Ecology and Environment (2014 entry)

BSc (Hons), 3 years, UCAS: CD94
Typical A level offer: AAB-ABB

Subject overview

Why ecology and environment?

As the human population continues to grow, the natural environment is put under ever-increasing pressure. Losses of biological diversity and major environmental changes are occurring at an accelerating rate and as a direct result of human exploitation of resources. Growing public concern over issues such as degradation and destruction of coral reefs and tropical rain forests, greening of the Arctic and accelerated loss of Arctic sea ice, species extinctions and the impacts of global climate change make ecology, conservation and environmental sustainability some of the most relevant areas of science today. It is also essential to understand how ecology fits in the context of addressing key sustainable development challenges, where there is a need to reconcile economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability. The need to find solutions means that there is a growing demand for professional ecologists who will have a key role to play in protecting the environment for future generations.

Successful action on conservation and biodiversity issues should be based on a good understanding of the ecological processes and relationships that are impacted by environmental change. Key questions include:

  • How quickly and where are environmental and climatic change leading to ecological change? 
  • What makes some species and habitats more vulnerable than others? 
  • What are the implications of increased ecotourism for tropical and polar ecosystems? 
  • How can we reconcile the resource requirements of a growing human population with the need to conserve species and ecosystems? 

The study of ecology and environment is fundamental in answering these and many other questions posed by practical conservation and biodiversity issues.

Why ecology and environment at Sussex?

You will be taught by lecturers who are leaders in research, with a broad range of experience and expertise including plant, bird and insect ecology, climate-change science, earth science and environmental policy and management.

In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), 80 per cent of our research was rated as recognised internationally or higher, and over one-third rated as internationally excellent or higher.

You will have opportunities throughout your course to meet professional ecologists as well as climate and earth scientists, many of whom are our own graduates.

Our campus, surrounded by the South Downs National Park, gives ready access for practical work in a rich variety of habitats and protected areas.

You will go on three residential one-week fieldtrips specialising on upland, marine and conservation ecology. The University will meet the costs of these fieldtrips for you.

You will have the option of a field module studying rainforest ecology in Ecuador.

There are collaborative conservation projects with Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Ecuador.

Mika's faculty perspective

Dr Mika Peck

‘Students studying Ecology and Environment at Sussex are faced with one of the major global challenges – how to reconcile human needs and conservation of global biodiversity. My research, which I feed into the modules I teach in tropical rainforest conservation, focuses on the endangered species and biodiversity hotspots at the heart of this problem. With field sites in Ecuador, the Colombian Amazon and Papua New Guinea, Sussex students have the opportunity to carry out their own research on these projects while they are at Sussex, gaining real-world experience of conservation problems and solutions.

‘In the Andean cloud forests of Ecuador we’ve established the University of Sussex field laboratory where we now run the optional 10-day tropical forest field module for third-year students at Sussex. This provides biologists and ecologists with field experience and a thorough understanding of rainforest ecology.

‘Sussex offers invaluable practical insights informed by cutting-edge research and the chance to engage in work bringing together local communities, students and scientists to create community-protected areas.’

Dr Mika Peck
Lecturer in Biology,
University of Sussex

Course content

This course is for you if you are curious and care about the natural world, want to understand the past, present and future of life on earth, and seek solutions to some of the most important ecological problems facing humanity – from conservation biology to managing environmental change. 

You develop the good practical and analytical skills necessary to test, interpret and critically evaluate ecological data and other scientific information. These skills are essential for many of the career pathways chosen by our graduates. 

We continue to develop and update our modules for 2014 entry to ensure you have the best student experience. In addition to the course structure below, you may find it helpful to refer to the Modules tab.

Core content

Year 1 

Year 1 provides a thorough grounding in all aspects of modern ecology and conservation, from molecular biology to community ecology and earth systems science 

Year 2 

Year 2 offers a deeper treatment of topics such as conservation, sustainable development and resource management 

Final year 

Specialist modules in the final year give you a deeper understanding of current advances in your chosen fields. A highlight of the course is the final-year research project where you work independently, drawing on and applying the skills and understanding you have developed in Years 1 and 2 

How will I learn?

The course begins with an exploration of some of the major themes in biology and environmental sciences, including evolution, the diversity of life and ecology, environmental cycles, animal behaviour, molecular biology and the earth’s climate system, together with modules designed to teach study and research skills. Lectures are supplemented with small-group tutorials where you have an opportunity to discuss issues raised by the course. There are also practical classes, both in the laboratory and in the field, for you to gain direct experience of some of the techniques discussed in lectures.

