Introduction

Why do wolves hunt in packs while cats hunt alone? Why do birds sing? Why do some animals have multiple mates and others only one? If these questions interest you, read on!

This programme is studied on campus.

Animal Behaviour is an interdisciplinary degree and field of science that examines the interactions between behaviour and biology. An organism’s evolutionary history and current environmental conditions drive behaviour, and feedback from behavioural decisions in turn drives evolutionary processes.

Our Animal Behaviour degree differs from our Zoology degree in that it includes courses from Psychology in the first two years; it also differs from Behavioural Biology in that it has a whole organism focus and less neuroscience.

Degree marketing image

Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
BSc
Duration
48 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month
September
UCAS Code
C349

What You'll Study

Each year you take a selection of compulsory courses and optional courses that can be chosen from those on offer across the institution. The first two years lay a foundation for the more specialised third and fourth years.

Year 1

Year 1

All students take eight courses in the first year. On this degree you take seven compulsory courses and one elective, which can be selected from any discipline in the university.

Compulsory Courses

Professional Skills Part 1 (PD1001)

This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year.This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students and above, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year

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Frontiers in Biological Sciences (BI1009) - 15 Credit Points
  • Eleven themes are explored in engaging lectures, exploring organismal biology and introducing you to the science that underpins current understanding of biology.
  • Structured practical sessions and class activities help you to develop your study and laboratory skills, and provide you with a strong foundation for a successful transition into university study.
  • Regular assignments, a mix of online tests, practical reports and reading assignments, structure your activities and help you progress through the course material.
  • Weekly guest lectures about current research helps you to see how basic biological concepts are being applied to real world problems.

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Diversity of Life 1 (BI1012) - 15 Credit Points

A walk through the evolutionary tree of life, examining the amazing diversity of major groups of organisms from plants through fungi to invertebrates.Learn about how each group of organisms arose, their characteristics, and how they achieved success.

Practical activities provide hands on experience of materials demonstrating the diversity of plants and invertebrates.

You will be assessed by a combination of laboratory reports, on which you will get detailed feedback to help you develop your skills, and an exam.

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Introductory Psychology I: Concepts and Theory (PS1009) - 15 Credit Points

PS1009 introduces you to major concepts and theories in psychology to provide you with a strong understanding of the human mind and behaviour. You will attend lectures on biological, development and cognitive psychology and participate in workshops where you will work as part of a team and debate topics related to the lecture materials such as “should teenagers be held responsible for the crimes they commit?” Studying psychology is beneficial to a range of careers including management, finance and counselling, to name but a few. Psychology regularly tops employers’ lists of producing the most employable graduates.

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Ecology and Environmental Science (BI1511) - 15 Credit Points

This course will take you on a journey through the physical workings of the Earth, the interactions between species and their environments and then on to the effects humans are having on the planet, potential solutions and thoughts on the future.

Teaching is by staff with different subject specialisms who give both variety and immediacy to course material.

Exposure to the problems we are facing both now and in the future will help you make informed choices in their everyday lives.

A range of ‘wet’ and computer-based practicals enhance the classroom teaching and develop generic scientific skills.

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Diversity of Life 2 (BI1512) - 15 Credit Points
  • A walk through the evolutionary tree of life, examining the amazing diversity of advanced invertebrates and vertebrates.
  • Learn about how each group of organisms arose, their characteristics, and how they achieved success.
  • Practical activities provide hands on experience of materials demonstrating the features of amphibians, fish, birds and mammals.
  • You will be assessed by a combination of laboratory reports, on which you will get detailed feedback to help you develop your skills, and an exam.

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Introductory Psychology II: Concepts and Theory (PS1509) - 15 Credit Points

PS1509 introduces you to major concepts and theories in psychology to provide you with a strong understanding of human mind and behaviour. You will attend lectures on evolution & emotion, social, and sensation & perception and participate in workshops where you work in a team and debate topics related to the material covered in your lectures such as “should teenagers be held responsible for the crimes they commit?”. Studying psychology is beneficial to a range of careers such as management, finance and counselling, to name but a few. Psychology regularly tops employers’ lists of producing the most employable graduates.

