Biology and History and Philosophy of Science BSc

Year of entry

2025 course information

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UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
Delivery type
On campus
3 years full time
Work placement
Study abroad
Typical A-level offer
ABB (specific subject requirements)
Typical Access to Leeds offer
BBC at A Level including B in Biology and pass Access to Leeds
Full entry requirements

Course overview


This joint honours degree enables you to develop knowledge and skills through an exploration of the science and philosophy of living things, as well as a historical understanding of how these fields of study have evolved over time.

You’ll combine practical lab work with classroom-based learning, developing a broad set of biological knowledge and skills, whilst exploring the history of scientific thought, the links between magic, science and religion and the nature of scientific knowledge.

A combination of compulsory and optional modules will enable you to improve your understanding of key topics such as philosophy of science, cell biology and genetics and gain specialist knowledge in areas like philosophy of biology, behavioural ecology and animal development biology.

Specialist facilities

The Faculty of Biological Sciences is one of the largest centres for biological sciences research in the UK and home to cutting edge research facilities.

Your course makes use of the UK’s largest and most advanced facility for research into pig nutrition, behaviour, welfare and health, production systems, and the National Pig Centre. This is part of the University’s research farm, where you can also learn about sustainable agriculture, while you can study plant biology in the Faculty’s extensive greenhouse and plant growth facilities.

You’ll also have the opportunity to study ecology and behaviour in natural surroundings in the city’s green spaces and nearby Yorkshire Dales National Park which provide a range of habitats that support modules in ecology and behaviour.

Course details

A joint honours degree allows you to study compulsory topics from each single honours course, but you’ll take fewer options and discovery modules so you can fit in both subjects.

Compulsory modules in your first year introduce you to key topics and approaches in biology and history and philosophy of science, from the history of science and the scientific method to genetics, cell biology and research skills in biology.

You’ll also be able to choose from optional modules in areas such as history of medicine, the history of interactions between magic, science and religion, the philosophy of race, and the philosophy of reality, knowledge and the self. You can also take discovery modules from across the wider University.

From this foundation, you’ll build your knowledge and skills over the next two years through a broader range of study, with the opportunity to specialise in your final year. You’ll choose from a variety of modules, curated for the course, including animal and plant life, ecology, genetics, conservation, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and science communication.

Throughout the degree you’ll build an impressive breadth of subject knowledge, and develop qualitative, quantitative and analytical research skills. In your final year, you’ll have the chance to showcase these skills when you focus on a subject of your choice to undertake a research project in either of your subjects.

If you decide to take a project in the history or philosophy of science, you’ll have a choice between two different kinds of research project – both offer you the guidance of an individual supervisor, but one also offers the scaffolded support of an associated module on the topic of your project, while the other allows you the freedom to pursue an independent research project of your own design.

You’ll have the opportunity for genuine research-led teaching throughout the degree, especially at upper levels. Some of the upper-level optional modules are currently in the process of revision, but the list below will give you a flavour of what will be available on this course. 

The flexibility of the Biology and History and Philosophy of Science course made for an amazing experience; I was able to study a broad range of interesting subjects, from the history of magic to epigenetics, and come out with a respectable degree which qualifies me for both sectors.

Rosie, BSc Biology and History and Philosophy of Science graduate

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

Year 1 compulsory modules

Research and Study Skills Level 1 (20 credits) [Biology] - In this biology module you'll develop core research, scientific and study skills that will underpin your degree. This includes the understanding of the scientific process, formulation and testing of hypotheses, and making best use of scientific literature, to help you develop an appreciation of the nature of scientific data, quantitative analyses and key skills in how to solve analytical problems.

Cell Biology (10 credits) - This module will explore the structure and function of cells, and cover aspects ranging from micro-organisms to higher order structures including the complexity and purpose of cell compartmentalisation in higher life-forms. It will include microbial, plant and animal examples, and provide the foundation for the study of humans.

Introduction to Genetics (10 credits) - In this module you'll gain the essential foundational knowledge in genetics. You’ll explore the different meanings of ‘genetics’ and how this concept has changed over time. More importantly, you'll consider what genetics means for us as organisms. To what extent do genes determine our inheritance? And how do our genes make us the distinct and unique organisms we are?

