasoning, critical thinking and transferable skills, as well as optional work place learning.

ILO1 – First and second year modules provide a broad and solid foundation in relevant biological subject areas and are assessed via examinations, short lab reports, assessed discussion, tutorial, and multiple choice tests.

ILO2 – Lab skills and experience are assessed through laboratory reports and practical tests. Field skills and experience are assessed through in situ discussion groups, individual and group oral presentations, short research projects, formal poster displays, and post-field trip examinations.

ILO3 – Assessment via essay assignments and review papers, laboratory reports and examinations, and oral presentations.

ILO4 – Assessment via laboratory and field assignments, and an independent research project or dissertation.

Intended Learning Outcomes
B: Academic Discipline Core Skills and Knowledge

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
On successfully completing this programme you will be able to:
Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be...
...accommodated and facilitated by the following learning and teaching activities (in/out of class):...and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

5. Demonstrate a broadly based knowledge and understanding of the science of marine biology, with detailed knowledge of essential facts and theory related to marine biology.
6. Demonstrate some knowledge and understanding in all levels of biological organisation (molecular, cellular, organismal and ecological).
7. Read, describe and critically evaluate aspects of current research in biosciences with reference to reviews and research articles in scientific papers.
8. With limited guidance, deploy established techniques of practical investigation, data collection, statistical analysis of data and the analysis and interpretation of these data within the science of marine biology.
9. Understand the opportunities, costs and constraints of aspects of human activity focused on, or benefitting from, an understanding of biological systems.

Explicitly introduced as a concept in first year Key Skills module, and expanded through subject-based learning in second year modules core to the Marine Biology Degree. Explored in field trips including specialised training in practical study of marine biology. Further explored in final year research projects.

ILO5 – Explicitly through module-based assessment in all years. Assessment of performance in modules takes place through essay examinations, short answer and multiple-choice tests; practical work and reports; quantitative problems; project report or dissertation; oral presentations; and assessed contribution to group work.

ILO6 – First year is explicitly broad and covers the fundamental genetic, physiological, and ecological principles governing biological organisation in general and marine biology in particular.

ILO7 – Assessment will be through essay and review assignments in Key Skills and Critical Thinking modules in years 1 and 2. Skills developed via assessment of literature reviews for research projects in years 3 and 4. Students are made aware of the marking criteria for all major pieces of work and receive detailed feedback on their performance.

ILO8 – Practical classes in years 1-3 and field courses will emphasise the development of independent research skills and the writing-up of lab and fieldwork in the form of scientific reports, using published papers as a model. Independent research projects in years 3 and 4 will be assessed via research presentations and the writing of scientific research papers, aimed at publication in the primary literature.

ILO9 – Work placement and field course modules in years 2-4 will assess students in their ability to understand the structure and activities of external organisations, and compare and contrast them with academic institutions, via written reports and presentations.


Intended Learning Outcomes
C: Personal/Transferable/Employment Skills and Knowledge

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
On successfully completing this programme you will be able to:
Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be...
...accommodated and facilitated by the following learning and teaching activities (in/out of class):...and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

10. Communicate ideas effectively and professionally by written, oral and visual means and develop a cogent and lucid argument.
11. Study autonomously and undertake projects with minimal guidance and time-manage several different types of work and meet deadlines.
12. Select and properly manage information drawn from books, journals and the internet.
13. Develop experience and awareness of IT skills as appropriate to the discipline.
14. Evaluate the wider social and environmental implications of relevant ecological and evolutionary processes, and debate issues in relation to specific biological, environmental, social and ethical perspectives.
15. Work in a group to achieve a common goal.
16. Solve complex problems in novel settings.

Personal transferable employment skills and knowledge are embedded in all modules. All first and second modules are strongly focused towards developing applied skills for use in the dissertation and in real life situations. Practical skills are taught during directed practical exercises in first and second years, through the field courses in second and final years, and developed during independent and collaborative research projects in the final year.

ILO10 – Laboratory and field reports, independent research project dissertation, oral presentations, and essay examination.

