Marine Biology BSc (Hons)
BSc (Hons) Marine Biology
Marine biologists are the first line of defence for our blue planet, and are crucial to enhance the ecology and environment of our oceans.
This BSc (Hons) Marine Biology degree, accredited by the Royal Society of Biology (RSB), will give you the skills you need to play your part.
With conservation projects and world class facilities on our doorstep, Portsmouth is the perfect place to begin a career as a marine scientist.
- Work on active conservation projects – such as the Solent Oyster Restoration Project, the Solent BioHut project, the Isle of Wight UNESCO Marine Biosphere, and the Solent Seagrass Restoration Project – to gain first-hand experience of marine conservation
- Access the Solent European Marine Site with its wide range of environments through the Institute of Marine Sciences, our internationally renowned shoreside marine station
- Have the chance to go on a marine ecology field trip to Mexico, where you can work to preserve the mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs
- Get practical marine skills on our research vessels, including a large experimental raft, a 6-metre high-speed shallow draft launch for inshore work and a suite of sampling systems including dredges, grabs and nets
- Build experience on a one-year work placement, study abroad at one of our partner universities, and learn powerboating with the Royal Yacht Association (RYA) or PADI-certified scientific and technical diving
No.13 in the UK for Biosciences (The Guardian University Guide, 2022)
This programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.
BSc (Hons) Marine Biology degree entry requirements
- A levels – ABB–BBB
- UCAS points – 120–128 points to include 3 A levels, or equivalent, with 40 points from A level Biology Applicants will normally need to pass the separate Science Practical Endorsement (calculate your UCAS points)
- BTECs (Extended Diplomas) – DDM
- International Baccalaureate – 27
English language requirements
- English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.0 with no component score below 5.5.
We also accept other standard English tests and qualifications, as long as they meet the minimum requirements of your course.
If you don't meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
I can honestly say that Marine Biology at the University of Portsmouth exceeded all my expectations and I really am living my dream. The Institute of Marine Sciences has amazing facilities and the best lecturers; with a beautiful sea view for inspiration.
Facilities and specialist equipment
You'll spend plenty of time at our industry-leading marine station, the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS), located just metres from the sea and the Solent European Marine Site.
You'll monitor and test seawater, looking at how humans impact marine ecosystems and how materials react to different marine environments. These are some of the facilities and equipment you'll use at the IMS.
Floating research platform
Our large floating research platform is permanently moored in the centre of the harbour and used for marine remote sensing, tidal turbine trials and marine monitoring, for which testing instruments can be submerged at any level from the surface to the sea bed.
RV Calypso and RV Noctiluca
IMS has 2 research vessels - the 5.4m high-speed shallow draft dory, RV Calypso, used for inshore and intertidal work, and the larger RV Noctiluca, which can sample offshore within the Solent and beyond, carrying up to 12 students plus 2 crew.
Aquatic centre and lab suiteOur purpose-built 318m2 aquatic centre includes an aquarium, wet lab and seawater system, with seawater sourced directly from the harbour, enabling temperature controlled experiments and ambient seawater experiments.
India, a student on our Marine Biology BSc course, talks about her experiences on the programme as a first year.
Why did you choose to study Marine Biology at the University of Portsmouth?
India: I've always been really passionate about marine biology. I love the facilities that are available. I got a tour of the labs. I enquired a little bit about additional support and things too, because I have a disability myself. When they told me about the services, about ASDAC (Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre), I thought that that seemed really good and it seemed a lot better than other universities I'd looked at.
What is your favourite thing about the Marine Biology course?
India: My favourite aspect of the course has been the practical side. Since I've been here I've done about five practical lab sessions. They've really given me a lot of skills as a scientist.
After you graduate, what are your plans for the future?
India: I've been quite interested in deep sea ecology for a while so I find the deep ocean really interesting. Another area that I'm really interested in is also sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
What would you say to convince someone to study Marine Biology at the University of Portsmouth?
India: Something that I've noticed since I've been here is how amazing the lecturers are. I think that the amount of support available at the university is exceptional really, but I'd also say that the facilities are amazing and in terms of science, there are some really great labs and great lab equipment.
Careers and opportunities
Marine biology is the study of the organisms, plants and animals that make up the world's saltwater ecosystems. It's a vital area of science when it comes to protecting our oceans and seas - marine biologists aim to better understand marine environments and to investigate the factors that alter marine ecosystems, both natural and man-made.
On this BSc (Hons) Marine Biology degree, you'll learn about a wide array of marine organisms, from phytoplankton to cetaceans, and how to protect the oceans and their delicate ecosystems against the growing threats of climate change, habitat destruction and resource exploitation.
