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Medical Pharmacology (BSc)

  • B210

3 years (full-time) / n/a (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

By studying Medical Pharmacology at Cardiff, you will be learning in one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world. The subject is at the heart of modern medicine, and graduates are sought after for a range of biomedical research and product-development careers. Our course also offers the potential to graduate as a pharmacologist and then move directly on to our 4 year Graduate-Entry Medicine course (A101) and qualify as a doctor.

Students learning in a hospital

Key Facts

UCAS Code B210
Duration 3 years
How to apply
Typical places available Typical places available: The School admits 24 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes
Typical applications received 170+
Scholarships & Bursaries
Typical A-level offer AAB
Admissions Tutors Dr Derek Lang
Tel Number 029 2074 2058
Email address
School website

Medical Pharmacology is the study of how drugs and medicines work at the cellular and molecular level to produce their therapeutic (and sometimes harmful) effects in man.

To be able to safely use a drug we need to appreciate not only the rationale and context for its use but also the chemistry of the drug and how the physiological, biochemical and genetic make-up of the individual may affect the way that person responds to the drug. As such, Medical Pharmacology is at the heart of modern medicine.

The BSc programme is run by Cardiff School of Medicine - one of the largest medical schools and one of the most prestigious - rated in the top 10 in the UK and the top 100 world-wide.

Following completion of their BSc degree, some graduates undertake further postgraduate training for biomedical research in academia or the private sector, while others pursue careers in the pharmaceutical Industry or other biomedically-orientated fields.

Up to 10 students, who have successfully completed the BSc course and satisfied the appropriate additional entry requirements, have the opportunity to undertake the School of Medicine’s 4 year Medicine programme (A101) and go on to train as medical doctors. (Please note that students cannot transfer to Medicine after only one year of the BSc course)

The Medical Pharmacology BSc course structure is as follows:

Year One

This is taught in conjunction with the School of Biosciences BSc degree programmes and provides opportunities to study a wide range of subjects, including anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology and chemistry. The modular syllabus is taught through lectures, tutorials, presentations, practical work and demonstrations. Specifically with regard to pharmacology, you will be introduced to the scientific principles which define drug bioavailability and activity within the body including pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, receptor theory, molecular and biochemical pharmacology, and toxicology. At the end of year 1, students wishing to subsequently apply to the School of Medicine's 4 year Medicine programme (A101) must declare their interests to the BSc Programme Director*.

Year Two

The second year modules provide a broad coverage of drugs in the domains of neurotransmission, endocrine and paracrine cell signalling, the central nervous system, cardiovascular pharmacology and chemotherapy. A research techniques and an exclusively practical module equip you with a sound basis for quantitative and qualitative functional studies, and give ‘hands-on’ training in advanced laboratory techniques. Supporting modules from biochemistry and physiology provide important interdisciplinary bonding.

Year Three

In the final BSc year, students study intensively in a medical research-led environment (based in the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff). Modules develop several selected areas in depth and include: pharmacogenetics; neuropharmacology; drug development; cancer, immunology and cardiovascular pharmacology and provide more practical experience in specialised techniques. One module is designed to develop skills of critical analysis in reading scientific papers and to promote the ability to present data accurately and unambiguously.
A key feature of the final year is a substantial experimental-, library- or data analysis-based biomedical research project undertaken by students that promotes development of higher critical and analytical skills.

The final year students also integrate with a number of Cardiff University medical students who are undertaking an Intercalated BSc degree in Pharmacology (a 1 year course that is not the same as our 3 year BSc programme.)

* Students wishing to apply to the School of medicine's 4 year Medicine programme (A101) should note that to remain eligible for this option they are required to pass all year 1 and 2 assessable elements of the Medical Pharmacology course. A combined module average mark of 60% or higher in each year of study is also required. Students are then expected to achieve a First Class or 2:1 Honours final BSc Medical Pharmacology degree classification.

The School of Medicine provides an educational experience based on academic excellence, rooted in world-leading research and scholarship. The educational experience is informed and led by world-leading research & scholarship and recognised & well-regarded by students, professional bodies, & the University. The School supports every learner in an inclusive and student-centred learning culture.


On the Medical Pharmacology BSc Programme, core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, practical classes, seminars, workshops, guided study and problem-solving learning. More advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by independent study, group- and project- work.

Students are also expected to undertake independent study and increasing independence of learning is expected as the Programme progresses.


Knowledge and understanding are assessed summatively through a variety of exam formats designed to test the depth, breadth, accumulation and application of pharmacological knowledge.

In Year 1 (level 4), there is a bias towards use of instruments such as single best answer (SBA) and extended matched questions (EMQs) - a form of multiple choice question - designed to assess knowledge with less emphasis on assessment of higher analytical and critical skills. Summative assessment is primarily by means of unseen written examinations, generally in combination with an in-course element. In Year one, all modules include an in-course element. One module is entirely assessed by this means.

In Year 2 (level 5), the ability to integrate and synthesise material and demonstrate clear understanding is starting to be assessed through greater use of essays as compared to EMQs and short answers in summative assessment. Students are expected to develop and are tested on a greatly increased knowledge base. A number of the modules are assessed wholly by means of in-course instruments with the remainder of modules all having an in-course element.

In Year 3 (level 6), the highest levels of understanding and a broad knowledge of the subject extending in selected areas beyond core material is expected. In addition to assessment of this knowledge, understanding of scientific data and its interpretation is incorporated into questions in unseen written papers and forms the basis of the in-course assessment of the project and summative oral student presentation.

Formative feedback of knowledge and understanding is concentrated in years 1 and 2. Formative In-course assessments using EMQs and MCQs are provided in several year-1 and -2 modules. Students typically mark their own work during the session and discuss the correct and incorrect answers. Support tutorials are timetabled in some year-1 modules.

Our teaching & assessment methods are such that by the end of the BSc programme a student should be able to:

  • Describe the scope and range of pharmacological preparations, their origins, development and use.
  • Relate the disciplines of anatomy, physiology, physics, chemistry, psychology, biochemistry and molecular biology (as relevant to understanding and investigating pharmacology.)
  • Appreciate how the different systems of the body interact to maintain homeostasis, respond to environmental challenges, undertake physical and mental activity in health and in disease, and the role of drugs in modulating these processes.
  • Describe the principles that underpin drug development, safety evaluation and the practice of evidence-based therapeutics.
  • Demonstrate how knowledge has advanced in selected areas of pharmacology by evaluating experimental evidence from the scientific literature.

Typical A-level Offer   AAB to include Chemistry and at least one other science (preferable Biology) or mathematical subject (see details below)
Typical WBQ Offer Grade A in the Core, grade A in A-level Chemistry, grade A in second A-level science subject (from Biology, Physics, Mathematics or Statistics)
Typical Int Bacc Offer   35 points, including Chemistry at grade 6 and either another science or Mathematics at Higher Level
Other Applications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Please see detailed admissions and selection criteria for more information.

A list of commonly accepted alternative entry qualifications and admissions and selection criteria for this degree programme can be read here.

In 2010, 89% of the School’s graduates had secured employment within six months of graduation while a further 10% were engaged in further study. Employers included: various NHS Trusts, HM Forces and the Public Health Service. Career Destinations included: General Practitioner, Registrar, Genetic Counsellor, Environmental Health Officer, Dermatologist plus careers in all the other areas of study.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Dr Derek Lang Admissions Tutor 

Telephone: 029 2074 2058  

Fax: 029 2074 8316 


School Website:

More information