The Diversity of Life (10 credits) - This module provides an overview of the evolution and diversity of life, from bacteria to mammals. As well as an overview of the evolutionary processes that have generated the world’s biodiversity, you'll also learn about the key features that define key groups and the role of those taxa in ecological processes.

Exploring Whole Body Organism: Biology in the Laboratory and Field (10 credits) - In this module you'll learn core skills and techniques for biology and whole organism studies in the laboratory and field. Practicals will address processes at the whole organism and population level within the broader remit of biology and whole organism studies in the laboratory and in the field.

Introduction to the History of Science (10 credits) - This module explores how modern science came into being. The questions to be addressed will typically include: When and how did modern science come into being? Is modern science a single entity, or is it divided into distinct sciences? How has science come to be regarded as authoritative?

How Science Works (10 credits) - This module covers a selection of central issues in philosophy of science, and typically explores topics such as: the nature of scientific discovery, the nature of scientific evidence and justification, the nature of observation and experiments, scientific realism vs. anti-realism, the objectivity of science.

Year 1 optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

  • Magic, Science and Religion (10 credits)
  • History of Psychology (10 credits)
  • Darwin, Germs and the Bomb (10 credits)
  • Living With Technology (10 credits)
  • History of Modern Medicine (10 credits)
  • Thinking About Race (10 credits)
  • Philosophy Meets the World (10 credits)
  • How to Do Philosophy (20 credits)
  • Knowledge, Self and Reality (20 credits)

Year 2 compulsory modules

Does Science Work? Topics in Philosophy of Science (20 credits) - This module offers an intermediate level exploration of themes, debates and ideas in the philosophy of science and builds on the Year 1 module How Science Works.

Research and Study Skills Level 2 (20 credits) [Biology] - In this biology module you’ll further develop your core research and scientific skills from Year 1, including communication skills, how to formulate independent scientific hypotheses and experimental design to test these. You'll learn powerful statistical approaches and techniques to process, explain and evaluate scientific data to help prepare for final year research projects in biology.

Year 2 optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

  • History of Science in 10 Objects (20 credits)
  • Science, Culture and Society (20 credits)
  • History of Psychiatry and Mental Illness (20 credits)
  • How Plants Live (20 credits)
  • Population, Community and Conservation Ecology (20 credits)
  • Adaptation, Evolution and Animal Behaviour (20 credits)
  • Urban Ecology Field Course (20 credits)
  • Human Populations (10 credits)
  • Parasitology (10 credits)
  • Human Genetics (10 credits)

Year 3 compulsory modules

Final Year Project in either Biology or the History of Science and/or Philosophy of Science (40 credits) - The module is designed to provide students with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of a topic (or topics) of their choosing, subject to the approval of the School and to the availability of one or more appropriately qualified supervisors.

Philosophy of Biology (20 credits) - This module explores some interesting puzzles in the ontology, epistemology and metaphysics of biology, covering some key concepts and explanations in modern biology to reflect on their implications for our understanding of the world and our place in it. For example, what is the role played by concepts such as ‘gene’, ‘organism’, ‘human nature’, ‘species’, ‘function’, ‘development’, and ‘disease’?

Year 3 optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

  • Science Communication: History & Theory (20 credits)
  • History of the Body (20 credits)
  • Mind, Brain & Society (20 credits)
  • Philosophical Issues in Technology (20 credits)
  • Philosophy of the Social Sciences (20 credits)
  • Philosophy of Modern Physics (20 credits)
  • Bioethics (20 credits)
  • Feminist Philosophy (20 credits)
  • Plant Growth & Resources for Food Security (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Ecology (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour (20 credits)
  • Applied Genetics (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Conservation Science (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Evolution (20 credits)
  • Plant Development (20 credits)
  • Advanced Topics in Human Genetics (20 credits)

Learning and teaching

We use a range of teaching methods to help you benefit from their expertise, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, lab practicals and, for certain specific modules, field work. However, independent study is also central to this degree, since it allows you to develop your skills in research and analysis. You'll be able to apply your skills and knowledge in a final year research project on a topic of your own choice in either biology or the history and/or philosophy of science.

