August in the gardens at Balliol (photo: Piers Nye)


Biology at Oxford

Biology at Oxford incorporates an optional fourth-year, so students can leave after three years with a BA but have the opportunity to complete four years (subject to satisfactory academic performance in the first three years) and graduate with an MBiol. The first year covers biology across different scales, from genes, genomes and the inner workings of cells through how organisms function and on to how they interact with each other, their environment and humans. The aim is to develop an integrated understanding of the evolution, diversity and inner mechanisms of life on the planet, as well as the challenges life faces. Years two and three allow students to progressively specialise in areas of biology that most interest them: for more details see the course information pages here

Teaching in all three years is accompanied by an extensive skill development programme covering lab skills and fieldwork skills, plus data handling and analysis skills. Year four provides the opportunity for students to put these skills into practice with an in-depth research project, during which students will normally embed into one of the Biology Department’s research teams. Biology is run by the Department of Biology; please see this website for more information on the staff and the research they encompass.

Biology at Balliol College

See a transcript of the video above

Balliol has a long history of teaching and research in Biology. Julian Huxley, pioneer of behavioural and evolutionary biology, Secretary of the Zoological Society, and first director of UNESCO, was a student here, as was Richard Dawkins. Students will find an active community of Fellows and postgraduate students engaged in a wide range of topical research, from conservation biology and ecology to evolutionary biology, genetics and genomics.

The Balliol Biology tutors (above) coordinate the tutorials that parallel lectures and practical classes, including delivering many themselves. As well as offering the opportunity to discuss important, exciting and topical aspects of biology in-depth with experts, tutorials help develop students’ broader skills in communication, presentation, data analysis and critical evaluation: skills vital for a professional biologist and broadly relevant to many careers. Former Balliol students have gone on to a wide range of careers including biotech, entrepreneurship, consultancy, medicine and further study as PhD students in a broad range of research areas. 

Number of places at Balliol: 6.

Course requirements and selection criteria