Animal Biology

BSc (Hons)


students outside

Animal Biology is the integrated study of the enormous variety of animal life on Earth. It examines the evolutionary origins of the various animal groups and their ecology, behaviour and conservation. You can choose to focus mainly on whole animal biology and conservation, or integrate these studies with those investigating more molecular and biochemical aspects of animal biology, such as genetics, cell structure, development and physiology.

‌ Animal biologists attempt to answer important questions such as: how do animals with complex body plans develop from a single cell? Why do many female animals exhibit mate choice? What adaptations help animals cope with life in hostile environments? How do we best conserve rare and endangered animal species? The Animal Biology degree at Stirling offers an exciting and integrated course of study.

Key information

EU Applicants
The Scottish Government has confirmed that EU students enrolling in the 2018 and 2019 academic year will be entitled to free tuition fees in Scotland. EU Students will retain that status for the duration of their four year degree.

  • UCAS: C300
  • Qualification: BSc (Hons)
  • Study methods: Full-time, Part-time, Campus based
  • Course Director: Dr Luc Bussiere
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Dr Luc Bussiere

Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling FK9 4LA
Scotland, UK

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What makes us different?

With so many animal conservation organisations (Bumblebee Conservation Trust, British Trust for Ornithology, Bat Conservation Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Blair Drummond Safari Park) being based at the University or in the wider Stirling area the is a considerable focus on animal conservation within our course. We can provide students with a unique opportunity to utilise our close links with these organisations to work alongside and with these organisations during their final-year honours projects. Many staff within these organisations are former students.

group of students ouside

We have always built as much flexibility as possible into our degree courses. This allows students to delay making a choice about their final degree subject until after Year 1 and in some cases even after Year 2. So although you have to apply for a specific subject on your UCAS form you can change your mind and opt to do something else.

Stirling is distinctive in Scotland in providing integrated courses in Biological and Environmental Sciences which are taught and managed within one faculty. The flexibility of the Stirling system has also fostered the development of a wide range of combined degree courses with the natural and social sciences and the humanities. Provided you obtain the grades required for admission to Honours, we guarantee you your choice of degree course. This is unlike some other universities, where numbers for popular courses may be limited.

After completion of the core course in Natural Sciences, the following degrees may be taken: Biology, Animal Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Conservation Biology and Management.

World-class library and teaching facilities

Studying for a degree means learning in different ways; managing your own time; conducting research; mastering new computer skills. We have the facilities and advice on hand to help you do all this - and do it well.

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Life at Stirling

Of the many reasons students come to Stirling, such as academic reputation and research standards, one factor is always cited: the outstanding beauty of the University's Stirling campus. View our online films to get a picture of what it's like to live and study on our beautiful campus.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

Four-year Honours degree

SQA Higher:
AABB - one sitting.
AAAB - two sittings.

GCE A-level:
IB Diploma:
32 points.

BTEC (Level 3):
Essential subjects:
To include one of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics.

Three-year Honours degree

SQA Adv. Higher:

GCE A-level:

IB Diploma:
35 points.

Essential subjects:
To include Biology and one of Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology or Physics.

Other qualifications

Year one minimum entry
Scottish HNC/D - Bs in graded units
English, Welsh and NI HNC/D - Merits and Distinctions.
Advanced entry
Year 2 entry may be possible with HND in a Science based subject. For information on accepted courses please consult our Advanced Entry pages.

Access courses:
Access courses and other UK/EU and international qualifications are also welcomed.

Foundation Apprenticeships

considered to be equivalent to 1 Higher at Grade B

Essential subjects:
As listed above or equivalent.

Additional information

General entrance requirements apply
Mathematics Standard Grade (3), National 5 (C), Intermediate 2 (C), GCSE (C) or equivalent required.

If examinations are taken over two sittings, or there are repeats or upgrades, the entrance requirements may be higher.

INTO University of Stirling offers an International Foundation programme for those international students who do not meet the required academic and English-language criteria. This course offers a route to study at University of Stirling through an excellent teaching and learning experience located in the high-quality study facilities on campus. Successful completion of the International Foundation in Science, Computing and Engineering to the required standard provides guaranteed progression to this degree.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 6.0 with 5.5 minimum in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade C
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 54 with 51 in each component
  • IBT TOEFL: 80 with no subtest less than 17

More information on our English language requirements

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

Fees and costs

Fees 2018/19

Overseas students (non-EU) £ 14,460
Scottish and EU students £ 1,820.00
Students from the rest of the UK £9250 – with a generous package of scholarship options

From 2016/7 onwards, the fees for overseas undergraduates will be held at the level upon entry.

If you plan to commence your studies at the University of Stirling in January 2018, please note you will be subject to our 2017/18 fees. Please contact us for more information.

