Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu


Ecology with a Preliminary Year and Professional Training Year (BSc)

  • CC80

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

There are often very good reasons why able students may not have the appropriate A-levels/AS-levels to directly enter the first year of a science degree programme. If you find yourself in this position, the Preliminary Year at Cardiff University can provide you with the academic background you will need for a science degree.

The Preliminary Year programme includes modules in Biosciences, Chemistry, Maths and Physics. On successful completion of the Preliminary Year, you will automatically progress into the first year of your chosen degree programme.

Ecology is the study of the relationships between organisms and also their relationship with the physical environment.  , but particularly since the industrial revolution, man has had an increasing effect on the natural environment, as evidenced by the current concerns about greenhouse gases and climate change.  The study of ecology will therefore be a subject of increasing importance in decades to come.  The Ecology degree at Cardiff aims to equip students for these challenges, Throughout, you will be taught by enthusiastic staff, many of whom are internationally renowned scientists in their own particular field (for example, a previous Head of the School, Sir Martin Evans, won the Nobel prize for medicine in 2007).

During the first two years of the Ecology degree you will receive a broad grounding in the core subjects including microbial, plant and animal diversity, as well as the ecological processes that affect the interactions between organisms and with their environment.  One of the particular strengths of the Cardiff course is our field course teaching.  At the start of the second year you will attend a course based in South Wales, where you will learn about a range of ecological techniques used to survey animal and plant populations.  Then later in the second year, you will have the possibility of putting these skills into practice when visiting our field centre at Sabah in north east Borneo, or attending an alternative field course in places such as the UK, France, Tobago or Kenya.

In the ecology degree there is the option of taking a professional training year (sandwich year) between your second and third years, when you can go and work in an approved ecological research establishment.  If you pursue this option you will be able to graduate with both a good degree and the work experience that so many employers require.

In the final year this focus on employability continues by developing the skills required for ecological consultancy work and there are core modules in Environmental Assessment and Global Climate Change Ecology.  In addition you will be able to choose optional subjects that tie in with your particular interests such as animal behaviour, conservation biology, parasitology, and aquatic resource management.  In the final year you will also be required to undertake an independent research project, during which you will be personally guided and helped by a member of the academic staff.

At the Cardiff School of Biosciences you will be joining a large and vibrant community of students and academic staff.  We have over 100 academic staff across a wide variety of disciplines, including world-renowned researchers in their respective fields.  All of this provides ample opportunity for you to explore your chosen subject in depth, but also to discover aspects of the biosciences that you might not have encountered before.

As a School we are strongly focused on providing learning opportunities that are at the cutting edge of scientific research and which introduce you to the community of science.  Throughout your course we will emphasise key employability skills that are specific to the sciences as well as transferable skills for employment in general.  By working closely with academic staff you will develop these skills as you progress through each stage of your course. We aim to produce graduates who are employable, well-informed and enthusiastic ambassadors for science.

Key Facts

UCAS Code CC80
Duration 5 years
How to apply
Typical places available The School admits 140 students each year to its undergraduate Biological degree programmes
Typical applications received 560
Scholarships & Bursaries
Typical A-level offer AAB-ABB
Admissions Tutors Dr Andrew Shore
Tel Number 029 2087 6609
Email address
School website
Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol

There are opportunities for students wishing to study part of their course through the medium of Welsh. Scholarships are available courtesy of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Visit for further information and terms and conditions.

The Preliminary Year programme includes modules in Biosciences, Chemistry, Maths and Physics. The particular modules studied depend on each student’s academic background and the requirements of their chosen degree subject, and will be agreed through discussion with staff at enrolment.  The Preliminary Year is not normally a route for students who have failed to achieve the required grades in their A-levels. It is possible to study the Preliminary Year programme on a part-time basis over two or three years. The science and maths modules are taught in the daytime at Cardiff University.

On successful completion of the Preliminary Year, students automatically progress into the first year of their chosen degree programme.

Ecology is the study of the interactions between living organisms and their environment.  It is one of the newest sciences, and is crucial in helping us understand how to minimise damage to the environment caused by human activity.