You’ll conduct fieldwork in a range of intertidal habitats, including rocky shores, estuaries, saltmarsh and mangroves, and become an expert in diverse and rich marine ecosystems, from coral reefs to the deep sea.
When you graduate, you'll be ready for a career in a range of marine science areas, such as conservation, resource management and aquaculture, or to pursue academic research, lab work, field work or policy making.
You'll also be able to apply to be a Registered Marine Scientist and you'll meet some of the academic requirements to become a Chartered Marine Scientist. And you'll be eligible to apply for Associate Membership of the Royal Society of Biology, which includes access to exclusive grants and awards.
I think that the amount of support available at the University is exceptional really, but I'd also say that the facilities are amazing and in terms of science, there are some really great labs and great lab equipment.
What areas can you work in with a marine biology degree?
Previous graduates of this course have gone on to work in:
- post-graduate research
- coastal zone management
- environmental toxicology
- marine conservation
- marine policy
- marine resource management
Roles previous graduates have gone on to do include:
- lab analyst
- field technician
- agriculture supervisor
- radioactive chemist
- extraction scientist
- day yacht skipper
- watersports instructor
- biology teacher
Ongoing careers supportAfter you graduate, you can get help, advice and support for up to 5 years from our Careers and Employability Service as you advance in your career.
After your second year, you can do an optional work placement year to get valuable longer-term work experience in the industry. Placements give you the opportunity to apply what you've learnt so far in a real workplace, boosting your employability and making you attractive to employers after graduation.
You can work for a company or organisation here in the UK or overseas, although our coastal location means there are many placement opportunities nearby.
Our partners include commercial, research and non-profit organisations such as:
- Maidenhead Aquatics
- Field Studies Council
- Blue Marine Foundation
Whichever route you choose, you'll receive support and guidance. Our specialist team of Science and Health Careers advisors can help you with finding a work placement and improving your employability skills. They'll provide you with a database of placement vacancies, support with your job search – including help with applications and interviews – and support throughout your placement year.
You'll also have the opportunity to study abroad at one of our partner universities. Studying overseas is a fantastic opportunity to enhance your CV and experience a different culture as an international student.
Many of our students describe their time spent studying abroad as truly life-changing, as well as an excellent way to stand out to future employers.
What you'll study on this BSc (Hons) Marine Biology degree
Each module on this course is worth a certain number of credits.
In each year, you need to study modules worth a total of 120 credits. For example, four modules worth 20 credits and one module worth 40 credits.
Core modules in this year include:
- Biodiversity & Evolution – 20 credits
- Experimental Biology – 20 credits
- Graduate Skills – 20 credits
- Introduction to Cell Biology & Biochemistry – 20 credits
- Introduction to Marine Ecology and Oceanography – 20 credits
- Microbiology & Molecular Biology – 20 credits
There are no optional modules in this year.
Core modules in this year include:
- Animal Science – 20 credits
- Community Ecology and Residential Field Course – 20 credits
- Level 5 Tutorial Programme – 0 credits
- Marine Organisms and Ecosystems – 20 credits
- Marine Research Skills – 20 credits
Optional modules in this year include:
- Genetics – 20 credits
- Introduction to Teaching – 20 credits
- Microbiology – 20 credits
- Modern Foreign Language (Institution-wide Language Programme) – 20 credits
- Oceanography – 20 credits
- Plant Science – 20 credits
- Practical Boating Skills – 20 credits
- Scientific and Technical Diving Techniques A – 20 credits
On this course, you can do an optional work placement year between your 2nd and 3rd years to get valuable experience working in industry.
We’ll help you secure a work placement that fits your situation and ambitions. You’ll get mentoring and support throughout the year.
Core modules in this year include:
- Fisheries and Aquaculture – 20 credits
- Honours Project – 40 credits
- Marine Ecology and Conservation – 20 credits
- Marine Ecophysiology – 20 credits
Optional modules in this year include:
- Climate Change – 20 credits
- Environmental Microbiology – 20 credits
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 modules may not run every year. If a module doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative module.
How you'll be assessed
You’ll be assessed through:
- written exams
- course work in the form of practical write ups
- posters and oral presentations
- individual research project
You’ll be able to test your skills and knowledge informally before you do assessments that count towards your final mark.
You can get feedback on all practice and formal assessments so you can improve in the future
- Year 1 students: 52% by written exams, 7% by practical exams and 41% by coursework
- Year 2 students: 48% by written exams, 26% by practical exams and 26% by coursework
- Year 3 students: 47% by written exams, 4% by practical exams and 49% by coursework
Teaching methods on this course include:
- laboratory-based practical work
- field trips
You'll learn from researchers who are members of the Institute of Marine Sciences, with expertise in subject areas such as ocean acidification, plastic pollution and cetacean behaviour. You'll also get a personal tutor, who will support you with your studies.