Second-year modules introduce you to key issues in conservation biology, sustainable development and resource management (looking both at the problems and remedies designed to tackle them) and to a variety of practical field survey methods. In addition, you may study evolution and behaviour, animal and plant diversity or climate change science.

In the final year, you choose from a range of options and you also carry out your own research project, supervised by a member of faculty, working in the field, in the laboratory, or both. This gives you first-hand experience of working in an active research environment alongside professionals.

For more information, visit Studying at Sussex.

What will I achieve? 

  • comprehensive training in the science of ecology and its application to current issues in conservation and environmental sustainability
  • an appreciation of the diversity of biological and environmental processes and the impact that human activity is having on them at different scales, including molecular, individual organisms, populations, and communities considered locally, regionally and globally
  • a wide range of practical field, laboratory analytical and IT skills, including methods for surveying biodiversity in a variety of habitats, a thorough understanding of the National Vegetation Classification, and handson familiarity with modelling and Geographical Information System (GIS) approaches to monitoring the environment
  • familiarity with a range of current conservation issues, as conveyed in lectures by guest speakers from conservation organisations and from meeting practitioners of conservation management in the field
  • skills required to plan and carry out your own research project through all stages, from project development, design of methodology, data collection, and data analysis and interpretation, through to writing the final report and giving a presentation about it
  • the ability to critically evaluate information and ideas in the scientific and popular literature, to debate contentious issues, to present your own ideas to others in a concise and informative way, and to make decisions as part of a small group.

Back to module list

Environmental Management and Sustainable Development

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 1

This module explores contemporary debates on environmental management and sustainable development from a perspective that bridges physical and human geography. It examines the development of core scientific and social theories and discourses that underpin contemporary management of the environment and sustainable development. In particular it explores the trade offs between the three different pillars of sustainability; economics, environment and society. These trade offs are explored in relation to a range of real world problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss and energy use. The module explicitly deals at a range of geographical scales, from the global to the local, as well as considering different approaches to the management of natural resources.

Environmental Risks and Hazards

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

This module introduces the risks and hazards associated with the Earth's natural environments. It considers the timescales, magnitudes and frequencies of the associated processes, and the assessment and management of resultant risks and hazards. These are illustrated from a number of case studies, which may include hazards arising from tectonic, mass movement, climate, ice and snow, atmospheric and sea-level processes. A particular focus of the module will be on hazards and risks in cold regions, where environmental change is particularly rapid and where there are growing pressures from resource exploration and extraction.

Introduction to Ecology and Conservation

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

This module provides a broad introduction to the main principles of ecology and conservation. Topics to be covered include population ecology (population growth, regulation, species interactions, competition, predation and mutualisms) and community ecology (trophic structures and food webs, biodiversity, ecosystem services). We then move on to macro-ecology where we discuss local global patterns of biodiversity, factors controlling species distribution, abundance and biogeography. Finally we move on to consider applied issues in ecology and conservation, including habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, harvesting and ecological restoration.

Introduction to Evolution and Biodiversity

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 1

It has been said that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution' (Dobhansky, 1973). Understanding the principles of how the diversity of life has evolved is essential for any biologist. This module will introduce the basic theories and priciples in evolutionary biology including the mechanisms by which it works. The module will also introduce you to the diveristy of life and how it is classified using selected taxonomic groups of organisms as examples to teach the core principles.

Molecular Biology

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 1

Despite the diversity of life, the molecular mechanisms that ensure the flow of genetic information from one generation to the next, and the expression of genes from DNA to protein via an RNA intermediate, are remarkably conserved.

This module aims to teach fundamental mechanisms such as DNA replication, transcription and translation. You will also learn about how the structures of nucleic acids and proteins relate to their functions.

Finally you will find out how the tools of molecular biology such as cloning and PCR allow us to manipulate and understand genes and proteins.

Neuroscience and Behaviour

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

The module deals with nervous and hormonal bases for sensory perception and behavioural action by humans and other animals.

You will be introduced to the basic components of the nervous systems: neurons, synapses and neurotransmitters, and learn how neurons transmit signals and processes information. You will also cover specialisation of the cerebral cortex, looking at lateralisation and language, as well as sensory processing and perception, exemplified by the visual pathway from the eye to specialised feature detectors in the cortex. Finally, lectures on feeding deal with neural and hormonal controls in behaviour.

Quantitative and Analytical Skills

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

This module provides you with essential skills in quantitative and analytical methods, enabling you to evaluate different types of numerical data in human and physical geography. Topics include essential maths, trigonometry, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics, least squares regression, mechanics and modelling.

