University of Chester

Programme Specification
Forensic Biology BSc (Hons) (Combined Honours)
2017 - 2018

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

Forensic Science 2012

Not Applicable

Department of Biological Sciences

Wednesday 3rd December 2014

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 Based Learning Unit.

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.

  • a firm grasp of forensic biology as a science
  • a systematic knowledge of human biology and specifically the use of DNA as a forensic investigative tool
  • specialist knowledge at this level includes an understanding of the work of forensic biologists and other specialists and the applications of forensic concepts in practice
  • an understanding of ways in which this knowledge can inform practice in the criminal justice system

At Level 4 students would be able to use this knowledge and understanding in a routine manner to evaluate and formulate a range of arguments (BI4114, BI4116 & BI4117)

At level 5 students would be able to use this knowledge and understanding to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information and to propose solutions to problems (BI5110, BI5113, BI5116 & BI5117)

At level 6 students would be able to use this knowledge and understanding to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry within the forensic science discipline (BI6117, BI6118, Bi6119 & BI6128)


Cognitive skills

  • description and understanding of the main concepts
  • demonstration of analytical and critical skills
  • ability to reason scientifically, to synthesise information and data from various sources
  • to analyse, evaluate and interpret, and to formulate and test hypotheses

At level 4 students would be able to use the aforementioned cognitive skills in a routine manner to evaluate and formulate a range of arguments (BI4110, BI4111, BI4113, BI4114, BI4116 & BI4117) 

At level 5 students would be able to use the aforementioned cognitive skills to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information and to propose solutions to problems (BI5110, BI5116, BI5117 & WB5101)

At level 6 students would be able to use the aforementioned cognitive skills to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry within the forensic biology discipline (BI6110, BI6108, BI6109, BI6117, BI6118 & BI6119)

  • demonstrate the ability to manage their time, and to plan, conduct and report research in a variety of formats
  • deal with statistical and textual analysis of data
  • experience in project management consistent with practice in professional contexts, as well as knowledge of ethical standards in research
  • demonstrate numerical skills appropriate to the interpretation of large data sets
  • use of information technology (including use of specialist software for experimental work and for statistical analysis)
  • the ability to work effectively in a team; the ability to plan and carry out work individually, keeping to deadlines
  • the ability to reflect upon their own learning and performance and enhance their abilities in the light of that reflection.

At level 4 students will be able to use the above skills to communicate results of their studies accurately and reliably ( BI4110, BI4114, BI4116 & BI4117)

At level 5 students will be able to use the above skills to communicate different types of information and analysis in a variety of ways to both specialist and non-specialist audiences ( BI5110, BI5113, BI5116 & BI5117)

At level 6 students will be able to use established techniques of analysis and enquiry and communicate the same in a  variety of ways and be able to use these skills to manage their own learning (All modules) 


  • Understand and use proficiently the English language, both orally and in writing
  • Present knowledge in a way which is comprehensible to others and directed to their concerns
  • Word process work in an appropriate format
  • Use e-mail, VLE and the world wide web
  • Reflect on your own learning and seek to make use of feedback
  • Manage your time effectively
  • Work in groups as a participant who contributes effectively to the group's task

At level 4 students will be able to use the above skills to communicate results of their studies accurately and reliably ( BI4110, BI4114, BI4116 & BI4117)

At level 5 students will be able to use the above skills to communicate different types of information and analysis in a variety of ways to both specialist and non-specialist audiences ( BI5110, BI5113, BI5116 & BI5117)

At level 6 students will be able to use established techniques of analysis and enquiry and communicate the same in a  variety of ways and be able to use these skills to manage their own learning (All modules) 




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 either module BI6108 (Non-experipental project with information project or BI6109  (Non-experimental project with presentation).  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
WB5004 5 Learning in the Wider World 20 Optional Optional Optional
WB5101 5 Enhancing your Employability through Work Based Learning 20 Optional Optional Optional
BI6108 6 Non-experimental project with Information project 40 N/A N/A N/A
BI6109 6 Non-experimental project with presentation 40 N/A N/A N/A
BI6110 6 Dissertation 40 Optional Optional N/A
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 Level 6 having obtained 360 credits (120 per level).
Students may obtain an exit award of Dip HE on completion of Level 5 having obtained 240 credits (120 per level).
Students may obtain an exit award of Cert HE on completion of Level 4 having obtained 120 credits.

UCAS points:

112 UCAS points from GCE A Levels


The Department requires one of the following subjects as essential for entry:

GCE A Level: Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Science

GCE Applied A Level: Applied Science


BTEC Extended Diploma (Applied Science): DMM

BTEC Diploma (Applied Science): D*D*

Irish/Scottish Highers:

BBBB including Biology, Chemistry or Human Biology

International Baccalaureate:

26 points including 5 in Biology or Chemistry


Access to HE (Science) Diploma to include 45 credits at Level 3, 30 of which must be at merit 


OCR National Extended/Diploma: merit profile plus one of the GCE A level subjects listed above

Extra Information:

Please note that we accept a maximum of 8 UCAS points from GCE AS Levels and that the Welsh Baccalaureate (core) and A Level General Studies will be recognised in our offer. We will also consider a combination of A Levels and BTECs/OCRs.

The Subject Benchmark Statement for bioscience was updated and published in 2012.  This encourages the view that a  well skilled graduate has considerable transferable generic and subject-specific knowledge, skills and attributes. As a consequence some of the terminology used is not directly comparable with other subject benchmark statements.

