School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Environmental Biotechnology

Biotechnologies are now replacing traditional technologies with cleaner, greener alternatives. You will study ‘white’ (industrial) and ‘green’ (agricultural) biotechnology in depth, without the focus on ‘red’ (medical) biotechnology that dominates similar courses. With a strong foundation in biology and the technologies, plus the means to commercialise research, you will graduate with the skills to be the future of clean technologies, in a range of industries from biofuels to food production

You will keep up-to-date with a programme that covers the very latest innovations in biotechnology and updates to reflect the demands of the sector. You will gain practical skills hands-on with intensive laboratory-based teaching to give you workplace-ready skills in areas ranging from analytical biochemistry to electron microscopy. You will also gain insight into the workplace with an optional placement year, taking advantage of our links with industry.

Environmental Biotechnology

Bornite, also known as peacock ore, is a major source of copper and has been mined biologically using Bacteria and Archaea since the 1970s - these organisms thrive at pH 1 and at high temperatures found inside leaching heaps in South America.

It's not too late to apply for 2018

Don’t worry if you’ve missed the UCAS January deadline. 

If you want to study with us in September 2018, contact us for advice about available spaces on this course.

Get in touch with our friendly admissions team on +44 (0)1752 585858 or email us at

The final deadline for UCAS applications is 30 June 2018.

Key features

  • Study a broad base of environmental biotechnologies from brewing and food production to bioremediation, biofuels and waste-water treatment.
  • Underpin your studies in biotechnology with a strong foundation in animal and plant physiology, microbiology, evolution and molecular biology.
  • Keep up-to-date with a programme that covers the very latest innovations in biotechnology and updates to reflect the demands of the sector.
  • Take a flexible course that allows you to specialise in your area of interest, such as plant or microbial biotechnology.
  • Gain practical skills hands-on with intensive laboratory-based teaching to give you workplace-ready skills in areas ranging from analytical biochemistry to electron microscopy.
  • Understand the implications of biotechnology with modules in patent law and bioethics.
  • Gain the valuable business and commercialisation skills critical to taking any biotechnology to market.
  • Be inspired by academic staff that are leading biotechnologists in their fields, with active research portfolios linked to companies around the world.
  • Gain insight into the workplace with an optional placement year, taking advantage of our links with industry.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • In your first year, you will take an introductory module aimed at all students in the school covering key skills that you will need throughout your degree, underpinned with pastoral support from a dedicated personal tutor. You will build a foundation of core knowledge across the underpinning fields of biology, covering everything from the physiology and biochemistry of plants, animals and microbes through to evolution. You will undertake intensive an intensive practical module to gain key skills in analytical biochemistry and in the high standards of laboratory science needed in this sector. 

    Core modules
    • BIOL111Z Animal and Plant Physiology

      This module is an introduction to the fundamental principles of comparative physiology, and the structure and function of the body systems of plants as well as animals. The module also introduces the concept of environmental physiology; how organisms respond to their environment.

    • BIOL119Z Introduction to Biology

      This module is designed to give you some fundamental basic skills and information to help you start to become an independent biologist. The module will cover data and information gathering, analysis, evaluation and presentation. Much of the module will be based around field/lab activities providing you with data for analysis and presentation.

    • BIOL120Z Cell Biology and Microbiology

      This module introduces the fundamentals and principles of cell biology. The second part explores the ecophysiology and importance of microbes in the living world, including their role in global processes and interactions with other organisms.

    • BIOL127Z Evolution

      This module introduces students to the core concepts of evolution, from the basic structure and inheritance function of DNA, to other units of change, from genome to individual to population to species and other taxonomic groupings. The latter part of the module explores the patterns of biodiversity that evolutionary processes have given rise to, from both historical and extant perspectives.

    • BIOL128Z Analytical Biochemistry

      This module focusses on the key practical and data handling skills required by biochemists and biotechnologists in the workplace. It is increasingly critical that biochemical analyses are done to high levels of scrutiny using precise and accurate methods such as ion selective electrodes, spectrophotometry etc ¿ these will be included alongside other methods in widespread use in the biochemistry laboratory.

    • BIOL129Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1

      Skills in fieldwork, e.g. in identification, or in the laboratory, e.g. in liquid handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the progressive acquisition of a range of basic field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 4 modules.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL124PPZ Biology of Sex

      This module will introduce you to the following topics; the evolution of sex, competition for mates, sperm competition, mate choice, sex & disease and other elements of the biology of sex. Each week will start with a discussion of the main areas of exciting research on that topic, across a range of species including humans. Students will then develop their learning in supervised workshops.

    • BIOL125PPZ Scientific Method and Ethics in Biology

      This module explores how modern scientific research is conducted; the importance of professional ethics in science, based on principles of rigour, respect and responsibility; the essential elements of effective science communication; and the development of critical scientific thinking involving graphical, numerical and statistical approaches. It includes examples of reliable (`good') and unreliable (`bad') science.