Each week a generic lecture introduces a particular topic and this is supported by practical-based workshops in which you gain experience in these skills. The workshops are based on exercises related to the substantive content of the modules of Geographies of Development and Inequality (for BA Geographers) and The Natural World 2 (for BSc Geographers). To provide intellectual coherence, you will be placed in workshop groups based upon your degree programme.

Research Methods and Marine Biology Field Course

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

There are certain skillls and methods that are essential for biologists. This module will introduce two sets of key skills, statistics and field biology. The use of statistics allows us to form a quantative understanding about experimental or observational data and the information we can extract from it. Identifying, sampling and studying organisms in the field enables us to understand their ecology and the selection pressures that have shaped their evolution and populations. The module will introduce the principles of statistical analyses and how to carry out many of the most useful statistical tests. It will then use field exercises and a field course focused on marine biology to introduce you to field biology and the use of statistics to answer questions using your own data.

The Natural World

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 1

This interdisciplinary module provides you with a foundation for studying physical geography and ecology. After introducing systems theory and major evolutionary and ecological questions, it considers geology (Earth structure and composition, continental drift, plate tectonics, geological time), setting a framework for studying macro-evolution (patterns and processes, history of life, major extinctions and radiations, historical biogeography). This is followed by an introduction to earth system science, focusing on the hydrosphere and biosphere, and leads into macro-ecology, where we discuss local to global patterns of biodiversity, factors controlling species distribution and abundance, biogeography.

Conservation Biology 1

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

After an introduction to the major threats to global biodiversity, the module will explore a series of broad conservation themes. The first half will focus on the species level, exploring some of the particular threats faced, why species become rare and endangered, and what measures can be taken to halt or reverse population declines and how populations of threatened species can be restored. The module then adopts a habitat and ecosystem focus, working up from a consideration of specific habitats and their management to a landscape approach and exploring methods for repairing damaged habitats and ecosystems.

Conservation Biology II

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

The module follows logically from the Conservation Biology I module taught in Term 1. It starts with an in-depth consideration of the major threats to world biodiversity that were first introduced in Conservation Biology I. It then considers the national, European and international system of conservation designations and their associated legal framework. After a consideration of how modern molecule genetics can be used to clarify and address various conservation issues, the module finishes with considering how people and wildlife interact, both positively and negatively, and how emergent conflicts can be resolved.

Environmental Research Skills (E&C)

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

This module will provide all BSc Geography, and BSc Ecology, Conservation and Environmental Policy (ECEP) students with many of the skills they will need for their final year research projects. The module will be delivered by lectures and workshops. Each week a generic lecture will introduce a particular study skill and this will be supported by practical-based workshops in which you will gain experience in these skills. The workshops will last up to 4 hours and will cover an array of environmental research topics.

Terrestrial Ecology & Conservation Field Course

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

Exeprience of a wide range of environments and habitats is essential training for any field biologist, ecologist or conservationist. This field course will take place within the Yorkshire Dales National Park in late June, thereby providing access to a variety of upland habitats and species that you would not normally experience in the rest of your degree at Sussex. You will be given some preparatory laboratory classes in animal and plant identification, in order to make best use of the residential time.

By the end of the module you should have gained:

  • A familiarity with the ecology of a range of habitats and the conservation issues associated with them
  • The ability to identify a range of animal and plant groups to species level
  • The ability to collect, analyse and interpret quantative field data

Animal Behavioural Ecology

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

The module will cover the evolution and ecology of the behaviour of non-human animals. The module will introduce key concepts and methods for studying the evolution of animal beahviour, such as optimisation modelling and game theory then apply them to specific areas such as foraging, animal contests, alternative strategies and social behaviour.

Environmental Perspectives on Development

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

The module explores development with an explicit focus on environmental issues. You will look at the relationships between development and the environment: the consequences of development on the environment, environmental constraints to development, and problems of development in marginal environments. You will examine how the environment and issues around sustainability have been considered (or ignored) in relation to development and how this has changed over time. The module includes historical perspectives on environment and development, illustrating continuities and changes in policies related to environment and development. It also explores core issues around environmental management and development in relation to key resources, such as wildlife, forests and water.

Evolutionary Biology

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

The module covers the full breadth of evolutionary biology. Subjects will include the fate of individual mutations in populations, sexual selection, the evolution of altruism and of sex and the process of speciation. Throughout the module will develop an understanding of the central concepts of evolutionary biology.

Geographical Information Systems

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

This module is designed to introduce you to the various components that constitute a Geographical Information System (GIS), while providing you with practical skills in using these tools. Using leading GIS software, you will gain direct experience of a range of data collection and input, database, analytical and visualisation techniques. These will include:

  • georeferencing
  • vector/raster integration
  • and data classification.