The Cardiff Ecology BSc emphasises the roles that environmental factors have played in the evolution of the great diversity of life that we find on earth today, and the ways in which this invaluable heritage can be conserved for the future.  We also deal with the problems of environmental pollution, especially its effects on natural habitats.  You will learn about the management of sites to conserve their biodiversity, and you will attend two field courses to gain essential hands-on experience of ecological work.

The course structure is as follows:

Year One at the School of Biosciences recognises that, as well as making the transition to independence from home, you are also facing new and exciting challenges in your education.  You will now be studying in your chosen field and you will need to be fully prepared for the educational opportunities that are waiting for you.  During your first week we will start you on this preparation by making sure you know what is different between school and University learning.  You will feel part of the School of Biosciences immediately as you will be paired with a student buddy, who will show you the ropes and make you feel part of the student community.  You will also meet your personal tutor, who will be on hand to help you with pastoral and academic issues for the whole time you are with us.

Our common Year One modular course gives a broad grounding in the Biosciences, the interdisciplinary nature of this integrated course allows students to explore their interests without committing to a degree scheme until the end of the first year. The benefit of our common Year One modular course is that if you are not sure that you have chosen the right degree scheme when you join us then you are sure to have a much better idea at the end of our common Year One. You then have the opportunity to change to any of our 12 degree schemes according to your interests and career aspirations.

We offer a wide range of learning opportunities from lectures, tutorials, practicals, workshops and seminars where you will come into contact with some leading research scientists.  A team of academic staff who are teaching-focused ensure the smooth running of teaching and learning. We also appreciate that some of you will prefer particular assessment methods, and assess in a variety of ways, with emphasis on the practical skills you need to become a scientist.  You will receive a range of feedback including written feedback on all coursework, and you have an opportunity to see your exam answer papers so you can improve on your performance next time.
Following on the common Year One, where you build a robust basic knowledge and skill foundation within the biosciences, Year Two allows strengthening and expanding it with natural progression, and crucially the development of knowledge and skills in a context specific to your chosen degree programme.  You enrol on modules, which are core to your degree programme, and on optional modules relevant to your degree.  You are given extensive academic advice and support in your choice by personal tutors, degree, module and Year coordinators.

Prior to the start of the year you will attend a one week introductory field course on Ecological Methods based at a Nature Reserve in South Wales.  During your second year or in the following vacation, you will choose another field course from a variety of locations in Britain and abroad where you will gain valuable experience in the study and analysis of selected ecosystems.  Many students visit our Danau Girang Field Centre in north east Borneo for this field course while others opt for alternatives in the UK, France, Tobago and Kenya.  Each course has a slightly different emphasis.  During the second year you will learn the techniques available for the study of populations and communities, the underlying ecological processes, as well as receiving a sound grounding in animal, plant and microbe diversity.

From Year Two you progress into the Professional Training Year (PTY), which supports your learning and maturing in a work environment, thus crucially adding to your employability, experience, independence, subject and generic skills portfolio.  You will be able to offer both a good degree and relevant work experience, which is what employers seek in new staff.
You would go on a placement where you undertake scientific research in industry, a government research laboratory, or some other suitable organisation.  Examples of recent placements include the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust; Kew Gardens; Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia,  Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh; and the Marine Conservation Society of the Seychelles.  You start looking for a placement at the start of Year Two and you are assisted by a PTY Coordinator who will also vet potential placements to ensure they provide suitable scientific training.  While on placement, you are assigned a PTY Tutor from Cardiff School of Biosciences, who will keep in close contact with you to make sure everything is progressing well and will visit you, if the placement is in the UK.  At the end of the placement year, you report on the scientific work undertaken as a basis of assessment along with a report from the employer. PTY counts for 10% of your overall degree result.

The research-led Final Year gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen field by following a series of advanced research-led modules. These are designed to develop your ability to critically analyse complex experimental or technical data and to expose you to the central concepts at the cutting-edge of your discipline.  You also gain experience of contemporary research through attending a selection of the many seminars given within the school by international leaders in their fields. You are asked to produce an original dissertation based either on a laboratory project, an extensive literature analysis or an exercise relating to science teaching/ pedagogic research or public engagement. Through our mentoring of these projects we nurture a range of transferable skills to ensure that you are not only equipped for today’s job market but have the adaptability to be successful in the new career paths that will certainly emerge in the future.

