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Studying for a Postgraduate Course in Applied and Pure Science

The UK has a formidable reputation within the scientific sector on a global scale. Despite having only 1% of the world’s population, it produces over 12% of all cited scientific papers.

Since 1997 the UK’s science budget has dramaticall increased and, in December 2012, chancellor George Osbourne announced and extra £600 million worth of funding to improve the infrastructure of scientific research as part of the autumn budget statement. This increased investment within scientific industries, from both government and private sources has a significant impact upon the postgraduate courses available and the investment in research facilities across the UK.

Postgraduate taught and research science programmes are built on long-standing knowledge of pure science, such as biology, chemistry and physics along with innovative new disciplines such as sports science and forensic science. These programmes are designed to prepare graduates for careers in research and development, industry management and other areas of professional scientific employment.

From medical and pharmaceutical discoveries to the production of food and provision of transport, the knowledge of science is the keystone to any civilisation. Within this context there are a wide range of opportunities for graduates, and specialists will find their skills highly sought after by a number of employers - from commerce and museums to conservation charities and government bodies.

Areas of specialism

Biological sciences

The area of Biological science is growing in importance as ground-breaking progress continues to be made in genetics and pharmaceuticals. Biological sciences cover a great many subjects, including ecological and evolutionary biology, cellular and molecular biology, microbiology, botany and zoology and biochemistry.

Research in biochemistry centres on the structure and function of molecules such as proteins, while research in genetics investigates the evolution and functions of genes and proteins at an organismal level using a range of model organisms, including plants, invertebrates, fish and mammals. Research in ecology and evolutionary biology can cover areas such as behavioural ecology, palaeontology and morphology of mammals, parasitology and evolution.


Many psychology specialists in the UK undertake specialist postgraduate qualifications or training in areas such as clinical, neuro, counselling and health psychology. Other areas, such as forensic psychology, offer opportunities to study offending behaviour, while occupational psychology is concerned with the behaviour of people at work or in training.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is the principal funder of research into non-clinical life sciences in the UK.

Earth sciences

Studies in Earth sciences cover the solid Earth, as well as the atmosphere and oceans. These topics help us to understand the complex ecosystems that operate on a global scale. In recent years, growing public awareness of issues surrounding sustainability and climate change has heralded an increase in the number of studies carried out in these areas.

A considerable amount of this research has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is behind the Next Generation Science for Planet Earth strategy, which has identified strategic and scientific priorities for UK environmental sciences. The seven main ‘science theme’ areas, which will be the main focuses of its activities, are the climate system, biodiversity, the sustainable use of natural resources, earth system science, natural hazards, the environment, pollution and human health, and technologies.


While Chemistry can be organised into the traditional categories of organic, physical and inorganic, study is very often interdisciplinary, crossing over into chemical engineering, plant and soil science, biomedical physics, geology, biochemistry and molecular/cell biology.

Taught courses can prepare students for careers in industry, forensics, research and development and academic research. Research in this field is diverse and can cover subjects as varied as structural materials, electrochemistry, biomaterials, plasma-spectrometry, heterocyclic synthesis and crystal engineering.

Physics and astronomy

A postgraduate degree in Physics can lead into careers in industry (as a physicist), medicine (as a medical physicist), aviation (as a pilot or engineer) or even space programmes.

Taught and research programmes can cover areas such as Astrophysics and Astronomy, materials, photonics, plasma physics, nuclear physics, quantum optics and theoretical physics. Research in this area is largely funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC), and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

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