This methodology will be illustrated through a range of social and environmental applications, emphasising its decision-assisting potential and looking at some real world examples from the fields of disaster management and development.

Global Climate Change

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

This module takes an interdisciplinary view on the scientific basis of claims of global climate change, the human responsibility and the future implications of the change. In doing so it is largely based around theoretical and evidence based elements of climate science. Half of the module is dedicated to providing a sound basis for undergraduate level critical understanding of the science of contemporary climate change for the present-day and in the future. The other half provides the foundations for a critical understanding of the basis of future climate impacts.

Introduction to Sustainable Development

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

This module aims to provide an understanding of the principles of sustainable development and, in particular, an introduction to the role of science and technology in contributing to key sustainable development challenges.

We explore the origins of the concept of sustainable development and the core ideas that underpin it. We examine the ways in which sustainable development is interpreted by different interest groups, along with the assumptions made and the contradictions that arise. These ideas are illustrated through a series of contemporary case studies that highlight efforts to address sustainable development challenges from the local to international, and examine the role of science and technology within these contexts.

Mediterranean Ecology and Behaviour Field Course

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

The Mediterranean phylogeographic region includes a diversity of habitats that contrast markedly with those found in the UK and contains very different flora and fauna. Experience of a variety of environments is essential for a good understanding of the ecology of biodiversity and the selection forces driving its evolution. Experience of carrying out research in novel environments is also an essential part of learning to be a field biologist or ecologist. On completion of this module you should be able to design and carry out simple ecological or behavioural field research projects using the flora or fauna of a Mediterranean field site as their study system. You will develop research proposals, conduct field work, analyse your data and present your findings both in written form and in the form of a research seminar.

Resource Management

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

This module provides an introduction to the principles of the management of natural resources in the industrialised and developing world. It helps students to understand and describe major components of resource management problems and how to use this knowledge to explore practical resource management issues. It analyses competing priorities and value judgments in natural resource management and human pressures on resources due to population, social and economic demands. It explores the economics of major resource problems in land use, agriculture, forestry, recreation, conservation, and in fresh and salt waters, and examines the role of the ecology alongside other disciplines in addressing the key resource management challenges.

Conservation in Practice

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

The module aims to:

  • familiarise students with the management practices required to maintain key habitats in western Europe, and with conservation issues concerning specific groups of organisms in those habitats
  • examine issues in practical conservation at the level of NGOs, governments and society in general
  • introduce students to professionals currently working in conservation, in order to give them a realistic idea of what the work involves, as well as an indication of employment opportunities.

The module will consist of a combination of lectures, seminars by internal and external guest speakers and field visits to local nature reserves for demonstrations of practical conservation management and survey techniques.

Life Sciences Final Year Research Project

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This is an individual research project involving the investigation of a biological problem or phenomenon using experimental procedures, or the investigation and evaluation of a medical condition, intervention or treatment using literature-based methods, in addition to patient feedback where possible. You will obtain data and information from either laboratory or field-based experiments; from work performed in silico, or from literature-based research.

Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Biology

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

You will work in groups on advanced research-led topics in evolutionary biology. Topics may include symbiosis, and sex and variation but will vary from year to year. They will be selected according to staff interests, recent developments in the field and the construction of a coherent package that covers a range of approaches in evolutionary biology, from molecular to ecological. Each topic will be introduced by a 'scene setting lecture' by a member of staff. You will then be given a set of references to relevant papers in the library. Groups will present their reports on the topics, via written material in Study Direct, seminars, reviews and news and view articles. Once you successfully complete the module you will understand recent theoretical and empirical developments in several areas of current research in evolutionary biology, critically read the primary literature in evolutionary biology, synthesise information from the primary literature and present your findings in written analyses and oral presentations.

Advances in Climate Sciences

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module is an introduction to climate science with particular focus on climate feedbacks, climate observations, climate variability and climate analyses. The module will highlight the major challenges in climate sciences (e.g. global carbon cycles and aerosols), and significant climate phenomena, such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Practical sessions will enable you to gain hands-on experience in creating climate analysis and statistical plots using real-life data from climate observatories and outputs from existing climate models.

Animal-Plant Interactions

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module examines the impact of social, economic and technological transformations on people, the environment and ecology in the Tropics. A wide temporal perspective will be adopted incorporating historical perspectives, present day impacts and future scenarios. The module will also compare local and international perspectives on wildlife, ecotourism and environmental protection. You will cover, amongst other topics:

  • the continuing impact of colonisation
  • sustainability in marginal environments
  • the roles of indigenous environmental knowledge
  • intellectual property rights
  • and biotechnology.

