Undergraduate study frequently asked questions

FAQ's common to both courses.

What is the Institute of Aquaculture?

The Institute of Aquaculture is a department of the University of Stirling that has approximately 100 highly skilled and experienced staff. From a small research group in 1972, the Institute is almost certainly the largest organisation conducting research and teaching specifically about Aquaculture in Europe, and probably the world. Staff include trained marine biologists, animal physiologists and biochemists able to teach Marine Biology and Aquaculture. The department is active in both research and teaching in fields including production systems, livelihoods, international development, environment, biodiversity, climate change, nutrition, reproduction, genetics, disease, parasitology, virology, bacteriology, molecular biology and veterinary studies; covering all kinds of aquatic species, from fish to shellfish and algae.

The Institute has links with a large number of institutions around the world and collaborates on many research projects both nationally and internationally leading to the possibility of overseas research and experience during your degree.

The Institute offers undergraduate degrees in Aquatic Science, Aquaculture and Marine Biology; runs Masters level courses in various aspects of aquaculture and has a large international community studying for research degrees.

What Bachelor's degrees can I study at the Institute of Aquaculture

You will be able to study for either a degree in Aquatic Science, Aquaculture or in Marine Biology. Honours Degrees at Stirling require 4 years full time study, with the first three years offering an exit point of BSc Aquatic Science and successful completion of the 4th year for an Honours Degree.

After finding out about the courses, I want to change my UCAS application. How do I do this?

If you have applied to, and accepted, an offer of a place at Stirling then it is relatively straightforward to switch courses. This requirement sometimes arises after applicants have visited the university on Open Days/Applicant Days and you just need to let us know so that we can amend your UCAS entry.

If you have not yet applied to Stirling, but wish to do so, you will need to contact UCAS directly. Details of how to do this cound be found on the UCAS website

I am hoping to take a gap year after finishing at school. Should I delay my application for 1 year?

No

Do not delay. Simply let Stirling know that you intend to defer your entry for 12 months and we will take care of the rest. It will certainly not affect your chances of gaining a place at Stirling. If the gap year allows you to earn money and gain practical experience towards your Aquaculture or Marine Biology career then this is clearly a bonus. However, there is also a lot to be said for having a good time and seeing the world and we recognise the value of such experience. Apply now and, provided you have met the conditions of offer, deferral means your place will be guaranteed.

How long is the degree programme?

4 years.

Honours Degrees at Stirling require 4 years full time study, with the first three years leading to a degree and successful completion of the 4th year for an Honours Degree. You may wish to leave after three years with a Degree in Aquatic Science but it is more likely that you will continue into the 4th year, complete a research project and other advanced modules to gain your Honours Degree.

Each year is split into two semesters of 15 weeks duration and whole or half modules run for 10 teaching weeks within this period. Though this may vary you will typically study three subject modules per semester. Each module will generallyoffer 2 or 3 lectures and 1 practical/workshop/field visit per week.

Can I change courses after the first year?

Yes, in fact you can change degree courses up to the middle of year 3.

The flexible nature of degree programmes at Stirling means that you are able to swop outcomes, particularly between the Aquaculture and Marine Biology degrees, up until the middle of the 3rd year, depending on your interests and aspirations.

The first 3 years have a common structure and although you may take slightly different modules you are able to count these towards either Degree. We do not have a fixed number of students specifically allowed on each course, so if you find that you are excited by Aquaculture but are registered for a degree in Marine Biology, or vice versa, you will be able to change programmes.

Can I study abroad during my Aquaculture or Marine Biology degree?

Yes.

The university participates in a “Study Abroad” programme with partners in Australia, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and the USA and there is a an opportunity to participate in your 3rd year in 1 or 2 semester exchanges, studying related subjects in one of these countries - further information.

In your final Honours year you may have the opportunity to conduct your research project at an overseas location. As an Institute with an outstanding international reputation we have many willing and active collaborators all over the world. If you have a particular interest, or have a defined project idea, then we may be able to support completion of this work at overseas locations including Europe, South or North America, Africa, Asia, Australia etc.

Can I learn to scuba dive at Stirling?

Yes, whether for pleasure or for work.

The University of Stirling has an active and friendly SCUBA Diving club, which is affiliated to ScotSAC and part of the University' s sports union. Here you can learn to dive and have fun with your fellow students.

If you want to learn to dive under more formal or professional conditions, a new credit bearing module being introduced in 2010 (the second year of your course) will teach the Science of Diving through a series of lectures and laboratory exercises. This is accompanied by the opportunity to learn how to dive through an arrangment with a commercial diving company. Whether you want to complete your PADI Open Water Certificate or PADI Divemaster, or HSE Professional SCUBA diver qualification if you want to learn the skills of a professional scientific diver, then we can provide this opportunity.