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The Cell (SM1501) - 15 Credit Points
  • cells are the fundamental unit of life – without them life could not exist, and as such understanding how they function is crucial to our understanding of biology and medical science;
  • this course provides theoretical knowledge in a diverse range of topics covering the fascinating world of cells, from molecules like DNA, to how different cell types function within our bodies;
  • all practical classes are research based and will provide theoretical knowledge and skills training in many areas of molecular and cell biology;
  • employability skills will also be explored through a highly interactive session run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise

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Optional Courses

Select a further 15 credit points from courses of choice.

Year 2

Year 2

In year two you will take six compulsory courses and two electives. Both electives can be selected from any discipline in the university.

Compulsory Courses

Biological Enhanced Skills Training (BEST) (BI2018) - 15 Credit Points

The course will help you consolidate and develop skills in experimental design, sampling, analysis, presentation, and interpretation of data. You will be encouraged to seek to improve your academic writing and develop other transferable skills.

Each week, there is one 1-hour introductory lecture. In two 2-hour sessions when will work through a series of computer-based data tasks, using relevant and realistic biological and environmental themes.

Teaching is informal and friendly. During sessions, staff will chat to you about your progress and provide help where necessary.

Assessments are two online multiple-choice tests (each 25%) and an individual project (50%).

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Advanced Psychology A: Concepts and Theory (PS2017) - 15 Credit Points

The course builds on the material covered in the 1st-year courses expanding on psychology’s concepts and theories. The course covers three core areas of psychology: cognition & language, personality & social psychology, and behavioural neuroscience. Social Psychology will cover topics such as leadership and group processes. The third strand within this course is focused on Neuroscience, and will cover topics such as localisation of brain function and the neuroscience of emotion.

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Advanced Psychology B: Concepts and Theory (PS2517) - 15 Credit Points

This course builds on the material that is covered in the 1st-year courses expanding on psychology’s concepts and theories. The course covers four core areas of psychology: organisational & clinical, perception and developmental psychology. The lectures on Organisational Psychology cover organizational culture, occupational stress, motivation, leadership and team work. The clinical psychology section of the course will give you grounding in the key ideas within current Clinical Psychology practice and is taught by a practicing Clinical Psychology. The Perception part of the course will examine the visual and intentional systems.

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Principles of Animal Physiology (BI2510) - 15 Credit Points

Physiology is the study of the normal functions of living systems. This course will introduce you to the basics of invertebrate and vertebrate physiology.

Lectures will guide you through the various body systems and their interactions that maintain homeostasis in animals. Associated practicals allow you to explore particular systems in further detail and to develop relevant lab skills.

Through the study of examples from across different phyla, you will gain an appreciation of processes fundamental to all animals, and of differences across groups.

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Zoology Field Course (BI29Z4) - 15 Credit Points
  • Residential field courses designed to provide you with training in field identification and sampling techniques.
  • Choice from four locations each with different themes: Shetland Islands (Fish and Shellfish Biology), Cromarty (Costal Biodiversity), Loch Lomond (Freshwater and Terrestrrial Biodiversity) and Kindrogan Field Centre (Parasitology).
  • Group based project work provides skills in team working, data collection, analysis and presentation.
  • Hard work throughout the days is rewarded through the development of deep understanding and the enjoyment of spending time with peers and staff.

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Optional Courses

One of the following options:

  • Genes and Evolution (BI2017)
  • Ecology (BI2020)
  • Select a further 15 credit points from courses of choice.

OR

  • Genes and Evolution (BI2017)
  • Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice.

OR

  • Ecology (BI2020)
  • Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice.
Genes and Evolution (BI2017) - 15 Credit Points
  • look at how instructions in genes are transformed by natural selection to produce the diversity of life on Earth;
  • learn how species evolve, how we determine evolutionary relationships;
  • why populations change, understand why humans (and other organisms) must carry genetic diseases;
  • meet enthusiastic staff; each teach about areas we are expert on;
  • take 3 Genes & Evolution Practicals to gain hands on experience of approaches used by researchers to map genes, estimate rates of evolution, and determine evolutionary relationships;
  • keep up to speed with in-course tests, understand basic statistics, see why mutations are not the only evolutionary currency

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Ecology (BI2020) - 15 Credit Points

A range of practical and workshop classes will enable you to consider information from lectures in more detail and develop ideas.

