University of Chester

Programme Specification
Forensic Biology BSc (Hons) (Combined Honours)
2014 - 2015

Bachelor of Science (Combined Honours)

Forensic Biology

Forensic Biology

University of Chester

University of Chester

Chester Campus

Undergraduate Modular Programme

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,


7 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Medicine, Dentistry and Life Sciences Biological Sciences


Not Applicable

Department of Biological Sciences

Sunday 1st April 2007

The programme in Forensic Biology is offered as part of a combined honours undergraduate degree programme. The combined honours degree programme is delivered by the Biological Sciences department at the University of Chester and will also involve the contribution of other relevant departments within the University including the Work Base Learning Unit. It is envisaged that suitable second subject combining departments may include Psychology and SCS. however, the structure of combined honours degree programmes at the University allow for a range of possibilities in this respect.

A key aspect of the programme is the range of highly interdisciplinary modules, which together comprise of specialist modules in Forensic Biology along with modules in other key areas of Biology and Biochemistry. At each stage in the programme, the teaching of specialised topics is supported by a framework of modules which include aspects of information technology and data handling. Throughout the programme, and in combination with cognitive aspects of the modular structure, key skills are embedded in all modules. 

The degree proposal comprises a coherent programme involving complementary subject areas, some of which already exist as part of the University’s portfolio. However, the programme will also offer an opportunity to extend the scope of Biological Sciences to include new areas which are considered to be at the forefront of modern biological studies and fundamental to many areas of research.

The highly applied format, evident in many of the modules, has been adopted in an attempt to equip students with a wide range of highly transferable skills relevant in the modern workplace and not limited to a single discipline. As such, it is envisaged that the programme will prove to be a highly attractive area of undergraduate study in addition to producing graduates well suited for employment in many areas of the biological sciences. The design and delivery of the programme  has a strong focus on employability skills which encompass the attributes that help graduates to secure employment, enable them to respond to the changing demands of the workplace and to contribute positively in this respect.

Employability skills include; self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, problem-solving, communication and literacy, application of numeracy, application of information technology. Furthermore a entrepreneurship/enterprise broadly defined as the ability to demonstrate an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk-taking are attributes which can make a big difference to any business.  Thus, employability skills are considered as a core part of a student’s University experience.  To enable students to identify with this aspect all programme modules have identifiable employability learning outcomes.  These have been designed to help student’s identify and develop skills that will equip them for their working lives.  In addition all programmes at Undergraduate level have a work based learning or work-related studies component (or practice placement) which supports the practical application of employability skills in a Service or Business setting for all students on the programme.   

In Summary. The Combined Honours Programme in Forensic Biology is designed:

  • To instil in students an enthusiasm and interest in Forensic Biology through a coherent programme of study.
  • To provide a challenging learning experience and thereby equip students with knowledge and skills which are current, transferable and serve as a foundation for future personal and professional development.
  • To develop in students an academic rigor in the study of forensic and related areas of the biological sciences thereby enabling them to debate critically and dispassionately.
  • To extend provision in Biological Sciences within the College through a programme based on key areas considered to be in the forefront of modern biological sciences and fundamental to many areas of biological research.
  • To provide a transferable and vocational programme of study in alignment with the University of Chester mission statement.

Knowledge and Understanding
1. The key concepts from the disciplines of biology and biochemistry that underpin the forensic sciences.
2. The use of forensic biology as an investigative tool in biological analysis and criminal investigation.
3. The role of the forensic biologist in the workplace. 4. Discuss ethical considerations in forensic biology.
Thinking or Cognitive Skills
1. The use of a problem based curriculum to critically analyse and evaluate scientific data.
2. Reflecting ‘in’ and ‘on’ practice.
3. Demonstration of discernment in drawing conclusions.
4. Plan conduct and report on a specific research project.
Practical Skills
1. Observe and record accurately experimental observations.
2. Analyse data using appropriate numerical and statistical skills.
3. Demonstrate appropriate skills in the collection manipulation and interpretation of material removed from the ‘field’.
4. Prepare descriptive and interpretive laboratory and forensic reports.
5. Demonstrate appropriate safe working practices both within the laboratory environment and at scene of crime simulations.

Key Skills

  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Information Literacy and Technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

Transferable Professional Skills
1. Learn in familiar and unfamiliar situations.
2. Communicate effectively in both the verbal and written formats.
3. Apply basic numerical skills and more sophisticated statistical skills to data handling in the field of forensic biology.
4. Use information technology competently and appropriately (e.g. use of standard word processing packages; internet resources; databases; spreadsheets and specialist software as appropriate.
5. Work as part of a team.

