Biology and Music

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A contemporary skills based course producing highly employable professional biologists.

  • Flexible structure of course allowing breadth or specialism
  • Practical course using contemporary learning methods
  • High employability of graduates

There are two additional pathways into Biology, that you may like to consider:

Why study Biology?

This course covers all the core aspects of biology, while allowing you to develop expertise in specialist areas. Biology has a strong practical element and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to study plants and animals in the wild as well as in our laboratories. There is also a strong human biology thread in our degree programme. As well as scheduled practical sessions, day trips and residential field trips provide the opportunity to study topics in greater depth.

Course structure

The course covers a broad range of fundamental biology topics such as cell biology and genetics to plant, animal and human biology. In additional to these core topics, you have a wide range of modules to choose from, allowing you to develop a particular theme which interests you.

You’ll develop a broad range of skills; some specific to Biology, while others are useful in many professional environments. The course is ‘real-world’ focussed; you’ll graduate as a professional biologist prepared to solve a range of problems and keep up to date with scientific advances.

Modules

Year 1

The first year focuses on fundamental topics such as cell biology, genetics, anatomy and physiology, evolution, classification, food production and ecosystems. Associated practical classes give you hand-on experience of these concepts. Optional modules allow you to explore themes in more details such as biodiversity, human biology, food production, nutrition and biochemistry.

Year 2

The second year covers a range of important human, animal and plant biology. You’ll consider important concepts in biology such as ethics, biosecurity, genetics and technology. Optional themes include ecology, microbiology, human pathophysiology, biodiversity and food product development allowing you to develop your interests at a higher level. You can also select optional modules in business, science publishing and psychology.

There is an optional sandwich year between your second and final year, giving you the opportunity to put your knowledge and skills into practice and experience a relevant job.

Year 3

Single honours and major students will carry out a dissertation in the final year. This substantial research project gives you the experience of being responsible for planning, implementing and reporting on a biology topic. In addition you may study topics in medical biology, nature conservation, nutrition, animal behaviour, marine biology, digital imaging and plant biology. Modules in business, psychology and science publishing are also available.

Course assessment

Assessments are varied, designed to be appropriate to the particular skills required for each module. Some modules have coursework and examinations, but many are coursework only. The practical nature of our assessment contributes to our high levels of graduate employment.

Types of assessment include scientific papers, posters, oral presentation, interviews, essays, reports, reviews, leaflets and video presentation. There are also plenty of opportunities to choose the biological theme on which you are assessed, allowing you to have deeper understanding of aspects of biology of interest to you.

  • Laboratories
    We have a number of well-equipped recently refurbished laboratories for a variety of practical work. Some are used for specialist microbiology of biochemistry studies while others are ‘low-hazard’ where you can carry out other activities such as the preparation of food, exercise or psychological studies.
  • Newton Park Campus – ‘Natural Laboratory’
    We also make extensive use of the campus which is a ‘natural laboratory’, boasting many interesting habitats including woodland, farmland, a lake, ponds and a stream.
  • Newton Park Library
  • Biology Resources Room
  • Commons
  • VLE

Resources 

Biology students can hire out equipment using SISO, Bath Spa University’s free equipment loan service. We provide a huge variety of equipment from binoculars, to telescopes and video cameras.

Teaching methods

You’ll be taught using a combination of teaching and learning methods. Interactive lectures provide you with fundamental knowledge which is enhanced by the practical skills you learn in supporting sessions. Around half of your contact time will be in lectures and half in practical or workshop sessions.

Biology with a year in professional practice (UCAS code: S117)

Subject to approval, if you join the programme in 2016, you can opt to take a year in professional practice ('sandwich year') between your level 5 (year 2) and level 6 (year 3) studies.

This placement will enable you to put theory into practice, build professional networks and meet and work with potential employers. It will also help with work management and give you experience to bring back to your studies in your final year.

Your degree title will include the phrase “with a year in professional practice”, so it is clear to all employers that you have this experience as part of your degree.

