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Marine Biology

This is an ideal location to study the marine environment

OCR1UCAS code 4yrsfull time

Star Course Overview

Why take this course?

The course integrates the three-year (full time) study period of the BSc (Hons) course with one-year full time postgraduate study, leading to a single master’s qualification upon graduation. The fourth year of study will involve you performing an extended research project in an academic or commercial research laboratory or in a field-based study.

The additional year of study at an advanced level will provide you with the background and experience to follow a professional career, either in academia, marine conservation or in industry. It will identify you as a person who has a greater knowledge of a research working environment and experience of research techniques in your chosen subject. This will better prepare you for continuing your studies at a PhD level or entering a bioscience industry.

What will I experience?

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 projects overseas and perform fieldwork in another country via our links with many study abroad schemes
  • Perform an extended research project in an academic, marine conservation or commercial environment.


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.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

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

Our MBiol Marine Biology course is being introduced in 2015-16, so it is new, however integrated masters courses in biological sciences are academically and commercially recognized routes to professional careers, which are supported by the undergraduate student loan scheme.

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

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Key Facts

UCAS Course Code:
4 years full time

136 points from 3 A levels, or equivalent, to include A level Biology at grade A. See full entry requirements

We accept UCAS points from other qualifications. See full details and English Language qualifications


UK/EU/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students
2017/18 entry: full time: £9,250 p/a*

International students
2017/18 entry: full time: £14,400 p/a**

*Tuition fee may be subject to annual increase.
**Tuition fee is subject to annual increase.

View tuition fee terms and conditions
View additional course costs

+44 (0)23 9284 5566
School of Biological Sciences
Programme specification


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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Light bulb Structure & Teaching

Year One

Start your studies with a broad foundation in biology; essential for 21st century marine biology to understand all aspects from the molecular to the ecosystem.  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
  • Marine and Terrestrial Ecology
  • Microbiology and Molecular Biology
  • Experimental Biology
  • Graduate Skills 1

Year Two

In the second year you will begin to specialise in marine biology topics.

Core units in this year include:

  • Marine Organisms and Ecosystems
  • Community Ecology and Residential Marine Field Course
  • Animal Science
  • Marine Research Skills

Options to choose from in this year include:

  • Oceanography
  • Microbiology
  • Plant Science
  • Basic and Scientific Diving
  • 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

Options to choose from in this year include:

  • Aquatic Microbiology
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Global climate change in Marine Systems

Year Four

This year will give you the opportunity to work in a research-focussed or commercial environment. The main emphasis of the year will be on performing an extended research project in an academic or commercial laboratory or as a field based study. In order to prepare you for this work there are taught elements that deal with scientific techniques and methods as well as scientific communication.

Core units include:

  • The extended research project
  • Literature review
  • Marine Biology research methods and techniques


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. All research projects will be supported by internationally recognized academic staff in areas that are at the cutting edge of a specific marine field. 

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: 21% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 79% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 38% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 62% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year four students: 3% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 10% studying independently and 87% on work placement


You will be assessed in a variety of ways during the first, second and third years of study, with the examination assessment usually taking place at the end of the year, but with coursework throughout. There are no examinations in the fourth year, and the main assessments here are focus on your independent work, scientific communication and problem solving. 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 (year 3)
  • research thesis (year 4)

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: 57% by written exams, 27% by practical exams and 16% by coursework
  • Year three students: 49% by written exams, 8% by practical exams and 43% by coursework
  • Year four students: 0% by written exams, 19% by practical exams and 81% by coursework
Dr Simon Cragg

Tutor's view

Dr Simon Cragg
Marine Biology

From arctic to tropical, from high tide to the ocean depths: we explore marine ecosystems and the biology of the fascinating organisms that live there. Through general and specialist lectures, workshops, practicals and field courses, we equip you with the knowledge and skills needed for the range of careers open to marine biologists.

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Monitor 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.

Petersfield Field Centre for Environmental Technology

Undertake some microbiological testing or investigations at the Petersfield Sewage Works. There’s a variety of research and test facilities. A chemistry lab for water analysis, a greenhouse and hydroponic experimental beds for plant trials, and there is even a supply of sewage and effluent from pipelines at 3 stages of the treatment works (raw, primary settled and final effluent).


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

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Jonathan Smith, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student

The facilities are excellent, especially the aquarium and research labs at the Institute of Marine Sciences.

Jonathan Smith, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student

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

The cost of travel or accommodation for compulsory fieldwork is included with 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 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.

For optional learning activities in the fourth year such as short external courses or field work range in price from £200 - £1200, depending on the activity, from certificated DNA barcoding training through to scientific diving training overseas.

The cost of all core activities are included in the standard tuition fee.


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

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Mortarboard Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Where next?
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

Work experience

Employment boosting opportunities
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
Career planning
6.04 minutes

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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