In general, Forensic Biology is offered as a full-time Combined Programme to be studied over three years. However the programme may also be offered on a part time basis where applicable. The Combined Honours Degree Programme is modular with students studying 120 credits per year for the three years.

The Combined Honours modular structure is as follows:
  • At Level 4:  modules totalling 60 credits are taken in each subject.
  • At Level 5:  modules totalling either 40 or 60 credits are taken in each subject with the remaining 20 credits being work related learning, either work based learning or experiential learning.
  • At Level 6: for a major route in a subject, students should undertake modules totalling 80 credits in that subject; for a equal route, students should undertake modules totalling 60 credits in each subject and for a minor route, students should undertake modules totalling 40 credits in that subject

Students following a major/minor route will normally be expected to undertake a dissertation in the major subject.  Students on an equal route may elect to write a dissertation.  For students following a major/minor route a dissertation will not be written in their minor subject. Students not taking the dissertation module will take module BI6112 Research Project.  The Dissertation (BI 6110) is a double module and involves an empirical study under the supervision of a tutor allowing development of independent research skills. If a Dissertation is taken at level 6, students would benefit from taking the preparatory modules at level 4 (BI4114 Quantitative Principles and Analytical Techniques) and at Level 5 (BI5110 Research Methods).’Core modules in Forensic Biology are designed to focus on essential theoretical and practical aspects including biochemistry, genetics and research skills. Credit is awarded for the achievement of the learning outcomes of the modules.  Modules are closely linked to the research expertise of the staff concerned with delivering them. There is a commitment to the development of transferable skills within the curriculum and personal profiling as an aid to personal development. The learning outcomes at each level are carefully graded to ensure progression and consistency with national frameworks. Key skills are incorporated at each level and also delivered in a progressive fashion in keeping with national expectations of graduate capabilities. Benchmark statements have been used to guide the content of the modules and mapping has been done to ensure adequate coverage of threshold statements.  In this respect, modules are designed to cover the relevant scientific disciplines with a strong emphasis on the development of practical skills alongside theoretical foundations.

Combined Honours only
Mod-Code Level Title Credit Major Equal Minor
BI4110 4 Essential Physiology 20 N/A N/A N/A
BI4111 4 Genetics and Evolution 20 N/A N/A N/A
BI4113 4 Introductory Microbiology and Immunology 20 N/A N/A N/A
BI4114 4 Data Handling and Project Design 20 Comp Comp Comp
BI4116 4 Introduction to Forensic Biology 20 Comp Comp Comp
BI4117 4 Forensic Identification 20 Comp Comp Comp
BI5110 5 Research Methods 20 Optional Optional Optional
BI5113 5 Experiential Learning 20 Optional Optional Optional
BI5116 5 Analytical Techniques in Forensic Biology 20 Optional Optional Optional
BI5117 5 Scene of Crime Evaluation and Analysis 40 Comp Comp Comp
WB5101 5 Enhancing your Employability through Work Based Learning 20 Optional Optional Optional
BI6110 6 Dissertation 40 Optional N/A Optional
BI6112 6 Research Project 20 Optional N/A Optional
BI6117 6 Forensic Toxicology 20 Optional Optional Optional
BI6118 6 Scene of Crime (Materials and Analysis) 20 Comp Comp Comp
BI6119 6 Physical Anthropology 20 Optional Optional Optional
BI6128 6 Cellular and Molecular Pathology 20 Optional Optional Optional

Students graduate with BSc Honours on completion of Level6 having obtained 360 credits (120 per year).
Students may obtain an exit award of Dip HE on completion of Level5 having obtained 240 credits (120 per year).
Students may obtain an exit award of Cert HE on completion of Level4 having obtained 120 credits.

  • A minimum of 240 UCAS points, of which 200 points must be obtained from GCE and/or VCE A Levels (12 or 6 unit awards), including a grade C in one subject.  The remaining points may be achieved from GCE and/or VCE A/AS Levels, VCE double award, or from Level 3 Key Skills certification

The department recommends the following subjects as suitable for entry:
A2 Level: Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Science
AS Level: Biology, Human Biology, Social Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Science
VCE A Level: Science

  • BTEC National Diploma/Certificate (Science): merit profile
  • Irish Highers/Scottish Highers: B in 4 subjects including Chemistry or Biology
  • International Baccalaureate: 30 points, including 4 in Chemistry or Biology
  • European Baccalaureate: 70%, including a grade of 4 in Chemistry or Biology

QAA approved Access to Science course, Open College Units or Open University Credits.