Year One Core modules:

  • Skills for Science
  • The Dynamic Cell
  • Biological Chemistry
  • Structure and Function of Living Organisms
  • Organisms and Environment
  • Genetics and Evolution

Year Two Core Modules

  • Research Techniques
  • Plant Form and Function
  • Animal Diversity
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution
  • Ecosystem Processes
  • Field Course
  • Population Ecology
  • Microbial Ecology

Year Two Optional Modules

  • Animal Behaviour: An Introduction
  • Animal Physiological Adaptations
  • Plant Development and Physiology
  • Microbial Diversity

Final Year Core Modules

  • Biosciences Final Year Project
  • Assessing the Environment
  • Global Climate Change Ecology

Final Year Optional Modules

  • Conservation Biology
  • Animal Parasitology
  • Plants for the Future
  • Toxicology
  • Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour
  • Aquatic Resource Management and Conservation
  • Bioinformatics


A wide variety of topics will be available for your project.  Your supervisor will guide you in the selection of a project that will yield useful results in the time available, and will be on hand to give you guidance and assistance throughout the work.

Visit the Cardiff School of Biosciences website for more information about modules and credits.


Your degree course will include a number of different types of learning and teaching, and the aim of the course is to develop your skills as an independent learner.  Much of the teaching takes place in lectures or seminars, supported by small-group teaching.  You will also gain extensive practical experience learning key techniques and approaches for a scientist.  There are also workshop sessions where you work with members of staff on specific skills, using software packages, developing presentation and problem-solving skills.  The library and study facilities in the School of Biosciences allow you to access key textbooks, reviews and original research papers.  You will progress as you move through your course towards using more original research material and the teaching focuses more on cutting-edge research delivered by experts in the respective fields.

A major focus for University learning is in you yourself developing your understanding of the subject and becoming an independent and self-critical learner. To this end the amount of time spent in self-directed learning increases as you go through your course and gain more independence. We structure non-contact time in the degree course carefully to allow you to plan and conduct your personal learning and skill development. Cardiff School of Biosciences supports this with routine provision of online learning material for self-directed learning and also facilitates the development of student-focused learning groups which work to identify and develop learning resources for each other. These study groups use collaborative ICT tools which develops your skills in these current technologies (a key employability skill).

Our lecturers have an open door policy during non-contact time and email exchange is encouraged if you have any questions. Lecturers are also available for you to ask questions about the material before and after the classes. Our students rate this support very highly as a crucial part of their good student experience, because they are enabled to successfully achieve all learning required to progress towards being an independent and reflective learner, ideally prepared for lifelong learning in a professional environment. This achievement is further supported by a scheme for developing all the transferable skills and competencies that are recognised as graduate attributes, and thus enhances your employability.


Your course will be assessed by a mixture of continuous assessment and examinations, and these change in nature as you progress through the course. The early part of the degree focuses on understanding the key concepts and background information for the subject. Early assessments focus on testing your understanding of the subject and you being able to identify and use information. Then as you progress through your course the focus shifts towards how you apply knowledge towards solving scientific problems, assessing information and criticising your own work and the work of others. In the final year your learning and assessment will be focused on identifying original research and applying it to key questions in science today. You will be guided towards reading original research papers and also undertaking research of your own. By the time you graduate you will have developed as an independent learner and will have a critical mind that we hope will continue to ask challenging questions and learn new things for the rest of your life.

Typical A-level Offer  AAB-ABB
Typical WBQ Offer Grade A in the Core pluss AA at A-level (including Biology and preferably Chemistry)
Typical Int Bacc Offer  34 points
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.

The Ecology BSc from Cardiff will give you training for a range of specialist careers, as well as a good background for commercial and management opportunities.  Previous graduates have taken posts with the Countryside Council for Wales, the Environment Agency, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and similar organisations.  Many local authorities, private environmental consultancy firms and manufacturers now employ their own ecologists.

In 2010, 89% of the School’s graduates were in employment or further study within six months of graduation while others were taking time out to travel etc. Employers included: universities and hospitals in the UK and overseas, local government departments, museums and organisations such as the BBC and National Museum of Wales. Career destinations included: assistant ecologist, laboratory researchers, lecturer, scientist and environmental scientist.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Dr. Andrew Shore  

Telephone: 029 2087 6609 



School Website:

More information

School of Biosciences