Introduction

Are you interested in saving biodiversity and a career in nature conservation?

This programme is studied on campus.

Conservation Biology focuses on the skills you need to explore strategies for conserving biodiversity in the face of rapid increases in human impacts on the planet. You build on expertise in ecology, zoology, plant and soil science, evolution and genetics. You learn about the arguments and the effectiveness of different approaches to conservation and develop a conceptual and practical understanding of conservation. You explore a diversity of case studies in Scotland and internationally to examine the diversity of approaches ranging from the conservation of threatened species to the challenges of working inside and outside of protected areas.

Conservation Biology is naturally cross-disciplinary. You graduate with a deep understanding of the underpinning principles of conservation, an awareness of the range of arguments for and against different strategies, links to a range of practitioners and policy advisors, and quantitative skills useful for managing wildlife and threatened species.

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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
C161

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 year 1. You will also undertake a one-week field course on Plants and their Habitats in Northern Scotland at Bettyhill, Sutherland.

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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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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Plants and Their Habitats in Northern Scotland (BI19P5) - 15 Credit Points

The week-long residential course is based at the University’s Bettyhill field station in the far north of Scotland. The location is stunning and, for many students, a new experience of unfamiliar plant communities.

You are introduced to representatives of the local flora. We teach skills in recognising key features of plant species and how to identify them.

You are encouraged to consider the reasons why and where plant species are found within the northern landscape and how plant communities can be sampled.

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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 30 credit points from courses of choice
Year 2

Year 2

In year 2 compulsory courses include Life Sciences, a dedicated Conservation Biology course as well as courses on Ecology, Genes and Evolution and a field course in Zoology. You will also select electives from courses across the university.

Compulsory Courses

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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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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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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Conservation Biology (BI2509) - 15 Credit Points

Lectures, workshops and practical classes provide opportunities for consideration of key conservation issues, allowing you to discuss and develop ideas.

You will visit a local nature reserve and consider some of the key management issues facing these types of site.

The main written assessment provides an opportunity to study a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species of your choice in depth.

You will receive detailed feedback on the essay and practical write-ups which will help you consolidate your skills in scientific writing and writing for a more general audience.

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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

  • Select a further 45 credit points from courses of choice
Year 3

Year 3

In year 3 courses include Animal Population Ecology, Plant Biogeography, Ecosystem Processes and Sustainable Resource Management. There will also be a field trip to explore conservation issues around the Highlands and Islands in Scotland.

Compulsory Courses

Field Ecology Skills (BI3002) - 15 Credit Points

The field course will be non-residential, based around Aberdeen and involved day trips to local sites. Students will learn about and practice a range of approaches and techniques used by ecological consultants and those working for conservation organisations to assess vegetation quality, presence/absence of various animal species and estimates of population size. Techniques will include: Phase 1 Habitat Survey (plants), bird identification and census techniques, terrestrial invertebrate sampling, surveys of mammal populations (e.g. bats, badgers, otters, red squirrels), freshwater macro-invertebrate sampling and camera trapping.

Please note this course will take place during Welcome Week.

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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 Population Ecology (ZO3307) - 15 Credit Points

The students will learn about the basic ecological theory and modelling approaches required to understand population dynamics, and which are great importance for the successful management of animal populations to meet conservation or sustainable exploitation objectives. Students will have the opportunity to apply the theory learned in a series of field- and computer-based practicals. The course will provide the students with valuable analytical skills and an in-depth knowledge and understanding of population dynamics of animals.

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Society and Environment (BI3507) - 15 Credit Points

You will be trained in broad environmental thinking required to understand the complex nature of contemporary environmental problems. The main purpose of the course is to work towards a sufficiently deep understanding of society's relationship with the environment to appraise and start to address so-called wicked (i.e. impossible to fully comprehend, insoluble and chaotic) problems.

The course will follow a textbook to allow immersion in the author's ways of thinking. During the first three weeks, key aspects of human-environment relationships will be developed through lectures and subsequent discussion. During the last two weeks, students will be engaged in the co-production of knowledge by preparing and presenting worked out case studies themselves as starting point for debate on focal 'objects of concern (e.g. the return of the wolf, uranium in society, e-waste).

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Conservation in Practice (BI3506) - 15 Credit Points

Interactive course that explores key underlying principles in conservation and the challenges of applying those in the real world.

Field excursion to important protected area to learn about the practical issues of protecting biodiversity.

Guest lecturers from key organisations in Scottish conservation and other relevant disciplines to give you insight into career choices and alternative perspectives.

You will produce a poster and a project proposal and get feedback for improving your presentation and writing skills.

