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Plymouth University’s Marine Institute

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography

Bachelor of Science - BSc (Hons)

Marine Biology and Oceanography with Plymouth University

Our interdisciplinary approach means that you will study the biology and ecology of marine organisms alongside the physical processes of coastal and oceanic waters (water movement, sediment transport and tidal dynamics) and marine chemistry. You may also choose to study applied aspects, such as pollution and ecotoxicology, together with marine conservation.

Plymouth has an unrivalled location and reputation as a centre for marine biology. Much of the teaching is supported by practical lab and field work, with two residential field courses: one currently in France during the first year and another, currently held at the Kristineberg Marine Research Centre in Sweden, at the beginning of the second year. Students also undertake their own research project in their third year, with many encouraged to publish their projects as papers in scientific journals.

Course detail and module information


The course begins with an introduction to marine biology and oceanography within a framework of general biological and oceanographic principles. Modules introduce the study of biodiversity, ecosystems, behaviour and evolution, molecular and cellular biology, microbiology, physical oceanography, marine chemistry, and skills in biological investigation. You will develop a range of course and career-relevant skills using a variety of learning styles including lectures, small-group tutorials, self directed learning, laboratory work and field courses. Early in the autumn term, there is an intensive field course based in Plymouth, comprising a range of visits and follow up laboratory sessions. Specialist training is provided in a module focusing on marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, which includes a residential field course (currently held in Brittany, France) in the Spring term. This introduces different marine organisms and habitats and reinforces the process of scientific investigation, data collection and analysis.  


In stage 2, knowledge and skills are developed through study of core modules on the biology and ecology of marine organisms, chemical and biological oceanography. You will continue development of hands-on practical and field skills, including appropriate methodologies for collection, handling and analysis of scientific data, and experimental design. You will extend your understanding of the biology of marine organisms, biogeochemistry, community structure, and functional adaptations and processes in pelagic and benthic habitats.You will also receive hands-on training in boat work in Plymouth Sound, underwater sampling and experimental methods. The emphasis on practical skills, identification and deep-sea oceanographic ecological methodologies is further developed in the specialist field course that currently takes place at the Kristineberg Research Centre in Sweden. Here, you will join working research scientists at this internationally renowned centre, with daily cruises on the station’s research vessel collecting and analysing samples from the waters of the fiord. There are numerous opportunities to develop your personal interests through investigations in practical and field work and in coursework assignments. Options include diving science, the ecology of shallow water marine habitats, the global ocean, coastal oceanography, or work-based learning. 


There is an option to take up an approved work placement as part of your degree course. This is usually done as a 6 or 12-month placement at the end of your second year. Upon successful completion you will gain the Certificate of Industrial or Professional Experience. Alternatively, you may choose to take a work-based learning module working in a local host organisation, alongside your other studies. There are also many options to volunteer to assist researchers in the university or our partner institutions. These opportunities will enrich your course and career prospects.

The University operates an established Study Abroad Exchange Programme and you can apply to spend the second year of your studies at a partner university in Canada or Australia or take part in the Erasmus exchange programme and study at a European university where we have an agreement. There is also the opportunity to apply for the International Student Exchange Programme (ISEP) and study at a member university in the USA. 


In the final year, you will be fully immersed in your subject and you will be able to choose from a wide range of modules.  Modules are based around the research interests of the staff, so you can be sure that you will be developing deep knowledge and understanding of areas at the cutting edge of the subject. There are many different learning styles in the final year, with many opportunities to develop personal interests through assignments and case studies. We use a range of different coursework.


The personal research module allows you to investigate an individual topic in depth and is a major component of the final year. You will spend 1/3 of your final year undertaking an in-depth literature review and a research project. The project is your choice — the skills and methods acquired earlier in the course will enable you to design and carry out a project with one-to-one advice from an academic member of staff. Projects can be based in the lab or field, and conducted anywhere in the world. The projects culminate with presentations at a two-day conference with all students on your course.
At Plymouth University, we are proud that our graduates have the opportunity to be fully involved in the latest research. Indeed, our undergraduates contribute to advances in the field — in most years, 5 to 10 of projects will contribute to scientific papers in leading international journals. In over half of these, the student will be the first author.



  • Type: Under-Grad
  • Duration: year 3
  • Subject Area: Under-Grad
  • Fees: £9,000

  • UCAS code: CF17

  • Location: Plymouth