Please note: Scottish and EU students can apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) to have tuition fees paid by the Scottish government. Students from the rest of the UK can apply for financial assistance, including a loan to cover the full cost of the tuition fees, from the Student Loan Company.

You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.

Please note there is an additional charge should you choose to attend a graduation ceremony. View more information

Cost of Living

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

Find information on paying fees by instalments

Scholarships and funding

Financial information

Find out more about funding your studies and meeting your living costs while working towards your degree.

Scholarship finder

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

Semesters 1 – 4

student with test tube In Years 1 and 2, you will take core modules in:

  • Cell Biology, Physiology, Genes and Evolution, Ecology, Biodiversity
  • Practical Skills in the Biological and Environmental Sciences and Quantitative Techniques
  • Additional modules in other disciplines. Most students select from modules offered in either Environmental Science or Psychology to make up the remaining units

Semesters 5 – 6

In Year 3, you will take the following advanced modules:

  • Animal Physiology
  • Animal Ecology
  • The Animal Cell

You will also take one or two modules from the following options:

  • Microbiology
  • Marine Biology
  • Plant Ecology
  • Population and Community Ecology

Semesters 7 – 8

In the final year, you will undertake an independent research project, and complete modules on Immunology and Disease and the Evolution of Sex. You will also take advanced modules from a range of options which currently include:

  • Biology Field Course
  • Cell Birth, Life and Death
  • Conservation Biology
  • Conservation Genetics
  • Molecular Techniques
  • Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics
  • Proteomics
  • Statistics Using R
  • Tropical Ecology

Fieldwork is an essential part of an animal biologist's training. Stirling's campus location is an ideal base from which to make field excursions, whether to study lekking Black Grouse in the Highlands or the distribution of animals on the Forth Estuary.

The course includes a mandatory second year module featuring a short residential course in Scotland early in the third semester. As an additional option, fourth year students can attend a 10-day field course currently held in the south of France. These courses include instruction in identification, field sampling, experimental design, data analysis and presentation. 

 Our French field site is in the Cévennes, a rugged mountain landscape of exceptional natural beauty and tremendous biodiversity. The organisms that live there include wild boar, otters, three vulture species (including endangered Cinereous vultures), and grey wolves. The region exemplifies the deep historical connection between humans and the natural world, and is recognised as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site.

 Students must pay a contribution towards costs of travel , accommodation and subsistence for the Scottish field course in 2nd year and the optional field course in 4th year.

An extensive research project takes up one third of the final-year course. A wide variety of project topics are available and these reflect the active research interests of academic staff. These include:

  • insects Assessing the impact of bumblebee parasites on their host populations
  • Direct and indirect benefits of mating in courtship feeding insects
  • Reducing stereotypical behaviour in captive animals
  • Sexually transmitted disease and ladybird immune competence
  • Sexual selection, sexual conflict and mate choice in seaweed flies
  • Do agri-environment schemes provide any benefits to foraging bats?

Delivery and assessment

Teaching is delivered in the form of formal lectures and practical classes, tutorials, seminars, computer-based learning and guided reading and research. Modules are assessed by a combination of coursework and examination completed during the semester. For many modules the marks awarded for coursework contribute around 50 percent of the final grade but for some modules this is as high as 100 percent.

Combined degrees

Combined degree programmes are available linking Biology to other subjects.


Biology can be studied with:
ProgrammeUCAS Code
Mathematics CG11
Professional Education (Secondary) CX11
Psychology CC18
Professional Education (Primary) with Specialism in Environment XC11

(For a Combined Honours degree the specific entry requirements of both subjects apply. See individual subject entries.)

Learn more about studying these subjects

Modes of study

Full-time (three modules per semester).
Part-time (one or two modules per semester).

Find out more

Why Stirling?


Teaching provision in Biology has been assessed by the Scottish Funding Council and rated as ‘highly satisfactory’.

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes applications from all countries.

Study abroad opportunities

You have the opportunity to study abroad through Stirling's well-established connection with several North American and European universities.


Biological and Environmental Sciences (BES) within the Faculty of Natural Sciences is a multi-disciplinary division that participates in research and teaching in a broad range of subjects in the biological and environmental sciences.  The principle focus of the research is at the interface between the environment and society. Within BES, staff conduct research in areas as diverse as the reconstruction of past landscapes; conservation, environmental impact assessment and environmental management; evolutionary ecology of plants and animals; and cellular biology and immunology.  BES is a friendly, vibrant, and dynamic place in which to learn and research with a great sense of belonging engendered in our students from their very first days at the University.