Academic staff have bookable office hours for advice and feedback, and you’ll also benefit from working closely with them during one-to-one supervision sessions and our personal tutoring scheme. There is extensive support for students offered through the academic skills programme at the University Library. We provide resources to improve your skills in essay writing, exam technique, presentations and research.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


We use many different types of assessment including: essays, exams, group work, oral presentations and practical work. At the upper levels, assessments may be student-led, with students selecting their own essay questions or designing their own independent research project.

You'll typically be able to complete and gain ‘feed-forward’ on an ungraded formative exercise during a module, that serves as a stepping-stone towards your final graded assessment for the module.

There will also be support on hand. For example, our Library Skills Team provides exam skills training, and we provide subject-specific advice on writing essays. Your teaching staff will be available throughout term-time to talk to you one-on-one about how to get the most out of your assessments. New students will have a suite of study skills modules to help with the transition to University teaching and assessment.

Assessment is not just a way of testing you, but a key way to consolidate your learning on the degree. We design our assessments to reflect the most valuable skills our subjects can teach you, which will help you excel in your future lives and careers. You'll learn how to interpret both quantitative and qualitative data, develop good analytical, reasoning and research skills, and the ability to communicate clearly both orally and in writing.

Entry requirements

A-level: ABB including B in Biology

GCSE: grade 6/B in Mathematics.

Other course specific tests:

Where an applicant is taking the EPQ in a relevant subject this might be considered alongside other Level 3 qualifications and may attract an alternative offer in addition to the standard offer. If you are taking A Levels, this would be BBB at A Level including Biology and grade A in the EPQ.

Alternative qualification

Access to HE Diploma

Pass diploma with 60 credits overall, including at least 45 credits at level 3, of which 30 credits must be at Distinction and 15 credits at Merit or higher. Grade 6/B in GCSE Mathematics is required. An interview and a piece of written work may also be required. This course has additional subject specific requirements. Please contact the Admissions Office for more information.


We will consider the level 3 QCF BTEC at Subsidiary Diploma level and above in combination with other qualifications. Please contact the Admissions Office for more information.

Cambridge Pre-U

M1, M1, M2 including Biology

International Baccalaureate

34 points overall with 16 at Higher Level including 6 in Biology at Higher Level and 5 in Mathematics at Standard Level

Irish Leaving Certificate (higher Level)

H2, H2, H2, H3, H3, H3 including H3 in Biology

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers

BB in Advanced Highers and AABBB in Highers OR B in Advanced Highers and AAABB in Highers OR AABBBB in Highers

Welsh Baccalaureate

The Welsh Baccalaureate is not typically included in the academic conditions of an offer made to you for this course. If you choose to undertake the Welsh Baccalaureate we would strongly encourage you to draw upon these experiences within your personal statement, as your qualification will then be taken into account both when your application is initially considered by the selection panel and again when reviewed by the admissions tutor at the time your A-level results are passed to us.

Other Qualifications

European Baccalaureate: 75% including 8.0 in Biology

Read more about UK and Republic of Ireland accepted qualifications or contact the School’s Undergraduate Admissions Team.

Alternative entry

We’re committed to identifying the best possible applicants, regardless of personal circumstances or background.

Access to Leeds is a contextual admissions scheme which accepts applications from individuals who might be from low income households, in the first generation of their immediate family to apply to higher education, or have had their studies disrupted.

Find out more about Access to Leeds and contextual admissions.

Interdisciplinary Science with Foundation Year

This course is designed for students whose backgrounds mean they are less likely to attend university (also known as widening participation backgrounds) and who do not currently meet admissions criteria for direct entry to a degree.

The course will give you the opportunity to be taught by academic staff and provides intensive support to enable your development of academic skills and knowledge. On successful completion of your foundation year, you will progress to your chosen degree course. Find out more about the Interdisciplinary Science with Foundation Year.

Studies in Science with Foundation Year

This extended degree is a science conversion course designed for high-achieving students who wish to progress to a degree in a scientific discipline but haven’t taken the prerequisite science and mathematics subjects at A-level.

