BSc Neuroscience

UCAS code B140
Duration 3 Years
Typical offer ABB; IB: 32; BTEC: DDD
  • Neuroscience
Location Taught in Exeter
  • Streatham (Exeter)
  • St Luke's (Exeter)


The Neuroscience programme explores the neural basis of normal physiological processes and how these are altered by disease. The focus is on research-engaged teaching: we support you to develop the knowledge and skills needed to participate in our research. At the same time, we recognise that you might choose a career outside research. If so, we believe that a firm foundation in scientific knowledge and its methods can unlock opportunities for success across a wide range of occupations.

To develop this skill-set, the first part of the course provides a wide-ranging insight in to how the human body normally works. Neuroscience forms part of this, but a fully sophisticated understanding of neural processes must also encompass an appreciation of the diverse biological processes with which they interact. We study these topics through small-group sessions, lectures and hands-on laboratory practicals.

We build upon this foundation to study neuroscience itself in more detail. Content in the second year develops your understanding of key neuroscientific principles and techniques, whilst giving the flexibility to start identifying the areas of greatest personal interest. In the final year, you can choose modules that reflect these interests, working closely with leading researchers and, with your tutor’s support, tailoring your degree to match your specific career ambitions.

A distinctive feature of our course is the opportunity for you to undertake extended periods of research. Many students undertake summer placements, and all students complete a specialised dissertation in their final year. About half of our students also choose to spend an optional third year working in industry or in a university laboratory, either in the UK or abroad. This provides an exceptional opportunity to participate in real research, whilst at the same time enhancing your employability and gaining the first-hand experience which is essential to making informed career decisions.

Students joining the three-year programme can transfer to the four-year PTY programme, and vice versa. 

Our students and staff come from many parts of the world, and this plays a crucial role in the intellectual and social vibrancy of our Medical School. If you are from outside the UK, we would love to welcome you to Exeter!

Open Days

Join us at one of our Open Days.

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Our neuroscience pathway is well-established and is a popular choice for current Medical Sciences students; our new Neuroscience BSc course will further build upon this existing content to give you more opportunities for the in-depth study of Neuroscience.

Many of the team who introduced the award-winning Medical Sciences programme are now involved in developing and designing our Neuroscience course.

Year 1

The aim for the first year is to set the nervous system - the real focus of Neuroscience - in a broader biological context. We believe that this provides a genuinely secure foundation for future work.

The centre-piece of this Whole-Human approach is the Integrated Human Physiology module, which explores topics such as respiration, metabolism and digestion, and the immune system. The relationship of these systems to the nervous system is emphasized throughout. Other compulsory modules, which have all been revised to introduce additional material of particular interest to those studying neuroscience, include: Fundamental Skills for Medical Scientists, Medical Cell Biology, Chemistry of Life, and Introduction to Genetics.

In terms of specific Neuroscience content, the Foundations in Neuroscience module introduces key knowledge related to the form and function of nervous systems. It has a particular focus on how signals pass within and between nerve cells, but also considers how nervous systems develop, and the most important anatomical features of their mature form.

Throughout, all these basic biological concepts are illustrated as far as possible using practical sessions and clinical examples.

CSC1005 Integrated Human Physiology 30
CSC1004 Fundamental Skills for Medical Scientists 30 
CSC1006 Introduction to Neuroscience 15
CSC1007 Introduction to Genetics 15
CSC1008 Medical Cell Biology 15
CSC1009 Chemistry of Life 15


Year 2 and Year 3 (optional)

During your second year, you will study a range of established Medical Sciences modules that have been reconfigured to introduce Neuroscience-specific material to accompany their core-components. For example, in the Principles of Medical Research module the research project you design and undertake will address Neuroscientific questions. You will continue to develop your understanding of general physiology through the Disease, Diagnostics and Therapeutics module.

These modules are complimented by modules dedicated to Neuroscience. The Neuropharmacology module explores the role of receptors by examining how drug-induced changes in signalling lead to changes in physiology and behaviour – with both beneficial and detrimental consequences for human health. A key part of this is exploring why some substances that were historically used as therapeutics are now used recreationally. Alongside this, the Neural Networks module considers how the electro-chemical interconnections between cells, which are both extensive and intensive, hold a key to understanding the operation of nervous systems. This module examines in detail our current understanding of neural circuits, placing in a clear contemporary context many of the cell-types and basic principles which students encounter in the first year. Thus, they study how circuits become connected, can be studied, and may dysfunction in disease.