Study abroad

You’ll have the opportunity to study in a wide range of locations around the world. Our students have completed Erasmus+ and Exchange programmes in a variety of countries including Spain, Sweden and the USA.

Field trips

From Kew Gardens to Haverfordwest, you’ll have opportunities to participate in field trips across the Biology modules. Please note that you’ll have to pay a contribution towards the cost of some of these study visits.

Work placements, industry links and internship

Our students have worked with clients such as the NHS, Bristol Zoo, Operation Wallacea, English Nature and local authorities.

List of current alumni careers

Biology graduates have a range of professions including teaching, medical lab assistant, wildlife trust warden and science technician. Graduates have been employed by companies including NHS, New Zealand Department of Conservation and RSPB.

Competitions/awards

We’ll encourage you to participate in local and national science festivals.

Each year we award five prizes to our students. These are the Bath Spa University Biology Prize for best performance (one per year of study); the Oxford University  Prize; and the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management Prize.

Application method

All applications are through UCAS.

Course enquiries

The University has a programme of Open Days throughout the year where you can learn more about our courses, see our facilities and talk to some of our current students. See the main University web pages for more information.

If you wish to know more about the content of the Biology degree please contact the Biology Subject Leader, Dr Ian Todd.

Entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry to our undergraduate programmes. The main ones are listed below:

  • A Level - A level grades BCC -CCC with Grade C in Biology, Human Biology, Environmental Science or Social Biology minimum.
  • BTEC- Extended Diploma minimum grades Merit, Merit, Merit (MMM) accepted in a science or related subject.
  • International Baccalaureate - A minimum score of 26 points with evidence of study in Science accepted.
  • Access to HE courses - Typical offers for applicants with Access to HE will be the Access to HE Diploma or Access to HE Certificate (60 credits, 45 of which must be Level 3, including 30 at merit or higher) in a science or related subject.

English Language Requirements for International and EU Applicants

IELTS 6.0 - for visa nationals, with a minimum score of IELTS 5.5 in each element.

Career opportunities

We realise that having a degree relevant to employers is crucial if you are going to find a job at the end of your studies. We are particularly aware of skills employers need and this is reflected in the content and structure of modules. Our assessment is very 'real world' focussed to make assignments more interesting and relevant to biological employment.

Our graduates are successful and many take further qualifications such as PGCE, Masters or doctorates. Others have been employed in both public and private organisations such as ecological consultancies, water companies, wildlife trusts, teaching and government agencies such as the Environment Agency.

Since 2010, employers such as Yeovil Hospital, Hanson, the NHS and Bath Spa University have recruited graduates from this course. Students have also gone into roles including Medical Lab Assistant, Student Cardiac Physiology and Science Technician.

What students say...

James Pymm, Biology, graduated 2012:

“I am currently taking a graduate internship at Bath Spa as a science technician and looking into applying for a course in graduate medicine. 

There is a real focus on quality teaching at Bath Spa. The class sizes are small enough that everyone knows everyone and the staff get to know specifically what you are interested in, which creates a really positive atmosphere and makes Bath Spa a great place to learn in. 

The course is driven towards making you as employable as possible and has proved to be the perfect spring board for me to start doing what I want to do.”

Katie Duke, Biology & Business, graduated 2006:

“I work for the Royal Agricultural College as Enterprise Co-ordinator. It is a great job and every day is very different. My main responsibilities are helping to encourage students to set up their own business and promoting rural entrepreneurship. In addition, I run a small business for the RAC called Muddy Wellies which is a drinks range with the proceeds invested in student enterprise. I also run a national business case study competition for Universities called the Grassroutes Challenge.

I would advise students to get as much work experience/voluntary work, as possible. I really enjoyed working as a Student Ambassador when I was at Bath Spa. I even met my husband Matt when we were both working as Student Ambassadors!”

Music courses at Bath Spa University are ranked 10th out of 71 providers nationally for overall satisfaction, and BA (Hons) Music scored 97% for overall student satisfaction in NSS 2015!*

Great opportunities for music-making and an exciting and varied programme in classical, jazz, musical theatre, opera and world music.

