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Major: Biology



Department of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science and Engineering

This major must be completed as part of an award. The general requirements for the award must be satisfied in order to graduate.

Requirements for the Major:

Completion of a minimum of 24 credit points including the following prescribed units:

Credit points

100 level

Organisms to Ecosystems (3)
Genes to Organisms (3)
Biology in Practice (3)

200 level

6cp from
Genetics (3)
Ecology (3)
Diversity of Life (3)
Life Processes (3)
Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biology (3)
Evolution (3)

300 level

Biological Sciences Capstone (3)
9cp from
BIOL301 - BIOL375


Units marked with a C are Capstone units.
Overview and Aims of the Program The biology major offers a comprehensive education in the full range of biological disciplines, spanning molecules to ecosystems and the biosphere, and terrestrial, marine and freshwater biomes. Throughout the major, we link structure with function and processes that influence the evolution and ecology of organisms. We consider taxa ranging from microbes through to fungi, plants and animals. Our philosophy is of learning by doing, with a major focus on the development of practical and problem-solving skills. Our units take advantage of the university’s bushland setting, many offering opportunities for field experience. We have a particular focus on Australia’s unique biodiversity and the processes that have given rise to it.

Key features of the major:
• significant research content
• most units include practical work in state-of-the-art laboratories, some include fieldwork.
• you can study biology by distance education, although attendance on campus for brief periods will be required.
Graduate Capabilities

The Graduate Capabilities Framework articulates the fundamentals that underpin all of Macquarie’s academic programs. It expresses these as follows:

Cognitive capabilities
(K) discipline specific knowledge and skills
(T) critical, analytical and integrative thinking
(P) problem solving and research capability
(I) creative and innovative

Interpersonal or social capabilities
(C) effective communication
(E) engaged and ethical local and global citizens
(A) socially and environmentally active and responsible

Personal capabilities
(J) capable of professional and personal judgement and initiative
(L) commitment to continuous learning

Program Learning Outcomes By the end of this program it is anticipated you should be able to:

1. explain the theory of evolution and why it can be regarded as the central unifying concept in biology (K)
2. compare and contrast the form and function of key biological units at sub-cellular to ecosystem scales (K)
3. explain how processes operating at a hierarchy of temporal and spatial scales give rise to the phenotypes of individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems (K)
4. describe key features of the Australian biota and the processes that have given rise to these (K)
5. evaluate historical developments in biology, as well as current and contemporary research directions and challenges (K, T, J, L).

6. develop hypotheses to explain biological patterns and processes and design appropriate experiments to test these (K, T, P, I, J)
7. display competency in key laboratory and/or field methods of one or more biological sub-disciplines (K, P)
8. acquire, synthesise, and statistically analyse data to appropriately test hypotheses (K, T, P)
9. identify instances where biology can contribute to public debate, and critically evaluate biology as communicated in the public sphere (T, E, J)
10. clearly and accurately communicate biological problems and solutions to scientists and the public, using written, oral and digital media (C, E, A, J)
11. practice professional ethics in the conduct of biology (E, A)
12. identity and adopt safe work practices in laboratory and field environments (E, A).
Learning and Teaching Methods The Biology Major is taught using approaches that integrate the teaching and research environments. Our units (1) provide students with an authentic research experience; (2) utilise problem-based learning activities; and (3) embed cutting-edge research in the curriculum.

Most units combine theoretical and practical aspects, building competency in both discipline specific skills and knowledge, and in graduate capabilities, such as problem-solving and communication skills. At first year level, students are introduced to the scientific method. At second year level, students design and test their own simple scientific research questions under staff guidance. At third year level, students are given opportunities to develop and test more complex research questions.

Theoretical elements may be taught using a combination of lectures, tutorials, workshops and online activities. Practical components may involve laboratory-based sessions, field trips to locations at and around campus, the Sydney Basin, and further afield, as well as role-play scenarios and problem-solving in tutorial sessions. In recognition that students learn via different means (i.e. visual, auditory, tactile), many of our units take advantage of a diversity of media for their delivery (e.g. videos, lectures, readings, activities). Our philosophy is that students learn by doing and we endeavour to make our units as hands-on as possible.

