UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Science & Society

Find out more about the Science & Society foundation subject on the UPC. Learn about what you will study, teaching methods, assessments and recommended reading.

Key information 

Subject title: Science & Society

Subject type: compulsory

UPC pathway: UPCSE

Subject leader: Martin Hall

Number of students (2023-24): 85

Subject description

The Science & Society subject is a compulsory part of the Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for Science and Engineering (UPCSE) course. This foundation year Science & Society subject will help you develop the academic skills and understanding of society you need to study at UK universities.

The subject includes lectures, seminar groups, research skills sessions and oral and written assessments. Unlike the other UPCSE subjects, it’s not exam based.

The foundation year Science & Society subject combines the communicative and specialist aspects of the Academic English subject and four academic science subjects. It encourages critical thinking and an awareness of how science and society interact and connect.

The subject also develops your interpersonal and organisational skills. You’ll practice effective group work, research and communication.

Topics include:

  • Scientists’ ethics and responsibilities
  • Astrobiology
  • Climate change
  • Governance of the Internet
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Mathematical modelling
  • Forensic science

How we teach Science & Society

There are three components to the foundation year Science & Society subject: research skills, lectures and seminars.

Research skills

The focus of the subject is completing a 2,000-word research project. You’ll have an oral exam after the project. This will allow you to reflect on the research process and look ahead to your future undergraduate studies.

The research skills you’ll learn in your research project and related assessments include:

  • orientation sessions with the main library
  • searching library databases
  • engaging with academic sources
  • evaluating the value of the research available
  • referencing, both in-text and reference lists, using the Harvard referencing system
  • poster and PowerPoint presentation formats
  • working in groups as well as reflecting on your own progress


You’ll gain listening and note-taking skills in your weekly lectures. These will widen your academic vocabulary and awareness of how science and society relate. Subject specialists from UCL and other academic institutions will deliver the lectures.


The seminars involve an hour-long discussion of the week’s lecture topic. You’ll work in small groups and can support the group discussion as self-appointed seminar leaders. You’ll learn to present and support an argument orally. Feedback sessions will reinforce the skills you’ve learned.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the subject, you should be able to:

  • develop your own research project as an independent learner
  • find, evaluate and integrate sources into your own work
  • be objective and critical when evaluating existing research
  • develop an argument and present findings orally and in writing
  • support your argument and defend your stance
  • produce and present a scientific poster
  • write a 2,000-word research project
  • lead and take part in seminar discussions
  • understand how science informs society and society influences science

Overview of Summative Assessment

OnePlagiarism & Referencing Test10%
TwoEvaluation of Sources10%
 Poster Presentation20%
ThreeResearch Project40%
 Viva (Oral Examination)20%
  100% Total 

Assessment weighting is for the 2023-24 academic year. This may change for 2024-25 entry.

Recommended reading

There is no required reading prior to joining the subject. However, we encourage you to consider how society accepts, rejects and/or influences scientific advancements.

Please note the information on all the UPC subject pages, including this one, reflects the subject as it was taught in the 2023-24 academic year (unless otherwise stated).