Course length: 3 years (BA) or 4 years (MBiol integrated Master's)
The focus of this course is organismal biology, with a strong emphasis on evolution and quantitative methods. Your studies will combine core concepts in microbial, animal and plant biology with a wide range of modern approaches and techniques from across this fascinating and important subject. As the course contains many subject options, you’ll be able to explore those areas of biology that most interest you and tailor the degree to your personal interests.
At Hertford, our teaching in Biology includes specialists in the key areas of microbial, animal, plant and ecological sciences. As one of the subjects in Hertford’s Life Sciences family, we share expertise in genetics and animal development with our colleagues in Biochemistry. Our students also benefit from tutorials with leading biologists throughout their time in Oxford; we provide core teaching in college and will also arrange tutorials with subject specialists from across the University.
Life Sciences at Hertford
At Hertford, students reading Biochemistry, Biology and Human Sciences are part of our Life Sciences ‘subject family.’ While we teach all three degree subjects in the same ways as other colleges, here we have also combined our research and teaching strengths in a range of topics, from molecules, through health and disease, to environmental science. There are academic overlaps between the three courses, and much of your genetics teaching in first year will be the same.
Thanks to our special approach, you’ll have the benefits of belonging to a vibrant community with joint academic and social events. These include our annual ‘Darwin Dinner’ with Hertford-based undergraduates, graduates and tutors. Our emphasis is on providing a supportive and happy learning environment where you can reach your potential in collaboration with one another, irrespective of your background and life experiences.
Teaching and learning
You will start your degree encountering the full range of Biology, developing an understanding of the integration between subjects, and moving beyond your work at A Level (or equivalent). We take you back to basics and reintroduce you to the essential excitement of living things.
You will follow the syllabus set out by the Departments of Plant Science and Zoology, which jointly administer the degree in Biology. Alongside lectures, you will learn in practical classes which will provide you with the scientific skills needed to practise modern Biology. You’ll also participate in a week-long field course in Wales in your summer term, helping you to apply what you have learned. As you progress through the degree there will be more opportunities to specialise in those areas of Biology which interest you the most.
We’ll teach you in tutorials – one or two students working through problems with a tutor. This small-group teaching allows you to have close contact with research leaders and offers you the opportunity to test your ideas and advance your understanding. One of our students had this to say:
“At school I thought going into a science degree would allow me to give either right or wrong answers. However, since starting at Hertford, my biological perspective has changed. Science is an ever-developing subject where the answer is often not known; this is what excites me most about the course. The tutorials with Martin Maiden pushed me hard but gave me a depth to the subject which I never thought possible at school.” – Rachel
Our graduates from all three Life Sciences subjects go on to a wide range of careers. These are often in related sciences, including biological and biomedical research, graduate medicine, industry and technology, and conservation.
During your degree you’ll have the opportunity to build great transferable skills. Many of our students frequently choose to apply their skills in new contexts, building careers in law, teaching, accountancy, business and management consultancy. Whatever your interests, a degree in Biology from Hertford will equip you with the skills and confidence to be successful in your chosen career.
Making an application
If you decide to apply to Hertford, we’ll take all aspects of your application into account when deciding who to shortlist for interviews. You won’t have to sit any admissions tests or submit any written work for Biology, regardless of which college you apply to.
If you’re shortlisted, we’ll invite you to attend two interviews in Oxford. One will be at Hertford and the other will be at a second college. Your interviews will be around half an hour each and will usually be with two tutors. We’re here to get the best out of you and, in all cases, tutors come together as a cooperative to ensure that the best candidates are offered places.
We’re looking for people who will thrive in our tutorial learning environment. Your interview will therefore be quite similar to a tutorial. We want to see evidence that you can think on your feet and answer unfamiliar questions, but we won’t expect you to have extensive specialist knowledge about the subject. We aim to ask you interesting, challenging and unexpected questions that no school or college can prepare you for in advance. The best preparation is to read and observe things that interest you around your subject, so go beyond the curriculum and challenge yourself with something new!