You’ll receive an intensive introduction to the academic and life skills, qualities and techniques that are necessary for success as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduates. Find out more about the Studies in Science with Foundation Year.


We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For more information contact the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science Undergraduate Admissions team.

You can find out more about what it is like to be an international student by speaking to a Link to Leeds ambassador. They can’t help you with your application, but they can tell you how they have found living and studying in Leeds.

International Foundation Year

International students who do not meet the academic requirements for undergraduate study may be able to study the University of Leeds International Foundation Year. This gives you the opportunity to study on campus, be taught by University of Leeds academics and progress onto a wide range of Leeds undergraduate courses. Find out more about International Foundation Year programmes.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English
If you're an international student and you don't meet the English language requirements for this programme, you may be able to study our undergraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.


UK: £9,250 (per year)

International: £29,750 (per year)

Tuition fees for UK undergraduate students starting in 2024/25
Tuition fees for UK full-time undergraduate students are set by the UK Government and will be £9,250 for students starting in 2024/25.

The fee may increase in future years of your course in line with inflation only, as a consequence of future changes in Government legislation and as permitted by law.

Tuition fees for UK undergraduate students starting in 2025/26
Tuition fees for UK full-time undergraduate students starting in 2025/26 have not yet been confirmed by the UK government. When the fee is available we will update individual course pages.

Tuition fees for international undergraduate students starting in 2024/25 and 2025/26
Tuition fees for international students for 2024/25 are available on individual course pages. Fees for students starting in 2025/26 will be available from September 2024.

Tuition fees for a study abroad or work placement year
If you take a study abroad or work placement year, you’ll pay a reduced tuition fee during this period. For more information, see Study abroad and work placement tuition fees and loans.

Read more about paying fees and charges.

Students may be required to purchase core texts for some modules, but our policy is to provide as much as we can through the Library and as online texts available to all students.

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more on our living costs and budgeting page.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There is help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government. Find out more in our Undergraduate funding overview.


Apply to this course through UCAS. Check the deadline for applications on the UCAS website.

Read our guidance about applying.

International students apply through UCAS in the same way as UK students. Our network of international representatives can help you with your application. If you’re unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Taught Admissions Policy 2024

This course is taught by

School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science
Faculty of Biological Sciences

Contact us

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures Admissions


Career opportunities

A joint honours degree in Biology and History and Philosophy of Science will equip you with a wide range of practical skills and subject knowledge which are highly attractive to employers.

You’ll be able to interpret complex quantitative and qualitative data using your excellent analytical skills which you’ll have developed throughout your course. You’ll also be confident working within a team or independently and you’ll have great research skills.

You’ll also be organised and able to multi-task through your experience of studying two subjects together.

Choosing Biology with HPS was a bit of an adventure as I hadn’t studied much covered by the course previously, but I decided that I wanted a more interdisciplinary approach to science. I was completely inspired by this course and all the lecturers who delivered it. I loved learning about the latest theories and research alongside thinking about how other social and historical factors have contributed to their development. I now include this inquisitive approach to science in my lessons as a teacher at a secondary school in London, encouraging students to think about the history of an idea, whether we can see science as a series of ‘facts’, and what this actually means.

Hannah, BSc Biology and History and Philosophy of Science graduate

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

Leeds for Life is our unique approach to helping you make the most of University by supporting your academic and personal development. Find out more at the Leeds for Life website.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more about Careers support.

Study abroad and work placements

Study abroad

On this course you have the opportunity to apply to spend time abroad, usually as an extra academic year. We have over 300 University partners worldwide and popular destinations for our students include Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa and Latin America. 

Find out more at the Study Abroad website.

The School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science has exclusive exchange links with universities in Denmark, France and Spain – language classes are available before you go to prepare you for the experience.

Read more about Study abroad in Philosophy, Religion and History of Science

Work placements

Practical work experience can help you decide on your career and improve your employability. On this course you have the option to apply to take a placement year module with organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors in the UK, or overseas.

Find out more about work experience on the Careers website.

Student profile: Ben Kumar

I can comfortably say this has changed my life. The support given to me at Leeds from not only applying for the course but then experiencing it has been wonderful.
Ben Kumar, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science
Find out more about Ben Kumar's time at Leeds