Conflict & Cooperation in Social Groups

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

Conflict and cooperation cuts across the whole of biology and can be studied among genes or among organisms, in societies of micro-organisms, animals and humans, and also in multi-species mutualisms. It is relevant both in the origin of life and in modern-day organisms and societies. The module focuses on factors affecting the balance between conflict and cooperation in human society, vertebrate societies including primates and cooperative breeders, mutualism partners, and genes within organisms. There are eight lectures followed by six two-hour seminars covering research papers in a single area. In the first of these seminars the research papers are presented by the faculty, and in the others by you and your coursemates.

Environmental History - Landscape and Archaeology

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

We live in a world which has been shaped by human hands. This module will start with an introduction to the techniques of environmental reconstruction and environmental archaeology and then look in detail at the development of the British landscape over the last 10,000 years. Where appropriate, information from other temperate areas will be considered, such as: Western Europe, North America and the Atlantic islands.

Modern Human Evolution

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

Modern humans started to spread from Africa about 100,000 years ago. This module includes investigation of the evidence we have for their subsequent evolution in terms of phylogeography, morphology and archaeology. This is related to general questions about evolutionary response to environmental factors such as disease and climate as well as looking critically at what we can deduce about past cultural evolution. The module concludes by considering human evolution in the present.

Past Lives

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module examines how extinct species of animals made their living, how they moved, what they ate and what ate them and what sort of social lives they may have led. To do this, the module brings together techniques for environmental reconstruction, the use of comparative evidence from living organisms plus a good dose of controlled imagination. After an introduction to the relevant techniques, the module will use a case study approach to selected species from the Mesozoic to the end of the Pleistocene, including:

  • T. rex and other dinosaurs
  • Mammoths
  • sabre-toothed cats
  • and some hominins, but not any members of Genus Homo.

Permafrost and Environmental Change

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

The module examines aspects of polar regions from an interdisciplinary perspective, linking elements of physical geography, geology, permafrost science and glaciology. The aim is to provide you with a framework of knowledge and understanding of polar regions and processes from which you can summarise and critically evaluate some of the methods, hypothesis, theories and data about polar regions. You will develop knowledge of spatial variation of physical phenomena in the polar regions and understand how environmental change operating on a range of timescales affects the region.

Social Insects

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

The eusocial insects comprise approximately 20,000 species of ants, termites, bees and wasps. Eusociality in these groups has evolved 20­-100 million years ago on approximately 10 occasions and has given rise to highly ­organized societies with up to 20 million individuals. Eusocial insects are of great economic and ecological importance. They are also key model systems in many important areas of biology.

The module is divided into several parts:

1) general background material on social insects, focusing in greater detail on four contrasting areas in which research on social insects is particularly active

2) inclusive fitness theory and relatedness

3) how insect societies are organised

4) another special topic relevant to social insect biology, such as mutualisms and symbioses involving social insects; the ecological importance of social insects; the evolution of eusociality in insects; or using social insects to investigate sensory physiology (topics will vary each year)

There will also be two laboratory sessions from a range including: the honey bee waggle dance, nestmate recognition and guarding in honey bees, organisation of ant trail systems, and reproductive queueing in Polistes wasps.

Tropical Rainforest Science (Field trip Ecuador)

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

The Tropical Forest Science field module is based at the Santa Lucia Cloud forest Reserve in NW Ecuador. The field station and laboratory were established by the University of Sussex to provide the opportunity for you to gain expertise in tropical plant, invertebrate and vertebrate taxonomy. Following an introduction to the wildlife and plants of the region you undertake your own fieldwork project to investigate the unique flora and fauna of this biodiversity hotspot.

Tropical Rainforests: Biogeography and Conservation

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

The module aims to develop an understanding of tropical rainforest (trf) ecosystems and the consequences of their great antiquity, present rapid destruction and uncertain future. You will examine and evaluate the many hypotheses attempting to explain the astonishing species richness of trfs and explore their complex ecological organization. Sustainable use of trfs is contrasted with their ever-increasing destruction by peasant farmers, timber companies, cattle ranchers and other commercial interests. You will learn about the impact of trf destruction on world climates, global biodiversity, and natural resources. Future prospects for conservation and management are assessed, including less damaging methods of timber harvesting, ecotourism, the potential of a new 'carbon market' (REDD++) and the role and contribution of scientist and international conservation organisations. The coursework and seminar series associated with the module will introduce skills of practical use to you if you decide to follow a career within conservation - the main focus being the development of an original grant proposal to the Royal Geographical Society.