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Conservation Issues in Scotland - Field Trip (BI3902) - 15 Credit Points

Week long field course around Scotland to explore and gain first-hand experience of key conservation issues.

Meet key professionals working on these issues and gain insight into approaches and career options.

Guest speakers from key organisations in Scottish conservation to provide insight into different perspectives.

Opportunities to discuss and debate conservation practice, consider alternative arguments and gain debating skills.

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Optional Courses

  • Select a further 15 credit points from 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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Topics in Conservation Biology (BI4802) - 15 Credit Points

Interactive course that allows you to explore in depth one topic that dominates current discourses in conservation.

You will write an essay, and give a science presentation to develop critical writing and presentation skills for a scientific audience.

You will also give a creative presentation to develop skills in getting your message across to a general audience

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Wildlife Conservation and Management: Concepts and Practice (ZO4541) - 15 Credit Points

This course develops your knowledge and skills in analysing field data on changes in the distribution, abundance and survival of animal populations.

Practical work applying quantitative tools used in modern wildlife management will give you analytical and critical analysis skills valued by employers.

Guest speakers present case studies illustrating the application of these tools to current conservation and wildlife management problems.

You debate controversial issues that are informed by scientific evidence.

Each practical contributes a clue to solving an ecological problem and you will assemble these clues to formulate a management plan aimed at a conservation/wildlife management issue.

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Optional Courses

  • Select EITHER BI4017 SBS Honours Essay (Semester 1) OR BI4517 SBS Honours Essay (Semester 2)
  • Select a further 30 credit points 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 attend 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 Work
  • 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.

Why Study Conservation Biology?

  • The University of Aberdeen is uniquely placed to teach Conservation Biology. The Cairngorms National Park is on our doorstep and there is a broad range of outstanding habitats and species within easy reach. We are also closely linked to various conservation organisations, government institutes and policy advisors.
  • In the School of Biological Sciences the strong disciplines of Zoology, Ecology and Plant & Soil Science forms the basis of the course with contributions from a range of other disciplines.
  • Staff are active in conservation research, the development of policy and work in close collaboration with a wide range of external organisations.
  • Students benefit from field course teaching throughout the programme in a diversity of environments. There is a specific field course to explore conservation issues across Scotland and students may also participate in other field courses in Scotland and overseas (for example in Germany or the Mediterranean).
  • Our conservation scientists advise the UK Government on conservation conflicts (Prof Steve Redpath), climate change mitigation (Prof Pete Smith) and critical loads for air pollutants (Dr Sarah Woodin).
  • In the REF 2014, we were 15th across the UK in Biological Sciences for research impact.

Entry Requirements

Qualifications

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.

Undergraduate Open Day

Our next Open Day will be on

Find out More

Careers

One of the great advantages of having a biology degree from the University of Aberdeen is that it provides you with a very broad range of skills to offer employers. Not only do we train students in scientific methodology in the laboratory and in the field, we incorporate what we call 'graduate attributes' into the whole curriculum. Employers now expect an impressive list of skills, knowledge and experience in their graduate recruits and we aim to help you acquire these.

Many career possibilities are open to graduate conservation biologists. Our graduates have gone on to work in UK conservation agencies, National Parks, national and international NGOs, environmental consultancy, environmental protection agencies, environmental law, environmental education, industry, local government environmental departments and research.

As a Conservation Biologist you will be in increasing demand in similar posts with an edge over more traditionally qualified graduates. With your scientific training you will also be in demand for jobs requiring general graduate abilities.

Career Opportunities

  • Conservation Biologist
  • Conservation Scientist
  • Environmental Lawyer
  • Environmental Protection Officer
  • Nature Conservationist
  • Researcher

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.

Accreditation

This programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers.

This programme is accredited for the purpose of meeting in part the academic and experience requirement for Membership and Chartered Biologist (CBiol).

This degree holds accreditation from

What our Alumni Say

  • Alice Noble
    Alice Noble, PhD student at

    Alice Noble

    Job Details
    PhD student
    Graduated
    I’m currently doing a PhD funded by NERC and Natural England, investigating the impacts of prescribed burning on blanket bog vegetation and Sphagnum re-establishment. My studies in Aberdeen helped me to get the job by providing the needed skills.

Our Experts

Other Experts
Professor Xavier Lambin
Dr Sarah Woodin
Dr Clare Trinder
Programme Coordinator
Professor Stephen Redpath

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.

Only Scotland Accredited Conservation Biology BSc

Our programme is the only accredited Conservation Biology BSc Honours programme in Scotland.

Facilities

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

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Teaching laboratories

Teaching laboratories

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

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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.

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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

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.

Key Information Set (KIS)

Unistats draws together comparable information in areas students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study. The core information it contains is called the Key Information Set.

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