Performance

This is a highly practical course. Every week a day is dedicated to ensemble performance and related activities for students in all years - these include choirs, orchestras, wind band, big bands and gamelan. There are also numerous other ensembles including brass, wind and string groups and an experimental ensemble called Material. There are regular student performances through the year, both at the Michael Tippett Centre, and in Bath as well as beyond. Each year, the School promotes opera and musical theatre productions, in which music students take part. Recent operas have included Philip Glass's Satyagraha, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Handel's Semele and Puccini's Il Trittico. Musical theatre productions have included Sondheim's Into the Woods, CompanyA Little Night Music and Seussical.

To see which instrumental and vocal tutors are currently available for one-to-one practical tuition please click here.

Composition

Composition students work in a wide variety of musical styles and genres and have regular opportunities of working with professional performers. Recent visiting ensembles who have performed student work have included Ensemble Bash, Plus Minus, the Kreutzer Quartet and the New London Chamber Ensemble. There are also regular opportunities for performances of student work by our own student ensembles and there is a commission project for all final year composition students.

Orchestra and Choir

Visiting performers and composers

We have regular visits from high-profile international performers and composers. Recent visitors have included Peter Donohoe, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Judith Weir, Joanna MacGregor, Tim Hugh, David Matthews, Trevor Wishart, Denis Smalley, Graham Fitkin and Kathy Hinde.

Facilities

Based at the Michael Tippett Centre, we have excellent facilities including:

  • A purpose-built concert hall with superb acoustics
  • 17 practice rooms, three with electronically variable acoustic
  • A wide range of medieval, renaissance and baroque instruments, and a large collection of percussion and orchestral instruments
  • A Javanese Gamelan
  • A high spec music technology laboratory
  • Five recording studios 
  • Two band rehearsal rooms
  • Large well-stocked Music Library and a wide range of online musical resources

Bath and nearby Bristol are busy centres for performance with many international music festivals, touring operas, concerts and shows. Bath particularly has an extensive semi-professional and amateur life with many opportunities for students to join in music-making in the city.

Partnerships

We are proud to have very valuable partnerships with a variety of organisations in the region. These enable our student work to reach a wide audience and they also facilitate student placements and professional networking. They include:

  • Bath International Music Festival
  • Bath Philharmonia
  • Bath Abbey
  • The Holburne Museum
  • Iford Arts
  • Wiltshire Music Centre
  • Bath Young Recital Artists Trust

Why study Music?

There is a strong practical element to the course. Each year there are music-making opportunities ranging from large works for choir and orchestra (such as Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, Faure’s Requiem, and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms) through to opera and musical theatre productions. There are regular opportunities for students to perform in prestigious venues off campus - recent venues have included the Assembly Rooms, Guildhall, Bath Abbey, Wells Cathedral, Bath Pump Room and Oxford's Holywell Room. Our jazz students perform widely too, including in our arts centre Burdall's Yard. There are also opportunities to develop teaching and community music skills, to explore musicology and to develop interdisciplinary creative projects with students from other courses within the university.

* Source National Student Survey 2015.

Course structure

Year 1:

For single honours students there are no optional modules in Yr 1: all students take the same modules.

Performance Studies consists of one-to-one instrumental or vocal lessons, with workshops on performance techniques, aural awareness, and conducting. Students can opt for classical or jazz performance and are assessed on their contribution to ensembles.

Creative Forum is a composition skills module which includes free composition, while focusing on a range of compositional techniques, notation, arranging, orchestration, and the use of music technology.

Music in the West and Global Musical Styles include study and research skills for musicians, analytical skills and the close study of landmark musical works and genres from medieval to pop, with a series of seminars around cultural and musicological issues in music today.

Year 2:

You develop skills in teaching and in the area of music management and promotion through the Professional Musician module. This offers you the opportunity to undertake a placement in an organisation of your choice. In addition to the Professional Musician module (which is core) there are a number of optional modules. You continue to develop your musical skills, and increasingly you will specialise in areas of particular strength and interest – for example in performance, composition or musicology in classical or jazz styles. There is a wide choice of modules, ranging from Performance to Music Analysis.