Research-led teaching is the key to deep learning and understanding.  The academic staff in Biological and Environmental Sciences at Stirling are typically world leaders in their respective fields, thus ensuring that research-led teaching is at the core of all of our courses.  Many students work closely with academics throughout their time and benefit from actively participating in research programmes.  We have strong contacts with external conservation and environmental organisations who also contribute to the undergraduate experience.  This approach ensures that our students appreciate the transferable nature of a science degree and see how their learning can be applied to the real world.

Our students

Alumni testimonials


The Animal Biology degree course covers a diverse range of topics. I feel I will leave University with all-round knowledge. The faculty is relaxed and friendly with staff always enthusiastic and helpful. A great aspect of the degree is the research field trip. This is a fun experience and a fantastic opportunity to discover the research opportunities this degree could permit.

Emma Munro, Animal Biology

When I originally arrived at the University of Stirling, I was meant to study for a BSc Freshwater Sciences, but luckily the flexibility of the course meant that I could change later on in my studies to a BSc Animal Biology. I had had a long interest in animal health from previous studies at college, but, it was during my ecology lectures that I learnt about disease cycles and emerging diseases. Later on, my studies introduced me to some of the principles of molecular biology which was of great interest. With this interest and some sound advice since leaving University in 2006 I have been working at one of the governments agencies. The agency works within the field of animal health and welfare. It is a national and international reference laboratory for a great number of important veterinary diseases. I was originally employed to work as a Histopathologist, which I did for 11 months. The majority of the work I carried out was based around TSE’s (ie, BSE, Scrapie, etc). During this period I became aware the various techniques and quality standards associated with laboratory work.

Upon completion of my probation period I applied for another position on-site working within Virology. Much of the work I now carry out is based upon virus surveillance within the UK of cattle, pigs and horses. The unit also provides a service to the regional veterinary laboratories and private veterinary surgeons for the purposes of virus diagnosis, surveillance and export certification.

Ben Haxton Animal Biology

Liam graduated from Stirling in 2005 with a First Class Honours degree in Animal Biology. He next went to California with Camp America, working in the Sequoia National Park for a diabetic kids summer camp. Having loved the challenge of working in the outdoors with kids, Liam applied to Sayers Croft Field Centre in rural Surrey and was accepted as a graduate assistant. After completing his one-year placement, he was promoted to his current position of full time instructor. Today he works with young groups from all over Southwest England, leading biological, environmental and adventure sessions in the outdoors.  His ultimate ambition is to expose people to the wonders of the natural environment, and to make people more aware of the importance of sustainability.

Liam Thomas Outdoors and Environmental Instructor, Sayers Croft Field Centre.

I arrived at the University of Stirling having chosen to come based on the testimonials of friends that assured me that it was a fantastic place to study. I was also greatly attracted by the flexibility in course choices that the university provides as I knew only that I wanted to study biology but not which particular fields. Throughout my courses I found that the lecturers were some of the most inspiring and friendly people that I have met. Their enthusiasm for their subjects is contagious. The highlight of my time has been the field course to Switzerland in the summer of my third year. I also had the amazing opportunity of undertaking a small funded study during the summers of my second and third years. The courses, theoretical as well as practical, have increased my enthusiasm for the study of biology, and made me many new friends for life.

Axel Wiberg Animal Biology

I came to Stirling for the fantastic campus setting, not only does it make a great place to live but the practicality of having such an environment to study on your doorstep was a great opportunity. Animal Biology encompasses a diverse set of subjects, providing an insight into the numerous facets of animal biology, not just to study but that can potentially expand into a career path. The relaxed faculty and approachable staff made for an enjoyable study environment, which combined with the numerous research opportunities in class, during the field course (a fantastic experience) and the opportunity to apply for funded summerships increases your confidence and skill-set. Overall the Animal Biology course facilitates the means to achieve a quality basis from which to launch a career in biology.

Rheanne Whitham Animal Biology

Our staff

We have staff with research expertise in studying a range of animal species from invertebrates, such as Drosophila melanogaster and dance flies to vertebrates such as pine martens and bats. Many animal biology staff members work on animal evolution, behaviour and conservation. We also have staff working on animal cell biology and the function of enzymes in species such as the horseshoe crab. Many staff have close links with animal conservation organisations based in Stirling, many at the University, such as the RSPB and the BTO.

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

Animal biologists find jobs in the agriculture, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and in conservation management and environmental agencies. Other career paths include the civil service, such as forensic sciences, in teaching, the food industry, commercial analytical laboratories, in professions allied to medicine and in government and industrial research laboratories. In the latter case a further qualification such as an MSc or PhD is required for the more senior posts. The Animal Biology degree from Stirling also offers an excellent general university education and can provide a gateway to careers in management, journalism and the media, finance and other areas of commerce, law, computing and in the leisure industry.

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