The diving qualification itself does not count towards your degree programme and the commercial diving company involved has agreed significantly reduced rates for Stirling students.

I am fed up with Testing at school. How will my work be assessed?

A complex question to answer.

Testing what you have learned and what you still need to understand is a vital component of any degree programme. Each module is assessed separately and we use a combination of coursework assignments and examinations. Coursework includes essays, practical lab or field reports, writing experimental designs, responses to set questions, oral presentations and other forms of assessment. Although we cannot completely avoid the requirement for formal examinations, the variety of assessment methods used will provide you with invaluable transferrable and teamworking skills as well as testing what you know and have learned.

How much support will I receive with my studies?

A lot.

In a 2008 National Survey of Students the University of Stirling was placed in the top 3 universities in Scotland for student satisfaction. We take special pride in the level and quality of our student support and services on offer, whatever your needs may be. Degree programmes advice, careers advice, accommodation advice and wellbeing advice and counselling are just some of the services offered to students at Stirling.

Marine Biology and Aquaculture staff are friendly and very approachable. Expert advisors will help you if you have any difficulty with your studies and selection of modules. The Institute has an open door policy and you will be able to access staff to discuss your learning, any problems you are having and for your personal development.

We have a very useful on-line learning environment called WebCT. This makes learning user friendly, it ensures that you have up to date information and all course support materials presented in an accessible way. It may also be used as a discussion forum to discuss modules with staff and fellow students.

What if I have problems?

Simply put; just ask for help!

As we are not mind readers it is up to you to ask questions. No question or problem is too small to raise.

The University has excellent staff who will help you decide which degree is right for you and to advise you before you come to Stirling.

When you are here we have experienced staff teams within academic departments, in the central administration and in student services who will be able to help you sort any problems out, offer advice or point you to specialist help if this is necessary.

What attributes do I need to study Marine Biology or Aquaculture?

The nature of Marine Biology and Aquaculture as science subjects can be different from many other areas of science. They require fieldwork, where you will have to collect samples and make observations in all weathers. You will study rocky shores one day and muddy sediments the next and should not be concerned about getting wet and dirty. Like other sciences these disciplines require accuracy, an eye for detail and the ability to be critical of your results and observations.

Marine Biology and Aquaculture are multi-disciplinary subjects that require you to work with a range of scientific and technical staff from a number of disciplines, so inter-personal skills are a great asset. If you are someone who is committed and energetic, then these will be suitable programmes for you.

FAQ's about the Marine Biology Degree

What will I study on the Marine Biology degree at Stirling?

Stirling's “new” Marine Biology degree has been updated and revitalised and will start in September 2009.

Your interest in the marine environment may have been developed by watching fascinating television programmes or simply rock-pooling on holiday. In the first year we will build on whatever knowledge you have with a fascinating look at Our Blue Planet. Cell biology, Laboratory and Field skills, Animal Physiology and Environmental Management will also form the core first year subjects, through a mixture of lectures, practical and fieldwork.

In the second year Principles of Aquatic environments will expore the nature of freshwater and marine systems, their biology, physics and chemistry. This will be accompanied by courses in Statistics, Ecology, and Genes and Evolution. Diving Science is a brand new module being introduced in 2010 and there is an option to learn how to dive over the summer at the end of the second year, through an arrangement with a diving company who will offer Stirling students preferential rates.

In the third year, modules in Animal Physiology and Advanced Statistical Techniques are offered by the University' s School of Biological and Environmental Science, and these accompany modules in the Management of Aquatic Resources, Issues in Marine Biology and Aquaculture. Towards the end of the third year you will go away on an extended Marine Biology field trip, which at present is based in the UK.

In your Honours (4th) year, a predominantly lab based advanced module in Marine Taxonomy and Systematics is accompanied by our our highly regarded Marine Mammals and Turtle Biology module. Also in the honours year your research project will run over two semesters and culminate in you writing a thesis and giving an oral presentation of the results. This project gives you the opportunity to research a topic of particular interest with support from our experienced staff. There are considerable opportunities for project work overseas as well as in the UK.

4 years will pass quickly and it is up to you to make the most of your time at Stirling. We will provide the means and materials, the exhilaration and inspiration and you just need to enjoy the experience of learning about marine biology.

Why is the Institute of Aquaculture offering a degree in Marine Biology?