  • Year 2
  • You will build on the foundation in biology from the first year with modules in food microbiology, agricultural biotechnology, plant and cell physiology, molecular biology and microbial physiology and biochemistry. Central to this year is a module in biotechnological commercialisation in which you will begin to understand the process of taking research to patent and into industry and will gain skills essential to the job market.

    Core modules
    • BIOL211Z Microbial Physiology and Biochemistry

      Diversity, lifestyles, taxonomy and physiology of organisms within the Bacteria and the Archaea, as well as training students in key research and transferable skills through an intensive team laboratory research project. The module focusses on recent developments in microbiology and is highly research-oriented, looking primarily at terrestrial, freshwater, plant and animal host-associated organisms.

    • BIOL212Z Environmental Cell Physiology

      Organisms are affected by environmental factors that ultimately induce changes at the molecular and cellular level. This module looks at cellular responses to environmental factors including oxidative stress, hypoxia, exposure to xenobiotics and seasonality. Changes during hibernation/aestivation and development, and induced by semiochemicals are examined, as well as underlying differences in cell physiology.

    • BIOL217Z Environmental Plant Physiology

      This module looks at plant-environment interactions in specific habitats, including those affected by human activity. In all cases the challenges associated with the particular environment or biotic interactions are examined as well as the stress responses which may occur in the plants growing there. The features of plants which are well adapted to exploit the opportunities provided by particular habitats are explored.

    • BIOL220Z Molecular Biology

      Starting from the central dogma of molecular biology, this module will introduce the theoretical underpinning of the structure of DNA, its replication, transcription into RNA and translation into protein. The module will also focus on the theory behind the techniques used in recombinant DNA technology and the modulation of gene expression in a range of organisms from different domains, for industrial and research use.

    • BIOL223Z Methods in Biotechnology

      This module will equip students with core statistical, methodological and transferable skills needed in the biotechnology market. Through the platform of experimentation in molecular biology, students will learn how to undertake, record, analyse and communicate a short piece of research conducted in an intensive `boot camp' style setting.

    • BIOL225Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 2

      Skills in fieldwork or in the laboratory, as well as other transferable skills, e.g. in data handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the continued acquisition of a range of field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 5 modules.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL222Z Food Biotechnology

      Understanding of the ecology of food systems has increased steadily, moving a long way from artisan food fermentations to current and emerging applications of biotechnology. In this module, case studies will consider the efficiency of bio-transformations and bioprocessing, functional materials and food production in relation to quality, safety, traceability, healthiness, industrial relevance and consumer acceptability.

    • BIOL228Z Applied Plant Cell and Molecular Biology

      The quality and availability of plant products relies on well trained practitioners with detailed knowledge of relevant biological processes. This module examines the practical use of plant cell biology and discusses methods to visualise and modify aspects of plant metabolism critical to industrial and agronomic applications.

  • Year 3
  • An optional work placement may be taken after your second year, applying your knowledge and expertise in a real world context. Lasting at least six months, this placement with an approved company will help you fine-tune your thinking around possible careers and equip you with the skills and techniques being used on the frontline of biotechnology.

    Core modules
    • APIE303 Biology:Placement

      All students on our degrees have the option of undertaking a (minimum of 6 month) work placement at a company or university anywhere in the world undertaking some kind of work (usually research-based) relating to their programme of study.

  • Final year
  • You will focus on key areas of your interest by selecting from a variety of option modules including biological pest control; environmental hazard assessment; microbial biotechnology; plant biotechnology, and natural products and bioprospecting. You will also take core modules in businesses, ethics and law and an advanced skills module that allows you to select from a range of specialist practical ‘podules’ to really customise your degree to suit your interests. Alongside this, the main focus of the year is your research project, supervised by a member of academic staff and focuses on an area of research of mutual interest.

    Biotechnology is one of the most expanding areas within the biological sciences and green technologies movements. Biotechnologists support industries including agriculture (animal breeding, livestock vaccination, crop manipulation), mining (biohydrometallurgy, biorefinery), energy (biofuels - biohydrogen, biodiesel, biobutanol, bioethanol; nuclear waste reprocessing), food production (brewing, baking, fermented food production), health supplements (vitamin production, Quorn production) etc. As our graduates are equipped with strong business and legal skills within the framework of their biotechnology degree, they can anticipate strong prospects in what is one of the most exciting and expanding fields in biology at present.

    Core modules
    • BIOL307Z Advanced Skills and Concepts

      Students will select from a catalogue of short, intensive courses relating to biology, developing skills and concepts to an advanced level. The courses offered will be focused on developing the students' skills sets and career aspirations, enhancing student employability.