The study of forensic biology at undergraduate level is academic in nature and as such is acknowledged within the subject benchmark open to considerable variation in terms of the content of the course. The common denominator is the requirement on the student to apply their understanding of how the principles of genetics underlie much of the basis of modern molecular biology, understand the main principles of gene expression, understand a range of appropriate and relevant experimental techniques and how they are used; to be able to perform some of these techniques, have knowledge of cell metabolism, including the main anabolic and catabolic pathways, have knowledge of enzyme structure and function and of some of the most important mechanisms controlling the action of enzymes and other proteins.

This is recognised throughout our forensic biology programmes where we assess skills and knowledge.

The benchmark standards list skills and qualities that are expected to be achieved by all graduates with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science. The list is clearly comprehensive but not exhaustive or definitive, nor is it arranged in any specific order. The list of skills are not specific to any particular areas of forensic science meaning many of these will be embedded across multiple modules. Care has been taken to ensure that all of the areas identified within the subject benchmark are thoroughly addressed within our curriculum and are assessed and evidenced in the diverse nature of our assessment which encompasses both written and oral, individual and collaborative components across various modules and levels of our degree.

As well as the diversity of assessment to match the skills and qualities we are also mindful that the learning and teaching needs to be diverse, the subject benchmark states that ‘it is recommended that students experience a range of teaching methods throughout their programme and this might typically, although not exclusively, include lectures, small group seminars, online learning environments, self-directed or collaborative study, experiential learning and problem-based learning.’

The programme team has ensured that these are present throughout with all modules supported by online learning environments and all students are expected to undertake a period of experiential learning either through placements or experiential research.

Individual programmes have been given considerable freedom by the subject benchmark statement and all tutors are  mindful to try and blend high academic and employment focused aspects within our programmes to ensure students are able to demonstrate a broad range of skills and qualities.


All methods of learning and teaching are related to and relevant for the acquisition of key and subject specific knowledge and skills, to afford students the best opportunity to meet module and programme learning outcomes.  Students are made aware of how modules will be delivered, and what is expected of them, in the student handbook and in module guides.

Teaching Methods

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. 


Students’ learning comes from a variety of sources. On a day to day basis, they consolidate what they have taken from lectures, and prepare for practicals and seminars. Part of the assessment in the forensic modules, both formative and summative, is designed to encourage them to use the techniques and regime of applying concepts in 'real life' scenarios.   For students on this programme, the data handling and skills module introduces them to such discipline. The induction sessions and other Level 4 modules also teach the students how to access, evaluate and use electronic sources and materials. It is hoped that electronic materials will continue to be developed for the programme, allowing interactive use of them.

Discussing and debating are used as both specific and generic skills. Students experience them formatively at level 4 in the introduction to forensic biology and forensic identification modules. This affords them the opportunity to learn and develop public speaking skills and to present arguments orally in a rational and appropriate manner. This benefits them in preparation for their appearance as 'expert witnesses' in a mock trial at level 6, with further opportunities for preparation with discussions at level 5.  The students have an opportunity, as an alternative to work based learning, to elect to enhance their experiential and independent learning in the level 5 module Experiential learning.

Students are encouraged to become more independent and critical in their learning as they progress from one level to another. This is reflected in the lessening of class contact hours at level 6 and the quality and type of seminar task set.

The aims and learning outcomes of modules progress from level to level, requiring and enabling students to adopt a more independent and professional approach to their studies. The nature and content of assessment tasks will also evolve from level to level, requiring more independent research and critical appreciation of primary sources of forensic science.

Students who experience learning difficulties or who, for whatever reason, need ongoing support, are actively encouraged to contact the designated member of Student Support and Guidance.

At level 4 assessment methods include written assignments – problem-solving and essays, time constrained assessments, examinations, group presentations, assessment of seminar preparation and report.

At level 5 assessment methods may include written assignments – problem solving and essays, examinations, group presentations, report, logbook and reflective journal. 

At level 6 assessment may include written assignments – problem-solving and essays, examinations, group presentations, dissertation, report, critical analysis commentary.   

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. 

The university has an intranet (Moodle) 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 Moodle 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.

Assessment and Linkage to Learning Outcomes and Assessment and Measurement of Key Skills

These sections are considered together as they are inextricably linked in the programme design.

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 methods of assessment are closely linked to the learning outcomes of the modules and programme. The aims of the programme are set out in section 22 and the learning outcomes in section 23 of this Programme Specification. The learning outcomes represent the skills to be acquired across the programme.  In turn, as has been stated previously, these skills and outcomes have been informed by the Law Benchmark Standards. It should be noted that the Law Benchmark Standards do not expect all outcomes to be formally assessed as long it can be demonstrated that they have been achieved and that not all combined students are subject to the benchmarks.

This is particularly relevant to the key skills, and, for instance, but not exclusively, numeracy. It should also be borne in mind that the only core modules are at level 4, so that one student will not necessarily experience the same assessment regime as another. However, for those taking at least 180 credits of Law the variety will inevitably be such that the benchmarks are achieved.

Each module descriptor states the module specific learning outcomes that are assessed in each component of assessment. The assessments will then test the programme and learning outcomes. These will be articulated in each in-course assessment and will accompany draft examinations for external examiners’ information and scrutiny. Thus, there is conceptual linkage between the benchmarks, programme aims and outcomes, skills, module outcomes and assessment in each module and these linkages will be apparent in the actual assessment tasks.

Apart from the above, the assessments are designed to provide a broad platform for students to demonstrate that they have achieved the module and programme outcomes in as diverse a set of assessments as it is possible to prescribe in a programme of broad choice.


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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