ILO11 – Independent research project in the final year and short field projects during field trips in second and final years and throughout the final year. Independent research project in Year 3 and short field projects during field trips in Years 2 and 3 and throughout the final year.

ILO12 – Laboratory write-ups, field reports, independent research dissertation, literature reviews, research discussion groups.

ILO13 – Module-specific training in relevant IT skills during Key Skills module in first year, then in all modules in years 2-4. Formatively assessed via University provision for  personal development in IT and other transferable skills.

ILO14 – Discussion seminars, practical classes, field course assessed discussions, class debates, and all exercises in Critical Thinking, and Science in Society modules.

ILO15 – Field and practical class group tasks in years 1 and 2, field course assessment of individual effort, interactions and teamwork in years 2-4.

ILO16 – Group exercises and mini research projects during field course modules in years 2-4, and all assessments during research project modules in years 3 and 4.

7. Programme Regulations

Programme-specific Progression Rules

To progress to Stage 2 you must achieve a credit-weighted stage average of at least 60% in Stage 2, otherwise you will be required to transfer to the relevant BSc (Hons) programme.

Programme-specific Award Rules

At the end of Stage 3, you may be permitted to exit with a BSc (Hons) Marine Biology provided that you have achieved 360 credits in total, you have taken no more than 150 credits at level 4 and at least 90 credits at level 6 or 7. If you do exit with a BSc (Hons) the award will normally be based on the degree mark formed from the credit weighted average marks for stages 2 and 3 combined in the ratio 1:2 respectively.


Full details of assessment regulations for all taught programmes can be found in the TQA Manual, specifically in the Credit and Qualifications Framework, and the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook. Additional information, including Generic Marking Criteria, can be found in the Learning and Teaching Support Handbook.

8. College Support for Students and Students' Learning

You will be located on the Penryn Campus in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC), where close working relationships are fostered. You can expect reasonable access to all teaching staff through appointments and will in addition receive formative feedback from various discussion groups/in-lecture exercises throughout the delivery of each module and therefore receive essentially continuous feedback during the taught component of the programme. Project supervisors provide academic and tutorial support once you move on to the research component of the programme. In addition, the Programme Director will offer you a meeting each term with an academic who provides guidance and feedback on assessment performance. Your progress will be monitored and you can receive up-to-date records of the assessment, achievements and progress at any stage.

9. University Support for Students and Students' Learning

Please refer to the University Academic Policy and Standards guidelines regarding support for students and students’ learning.

10. Admissions Criteria

Undergraduate applicants must satisfy the Undergraduate Admissions Policy of the University of Exeter.

Postgraduate applicants must satisfy the Postgraduate Admissions Policy of the University of Exeter.

Specific requirements required to enrol on this programme are available at the respective Undergraduate or Postgraduate Study Site webpages.

11. Regulation of Assessment and Academic Standards

Each academic programme in the University is subject to an agreed College assessment and marking strategy, underpinned by institution-wide assessment procedures.

The security of assessment and academic standards is further supported through the appointment of External Examiners for each programme. External Examiners have access to draft papers, course work and examination scripts. They are required to attend the Board of Examiners and to provide an annual report. Annual External Examiner reports are monitored at both College and University level. Their responsibilities are described in the University's code of practice. See the University's TQA Manual for details.


12. Indicators of Quality and Standards

The programme is not subject to accreditation and/ or review by professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs).

13. Methods for Evaluating and Improving Quality and Standards

The University and its constituent Colleges review the quality and standard of teaching and learning in all taught programmes against a range of criteria through the procedures outlined in the Teaching Quality Assurance (TQA) Manual Quality Review Framework.

14. Awarding Institution

University of Exeter

15. Lead College / Teaching Institution

Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy (ESE)

16. Partner College / Institution

Partner College(s)

Not applicable to this programme

Partner Institution

Not applicable to this programme.

17. Programme Accredited / Validated by


18. Final Award

MSci (Hons) Marine Biology

19. UCAS Code


20. NQF Level of Final Award

7 (Masters)

21. Credit

CATS credits ECTS credits

22. QAA Subject Benchmarking Group

23. Dates

Origin Date


Date of last revision