The Institute of Aquaculture has an excellent world wide reputation in the fields of aquaculture and aquatic science. With a highly skilled and expert team of scientists with well equiped state-of-the-art laboratories, many of the skills needed to work in the respective fields of science are common between Marine Biology and Aquaculture.

Many of our staff have themselves studied Marine Biology and decided later to specialise in one of the disciplines that makes up what is called Aquaculture. The Institute is a very well equipped department, with excellent teaching facilities, tropical and freshwater aquaria and marine and freshwater external facilities, all available to support the study of Marine Biology.

The Institute is therefore well placed to offer a Marine Biology degree.

There are quite a few Universities offering Marine Biology Degrees - What is so special about Stirling University ?

First and foremost Stirling University is an excellent place to study. The campus provides beautiful surroundings, student facilities are excellent and with the distinction of being “Scotland' s Univesity for Sporting Excellence”, the sports facilities are world-class.

The City of Stirling is a lovely and relaxed place to live, a mixture of the historic and contemporary, with much to offer in terms of nightlife and culture. The cost of living is cheaper than other central belt locations such as Glasgow or Edinburgh. It has one of the lowest drop-out rates in the UK and the student union has been voted the “best bar none” in 2005, 6 and 7. The University was ranked as best University in the UK for “a good place to be” (International Student Barometer, 2008) and ranks in the top 3 Universities in Scotland for Student satisfaction (National Student Survey 2008).

Stirling University degree programmes are flexible, and offer the opportunity to study a range of subjects in core Marine Biology, but with sufficient flexibility to allow the study of other biology, conservation and ecology modules offered by our School of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

The Institute of Aquaculture is a world class institution which is able to build on its strengths in Aquaculture and to be able to offer students a unique combination of applied and traditional Marine Biology subjects to study. We are centrally located for access to both the East and West coasts of Scotland with a diversity of shores and coastal waters and habitats. The chance to see whales and dolphins duing one of our extended field courses, the opportunity to learn how to dive, the chance to study diverse and varied marine habitats, and the opportunity to learn modern scientific techniques are just a few of the reasons why Stirling is an excellent for budding Marine Biologists.

At Stirling you will be taught in a friendly, dynamic and encouraging environment and you will be encouraged to develop your own interests and expertise in Marine Biology during your stay here.

Where does the Marine Biology course lead? What are my job prospects?

The transferrable skills and expertise gained at Stirling makes our graduates very employable. 96.4% of Stirling graduates find jobs within 6 months of completing their degrees. Our students are sought after in relevant areas of employment such as:

Environmental protection, environmental impact assessment, environmental and conservation fields, pollution control, water companies, fisheries management, governmental regulatory departments and the aquaculture sector.

In addition, there is a wide range of more general graduate employment, such as pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, bioinformatics, health and clinical sciences, forensic science and medical sales and marketing, science journalism and teaching.

There is also the option to gain further advanced post-graduate training to Masters and PhD levels for those wishing to develop specialist skills and/or follow a research career.

Of course it is important to consider your future career, but it is equally important to complete a degree in Marine Biology or Aquaculture that will inspire you, exhilarate you, will make you think, will give you up-to-date transferable skills, will give you an advantage when the time comes to graduate and will give you an all-round experience that you will never forget.

I love whales and dolphins. Will I get the chance to study these?

Yes, in detail on the Marine Biology Honours programme only.

At Stirling we are close both the East and West coasts of Scotland where seals, whales, dolphins, porpoise and many species of sea bird are abundant. These will be studied in a general way in years one and two, but in year 4 during our Marine Mammals and Turtle Biology module you will have the opportunity to view these animals at close quarters and to study their taxonomy, behaviour and biology. This may inspire a desire to conduct a research project on these animals and we will try our very best to accommodate this.

Many people are attracted to marine biology through a fascination with the beauty and behaviour of the big marine animals. That is all very well but as a Marine Biologist you need to know about all aspects of marine life, from the very smallest to the very biggest and all sizes in between. The Marine Biology programme will give you plenty of opportunity to study the wide diversity of animals and plants that live in our seas and oceans.

What is a typical week on a Marine Biology course?

There is not really such a thing as a typical week in Stirling. You may be in lectures, you may be in the lab or carrying out fieldwork on the shore and each week the content varies. So there is always plenty of interesting work to occupy you.