Year 3:

You have the freedom for creative output in specialisms such as performance or composition together with the choice of a wide range of supporting modules, from the Opera Project to Music Psychology and Music in Action (which is a community music module). Practical workshops in performance and composition are a key feature of the course.

Magic Flute opera perforamance

Modules

Year 1:

  • Performance 1 (including first study instrumental/vocal lessons, optional second study, aural awareness, conducting, ensemble skills)
  • Creative Forum 1 (composition skills, harmony, music technology)
  • Music in the West (musical styles, set works, research skills, critical musicology)
  • Global Music (musical styles, ethnomusicology, field work)

Year 2:

  • Professional Musician (including a work placement, introduction to teaching, marketing and the music industry)
  • Performance 2 (in Classical and Jazz streams)
  • Creative Forum 2 (including collaborative composition with dance or film, as well as orchestration and arrangement)
  • Musical Theatre Practice (taught in collaboration with Drama)
  • Opera Project
  • Musicology 2
  • Music Analysis

Year 3:

  • Performance 3 (includes a public recital)
  • Composition (a composition portfolio)
  • Independent Study (dissertation or lecture recital)
  • Musicology 3 (popular music and music for screen)
  • Music in Action (Community Music)
  • Musical Theatre Project
  • Opera Project
  • Music Psychology

Course assessment

We assess students through coursework (including compositions and essays), spoken presentations and through practical assessments such as recitals, technicals and rehearsals.

Facilities on campus are superb, and include a purpose-built concert hall (the Michael Tippett Centre), a suite of sound-proofed practice rooms, a wide range of specialist instruments (including three Steinway grand pianos), networked music technology labs, digital recording studios, band rehearsal rooms and a well-stocked music library. There is also a wealth of online resources and all lecturers make use of our Virtual Learning Environment (Minerva) where course materials are made available to students.

Music workshop

Teaching methods

Music is taught through workshops, masterclasses, lectures, seminars, individual tutorials and instrumental/vocal lessons. All of our teaching sessions are highly interactive, whether face-to-face or online (for example, through wikis or discussion boards).

Practical workshops in performance and composition are given by distinguished full-time staff who are all practising performers, composers and musicologists. Clarinettist Professor Roger Heaton is one of this country's foremost performers of new music, recording regularly for CD and radio, and was formerly Music Director and Conductor of Rambert Dance Company; Dr Matthew Spring is a leading performer of early music with his group Sirinu, and his major book 'The Lute in Britain' has recently been published by Oxford University Press. Dr Charles Wiffen is a pianist and musicologist who has performed and recorded widely in the UK (including in the BBC Proms) and abroad and has previously taught at the Royal College of Music and Trinity College of Music in London.

Students have the opportunity to work regularly with distinguished visiting lecturers, performers and composers in a masterclass format. Recent visiting performers and composers have included Dame Emma Kirkby, Ensemble Bash, the Smith Quartet, Jason Rebello, Andy Sheppard, Gavin Bryars, Graham Fitkin and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

To see which instrumental and vocal tutors are currently available for one-to-one practical tuition please click here.

Application method

All full time applications are through UCAS

Course enquiries

Please contact Bath Spa Admissions by email or phone +44 (0)1225 875609

Entry requirements

280-320 UCAS Tariff points, preferably including Music at minimum grade B, plus a good standard of practical instrumental/vocal performance at Grade 8 (ABRSM) or equivalent.

Single Hons applicants will be interviewed.

Students with instruments

Career opportunities

During the course you will explore the constantly changing needs of the employment market, and you will undertake a placement in Year 2. (Recent placements have included the Bath International Music Festival, Bath Philharmonia, the BBC Proms, Welsh National Opera, BBC Music Magazine, Dorling Kindersley and Real World).

