BSc (Hons) Marine Biology - University of Portsmouth
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BSc (Hons)

Marine Biology

UCAS codeC160

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

Study Marine Biology in the heart of the internationally important Solent European Marine Site

Course Overview

Why take this course?

The marine realms covers 70% of our planet and represents over 95% of the biosphere. It is home to most of the biodiversity on our planet, and supplies 80% of the world's oxygen. Yet this vital global resource is under threat from human activities - climate change, pollution, over fishing and habitat destruction. With these challenges, the need for dynamic, interdisciplinary and applied marine biologists has never been greater.

With over 70 years experience of marine biological research, our Marine Biology degree aims to equip you with the knowledge, skills and experience to play an active and positive role in the future of our seas.

What will I experience?

We look forward to working alongside you on your journey to become a confident and skilled Marine Biologist. On this course you can:

  • Use state-of-the-art equipment to explore marine ecosystems and study marine organisms
  • Carry out inshore or offshore practical work on our research raft or vessels
  • Take your research project overseas and perform fieldwork in another country via our links with many study abroad schemes


What opportunities might it lead to?

The Institute of Marine Sciences has an established international reputation for research and teaching, and receives funding from many sources including industry, research councils, and government agencies. These links produce various research opportunities for our staff and students, and could be a great route to future opportunities upon graduating.

Graduates are eligible to apply for Associate Membership of the Society of Biology. This entitles them to membership benefits which include access to professional networks and attendance at conferences. Associate members are awarded the post-nominal letters AMSB.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

  • academic or industrial research
  • marine consultancy
  • conservation
  • science teaching
  • scientific writing


Transfer to the MBiol courses

You can apply to transfer onto the MBiol courses in your second year if you decide that you would like to continue with your studies after the third year. In order to be able to do this, you must satisfy the criteria for progression stated in the MBiol course handbook.



Robert Mansergh, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student 2013

We have some of the best facilities in the UK and with access to the marine environment and our research vessel only metres away it is a fantastic place to do marine biology.

Robert Mansergh, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student 2013


BSc (Hons) Marine Biology

Find out more about what it's like to study marine biology here at Portsmouth.

Browse all courses in Biological Sciences

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

Start your studies with an excellent foundation, through a mixture of lectures, workshops, practicals and field courses you will gain advanced understanding in marine ecology and oceanography, evolution, experimental biology, , microbiology and molecular biology. 

This also gives you a chance to change to another course in a biological science should you wish to change the direction of your studies.

Core units in this year include:

  • Introduction to Cell Biology and Biochemistry
  • Biodiversity and Evolution
  • Introduction to Marine Ecology and Oceanography
  • Microbiology and Molecular Biology
  • Experimental Biology
  • Graduate Skills

Year two

During Year 2 you begin your process of marine specialisation, while expanding the knowledge set from the first year through a number of core units. You will experience offshore boat sampling and receive training on species identification from a global leader in marine consultancy. For many students, the highlight of this year is the residential field course in a tropical or temperate location. This gives you the experience to develop exceptional field and team working skills. 

Core units in this year include:

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Oceanography
  • Microbiology
  • Plant Science
  • Basic and Scientific Diving
  • Practical Boating Skills
  • A foreign language

Year three

In this year you will gain an advanced understanding of marine systems and organisms including: physiology, aquaculture, fisheries and the management of coastal ecosystems. Then apply your skills and knowledge as you undertake an individual research project on your own research interests.

Core units in this year include:

  • Coastal Ecosystems
  • Applied Marine Biology
  • Marine Ecophysiology
  • 3rd year research project

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Aquatic Microbiology
  • Global climate change of Marine Systems

For more details of unit syllabuses and skills please read the Marine Biology unit info sheet

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.


You will experience a variety of teaching methods, which include laboratory-based practical work and a number of field trips reinforcing the theory learned in lectures, workshops and tutorials. Also, our personal tutorial system ensures that you have someone to provide help with any academic or pastoral problems.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 29% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 71% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 27% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 73% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 40% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 60% studying independently and 0% on work placement


You will be assessed through a variety of ways, with the main examination assessment usually taking place at the end of the year, but with coursework throughout. Here’s how we assess your work:

  • written exams
  • course work in the form of practical write ups
  • posters and oral presentations
  • individual research project

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 52% by written exams, 7% by practical exams and 41% by coursework
  • Year two students: 48% by written exams, 26% by practical exams and 26% by coursework
  • Year three students: 47% by written exams, 4% by practical exams and 49% by coursework

Tutor's view


Dr Joanne Preston
Course Leader, Marine Biology

Our Marine Biology course aims to equip you with the skills and knowledge to play an active and positive role in the future of our seas. You will learn about the vast range of ecosystems across the marine biosphere, and gain a deep understanding of the biodiversity and function of marine organisms, from phytoplankton to cetaceans. Given the enormous challenges we face as a planet - the need for dynamic, interdisciplinary and applied marine biologists has never been greater. We look forward to working alongside you on your journey to become a confident and skilled Marine Biologist.