The University operates a two-semester system and in each semester you will nomrally be studying 3 modules at a time, totalling 6 per year. Each module will consist of 2 or 3 lectures per week and 1 practical or field session per week in years one, two and three. The structure varies according to the subject and practicals will be a mixture of laboratory and field-based work. In your honours year you study 3 modules in semester 7 at an advanced level, either based at Stirling or as part of extended field trips. In your final year you will complete a piece of research for which you will contribute to the experimental design and you will manage the time and effort required to complete this work. This is completed with the presentation of a report and an oral presentation to complete your degree programme.

Outside these commitments the campus and the city of Stirling offer many eating and drinking opportunities, time for socialising and developing as an individual.

FAQ's about the Aquaculture Degree

What will I study on the Aquaculture degree at Stirling?

Stirling' s Aquaculture degree has been updated and revitalised and will be re-launched in September 2009.

In the first year we will build on whatever knowledge you have, no matter how limited, with a fascinating look at Our Blue Planet. Cell biology, Laboratory and Field skills, Animal Physiology and Environmental Management will also form the core first year subjects, through a mixture of lectures, practical and fieldwork.

In the second year Principles of Aquatic environments will expore the nature of freshwater and marine systems, their biology, physics and chemistry. This will be accompanied by courses in Statistics, Ecology, and Genes and Evolution. Diving Science is a brand new module being introduced in 2010 and there is an option to learn how to dive over the summer at the end of the second year, through an arrangement with a diving company who will offer Stirling students preferential rates.

In the third year, modules in Animal Physiology and Advanced Statistical Techniques are offered by the University' s School of Biological and Environmental Science, and these accompany modules in the Management of Aquatic Resources, Issues in Marine Biology and Aquaculture. Towards the end of the third year you will go away on an extended Aquaculture field trip, which at present is based in the UK.

In your honours (4th) year, you will complete advanced courses in Nutrition, Disease, Reproduction & Genetics and Production Environments. Also in the honours year your research project will run over two semesters and culminate in you writing a thesis and giving an oral presentation of the results. This project gives you the opportunity to research a topic of particular interest with support from our experienced staff. There are ample opportunities for project work overseas as well as in the UK.

4 years will pass quickly and it is up to you to make the most of your time at Stirling. We will provide the means and materials, the exhilaration and inspiration and you just need to enjoy the experience of learning about aquaculture.

Where does the Aquaculture course lead? What are my job prospects?

The transferrable skills and expertise gained at Stirling makes our graduates are very employable. Actually 96.4% of Stirling graduates find jobs within 6 months of completing their degrees. Our students are sought after in relevant jobs, in areas such as:

Aquaculture development, aquaculture production, hatchery companies, fish farm companies, environmental impact assessment, environmental and conservation fields, pollution control, pharmaceutical companies, fisheries management and governmental regulatory departments.

In addition there is a wide range of more general graduate employment, such as biotechnological companies, bioinformatics, health and clinical sciences, forensic science and medical sales and marketing, science journalism and teaching.

There is also the option to gain further advanced post-graduate training to Masters and PhD levels for those wishing to develop specialist skills and to conduct a research career.

Of course it is important to consider your future career, but it is equally important to complete a degree in Aquaculture that will inspire you, exhilarate you, will make you think, will give you up-to-date transferable skills, will give you an advantage when the time comes to graduate and one that enables and will give you an all-round experience that you will never forget.

How much work will I be expected to do?

As a science student, quite a lot of your time (12-16 hours a week on average) will be organised by the Institute through a weekly timetable of lectures, tutorials, seminars and practical classes. The actual number of hours depends on the content of specific modules. Much of your time will be self-managed - you will be reading, studying and completing assignments or projects.

This is a full time course and you should do well if you think in terms of a ?typical' working week” of about 6-8 hours a day, with increased flexibility at weekends.

Many students do support themselves with a part time job, but you will need to be well organised to make sure that this does not interfere with your studies.

What is a typical week on an Aquaculture course?

There is not really such a thing as a typical week in Stirling. You may be in lectures, you may be in the lab or carrying out fieldwork on the shore and each week the content varies. So there is always plenty of interesting work to be getting on with.

The University operates a two-semester system and in each semester, you will be studying 3 modules at a time, totalling 6 per year. Each module will consist of 1 or 2 lectures per week and 1 practical or field session per week in years one, two and three. The structure varies according to the subject and practicals will be a mixture of laboratory and field-based work. In your honours year you study 3 modules in semester 7 at an advanced level, either based at Stirling or as part of extended field trips. In your final year you will complete a piece of research where you are able to design and manage the time and effort required and you will finish with the presentation of a report and oral presentation to complete your degree programme.

Outside these commitments the campus and the city of Stirling offer many eating and drinking opportunities, time for socialising and developing as an individual