Please note: A BTEC National Award or the Welsh Baccalaureate (core) will be recognised in our tariff offer.

The subject benchmark statements for bioscience have been used as a guide in developing the programme as they define the nature of the programme and identify the skills and attributes expected to be acquired by the biosciences graduate. The statements have been used in conjunction with the relevant programme specifications and the University’s internal programme documentation. A list of the relevant benchmark statements is given below however due to the nature of the combined studies programme, the subject benchmark standards achieved by any student will be dependent on their modular choices. 

Generic standards: transferable and core skills

Students can take options within the programme which means that they will be achieving standards in those benchmark areas appropriate to Forensic Biology.  

Subject-specific standards (as appropriate)

To understand how the chemistry and structure of the major biological macromolecules, including proteins and nucleic acids, determines their biological properties.

 To understand how the principles of genetics underlie much of the basis of modern molecular biology. 

To understand a range of appropriate and relevant experimental techniques and how they are used; to be able to perform some of these techniques. 

To have knowledge of enzyme structure and function and of some of the most important mechanisms controlling the action of enzymes and other proteins.  

More information on how the programme will align teaching, learning and assessment with the generic and subject specific benchmarks can be obtained from the full module descriptors.

Members of the Department of Biological Sciences have many years of experience in offering distinctive programmes of study at diploma, undergraduate, postgraduate and post-experience levels. The Department has considerable experience of supporting the learning needs of mature students and of students generally with ‘non-standard entry’ qualifications. Considerable experience has been achieved with students with limited entry qualifications both in terms of academic performance and personal development. Consequently, students encounter a broad range of teaching and learning experiences across all levels of study as befits the subject matter. Methods of teaching and learning are indicated clearly in each module descriptor and the list that follows describes the variety of approaches used by tutors, these feature in most modules as an effective way of imparting important content, themes and pointers for further study. However, they are supplemented by a variety of other methods of teaching and learning as described below. The majority of modules at Levels 4 and 5 include practical classes. These provide the opportunity for students to develop their data handling and analytical skills as well as their practical skills (eg. handling equipment). An important aspect of practical work is also the opportunity it offers for groups work encouraging working with others. At level 6, the amount of practical work is limited but those students who do a dissertation normally undertake a practical project involving an empirical study. Seminars are used most often in modules at Level 6 in which group sizes are relatively small and students tend to be more confident. Selected topics of the module content are chosen to provide the opportunity for more in-depth study and dissemination of ideas.  Amongst other key skills, students are able to practise oral communication skills in a relatively informal context.  When students have specific queries that have not been addressed during formal teaching sessions, they can contact module tutors directly. In practice, these discussions tend to focus on assessment issues, including feedback on formative essays, the initial drafts of assignments, and performance in examinations. A system is in operation whereby students can make appointments to consult tutors. 

In addition, students are required to meet on a regular basis with their personal academic tutors. The role of the academic tutor in Chester is viewed as a critical aspect of the learning experience and involves not only monitoring the students academic performance and providing help and advice where neccessary but also involves an aspect of pastoral care.  PAT's are encouraged to complete an e-portfolio during their time at Chester. This allows them to record both their academic and personal development and is viewed as an invaluable source of information when students are applying for employment or staff are required to write references. 

Work Related Studies
All students will be required to undertake work related studies at level 5 of the programme. There will be choice offered so that students can either do Work-Based Learning for Academic Credit (organised by the Centre for Work Related Studies) or do Experiential Learning which is organised and staffed by the Department of Biological Sciences.

Intranet-based support materials

The university has an intranet (IBIS) available to all students on or off campus. This offers access to a wide range of facilities including Learning Resources, the Library and all modular support materials. Staff are increasingly using IBIS for making additional support materials available for students as a VLE. 

 Directed reading.  As reading is central to the process of knowledge acquisition in higher education, module tutors provide reading lists to guide their students to appropriate material. Increasingly, these lists include references to the Internet and electronic sources, as well as more traditional book and journal references.  The QCA Key Skills document lists ‘working with others’ as one of the six categories of Key Skills that needs to be demonstrated in higher education.  Throughout the programme, working with others has been incorporated with progression included from one level to the next. In many modules, particularly in practical work in the laboratory or field, students are encouraged to work in groups and to share ideas. The assessment in certain modules is based on group assignments. 