Back to module list

The University is expanding the range of opportunities it offers to undertake placements as part of your studies. Placements provide you with the opportunity to gain new perspectives, experience and skills that employers are looking for. 

Voluntary placements 

Some subject areas offer you an opportunity to choose to undertake a placement (for one full year) that you can apply for once you have started your course here. Normally, full-year placements occur between the second and final year of a course. It is University policy that students on a year-long placement (usually 40 weeks) should normally receive payment for their work. For voluntary placements, the University organises and manages the process through which students apply for and undertake placements. To support you, our Careers and Employability Centre runs an eight-week Placement Preparation Programme

Research placements 

Some courses in the sciences – such as the MChem in Chemistry (research placement), the MPhys in Physics (research placement) or the MSci in Zoology (research placement) – offer research placements for high-performing students, where you spend the summer vacations throughout your studies working in research groups at Sussex, giving you the opportunity to get involved in research from the very start of your studies. You receive a stipend to cover living expenses during your summer vacation placement each year. 

Integrated placements 

Some subject areas require you to take a professional/industrial placement as an integrated and pre-defined part of a course. Normally, full-year placements occur between the second and final year of a course. Other subject areas offer opportunities for students to gain work experience, focused on a particular topic, as part of some taught modules. 

Key facts

  • enhance your employability: more than 80 per cent of employers surveyed said they actively sought graduates who had studied abroad (QS Global Employer Survey Report 2011)
  • one of the best-supported study abroad programmes in the UK
  • develop an international perspective at an overseas university in Asia, Australia, Europe or North, Central and South America 

Visit International and Study Abroad: Destinations

Career benefits of studying abroad

Studying abroad makes you stand out from other students when entering the job market. Following a period living and studying abroad, you will return with increased confidence and independence, adept at problemsolving and decision-making. You will have made a new network of friends and may have improved your current language skills or learnt a new language. Employers highly rate these skills as they can be applied in today’s global career paths.

Sussex recognises the value of language skills in preparing its students to become global citizens: as well as our dual-language courses (vist the Languages subject area), we offer students in most subjects the opportunity to take language electives as part of their single-honours courses (visit Sussex Choice: make the most of your course).

After studying abroad, some of our graduates have gone on to careers as translators • sales and marketing professionals • international recruitment consultants • Refugee Projects co-ordinator for the British Red Cross abroad • a CNN presenter • international mortgage administrators • teachers of English in Venezuela, Spain, Germany, Japan and France.

We offer a huge range of destinations across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North, Central and South America. 


Erasmus +We offer one of the best-supported European study abroad programmes of any UK university. Pioneered independently by Sussex in the 1960s, our study abroad scheme is supported by the European Commission through Erasmus+. Students on this programme usually benefit from nonmeans- tested grants. 

Visit British Council: Erasmus

Study abroad duration and destinations

If you are taking a course with an American Studies component, a dual-language course, or one of our joint courses involving a language, you spend Year 3 of your four-year course abroad. Students from most other courses can apply to do a study-abroad period during their degree. 

View our course listings at Undergraduate study

American Studies students study at one of a range of universities across North America. Language-degree students study at a university in Europe (or La Réunion or Québec, Canada, for French, and Latin America for Spanish) where their language of study is spoken. Language students can also apply to the language assistant scheme managed by the British Council for their year abroad.

Visit British Council: Language assistants

A growing number of overseas universities now have courses taught in English, which enables Sussex students without the necessary language skills to study abroad. Students can also take Erasmus Intensive Language Courses in-country before their term starts.

The University is increasing the opportunities for students to go on short-term non-credit-bearing Summer Schools overseas. In 2013, a number of students benefitted from summer programmes in China and Hong Kong.

For more information on study abroad opportunities, email

Visit Study abroad for Sussex students

Entry requirements

Sussex welcomes applications from students of all ages who show evidence of the academic maturity and broad educational background that suggests readiness to study at degree level. For most students, this will mean formal public examinations; details of some of the most common qualifications we accept are shown below. If you are an overseas student, refer to Applicants from outside the UK.

All teaching at Sussex is in the English language. If your first language is not English, you will also need to demonstrate that you meet our English language requirements.

A level

Typical offer: AAB-ABB

Specific entry requirements: A levels must include at least one from Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies or Physics. Successful applicants will also need GCSE (or equivalent) Mathematics and either Chemistry or Double Science, with at least grade C.

International Baccalaureate

Typical offer: 34 points overall

Specific entry requirements: Higher Levels must include at least one from Biology, Chemistry or Physics, with a grade of at least 5.