A range of types of continuous assessment allow you to consolidate learning throughout the semester.

Weekly opportunities to practice writing skills needed for the exam and regular feedback provided on writing exercises.

Detailed feedback on practical assignments will help you develop essential scientific writing skills

You will use Peerwise to write multiple choice questions, requiring thorough engagement with taught material and developing an extensive set of questions for use in revision

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Year 3

Year 3

Year three consists of eight courses; six compulsory and two elective.

Compulsory Courses

Statistical Analysis of Biological Data (BI3010) - 15 Credit Points

Review of basics of probability theory, data exploration and analysis using the linear modelling framework; depending on the option taken - fundamentals of using geographic information systems (GIS); bioinformatics and their application; statistical computing with R; capturing data; experimental design.

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Animal Evolution and Biodiversity (ZO3011) - 15 Credit Points

In lectures you are guided through the theory of evolution, complementing your other biological sciences courses and helping you make sense of the diversity in the living world.

In practical sessions on microevolution and phylogenetics, you gain insight into the processes of evolution and the tools used to study them.

Through talks and poster presentations you gain specialised knowledge and experience communicating complex ideas and synthesizing information from multiple sources.

With focus on the fundamental importance of evolution for our understanding of the natural world, you learn about the interactions between science and society and how science progresses.

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Animal Management and Welfare (ZO3309) - 15 Credit Points

This course considers the physiology, development and nutrition of domestic, companion and exhibition animals in relation to animal husbandry and care.

You will apply your knowledge of biology and zoology to the improvement of management practices and to the enhancement of animal welfare.

By researching and presenting a seminar on ethical issues related to animals in captivity, you will develop critical thinking skills and build experience in constructing and evidencing an argument, and also gain skills in group working and oral communication.

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Biological Psychology (PS3014) - 15 Credit Points

This course aims to provide students with a good understanding of the biological basis of behaviour and cognition. The course is split into two sections, each featuring 6 lectures. Section 1 focuses on psychopharmacology, which is the investigation of the effect of medication on normal and abnormal brain function. Section 2 examines brain function and memory, with a specific focus on the application of this knowledge within the criminal justice system.

Specific topics that will be covered include: neurotransmitters; drug effects; Alzheimer’s disease; memory and psychedelic drugs.

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Behavioural Biology (BI3505) - 15 Credit Points

Fundamental concepts of animal behaviour are introduced through a series of lectures and practicals, essential knowledge for those interested in better understanding animal behaviour as well as potentially undertaking an animal behaviour Honours project.

During the practicals students are encouraged to reflect on the theoretical knowledge learned during the lectures and apply that in explaining the observed behaviour of animals.

Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of animal behaviour by producing an innovative multimedia presentation on the observed behaviour of a species of their choice.

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Life History Evolution (BI3809) - 15 Credit Points

The course will give you generic knowledge on life history theories and trade-offs.

The different life history concepts presented in this course will be illustrated using world leading research studies covering the whole spectrum of life, from bacteria to fungi and plants to animals.

Directed learning will give you the opportunity to move from theory to practice. You will use tutorials to learn how, for example, to explore and describe trait variability, compute heritability estimates, or measure selection coefficients.

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Optional Courses

Select a further 30 credit points from second half-session courses of choice.

Year 4

Year 4

In year 4, the honours year, you will carry out a research project as well as writing an extended essay and completing advanced courses of your choosing.

Compulsory Courses

SBS Honours Project (Semester 1) (BI4016) - 45 Credit Points

This independent research project develops your skills in scientific inquiry and critical analysis, as well as important generic skills, including presentation and time management.

Projects are field-, lab- and/or desk-based, developed on a topic of your interest under the direction of a supervisor.

Training in skills needed to perform your project is provided by world-leading researchers and their teams.

Workshops and drop-in sessions provide training in data analysis and thesis production.

This skill set will be appropriate for advanced study in the field of biological science or other careers where the generic skills that you will develop are highly valued.