The University's level related criteria are a key reference when designing modular assessments. Therefore, progression towards more complex and involved assessments, that require greater levels of study autonomy and greater levels of critical analysis, underpin the overall assessment strategy of the programme. Regular and structured formative assessment is a feature of the programme ensuring that students have regular and informed feedback on their learning.

Course Work and Examinations

It is departmental policy to use a variety of assessment processes so that our students can demonstrate their abilities in a variety of assessment modes. Generally, staff choose 50% course work and 50% examination except for those modules where this would be inapplicable such as the dissertation or scene of crime evaluation and analysis modules.

We feel that in preparing course work, which can include essays, laboratory and field exercises and presentations, students are given time and scope to present their work in a variety of modes particularly where an examination would be inappropriate. However, we are aware that examinations have an important role in summative assessment and give academic credibility (both externally and internally) to our degree programmes. 

The programme is designed to equip graduates with knowledge and practical (transferable) skills to enable them to embark on careers within the bioscience industries, teaching, further training for specialist careers or postgraduate studies. Whilst it is expected that the majority of each cohort will initially embark on related career pathways, the embedded transferable skills throughout the programme make the graduate highly employable. Graduates from the programme should be able to

(i) adopt a systematic and rigorous approach to academic study

(ii) demonstrate extensive knowledge and a critical understanding of relevant theories and concepts

(iii) integrate and synthesise knowledge and understanding from different areas of the biological sciences

(iv) be able to use a broad range of practical skills as applied to the biological sciences

(v) apply a critically and theoretically informed perspective to relevant issues and current developments (as appropriate) in biological sciences

(vi) apply and evaluate a scientific approach to academic study;

(vii) demonstrate the competence and skills necessary to progress from tutor-centred to student-centred learning

(viii) adopt appropriate teamwork, problem-solving, communication and presentation skills and ICT and numeracy

(ix) plan and implement an appropriate research project and critically reflect on their practice.

The Mission of the Department is to teach and facilitate learning in forensic biology, from introductory to graduate level, as an academic discipline and as a basis for applied vocational training.  We aim to produce graduates In support of this, the Department encourages the development of links with professional forensic biologists and the wider community.  It also strives to foster student autonomy in learning, and to promote and support research and scholarly activity in the biological sciences. 

The programmes of study in the Dept of Biological Sciences fully embrace the University’s commitment to the active promotion of equality of opportunity.  The  University seeks to ensure that no student is disadvantaged or discriminated against on the grounds of: gender; age; marital or parental status; sexual orientation; racial group (race, colour, nationality, ethnicity or national origins); creed (religious, political or personal beliefs or principles); membership or non-membership of a trade union; and socio-economic background. It also aims to ensure that disabled people and those with special needs do not suffer unfair discrimination, and that they are enabled to achieve their full potential as students.  The ultimate objective of the programmes delivered are to ensure all aspects of delivery are open to all sections of society and in whose activities all students can participate to the best of their ability. This programme is designed to ensure inclusivity and to ensure that the diverse needs of our students are provided for.  At a departmental level all programmes are developed and delivered with the following aspects in mind:

  • Admission requirements are clearly set out in promotional materials and due consideration is given to a policy of widening access, participation, diversity and equality. 

  • Each module and programme is developed in line with University policy to both promote equality and diversity and encourage all students in the development of their learning.

  • There is flexibility in materials and delivery of teaching to support students with disability or from culturally diverse backgrounds and the Department works closely with Learning Support in delivering this support through Inclusion Plans.

  • The induction week activities are designed to integrate all students both academically and socially and to make academic staff aware of any issues.  Students are made aware of avenues of support if they a have any issues regarding diversity and equality.

  • Supportive formative exercises are presented in modules in the first year to give all students an equal chance of succeeding.

  • Assessments are designed to afford equal opportunity to all students to display their knowledge and skills. The introduction of anonymous marking also enhances equal opportunity to all students.

  • In order to ensure that the needs of all students are met any barriers to access (physical, environmental and curriculum) are identified and removed or reasonable adjustments will be made based on requirements.

  • All learning materials and teaching and learning sessions are designed to be free from racist, sexist and other discriminatory assumptions and practices.

  • All lecturers are aware of diversity issues and discharge their PAT roles with knowledge and empathy and all students are made aware of the Department structures to discuss issues should a concern arise. 

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