Parasites and pollutants with Professor Alex Ford
When you pour a medicine down the sink or flush it down the loo, where do the chemicals end up? Marine biologist, Professor Alex Ford, has been exploring how the behaviour of sea creatures changes when zombie-like parasites thrive in polluted waters, even causing their hosts to change sex.
How you'll spend your time
One of the main differences between school or college and university is how much control you have over your learning.
We're planning for most of your learning to be supported by timetabled face-to-face teaching with some elements of online provision. Please be aware, the balance between face-to-face teaching and online provision may change depending on Government restrictions. You'll also do lots of independent study with support from staff and our virtual learning environment, Moodle. Find out more about how our teaching has transformed to best support your learning.
A typical weekWe recommend you spend at least 35 hours a week studying for your Marine Biology degree. In your first year, you’ll be in timetabled teaching activities such as tutorials, lectures, practical classes and workshops and external visits for about 11 hours a week. The rest of the time you’ll do independent study such as research, reading, coursework and project work, alone or in a group with others from your course. You'll probably do more independent study and have less scheduled teaching in years 2 and 3, but this depends on which modules you choose.
Most timetabled teaching takes place during the day, Monday to Friday. You may occasionally need to go to University and course events in the evenings and at weekends.
The academic year runs from September to June. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter.
Supporting your learning
The amount of timetabled teaching you'll get on your degree might be less than what you're used to at school or college, but you'll also get support via video, phone and face-to-face from teaching and support staff when you need it. These include the following people and services:
Types of support
Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to independent study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your time at university.
As well as regular scheduled meetings with your personal tutor, they're also available at set times during the week if you want to chat with them about anything that can't wait until your next meeting.
You'll have help from a team of faculty learning support tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.
They can help with:
- improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
- understanding and using assignment feedback
- managing your time and workload
- revision and exam techniques
As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK) for one-to-one support in areas such as:
- academic writing
- note taking
- time management
- critical thinking
- presentation skills
- working in groups
- revision, memory and exam techniques
If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.
They'll help you to:
- discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
- liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
- access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
- liaise with external services
Library staff are available in person or by email, phone or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from the faculty librarian for science.
The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.
Course costs and funding
Tuition fees (2022 start)
- UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £9,250 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
- EU students – £9,250 a year (including Transition Scholarship – may be subject to annual increase)
- International students – £18,300 per year (subject to annual increase)
Funding your studies
Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students.
Additional course costs
These course-related costs aren’t included in the tuition fees. So you’ll need to budget for them when you plan your spending.
Our accommodation section shows your accommodation options and highlights how much it costs to live in Portsmouth.
You’ll study up to 6 modules a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each module.
You can borrow most of these from the Library. If you buy these, they may cost up to £60 each.
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.
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.
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 £10 a day.
There are optional field work opportunities to a tropical location. These costs will be in the region of £1500–£2000 depending on the duration and location of the field trip.
If you haven’t dived before, you can take the Scientific and Technical Diving A module, which includes a PADI Open Water course, Dry Suit course and Scientific and Technical Diving course. This module costs around £860, covering tuition, transport and diving costs.
If you already hold a PADI Open Water certificate (or equivalent), you can take the Scientific and Technical Diving B module, which includes an advanced diving course (e.g. PADI Advanced Open Water), Dry Suit course and Scientific and Technical Diving course. This module costs around £800, covering tuition, transport and diving costs.
There is a Practical Boating skills unit which costs in the region of £710.
In your final year, you'll be primarily based at the Institute of Marine Sciences. You'll also need to attend some teaching here in your second year.
You may need to pay for travel to the Institute of Marine Sciences, which is around 3.5 miles from the main University campus and 2 miles from popular student housing areas.
How to apply
To start this course in 2022, apply through UCAS. You'll need:
- the UCAS course code – C160
- our institution code – P80
If you'd prefer to apply directly, use our online application form.
You can also sign up to an Open Day to:
- Tour our campus, facilities and halls of residence
- Speak with lecturers and chat with our students
- Get information about where to live, how to fund your studies and which clubs and societies to join
If you're new to the application process, read our guide on applying for an undergraduate course.
How to apply from outside the UK
See the 'How to apply' section above for details of how to apply. You can also get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region.
To find out what to include in your application, head to the how to apply page of our international students section.
If you don't meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
Admissions terms and conditions
When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.