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Facilities & Features

Institute of Marine Sciences

The internationally-renowned Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) is located at the mouth of Langstone Harbour providing easy access to the varied marine ecosystems of the Solent. In addition to our extensive teaching labs, you will have access to advanced scientific and field equipment including a large experimental raft moored in the centre of the harbour and a six metre high-speed shallow draft launch for inshore work including a suite of sampling systems including dredges, grabs and nets. Overall, our aim is to introduce you to research at the highest level.

RV Chinook

Laboratory practicals combined with regular field trips, including boat-based training, are essential components of the degree curriculum. The RV Chinook II has the capability to sample offshore within the Solent and beyond and complements the current inshore RV Calypso.  At over 10 metres long Chinook II can carry up to ten students plus two crew, and is an integral part of the teaching across all years for BSc Marine Biology and MSc in Applied Aquatic Biology. The vessel is also available for commercial activity, postgraduates and researchers. 


The IMS and the School of Biological Sciences have a well-established, world-wide reputation for both fundamental and applied research in marine sciences. Attracting funding from many sources including industry, Research Councils, Leverhulme Trust, the European Union and government agencies, our research activities cover a wide range of interests from the molecular to the ecosystem. Our six research themes reflect the complexity of the modern marine biological sciences:

  • biodiversity and evolution
  • epigenetics and developmental biology
  • ecotoxicology and environmental monitoring
  • marine resource management
  • environmental microbiology and biotechnology
  • molecular biophysics


Mangrove forests, sea grass and coral reefs are found adjacent to each other in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, one of the 3 possible locations for your 2nd year residential field courses. You will develop your ecological survey skills during your residential fieldtrip in either Mexico, Sicily or the UK.

See more about fieldwork.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider

Travel or accommodation for compulsory fieldwork is included in the course fee, but you will be expected to pay for meals and other subsistence costs. These costs will be in the region of £60.

There are two optional diving skills units:
The Scientific and Technical Diving A unit is available if you have not dived before. It includes a PADI Open Water course, Dry Suit course, combined with the Scientific and Technical Diving course, and has extra costs in the region of £860 to cover tuition, transport and diving costs.

The Scientific and Technical Diving B unit is available if you hold a PADI Open Water certificate (or equivalent). It includes an advanced diving course (e.g. PADI Advanced Open Water), Dry Suit course, combined with the Scientific and Technical Diving course, and costs in the region of £780 to cover tuition, transport and diving costs.


In addition to these costs, there are optional field work opportunities to locations such as Mexico, where you are asked to make a contribution to the cost. These costs will be in the region of £1500 - £2000 depending on the duration and location of the field trip. 

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

We give career development high priority. Many graduates continue with their studies but as a newly qualified modern marine biologist, you may find employment in diverse areas like the biotechnology or environmental consultancy, science administration and communication, pure research, and teaching.

Roles our graduates have taken on include:

  • academic or industrial research scientist
  • marine environmental consultant
  • marine planner
  • science writer
  • conservation ecologist

Examples of more graduate destinations.

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

Gaining relevant work experience that fits your desired career goals alongside your BSc in Marine Biology will ensure that you develop the necessary skills potential employers are looking for. By doing so you will be demonstrating how diligent, committed and enthusiastic you are as well as acquiring many marine and generic skills (e.g. confidence, communication) essential for your post-degree future.

Our flexible course enables you to undertake a variety of placements from a few weeks to a year or gaining experience through your research project. Through our extensive network of partners from industry, conservation NGOs and research institutions we can find the right placement to suit your career aspirations. You can also study for your honours project or part of your degree under the ERASMUS scheme through which we have strong links with many European universities. Maidenhead Aquatics, Field Studies Council and ORCA are a small selection of the partner organisations that we work with. See a full list on our employability page.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

Gabriella Brown, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student 2013

The 2nd year residential marine field trip was great fun, and also developed my skills for a future career in marine sciences.

Gabriella Brown, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student 2013

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

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