    • BIOL315Z Personal Research

      The largest component of the module comprises a research study element that incorporates the design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data. Other elements include a conduct of study component and a communicating science element. Students will also complete a comprehensive introduction to the research report that incorporates a brief literature review of the topic that addresses wider issues of relevance to their field of research study.

    • BIOL318Z Business, Commercialisation, Ethics and Law

      This module will equip students for the workplace with a fundamental understanding of the commercialisation of research with focus on start-ups, spin-outs, the basics of the business world, marketing research to different audiences and creation of business cases, along with the legal and ethical frameworks that govern such practices.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL301Z Plant Biotechnology

      Despite the increasing importance of 'food security' in a changing world, plant biotechnology has had much negative publicity. This module will give students an appreciation of the science and also the ethical and social issues that surround the subject and show why these techniques are so important to secure our food supply.

    • BIOL311Z Ecotoxicology

      This module provides a detailed analysis of the concepts and principles of ecotoxicology, with an emphasis on evaluation of ecotoxicological techniques and methods for assessment of impacts of pollutants on the aquatic environment.

    • BIOL316 Integrated Pest Management

      You will understand tactics used in the limitation of pest populations whilst causing minimal disruption to natural processes. You will explore and understand biotechnologies used in pest management in crop protection, including viral and bacterial insect pathogens and the breeding of resistant crop varieties.

    • BIOL321Z Pharmacology and Natural Products

      This module examines the principles and practice of animal nutrition for a range of animal species. It provides an understanding of feds, feed evaluation, diet formulation and feeding. The module also examines the impact of ingredient, physical, manufacturing and legal constraints on the production of diets.

    • BIOL3313Z Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology

      Natural products (NPs) from diverse sources are used by humans including many compounds that affect organisms at cellular and molecular levels. This module will give you an understanding of the generalised mechanism of action of such compounds, their synthesis and an overview of specific compounds, their actions and uses from an array of biological sources and in a number of clinical and industrial contexts.

    • MBIO325Z Marine Algae: Eco-Physiology and Utilization

      This module provides a comprehensive coverage of selected topics on the inter-relationships between marine macroalgae and their environment, with particular emphasis on physiological and cellular responses to natural and anthropogenic stresses. It also introduces the global importance of marine algae as a resource utilized by humans and presents a critical overview of the methods used in seaweed aquaculture.

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BScEnvironmentalBiotechnology ProgrammeSpecification September2018 5471

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff


A level: Typical offer will be 120 pts to include grade B in biology, along with a second science at grade C from either chemistry, physics, mathematics and a third science that can include either: geology, psychology, geography, environmental science, environmental studies
excluding general studies. 

18 Unit BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma in Applied Science or Forensic Science - 128-144 points (DDM-DDD) - note that this is subject to the exact modules you have studied - please contact, stating explicitly the full list of modules within your qualification.

International Baccalaureate 30 diploma points overall, to include 5 diploma points in Biology (Higher Level) plus 5 diploma points in second science at Higher Level. English and Mathematics must be included.

Science-based Access To Higher Education diplomas, 33 credits in science-based units at merit including a minimum of 12 credits in biology units.

We would usually expect GCSE English and Mathematics at grade C / 4, or equivalent.

For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

English language requirements

For candidates that do not have traditional qualifications, our BSc (Hons) Biology with Foundation Year programme provides a route onto this degree. 

Please note that we usually interview all applicants for this programme.

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2018 2019
Home/EU To be confirmed To be confirmed
International To be confirmed To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) To be confirmed To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Find out more about the course

Programme lead Dr George Littlejohn answers your questions about BSc (Hons) Environmental Biotechnology with Plymouth University.

Izzy Cole's summer placement

Mike Allen and Izzy Cole both explain how lucrative the biotech market has become and how quickly the industry has grown in recent years to demand the unique skill-set that BSc (Hons) Environmental Biotechnology nurtures.

Mike Allen is an Environmental Biotechnologist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Izzy Cole is a placement student from Plymouth University.

Student profile - Victor Cardoso

Environmental biotechnology is going into nature and finding some benefit to society without damaging nature itself.

Student Profile - Noor Al-Wattar

Environmental biotechnology is exploiting biological processes to benefit people or the planet

Potential High Achievers Scheme

In the School of Biological and Marine Sciences we are passionate and committed to both teaching and research and we are looking for talented and motivated students to share in this passion for biology in all its forms. We know that our applicants will thrive in the hands-on environment we can provide, and we want to ensure our best applicants become our future.

The scheme is now open for students who have applied to study, from September 2018, a range of full-time undergraduate courses across the biological sciences subject areas. We will be contacting applicants who are not only on course to achieve top marks but who have an outstanding personal statement, in order to offer them a chance to receive an unconditional offer immediately.

Find out more about the scheme.


This course has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.