For more information refer to International Baccalaureate.

Access to HE Diploma

Typical offer: Pass the Access to HE Diploma with at least 45 credits at Level 3, of which 30 credits must be at Distinction and 15 credits at Merit or higher.

Specific entry requirements: The Access to HE Diploma will need to contain substantial amounts of Level 3 credit in science subjects. Successful applicants will also need GCSE (or equivalent) Mathematics and either Chemistry or Double Science, with at least grade C.

For more information refer to Access to HE Diploma.

Advanced Diploma

Typical offer: Pass with at least grade B in the Diploma and at least A in the Additional and Specialist Learning.

Specific entry requirements: The Additional and Specialist Learning must be an A-level in Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies or Physics. Successful applicants will also need GCSE (or equivalent) Mathematics and either Chemistry or Double Science, grade C.

For more information refer to Advanced Diploma.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma

Typical offer: DDD-DDM

Specific entry requirements: The BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma would normally need to be in Applied Science. Alternatively, if the BTEC is not in Applied Science, successful applicants will also an A-level in Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies or Physics alongside the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma. GCSE (or equivalent) Mathematics and either Chemistry or Double Science, grade C, are also essential requirements.

For more information refer to BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma.

European Baccalaureate

Typical offer: Overall result of at least 77%

Specific entry requirements: Evidence of academic studies to a high level in science subjects with good results is essential.

For more information refer to European Baccalaureate.

Finnish Ylioppilastutkinto

Typical offer: Overall average result in the final matriculation examinations of at least 6.0.

Specific entry requirements: Evidence of academic studies to a high level in science subjects with good results is essential.

French Baccalauréat

Typical offer: Overall final result of at least 13/20

Specific entry requirements: Successful students will need to be taking the science strand within the French Baccalauréat with good results (12/20) in at least one science subject other than Mathematics.

German Abitur

Typical offer: Overall result of 2.0 or better

Specific entry requirements: Evidence of academic studies to a high level in science subjects with good results (12/15) in at least one science other than Mathematics is essential.

Irish Leaving Certificate (Higher level)

Typical offer: AAAABB-AABBBB

Specific entry requirements: Highers will need to include at least one from Biology, Chemistry or Physics.

Italian Diploma di Maturità or Diploma Pass di Esame di Stato

Typical offer: Final Diploma mark of at least 81/100

Specific entry requirements: Evidence of academic studies to a high level in science subjects with good results is essential.

Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers

Typical offer: AAABB-AABBB

Specific entry requirements: Highers must include one or two science subjects (other than Maths). Ideally, applicants will have at least one science subject (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) at Advanced Higher. Successful applicants will also need Mathematics and Chemistry at Standard Grade, grade 1or 2.

For more information refer to Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers.

Spanish Titulo de Bachillerato (LOGSE)

Typical offer: Overall average result of at least 8.0

Specific entry requirements: Evidence of academic studies to a high level in science subjects with good results is essential.

Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma

Typical offer: Pass the Core plus at least AB in two A-levels

Specific entry requirements: A levels must include at least one science subject from Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies or Physics. Successful applicants will also need GCSE (or eqvivalent) Mathematics and either Chemistry or Double Science, grade C.

For more information refer to Welsh Baccalaureate.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in each section. Pearson's Test of English (Academic) with 62 overall with at least 56 in all four skills.

For more information, refer to alternative English language requirements.

International Foundation Year and International Year One

If you are from outside the EU and do not yet meet all the University’s entry requirements for degree-level study, visit International Foundation Year and International Year One.

For more information about the admissions process at Sussex:

Undergraduate Admissions,
Sussex House,
University of Sussex, Falmer,
Brighton BN1 9RH, UK
T +44 (0)1273 678416
F +44 (0)1273 678545

Fees and funding


Home/EU students: £9,0001
Channel Island and Isle of Man students: £9,0002
Overseas students: £17,0003

1 The fee shown is for the academic year 2014.
2 The fee shown is for the academic year 2014.
3 The fee shown is for the academic year 2014.

To find out about your fee status, living expenses and other costs, visit further financial information.


The funding sources listed below are for the subject area you are viewing and may not apply to all degrees listed within it. Please check the description of the individual funding source to make sure it is relevant to your chosen degree.

To find out more about funding and part-time work, visit further financial information.

Care Leavers Award (2014)

Region: UK
Level: UG

For students have been in council care before starting at Sussex.

First-Generation Scholars Scheme (2014)

Region: UK
Level: UG

The scheme is targeted to help students from relatively low income families – ie those whose family income is up to £42,620.

