University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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Biological Science is offered by the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

About the major

Biology is the study of living organisms, whether single-celled or multi-cellular, as individuals or in groups, and their interaction with their environment and with each other. It is concerned with all levels of biological complexity from the molecular level through to cells and tissues, to organisms, their populations and the ecosystems of which they form part. Biologists seek to understand the structure and function of the living world. Biologists investigate how organisms access and use energy and the processes by which they develop and replicate. Evolution provides an overarching framework for understanding changes that have occurred in groups of organisms over time. The major will initially cover fundamental concepts in biology, such as life, the structure and function of molecules, cells and organisms and processes including metabolism and respiration. As a broad and interconnecting major, it is characterised by integrating 'biology' sub-disciplines which are distinguished by:

  • their subject matter
  • the scale of the subject matter
  • the suite of tools used for investigation.

This major has been structured in this way because biology is now moving into a phase of rapid expansion and discovery that places biologists at the forefront of current scientific research.

Requirements for completion

A major in Biology requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 6 credit points of 200-level experimental design units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level taxonomy units
(iv) 6 credit points of 2000-level breadth units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level field units
(vi) 12 credit points of 3000-level selective units

A minor in Biology and a minor in Plant Science are available and articulate to this major.

Pathway through the major

The requirements for a major in Biology are spread out over three years of the degree (possibly four years if students are completing a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degree).

A sample pathway for the Biology major (over three years of a degree) is listed below.

Sample pathway: Biology major (48 credit points)



Units of study


Semester 1

Core: BIOL1XX6 Life and Evolution

Semester 2

Core: BIOL1XX7 From Molecules to Ecosystems


Semester 1 or 2

Selective: 2000-level units listed for major

Semester 2

Core: BIOL2X22 Biology Experimental Design and Analysis


Semester 1

Selective: 3000-level units listed for major

Semester 2

Selective: 3000-level units listed for major

Please Note. This sample progression is meant as an example only. Depending on unit prerequisites, students may be able to complete these units in a different sequence from that displayed in the table above.

For details of the core and selective units of study required for the major or minor please refer to the Biology section of the unit of study table, Table S, in this handbook.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, which must include a minimum of 24 credit points in a single subject area at 4000-level, including a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points. Space is provided for 12 credit points towards the second major (if not already completed). 24 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2020.

Requirements for Honours in the area of Biology: completion of 36 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework.

Honours units of study will be available in 2020.

Contact and further information

Professor Pauline Ross

T +61 9351 8097

School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Level 5, Carslaw Building (F07)
Eastern Avenue
The University of Sydney NSW 2006
Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Biology will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a coherent understanding of biology by articulating the methods of biology, and explaining why current biological knowledge is both contestable and testable through further inquiry.
  2. Demonstrate a coherent understanding of biology by explaining the role and relevance of biology in society.
  3. Recognise that biological knowledge has been acquired by curiosity and creativity, and demonstrate creativity in thinking and problem solving.
  4. Recognise and appreciate the significant role of biodiversity in sustaining life on our planet.
  5. Exhibit depth and breadth of biological knowledge by demonstrating well-developed understanding of identified core concepts in biology.
  6. Exhibit depth and breadth of biological knowledge by demonstrating that these core concepts have interdisciplinary connections with other disciplines.
  7. Gather, synthesise and critically evaluate information about biological phenomena from a range of sources.
  8. Critically analyse observations of biological phenomena by creating and developing models and/or proposing and testing hypotheses.
  9. Design and conduct field, laboratory based, or virtual biological experiments.
  10. Select and apply practical and/or theoretical techniques.
  11. Collect, accurately record, interpret, analyse, and draw conclusions from biological data.
  12. Effectively synthesise and communicate biological results using a range of modes (including oral, written, and visual) for a variety of purposes and audiences.
  13. Account for their own learning and biological work by being independent and self-directed learners.
  14. Work effectively, responsibly and safely in individual and peer or team contexts.
  15. Demonstrate knowledge of the regulatory frameworks and ethical principles relevant to their sub-disciplinary area within biology, and apply these in practice.