Importantly, this stage of study also offers opportunities to complete modules delivered elsewhere in the University – for example, Psychology, Biosciences and the Living Systems Institute. For some, this will be a chance to widen your knowledge of psychological processes; for others, it will be a chance to develop your computational and mathematical abilities.

The Professional Training Year (PTY) provides an opportunity to participate full-time in contemporary research, gaining first-hand experience of what research is really like – and genuinely enhancing your career prospects. In recent years, students in the longer-established Medical Sciences programme have completed placements in academia – within the UK and around the world – and in industry. Some of these placements are open to all UK undergraduates, whilst others draw on our professional networks or reflect students’ personal interests. Several students have published the research they complete during this period, and many have presented at national and international conferences.

Final Year

The centre-piece of the final year is the Frontiers in Neuroscience module, which focuses on the neurobiology of nervous system disorders. Each of the disorders is presented by an expert in the field, giving students a chance to engage with the very latest research; speakers show first-hand how research has answered important questions about the operation of the nervous system, and ushered in new questions.

Alongside this, students can choose three additional Neuroscience modules – providing an excellent chance to explore the aspect of Neuroscience which interests them most. The content of the modules differs, but they are all centre on interactive and small group teaching.

The Cognitive Neuroscience module describes recent attempts to explain the content and character of our mental life. It approaches this by considering everyday occurrences as a starting point: the visual perception of a scene, the direction of attention to objects within this scene, the goal-directed interaction with some of these objects. The module emphasizes that cognitive neuroscience couples an understanding of the cellular mechanisms that mediate these processes with higher-level analyses which aim to identify generalizable principles. Thus, it is not sufficient to simply observe how environmental stimuli are transduced to internal electro-chemical signals. We must also address how the associated representations are manipulated, and judge whether such manipulations offer a satisfactory explanation of mental phenomena.

The Neurobiological Rhythms module uses a computational approach to reveal the role of rhythmic processes, in both health and disease. Students investigate the basic mechanisms that produce these rhythms and those which allow these rhythms to coordinate with each other. There is a particular focus on Dynamic Diseases, the pathological states which arise from the dysfunction of these rhythms.

The module in Neuroendocrinology shows how the brain and endocrine system coordinate to regulate physiology and behaviour. Students will learn how the brain regulates hormone secretion and how, in turn, the action of these hormones in the brain regulates biological processes essential for life such as eating, drinking, reproduction and growth. Students will also learn about how hormones influence related aspects of behaviour including stress, aggression and parental nurturing.

The module in Developmental Neuroscience considers how developmental phenomena have had a substantial impact on our understanding of neuropsychiatric disorders. It emphasises how the roles of the molecular and cellular events underlying gene expression, axon guidance, and activity-dependent plasticity.

Alongside all of this, students will complete their own independent research project. This immersive experience, which account for roughly half their time in the final year, is an important opportunity for students to make their own original contribution to our neuroscientific understanding of biological phenomena. Should they discover something, as many have before them, then we will help them to present their work at conferences and through publication.

Entry requirements 2020

Typical offer


Required subjects

At least one grade A and one grade B in GCE AL science subjects, one of which must be Biology. At least one HL6 and one HL5 in IB science subject, one of which must be Biology.

GCE AL/AS science includes: Biology/Human Biology*; Chemistry; Computing; Design and Technology; Electronics; Environmental Studies; Geography; Geology; Maths/Pure Maths/Further Maths*; Life and Health Sciences; Physical Education; Physics; Psychology; Science (applied); Statistics.

*If more than one of these is taken they would only count as one ‘science’.

Applicants studying a BTEC Extended Diploma will also require one grade A and one grade B in GCE AL science subjects, one of which must be Biology.

International students

International students should check details of our English language requirements, and may be interested in our Foundation programmes and English Language programmes offered by the INTO University of Exeter centre.

Further information

Please read the important information about our Typical offer.

For full and up-to-date information on applying to Exeter and entry requirements, including requirements for other types of qualification, please see the Applying section.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching

Throughout our course, you will engage with a range of traditional and contemporary teaching methods; all of them have been chosen on the basis of pedagogical evidence, and our experience, as the most appropriate method for maximising your learning.

Year of studyGroup Tutorials1 to 1 academic tutorialsWeekly independent study hoursLabs and facilities
1 Weekly, typically in groups of 10

Termly and on request

c.25 Teaching Lab / Computer Suites / Life Science Resource Centre
2 Weekly, typically in groups of 10

Termly and on request

c.25 Teaching Lab / Computer Suites / Life Science Resource Centre
Final Weekly, typically in groups of 10

Termly and on request

c.25 Teaching Lab / Computer Suites / Life Science Resource Centre / research lab

Small group sessions

Small-group learning has been a distinctive feature of our Medical School since its foundation, made possible by our dedicated teaching facilities. It remains an essential component of our Neuroscience programme. In the first-year, our highly-regarded teaching staff guide these sessions, helping you to develop the skills required for effective group work as you explore increasingly complex scientific concepts. In later years, you will typically be joined in these sessions by research staff; as a mature adult learner, you will take a proactive role in shaping the content of these sessions.