Career possibilities include:

  • Performing
  • Teaching
  • Music in the community
  • Composing for concert, screen, stage and education
  • Music and arts management
  • Music promotion and publishing

Graduate Profile: Jason Thornton

Jason Thornton is the music director of Bath Philharmonia. He has worked extensively with many of Britain’s orchestras and choirs including, City of London Sinfonia, London Mozart Players, Halle Orchestra, English Northern Philharmonia, London Philharmonic Choir and the Philharmonia Chorus. Abroad he has worked with the Cyprus Chamber Orchestra, Jykvaskyla Sinfonia (Finland) and the North West Symphony Orchestra (Seattle). Recent performances have included collaborations with Peter Donohoe, Natalie Clein, Joanna MacGregor and Sir Willard White.

 Kill It Kid band members

Graduate Profile: Alastair King

As a composer, Alastair has written music for many film and television productions. He has contributed additional music to 'Harry Potter and the Order Of the Phoenix' (Warner Brothers), the Academy-Award winning Wallace and Gromit movie, 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit' (Dreamworks/Aardman), 'Shrek' (Dreamworks) and 'Chicken Run' (Dreamworks/Aardman). He is also Principle Conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of London and has conducted a variety of other orchestras and choirs including The London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia, London Session Orchestra, Metro Voices, RSVP Voices, the Bach Choir and the Choir of the King’s Consort.

Graduate Profile: Trish Brown

Trish is a versatile vocalist, sax player, conductor and musical director. She MD’d Lil’ Big Band for three years at Bath Spa University and more recently The Trish Brown All-Stars. Her love for music is also expressed in her work as an arranger and singer songwriter, with her current project The Trish Brown Band performing a fusion of originals and jazz standards around the South West. Her recent performances have been at Glastonbury Festival 2011 and Marlborough Jazz Fest 2011, as well as Bristol Harbour Festival 2011. Trish is also an arts professional, having worked in music management and promotion. She currently works at St George's Bristol as an Events Manager.

Since 2010, employers such as The Ministry of Sound, The Mayflower Theatre (Southampton), Apple, the Royal Opera House and Wells Cathedral School have recruited graduates from this course. Students have also progressed into roles including Singing Teacher, Music Therapist, Musician (session, composer and teacher), Music Technician, Music Therapist, Royal Opera House Steward, Private Music Teacher.

What students say...

Kate Stevens:

Why did you choose your course and what do you like about it?

"Music has always been a huge passion of mine, especially within Theatre. Bath Spa offered me all the subjects and topics of music that I wished to concentrate on. I love their wide range of ensembles to be involved in, and the performance opportunities that you get as a BSU Music student. In my first year the choir and orchestra performed in Bath Abbey, conducted by Jason Thornton, performing Faure’s Requiem and other orchestral works. We have also performed new compositions by Harrison Birtwistle and Gavin Bryars. There are also Master classes available for each taught instrument, by professional musicians. The course is a musician's dream."

What do you like about Bath Spa University? 

"Bath Spa has a beautiful campus, with lots of places to escape to, like the lake – but beware the swans! The location of the campus is out of Bath, but only a 5 minute journey to the centre, which I feel is perfect as you don’t feel crowded, and with its open spaces you can really breathe in the country air."

 Dixieland Jazz band

Joe Gatley: 

Why did you choose your course and what do you like about it?

"Music at Bath Spa appealed to me because of its strong emphasis on performance, and also being part of a vibrant School of Music and Performing arts. This has allowed me to work and socialise with students from related courses such as Drama, Performing Arts and Commercial Music. Every year the music department stages Opera and Music Theatre productions to a very high standard, which is something that really interests me. There are a large number of ensembles to take part in, and also the support and facilities to start your own if you wanted to. Through these ensembles the music department puts on concerts through-out the year, with many opportunities for solo performances."

What do you like about Bath Spa University?

"Bath Spa University has a very friendly atmosphere, and has a campus in fresh, rural surroundings that is not too big so you feel familiar with it almost straight away. Everything on campus is quite close together, and the library is well stocked and has good computer facilities." 

To see which instrumental and vocal tutors are currently available for one-to-one practical tuition please click here.