Biology in Combined Honours - information for current students

Looking for Biology courses starting in 2012?

See our Biology single honours course, for 2012 entry

All our Combined Honours courses have been replaced by new Joint Honours courses.  This will not affect existing Combined Honours students, or new Combined Honours students joining Aston in 2011.

Course information

The course specification below is provided for current students.

These modern degree programmes are specifically designed to promote an awareness of the application of biological knowledge to human health and welfare and to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in a continually changing dynamic subject. 

After a common and broadly based first and second year you will choose topics for specialisation in your final year.

Jump to:

  • Subject guide & modules
  • Learning, teaching & assessment
  • Placement year
  • Career prospects
  • Personal development
  • Facilities & equipment
  • Teaching staff
  • Further information

Subject guide & modules

The aim of the course it to increase understanding of the living world and how all organisms depend on each other, with particular emphasis on the human species.

  • Combinations: There are a wide range of subjects to partner your Biological studies, widening your knowledge base and hence your range of possible careers.
  • Firm Foundations: The first year is broadly based, covering the fundamental principles and practice of Biology.
  • Professional Experience: You can opt to develop your knowledge and refine your skills by choosing the four-year sandwich programme, in which you spend your third year outside the University working with a relevant organisation.
  • Flexibility: You may enrol for either the three-year full-time programme or the sandwich; transfer between them is possible at any time up to the beginning of your second year.
  • Information Technology: You have the opportunity to develop your skills through access to computer-aided learning (CAL) packages in our computing laboratory.
  • Specialisation: In the final year, you have the opportunity to develop your own particular interests by means of an individual project or dissertation.
  • Professional Accreditation: You are eligible to apply for Student, and later for Graduate, Membership of the Institute of Biology

Year 1   

General principles and practice of contemporary Biology.

  • Cell Biology: The micro-architecture of living cells, structure and function of organelles, arrangement of cells into tissues and organs.
  • Microbiology: A survey of the types of microbes which are of particular relevance to humanity.
  • Diversity of Life: The variety of living organisms, their evolution from the origins of primitive cells to the emergence of higher primates.
  • Physiology: The principles of the functioning and control of "life-support" systems in animals and Man.
  • Parasitology: A review of the major unicellular and multicellular parasites affecting peoples health and welfare.

Year 2   

More advanced courses selected for their relevance to human biology and the application of biological technology in society.

  • Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary requirements and nutrient metabolism with particular reference to Man, food supply.
  • Human Evolution: The emergence of modern man from ancestral primates.
  • Biological Basis of Human Disease: The causes, consequences, and treatment strategies of selected major human diseases.
  • Molecular Genetics: The control of gene expression, techniques of modern genetics and the human genome project
  • Pharmacology: The interaction of drugs with their cellular targets
  • Key Skills: Statistics for analysis of biological data, information and communication skills.
  • Virology: The structure and cultivation of viruses with particular emphasis on viral diseases in man.

Placement Year:

You may opt for a placement of one year. Your particular aspirations and interests are matched with the opportunities offered, to ensure appropriate academic and professional development. Placement vacancies are advertised by the Biology Programmes Office, or you may wish to find your own. All placements must be approved by the Placement Tutor. Most but not all, positions are in paid employment.

Final Year:

Detailed advanced studies of a range of biomedical topics particularly relevant to fitness and health.

  • Immunology: The elements and actions of the immune system, particularly immune recognition and immune responses.
  • Endocrinology: A detailed study of the glands producing the several hormones of the animal body, the synthesis, secretion, and actions of these hormones, clinical implications of endocrine diseases.
  • Biology of Mental Health: The biological investigation of mental health states.
  • Human Physiology: Deeper study of aspects of human physiology.
  • The Project: Usually a library-based dissertation, an in-depth analytical investigation of a specific topic agreed after discussion between student and supervisor, allowing the pursuit of individual initiative and interests.

Learning, teaching & assessment

We use a range of assessment methods, although the typical methods are coursework and an end of year examination.  Exams generally take the form of unseen essay,short answer and multiple choice questions.  Coursework assessments take many forms and could include essays, reports of individual and group practical assignments, oral presentations and laboratory reports.  We specifically encourage team working in some assignments in which there will be peer assessments where you will assess the contribution of your colleagues and vice-versa.

Placement year

The year involves a twelve-month professional work placement between the second and final years of the degree.  This offers students the opportunity to gain valuable experience and set their studies in the context of a working environment alongside professional biologists.  

Our recent placements have been with:

  • Research institutes
  • Breweries
  • The food industry
  • Pharmaceutical companies (e.g. AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline)
  • Clinical trials
  • Medical sales
  • Biotechnology companies
  • National Health Service laboratories. 

Find out more about placement years at Aston.

Career prospects

Graduate employment for Biology students mirrors the success of Aston University as a whole.  30-40% of our graduates go into research, while others enter a wide range of careers in health, welfare and the biological industries.  In addition to scientific positions, some graduates take on general management, product development or marketing roles.

Personal development

Graduates in Biological Sciences will leave university equipped with key skills including:

  • Fundamental laboratory techniques
  • Record keeping
  • Project development
  • Management
  • Critical analysis
  • Communication (written/oral)
  • Presentation
  • Team working
  • Report development
  • IT
  • Problem solving
  • Debating.

Facilities & equipment

  • Modern lecture and tutorial rooms equipped with whiteboards and overhead projection facilities
  • Modern laboratories with up-to-date equipment and overhead projection facilities for demonstration purposes
  • 130-seater computer laboratory equipped with Pentium workstations and linked to key networks 
  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) using Blackboard 8 software to support learning
  • Wide range of learning resources – such as up to date key texts, scientific journals and e-journals and databases, CD-ROMs and media publications.

Further information

Tel: 0121 204 4283; Email: ids@aston.ac.uk

Student Profile

Student Profile

Miss Rabina Masanja

BSc Biology and Business

“I chose Combined Honours because it’s a great way of extending your career opportunities once you graduate. Being interested in both the science and business field, it sounded like a good choice, Now I think I made the best decision ever, because if I get bored with one side, I can always depend on the other!”


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