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Hormones and Behaviour (ZO4817) - 15 Credit Points
  • Lectures and student-led seminars provide the structure for you to examine the bi-directional effects of hormones and behaviour in animals, integrating studies from rodents to birds, and primates to humans.
  • Directed readings on each topic, associated with discussions sessions will strengthen your skills in interpreting published research and provide you with specialized knowledge on hormonal mechanisms related to behaviour.
  • Exploration of a single piece of research in depth will help you to appreciate how scientific understanding is dynamic, provisional and incremental.

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Advanced Behavioural Ecology (ZO4539) - 15 Credit Points

This course will give you the opportunity to explore, for example, why some individuals behave differently from others within the same species, and how insights on behaviours can improve the implementation of conservation plans.

Academics working at the cutting edge of behavioural research will report on the state-of-art in their field.

Directed learnings will encourage further exploration of core topics through discussion of research papers and construction of computer-based models to illustrate concepts.

A continuous assessment where you will produce a grant proposal for research into behavioural ecology will introduce you to the process of research planning.

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Optional Courses

Either BI4017 SBS Honours Essay (Semester 1) OR BI4517 SBS Honours Essay (Semester 2).

Plus 30 credits from courses of choice.

SBS Honours Essay (Semester 1) (BI4017) - 15 Credit Points

You research a topic and write an extended essay, developing specialist knowledge and refining your synthesis and evaluation skills.

You choose your topic from a list that includes fundamental and cutting-edge issues, providing you with flexibility and an opportunity to pursue your interests.

An introductory workshop reminds you of good practice in writing an extended essay and a meeting with your essay supervisor provides you with feedback on your essay plan. You also have the opportunity to submit a draft essay for comments from your essay supervisor.

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SBS Honours Essay (Semester 2) (BI4517) - 15 Credit Points

You research a topic and write an extended essay, developing specialist knowledge and refining your synthesis and evaluation skills.

You choose your topic from a list that includes fundamental and cutting-edge issues, providing you with flexibility and an opportunity to pursue your interests.

An introductory workshop reminds you of good practice in writing an extended essay and a meeting with your essay supervisor provides you with feedback on your essay plan. You also have the opportunity to submit a draft essay for comments from your essay supervisor.

View detailed information about this course

Course Availability

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Combine practice and theory

Typically, one third of your class time is practical and many courses include full-day practical classes and field visits. Most students take at least one residential field trip during their degree; these trips bring the subjects to life and provide the opportunity to make great friendships and get to know staff members.

Research experience

You are actively involved in scientific research throughout your degree. In Year 4, you conduct independent research which can be pivotal to your career choice whether it be in dolphins, water voles, rare plants, tropical forest ecology, climate change in the Arctic, or any one of a diverse range of other exciting topics!

Engaging and inspiring teaching

Our teaching methods are diverse, innovative and based on research on how students learn. For example, we use problem-based learning approaches, creative presentations, peer and self-assessment, presenting posters in public meetings, writing and editing wikis, writing grant proposals, science writing for publication, and the creation of portfolios using multi-media.

Opportunities for Study Abroad and work-related learning

You can take advantage of an optional year-out on a work placement in any of our degree programmes. Study Abroad is encouraged for students in their second year; we have established partnerships with institutions in the USA, Canada, Australia, China and numerous countries in Europe.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Group Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:

  • coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course;
  • practical assessments of the skills and competencies learnt on the course; and
  • written examinations at the end of each course.

The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, year of study and individual courses.

Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.

Further Information

View detailed learning and assessment information for this programme

How the programme is taught

The typical time spent in scheduled learning activities (lectures, tutorials, seminars, practicals), independent self-study or placement is shown for each year of the programme based on the most popular course choices selected by students.

How the programme is assessed

The typical percentage of assessment methods broken down by written examination, coursework or practical exams is shown for each year of the programme based on the most popular course choices selected by students.

