Natural Sciences degrees


Courses by year

Each year of study at UCL is composed of different modules.  A typical "single" module is classed under our system of being worth 15 credits and every year  students take courses which total to 120 credits of study. 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 four 15 credit modules in each of the first and second terms.  In later years the split between modules over the two terms may not perfectly balanced and some modules may run over both the first and second terms.

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.  

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 scientifc areas offered on each stream, students choose these courses during induction week and take them for the duration of the first term.  Students then decide which two subject areas they wish to follow on into streams at the end of the first term.  In addition to these foundation courses, all first year Natural Sciences students take a dedicated Mathematics for Natural Sciences module in the first term. Students without GCE A level mathematics (or equivalent) are offered a Introductory Mathematics for Natural Sciences module.

The foundation modules currently offered are:

  • Chemistry - students following this module can then take the Physical Chemistry, Inorganic and Materials Chemistry or Organic Chemistry streams. The Chemistry foundation is Chemical Foundations.
  • Earth Sciences - students following these modules can then take the Earth and Environment or Geophysical Sciences streams.  The Earth and Environment foundation is The Earth and the Gophysical Sciences foundation is Earth Materials
  • Life Sciences - students following this module can then take the Biomedical SciencesGenetics, Evolution and EnvironmentMolecular and Cell Biology or Neuroscience and Psychology streams. The Life Science streams are all covered by a dedicated Life Science Foundation module.
  • Statistics - students following this module can then take the Mathematics and Statistics stream. The Statistics foundation is Introduction to Probability and Statistics.
  • Physics and Astronomy - students following this module can then take the Astrophysics, Physics or Medical Physics streams. The Physics streams are all covered by a dedicated Modern Physics, Astronomy and Cosmology module. 
  • Science and Technology Studies - students following this module can then take the History and Philosophy of Science or Policy, Communication and Ethics streams. The Science and Technology studies foundation is Introduction to History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science.

In the second term of the first year, students take two modules in each of their 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 that did not lead on to a follow on stream. 

Natural Sciences Programme Layout

In addition to these courses, all Natural Science students follow a 0 credit module on Researcher Skills during terms 1 and 2, the aim of which is to get students thinking about scientific skills such as computing, communicating science as well as science and society.  Through a variety of different assessments and reflections, students are encouraged to think a little about why they are doing science as well as how it is done in the UK.

It is not always possible to switch between streams after the first year, 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 core (mandatory) courses per stream.  In addition all Natural Science students take a 15 credit module on Scientific Communication and Computing, designed to develop their skills in these two important areas.  Graduates with skills in both communication and coding generally find these to be very important, whether they pick a career in the sciences or otherwise! This module runs over both the first and second terms.

In addition to these courses, all Natural Science students follow another 0 credit module on Researcher Skills during terms 1 and 2, the aim of which is to get students thinking about science education, under-represenation in hgigher education and overcoming barriers.

At the end of the second year, students choose which one of their streams they will have as a major stream, this then informs some of their third year module choices.

An additional attraction on the Natural Sciences degree at UCL is that students have the flexibility (timetable permitting) to pick 15 credits on an optional, elective, module, during the second year of the porgramme.  Often students take optional modules related to their streams but examples of modules from outside the Natural Sciences department that current students have taken include a modern foreign language, management, history of art, economics and anthropology. Students have the option to take a course that is at first or second year level for the optional module.

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 comprises 60 credits of taught courses and a 15 credit Literature Review.  The literature review is carried out by all Natural Science students in their third year, comprises a 4-5,000 word critical review of literature agreed with student and supervisor and must be undertaken in the major stream subject area. This modules runs over both the first and second terms and students are advised to start informally investigating topics for their review over the summer between second and third year. Student are also required to give a five minute long presentation on their revie topic area, this takes place in the third term, given to an audience of peers and academics.

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.

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 can be the equivalent of 45-75 credits (depending on the discipline) as well as masters level modules that feature in their major stream field.  There is also the possbility to choose some minor stream modules also, but at least 90 credits must be taken in the major stream area.

To progress on to the fourth year, students must have passed at least 330 credits and have an overall average mark of at least 60% (in all three years of study).  Students enrolled on the MSci programme who fail to meet these criteria will be considered for the BSc degree after three years of study instead.

Infomation on current modules can be found in the module catalogue.

Details on timetabling can be found on the UCL Common Timetable page.