The Biology Major is offered in external as well as internal mode. This means that for many units, instead of attending weekly practicals, students can opt to cover these in block over several weekends. Furthermore, many of the theoretical aspects can be completed on-line in lieu of lecture attendance. NOTE: the external offering is designed to maximize flexibility, but does not eliminate the face-to-face component.
Assessment Our assessments are designed not only to test students’ discipline-specific knowledge and skills but also their ability to integrate and analyse information to solve real-world problems. Assessments are spread throughout semester to enable students to build confidence and gain feedback as they learn.

In recognition that students learn and communicate in different ways, assessment methods are diverse, with at least three different types of assessment in every unit. Assessment methods include, but are not limited to, exams and quizzes, written assessments (such as scientific reports, grant proposals, critical essays and journals of learning), oral assessments (such as presentations, debates and discussions), and multi-media presentations (posters, videos, blogs).

In addition to formal assessments, students are provided with regular informal feedback on their progress. This is done through activities that involve self- and peer-evaluation, as well as through our strong student support system of tutors and academic advisors.
Recognition of Prior Learning

Macquarie University may recognise prior formal, informal and non-formal learning for the purpose of granting credit towards, or admission into, a program. The recognition of these forms of learning is enabled by the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy (see and its associated Procedures and Guidelines. The RPL pages contain information on how to apply, links to registers, and the approval processes for recognising prior learning for entry or credit.

Information can be found at:

Support for Learning

Macquarie University aspires to be an inclusive and supportive community of learners where all students are given the opportunity to meet their academic and personal goals. The University offers a comprehensive range of free and accessible student support services which include academic advice, counselling and psychological services, advocacy services and welfare advice, careers and employment, disability services and academic skills workshops amongst others. There is also a bulk billing medical service located on campus.

Further information can be found at

Campus Wellbeing contact details:
Phone: +61 2 9850 7497

Program Standards and Quality

The program is subject to an ongoing comprehensive process of quality review in accordance with a pre-determined schedule that complies with the Higher Education Standards Framework. The review is overseen by Macquarie University's peak academic governance body, the Academic Senate and takes into account feedback received from students, staff and external stakeholders.

Graduate Destinations and Employability The focus of our major on the development problem-solving and critical-thinking skills enables graduates of the biology major to enter a diversity of fields. These include:
• animal keeper
• aquarist
• biotechnologist
• captive breeder
• education officer
• ecological consultant
• ecotourism
• environmental officer
• food industry quality control
• genetic counsellor
• greenhouse/garden curator
• land manager
• natural resource manager
• ranger
• research technician
• scientific researcher
• science teacher
• statistical analyst
• quarantine inspector
• wildlife manager.

Major employers include:
• environmental consulting firms
• local, state and federal government agencies
• universities and research institutes
• pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

In the third year of study, we prepare students for the job market by helping them to formulate their skills and experiences into a CV, and with mock job interviews.
Assessment Regulations

This program is subject to Macquarie University regulations, including but not limited to those specified in the Assessment Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, the Final Examination Policy and relevant University Rules. For all approved University policies, procedures, guidelines and schedules visit

Inherent requirements are the essential components of a course or program necessary for a student to successfully achieve the core learning outcomes of a course or program. Students must meet the inherent requirements to complete their Macquarie University course or program.

Inherent requirements for Macquarie University programs fall under the following categories:

Physical: The physical inherent requirement is to have the physical capabilities to safely and effectively perform the activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Cognition: The inherent requirement for cognition is possessing the intellectual, conceptual, integrative and quantitative capabilities to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Communication: The inherent requirement for communication is the capacity to communicate information, thoughts and ideas through a variety of mediums and with a range of audiences.

Behavioural: The behavioural inherent requirement is the capacity to sustain appropriate behaviour over the duration of units of study to engage in activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

For more information see

2019 Unit Information

When offered:
S1 Day
Permission of Executive Dean of Faculty
HSC Chinese, CHN113, CHN148