Year 1

Learning Method
scheduled: 31%
independent: 69%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 56%
coursework: 36%
practical: 8%

Year 2

Learning Method
scheduled: 34%
independent: 66%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 54%
coursework: 39%
practical: 7%

Year 3

Learning Method
scheduled: 34%
independent: 66%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 60%
coursework: 39%
practical: 1%

Year 4

Learning Method
scheduled: 10%
independent: 90%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 13%
coursework: 76%
practical: 11%

Why Study Animal Behaviour?

  • Unique programme offering study in the fields of biology and psychology – understand behaviour from all angles: evolution, development, mechanisms and adaptive significance.
  • Teaching from researchers in biology and psychology gives access to the cutting edge of both subject areas.
  • Academic and transferrable skills are built in to the learning experience to maximise employability.
  • Links with the Edinburgh Zoo provide an unrivalled opportunity to directly interact with a diverse range of animal species.
  • In the REF 2014, the University of Aberdeen was 15th across the UK in Biological Sciences for research impact and 1st in the UK for Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science.
  • You will have the opportunity to get involved in our research through summer research assistantships, project work and a compulsory final year research project.
  • At our regular careers events you will have the opportunity to listen to and meet prospective employers from outside the university, giving you excellent opportunities to get a fulfilling and challenging job in a biological field.

Entry Requirements

Qualifications

The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

SQA Highers - AABB*
A Levels - BBB*
IB - 32 points, 5 at HL*
ILC - 5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 OR AAABB, obtained in a single sitting. (B must be at B2 or above)*

*including good performance in at least two Mathematics/Science subjects.


Advanced Entry - Advanced Highers ABB or A Levels ABB or IB 34 points (6 at HL), including Biology and Chemistry, one of which must be at A-grade.

Further detailed entry requirements for Sciences degrees.

English Language Requirements

To study for a degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee Waiver

For international students (all non-EU students) entering in 2017/18, the 2017/18 tuition fee rate will apply to all years of study; however, most international students will be eligible for a fee waiver in their final year via the International Undergraduate Scholarship.

Most RUK students (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) on a four year honours degree will be eligible for a full-fees waiver in their final year. Scholarships and other sources of funding are also available.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU £1,820
All Students
RUK £9,250
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £18,400
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Careers

Over the past 5-10 years, we have come to realise in a range of careers that we need to understand the behaviour of individuals, humans or animals, in order to implement policies, stimulate economic growth, conserve biodiversity, enforce laws, or manage resources. Graduates in Animal Behaviour can expect employment opportunities in industries such as pharmaceuticals and applied medicine, conservation and natural resource management, education and research, marketing, social media and software development, and business.

This degree is also a good choice as a pre-medical degree programme for international students interested in medicine, veterinary science or dentistry. Interdisciplinarity is one of the key graduate attributes you will achieve with this degree. Regardless of the career(s) you will consider after your degree, this skill is highly sought by employers and rarely obtained at the undergraduate level.

Industry Links

We have strong local, national and international links to industry, government bodies, charities and other research institutions. You will benefit in several ways:

  • Exposure to policy-makers, practitioners, regulatory professionals and experts.
  • Our curriculum is informed by an employer advisory board that provides insight into changing requirements of employers.
  • You can take advantage of our collaborators' facilities and expertise for your research projects or placement.

Our Experts

Other Experts
Professor David Lusseau
Mrs Cath Dennis
Dr Tyler Stevenson

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

School of Biological Sciences Showcase

Our showcase film highlights the benefits for students who choose to study here, the breadth of research carried out at the School and the superb facilities on offer.

Facilities

Fantastic facilities support our teaching and research, both on and off campus.

Image for Teaching laboratories
Teaching laboratories

Teaching laboratories

Students in all degree programmes carry out practical experiments in our recently redesigned teaching laboratories.

Image for Research facilities
Research facilities

Research facilities

Our research facilities on campus include animal holding facilities, greenhouses, fresh and salt-water aquaria, an insectarium, molecular and analytical laboratories, and a state of the art genomics lab.

Image for Field Centres
Field Centres

Field Centres

We have three field centres in Scotland that support our marine, ecology and conservation work. You have the opportunity to spend time at each of these during residential field courses

Unistats

Unistats draws together comparable information in areas students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study. You can compare these and other data for different degree programmes in which you are interested.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Address
Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
Aberdeen
AB24 3FX