A Guide To Studying Science At University
  • Nov 2022
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A Guide To Studying Science At University

29th November 2022

What does it mean to study science at university?

Studying science at university is similar to learning science in school. Lectures, seminars, and laboratories will blend theory and practice.

However, there are some significant variations, such as a shift in the priority of cutting-edge research.

This is what makes academic science so intriguing. You will be taught by professionals researching the topics you are studying, so you will receive the most up-to-date information in that field. You could contribute to this research while in university!

Science is about discovering new things. While learning what others have done is vital, degree-level science is all about what we don't yet know and how we're going to find out.


Different types of science

If you want to study science at university, the first thing to consider is whether you want a broad degree title, such as Biological Sciences, Chemistry, or Physics.

Perhaps your interests are more specialized, such as Microbiology, Pharmacology, or Astrophysics.

A broad degree will give you a comprehensive overview of a wide range of topics in your first year, and in most cases, you will be able to specialize in later years.

This is a beautiful alternative if you're still determining what you're most interested in or what career path you want to take.

On the other hand, if you already know what area of study you want to pursue, a more specialized course is preferable.

Then you can learn about that topic in more depth from the start. For example, if you want to be a Marine Biologist, you should skip all the plant metabolism and genetics lectures in a first-year Biology course!

Choosing a more specialized degree, such as Marine Biology, also means you will be better prepared to enter the workforce following graduation.

If you pursue a broader degree, such as Biology, you will certainly need to seek additional postgraduate education before entering the workforce.


How long is a science degree? And do you get a master at the end?

You still need to narrow down the course you want to take once you've decided on the topic area you want to study.

You must also determine if you will pursue a three- or four-year program. You have the following options:

  • Bachelor of Science (BSc) diploma (three years)

  • BSc degree plus an extra year abroad or in the industry (four years)

  • Master of Science (MSc): the first three years are often the same as the BSc, but the last year includes an integrated Masters's (four years)

Each option has pros and disadvantages, so you should carefully consider the best. A year in the industry can be highly beneficial for gaining experience, contacts, and even job offers in a subject you may want to work in after graduating.

If, on the other hand, you enjoy conducting your study, the integrated Master's option is ideal. This means you won't have to apply for a separate Master's program in your third year.

You also save money because your tuition expenses will be the same for all four years, whereas a different Master's degree would be substantially more expensive! 

Depending on your performance, certain universities (such as the University of York and the University of Leeds) will allow you to move from a BSc to an MSc throughout your study. This is also something to consider if you are still deciding which choice you prefer.


Balance of lectures and labs

You regularly hear scientific students discuss the enormous number of 'contact hours.' This is the number of hours per week you receive direct instruction from the institution.

This varies depending on the science field and the year of your degree. However, you should expect lectures every day and labs at least twice a week in the first year.

On the other hand, students enrolled in arts courses such as history or English have significantly fewer contact hours and spend far more time on individual study.

You should consider what kind of educational experience would be best for you. A scientific degree is suitable if you enjoy a clear framework for your day or think you could struggle with a lot of independent work!

The majority of the information you need to know is taught in lectures. Lectures typically run 50 minutes, and you will be examined on their material in your exams.

Labs help you gain the practical skills needed to work in research. Labs can be a lot of fun but can also be exhausting, especially if you have many in a row.

This means you must take care of yourself to get the most out of them - prioritizing sleep is critical!


Science tutorials

Many colleges will also need you to attend one or two tutorial or seminar sessions every week. These are done in smaller groups with one instructor or sometimes one-on-one with a professor. 

You can go over content from lectures that you need to grasp or delve deeper into something that interests you.

This type of instruction exists to push you further and test you more intensely. You'll have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have felt hesitant to ask after lectures.

Your tutors will typically offer you an assignment before the session, and you will go over the answers and exchange opinions with your peers.

These classes are known as 'tutorials' and supervisions at Oxford and Cambridge, respectively. These are usually held in smaller groups than seminars at other colleges, but they fulfill the same general goal.


What A-Levels or IB qualifications will you need?

The A-Level or IB qualifications required to study science at university differ depending on the course and university. As a result, you'll need to double-check this for each new class you look at. 

Many institutions, particularly those in the Russell Group, need at least two 'Hard Science' topics at A-Level or Higher Level IB.

The phrase 'Hard Science' refers to Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Math. The following are some examples of course requirements:


MSci Cell Biology at Manchester University:

A Levels: AAA-ABB, with two in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Maths. They will take Geography, Psychology, Environmental Science, or PE in place of one of the Hard Sciences if their grades are AAB or better.

IB: 36-33 overall points with a minimum of 6, 5, 5 at Higher Level, comprising two science subjects, preferably Biology and Chemistry.


MChem Chemistry at the University of Oxford: 

A Levels: A*A*A, having both A*s in science and math areas. A-Levels in Chemistry and Maths are required, while A-Levels in another science or Further Math are preferred.

IB: 40 points overall, with 7 in Higher Level Chemistry and either 6/7 or 7 in Standard Level Mathematics (Analysis & Approaches), with a second 7 in science at a Higher Level.


BSc Physics at the University of Leeds: 

A-Levels: AAB includes Physics and Mathematics but excludes A-Level General Studies and Critical Thinking.

IB: 35 points overall, including five topics in Higher Level Physics and 5 in Higher Level Mathematics.

As you can see, the criteria can differ significantly, and this is something you should consider before selecting your program and possibly your A-Level / IB courses!


Which are the best Universities to study science in the UK?

Again, the most outstanding universities in the UK to study science vary depending on the course.

The Guardian, Times Higher Education, and the Complete University Guide give the most comprehensive league tables for comparing universities by method.

These tables evaluate colleges based on factors such as how current students perceive their courses and the staff:

  • Student ratio

  • The importance of their research on a global scale

  • The likelihood of students landing decent employment after graduation

Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Imperial College London, York, Bristol, and Manchester are among the universities that consistently rank well in these tables for science topics.

However, because league tables are the most convenient method to compare universities does not mean they are the best approach!

Different tables can place the same colleges in other places, and the indications they employ are only sometimes reliable. 

This is why, before deciding where to apply, you should visit as many universities as possible on open days, interact with existing students and tutors, and see the facilities for yourself.

Another technique to ensure that a scientific course you're contemplating is of good quality is to see whether it has 'professional accreditation.'

This indicates that a relevant professional organization has approved the system for providing students with the skills required for a career in the science industry after graduation. 

The Royal Society of Biology (RSB), the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the Biochemical Society, the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), and the Institute of Physics are among the organizations (IOP).

A degree that has been accredited can boost your employability, so consider this when choosing your course.



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