Natural Sciences degrees


Courses by year

A breakdown of the structure of the Natural Sciences degrees:

degree structure of the natural sciences programme
Each year of study at UCL is composed of different modules.  A typical "single" module is worth 15 credits and every year you will take courses which total to 120 credits of study (e.g. 8 x 15 credits). A 15 credit module is expected to make up 150 hours of study, be that contact time in lectures, laboratory, seminars, tutorials or computer classes, private study in the evenings or weekends as well as assessment time, revision and a final exam if applicable. The first year of the Natural Sciences programme is made up of eight 15 credit modules, four in the first term and four in the second.  In later years the split between modules over the two terms may not perfectly balanced and some modules may also run over both the first and second terms.  Most modules you will take at UCL are single 15 credit modules, but some 30 credit modules do exist (typically for modules with both lectures and laboratory work in subjects like Chemistry) as well as larger modules (typically for research projects in the fourth year).

You can find the term dates on the Life at UCL website, a typical term is composed of five weeks of study, followed by one reading week and then another five weeks of study in each of the first and second terms and a final, shorter, third term for examinations.  Term dates for the 2023-24 academic year can be found here.

Below is the overall structure of the programme in each year, if you want to see what you could be studying in each stream, check out the core streams page.

Year 1

The first term of the first year is comprised of students taking three "foundation courses" that introduce them to the broad scientific areas offered on each stream, students choose these courses during induction week and take them for the duration of the first term.  You then decide which two subject areas they wish to follow on into streams at the end of the first term. 

The six foundation modules currently offered are:

In the second term of the first year, you will take two modules in each of your chosen streams.  Note that all assessments (including coursework and examinations) must be taken for the eight modules taken in year one (including in the foundation module area that you did not continue in).

It is not always possible to switch between streams after the first term, as the streams are designed to ensure that the pre-requisites for higher level courses have been completed.  

Year 2

The second year of study marks the continued consolidation of the two stream areas chosen. Both streams have equal weighting, amounting to 45 credits of study per stream. 

An additional attraction on the Natural Sciences degree at UCL is that students have the flexibility (timetable permitting) to pick 15 credits on an elective module, during the second year of the programme.  Often students take modules related to their streams but examples of modules from outside main subject areas of study include modern foreign languages, management, history of art, economicsor anthropology. Students have the option to take a course that is at first or second year level. 

Towards the end of the second year, you will choose which one of your streams you want to have as a major stream and which as a minor* this then informs some of the third year module choices.

*Note that almost every stream combination allows either stream to be a mjor or minoir, the one exception to this is mathematics and statistics.

Year 3

The third year of the Natural Sciences degree marks the start of increased specialisation.  After choosing one of their streams as a major stream, students take 75 credits in this field in the third year, with the remaining 45 credits in the minor stream.  The major stream's 75 credits comprise 60 credits of taught courses and a 15 credit literature review.  

Students have the opportunity to finish with a BSc in Natural Sciences after the third year or continue on into the fourth year of study to study for an MSci in Natural Sciences.  To progress to year 4 of the MSci programme, you must have a 3rd year average of 60% or better and a nominal BSc award of an upper second, or better. Students who do not fulfil the required criteria to proceed at the end of the 3rd year may be considered for graduation with the award of a BSc Honours degree

Year 4

Building on the foundations of prerequisite courses in earlier years of the degree, the fourth year offers students the opportunity to study the most specialist courses in a range of top-rated UCL departments.

Natural Sciences students typically spend the MSci year essentially embedded in the department (or Faculty research area) that corresponds to their major stream. All 120 credits in the MSci year must be taken in modules that are at masters level. The fourth year also includes a mandatory MSci research project, which are worth 45 - 75 credits of study (depending on the discipline) as well as masters level modules that feature in their major stream field.  There is also the possibility to choose up to 30 credits of stuidy in the minor stream area, subject to relevant pre-requisities.

Natural Sciences Modules

You will not only take subject specific courses as part of their streams, they also take dedicated core modules in their first three years.

  • In year one, you will take a dedicated 15 credit mathematics modules in the first term, depending on which streams you take:

Mathematics for Natural Sciences A (NSCI0005) - designed to provide the mathematical foundations and techniques for the physics, astrophysics and medical physics streams, ALL students who pick Modern Physics, Astronomy and Cosmology (PHAS0011) will take this mathematics module.

Mathematics for Natural Sciences B (NSCI0006) - designed to provide an introduction to some of the key mathematical modelling ideas and techniques used in scientific research today. 

  • You will also take a 0 credit module called Science and Society (NSCI0010). This module in the first term of year one aims to get you thinking about scientific skills such as computing, communicating science as well as the interaction between science and society.  Through a variety of different assessments and reflections, you are encouraged to think a little about why they are doing science as well as how to communicate it.  

  • In year two, you have the ability to choose between one 15 credit core modules from:
    • Programming for Scientists (NSCI0036) - students learn the fundamentals of coding in the Python programming language, one of the most popular programming languages which is widely used in science and other disciplines.  They perform computations, analyse and present data and make predictions, and will be in a position to learn more sophisticated computational techniques including mathematical modelling.  

    • Science for All (NSCI0038) - students reflect on and understand inequity in science learning and in the production of scientific knowledge; and to learn about methods and practices being developed to address some of the issues.  They will think about creative forms of engagement through visiting a number of sites where informal science learning may take place and learn how to conduct effective evaluations. Building on this reflective and theoretical foundation, they work in teams to plan, create, and evaluate a science outreach activity.

    • Science Communication (NSCI0039) - students will examine various forms of science communication and consider how the content of the message may be affected through communication. They are also be encouraged to reflect on exclusionary practices in science communication to engage with the distrust felt by some members of society towards science and scientists.  They learn how to craft effective communications for different types of audiences and explore some possible ways of challenging exclusionary practices. 

  • In year three, unless are completing a study abroad year, you will take a 15 credit Literature Project (NSCI0004) module which spans the first and second terms.  This involves undertaking a critical review of literature, in a topic area agreed with a supervisor and undertaken a subject area within their major stream, producing a final report (maximum length 5000 words). You will also give a five minute long presentation on their review topic area to an audience of peers and academics. 

Natural Sciences also offers a few other modules in year three:

  • In year three, there is also the posibility for you to take a 15 credit Undergraduate Research Project (NSCI0026) module, which is designed principally for students who finish with a BSc but would like to undertake a research project as an undergradute.  After agreeing a research proposal with a supervisor, you will undertake a short reserach project over the course of a term and then write up a research report (maximum length 3000 words).
  • In year three, if you are on the Mathematics and Statistics stream, you will take a 15 credit module Topics in Scientific Computing (NSCI0011), which looks at some of the current and contemporary computing methods employed in different scientific research fields, including models of small world networks in brain circuits, multi-electron modelling in quanutm theory and models of fluid flow.  The module may also be taken (if agreed by stream leaders) if it is relevant to your area(s) of study in other streams.

Information on all current modules can be found on the UCL Module Catalogue, as well as links to the modules timetabling, you can also find more information on timetabling on the UCL Common Timetable page.