These small group sessions, typically in groups of around ten, are crucial for your development of a range of skills desired by employers, and thus evaluated in their selection procedures: problem-solving, team-work, presentation skills.

Above all, these sessions will support the full development of your capacity for critical analysis.

Lectures and seminars

We use lectures and seminars to present and explain some of the specific information you need to know for our modules. In combination with the recommended reading that accompanies these sessions, they help to ensure you are learning what you most need to know – not entire text-books.

Wherever possible, lectures are recorded so you can review them in your own time and slides are released at least 24 hours before each session.

Most of these sessions are delivered by staff from the University of Exeter, but they are supplemented by presentations from a constantly evolving range of external speakers visiting us from around the world.

Life Sciences Resource Centre

This area brings together state-of-the-art resources to support your learning; it is the Medical School’s in-house supplement to the University’s main libraries. Its resources include anatomical specimens and models, innovative multimedia applications, and a carefully-curated library.

In some teaching sessions our staff will guide your engagement with selected resources to increase your understanding of key principles. At other times, the centre is available for your own use.

Laboratory sessions

You will develop your hands-on laboratory skills using the St Luke’s Teaching Lab, a million-pound facility dedicated to the Medical School which opened in 2017. These sessions may be supplemented by sessions in the Biosciences Teaching Lab on the Streatham campus, and computer-based practicals in the Medical School’s IT suite.

Helpful and friendly technicians and demonstrators are always available during practical sessions to ensure that you get the most out of these sessions.

Online learning

Your learning will be supported by the University’s Virtual Learning Environment, which provides a central location for all the information you will need about the course and individual modules. Key parts of this include content-rich study guides, formative online assessments and group discussion forums.

As a member of the University you will also benefit from our extensive range of journal subscriptions, allowing you to keep up-to-date the very latest research.


Our assessment schedule ensures you have frequent feedback, from staff and peers, so that you can identify areas of strength and areas in which your performance could be improved.

At the start of the course, our assessments focus on specific factual knowledge to ensure you develop a broad and secure foundation in Neuroscience. Assessments at later stages focus on critical appraisal, the depth of your understanding and your ability to think independently.

A variety of assessment methods are used in the Neuroscience course, each aligned to the module’s intended learning outcomes. Assessment formats include multiple-choice tests, essays, structured practical exams, reflective essays, oral and poster presentations, scientific report writing, short-answer question tests and independent project work. Some assessments take place in groups, focusing on the team product or how well you lead your team to complete a task.


Academic support

You will have a personal tutor throughout the programme, who is there to support your academic progress. You will meet your tutor every term, in a group of about eight students, to discuss the particular challenges and opportunities you might encounter as you progress through your degree. Your tutor will also meet with you individually to discuss your personal priorities and help you to develop learning strategies that work for you. Your tutor can also explain aspects of the taught content which you find especially challenging or, if these topics are outside their own area of expertise, will introduce you to an appropriate specialist.

Pastoral support and wellbeing

We want to offer a friendly and supportive environment from the moment you arrive. We have a team of pastoral tutors within the Medical School who can help you with many non-academic issues, and a dedicated Student Welfare Officer who can help with more complex issues. If you would like to know more about the support we can offer, get in touch:

The University also provides many other forms of support, including counselling services, advice units, chaplaincy, childcare facilities and student health centres. You can find out about all of these on their dedicated website: Wellbeing services.


Our course prioritises your development of the range of skills which make scientific research possible. Critical thinking forms the core of this, but we supplement this with a focus on helping you to communicate effectively across a range of media. The course will certainly develop your numeracy and knowledge of statistical methods, with further specialisation possible if are interested in mathematics and computation.

We believe that this clear focus on skills means that our Neuroscience course prepares you for employment in a wide variety of careers:

• Postgraduate study: MSc or Ph.D
• NHS-entry: Scientist Training Programme (STP), or Graduate Management Training Scheme (GMTS)
• Industry: Research and Development; Clinical Trials; Sales and Marketing
• Scientific Officer or Advisor: Public, Private or Third Sector
• Graduate entry to Medicine or Dentistry

Contact us

Phone: +44 (0)1392 725500

Website: Visit the Medical School website