First-Generation Scholars Scheme EU Student Award (2014)

Region: Europe (Non UK)
Level: UG

£3,000 fee waiver for UG Non-UK European Union (EU) students whose family income is below £25,000

Sussex Excellence Scholarship (2014)

Region: UK, Europe (Non UK), International (Non UK/EU)
Level: UG

Merit-based scholarship for undergraduate students

For more information on scholarships go to the Scholarships web pages.

Careers and profiles

We aim to provide you with an excellent preparation for a wide variety of careers in research, consultancy and other careers in the ecological and related sciences, teaching, and for professional or management posts. 

Our recent graduates have gone on to work in roles such as: assistant conservation officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust • trainee countryside ranger at Plumpton College. 

About one in five of our graduates goes on to further study, either on a Masters or doctoral course. 

Specific employer destinations listed are taken from recent Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education surveys, which are produced annually by the Higher Education Statistics Agency

Careers and employability

For employers, it’s not so much what you know, but what you can do with your knowledge that counts. The experience and skills you’ll acquire during and beyond your studies will make you an attractive prospect. Initiatives such as SussexPlus, delivered by the Careers and Employability Centre, help you turn your skills to your career advantage. It’s good to know that 92 per cent of our graduates are in work or further study (Which? University).

For more information on the full range of initiatives that make up our career and employability plan for students, visit Careers and alumni.

Szymon's career perspective

Szymon Mikolajczyk

‘I chose to study Ecology and Environment at Sussex because I was looking for a degree that would offer me more than just a general biology curriculum. With modules covering topics from animal behaviour and conservation in practice to environmental economics, this criterion was definitely met.

‘The numerous field excursions and lab sessions meant that the degree also provided a fine balance between theory and practice. Most important, however, was the excellence of the professors at Sussex – being taught by people who are passionate about their field of study was a real pleasure.

‘My degree equipped me with the confidence and knowledge base to pursue a career in the environmental markets. After graduating from Sussex, I went on to pursue a Masters abroad and now work in the emissions trading business, where I advise clients on renewable energy project implementation in developing countries.’

Szymon Mikolajczyk
Carbon Market Consultant,
Climate Focus

Lucy's student perspective

Lucy Taylor

‘The Ecology and Environment degree provides a good balance of theoretical and practical knowledge. Lectures are given on a diverse range of topics such as genetics for ecologists, animal behaviour and environmental economics. There are also practical fieldclasses for topics such as conservation in practice. 

‘I went on two residential fieldtrips, to Devon and Yorkshire, focusing on survey techniques and identification skills. These skill sets are very much in demand in the environmental industries. There was also an optional trip to the Ecuadorian rainforest. 

‘The tutors at Sussex are passionate about what they teach and frequently illustrate lectures with relevant research of their own. They also arrange talks by professional ecologists to build contacts and provide you with the opportunity to find out more about working in ecology and the environment.’ 

Lucy Taylor
Ecology and Environment graduate

Contact our School

School of Life Sciences

The School of Life Sciences provides an exciting and attractive environment for learning and research, with a thriving international community of students and academics.

How do I find out more?

For more information, contact:
School of Life Sciences, 
University of Sussex, Falmer,
Brighton BN1 9QG, UK
T +44 (0)1273 678057

Visit us

Campus tours

Not able to attend one of our Open Days? Then book on to one of our weekly guided campus tours.

Mature-student information session

If you are 21 or over, and thinking about starting an undergraduate degree at Sussex, you may want to attend one of our mature student information sessions. Running between October and December, they include guidance on how to approach your application, finance and welfare advice, plus a guided campus tour with one of our current mature students.

Self-guided visits

If you are unable to make any of the visit opportunities listed, drop in Monday to Friday year round and collect a self-guided tour pack from Sussex House reception.

Jonathan's staff perspective

Jonathan Bridges

‘Sussex provides world-leading teaching and excellent academic facilities, with a vibrant student life in a fantastic location. All of this meant that I left Sussex with a unique set of experiences and a degree that has prepared me for my future.

‘Joining Student Recruitment Services at the University has enabled me to share my experiences of Sussex with others. Coming to an Open Day gives you the opportunity to meet our research-active academics and our current students, while exploring our beautiful campus. But don’t worry if you can’t make an Open Day, there’s plenty of other opportunities to visit Sussex. Check out our Visit us and Open Days pages or our Facebook page to find out more.

‘I’ve loved every moment of my time at Sussex – these have been the best years of my life.’

Jonathan Bridges
Graduate Intern, Student Recruitment Services


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