University Of Canterbury Biology

Biology means the study of living things. Biologists investigate animals, plants, and microbes in many different ways, and on a huge range of scales from molecules and cells to individual organisms, populations, and ecosystems.

During the past few decades, the study of biology has undergone rapid change and has had a significant impact on the way we live. We are now able to produce antibiotics and vaccines, grow disease-resistant crops, transplant organs, and manipulate genes. Biologists today are actively researching solutions to vital concerns such as increasing world food supply, improving and protecting our environment, and conquering disease.

We need to know how microorganisms, plants, and animals work and how they interact on land and in the sea and fresh waters. Of increasing importance to us is global climate change and how this affects the living world.


UC offers a major and a minor in Biological Sciences as part of the Bachelor of Science.

You can also study this subject as a minor within the Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of CommerceBachelor of Sport Coaching, and Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership.

Biological Sciences major

To complete a major in Biological Sciences within the Bachelor of Science, you will need to take the following courses throughout the degree:


  • BIOL 111 Cellular Biology and Biochemistry
  • BIOL 112 Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
  • BIOL 113 Diversity of Life
  • STAT 101 Statistics 1

It is also recommended to take one Chemistry and Mathematics course in your first year. Students who have not taken chemistry or mathematics with calculus to Year 13 level are strongly advised to take CHEM 114 Foundations of Chemistry and MATH 101 Methods of Mathematics.


  • BIOL 209 Biological Data Analysis


Students need to complete a total of 60 points at 300-level, selected from BCHM 305 Protein Science, BCHM 306 Biochemical Pathology, and 300-level BIOL courses (excluding BIOL 309).

BIOL 309 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists is additionally recommended if you intend to go onto postgraduate studies in Biological Sciences.

Biological Sciences minor

For the Biological Sciences minor in the Bachelor of ScienceBachelor of ArtsBachelor of CommerceBachelor of Sport Coaching, or Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership, you will need to take these courses throughout your chosen degree:

  • 75 points in 100 to 300-level BIOL courses, with at least 45 points at 200-level or above

About the school

With nearly 100 staff and several hundred students we are a large and dynamic school offering a diverse range of courses across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Our national ranking

The Performance Based Research Fund ranks UC’s School of Biological Sciences as the top biology department in New Zealand.

Our teaching staff are all active researchers and very passionate. Dynamic teams are leading research in a wide range of biology disciplines, from understanding nutrient flows and food webs across terrestrial-freshwater-marine ecosystems to investigating the amazingly good eyesight of jumping spiders.

Our state-of-the-art research building is packed full of equipment to help us measure, manipulate, visualise and quantify the living world. In one lab our analytical ultra-centrifuge allows us to study biomolecules and their interactions, with the team aiming to develop treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

In another lab our confocal laser scanning microscope uses fluorescent markers, bound to chemicals in live cells, to understand how cells grow and communicate.

Our researchers

We have some of the brightest minds in biology including three Rutherford Discovery Fellows.

Our cutting-edge research covers a broad range of biological fields and 11 of our teachers have University teaching awards. Four have national Tertiary Teaching Awards.

Ko te Uaratanga | Our Mission

  • To provide high quality education for undergraduate and postgraduate students from Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. We strive to offer a nationally and internationally recognised integrative undergraduate curriculum that is taught by educators dedicated to using research to inform our teaching. We also work to provide a vibrant research environment led by researchers with international reputations and strong supervisory skills.
  • To provide excellent research and professional expertise to the Aotearoa New Zealand and international communities, through relevant research, consulting and community engagement activities.
  • To expand the frontiers of knowledge, serve as a repository for knowledge, and act as critic and conscience of society.
  • To deliver on our mission objectives with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability and a diverse and inclusive community.

Ko Ngā uara | Our Values

Our culture is expressed through a strong sense of whanaungatanga, the behaviour of our staff and students, and the quality of our interactions with our community. Defining expected behaviour based on a set of core, shared values is important for the School. We challenge ourselves to become more collaborative, inclusive and culturally competent, as well as showing respect for our different areas of expertise (Tohungatanga).

The School’s profile and international recognition, and hence ability to attract high quality staff and postgraduate students, will be enhanced by a strong sense of belonging to a cohesive and inclusive whanau. A shared value in a purposeful, planned and sustainable future is an important feature of the School.

The following values are central to the School and its members:

Manaakitanga | Responsibility

  • We believe that the School is a team of individuals, with the whole greater than the sum of the parts. We are committed to a collective mission and common core values. We believe that all members of the School contribute to our mission and should be recognised.
  • We believe that all members of the School should have an opportunity to pursue their professional goals and aspirations across the teaching-research-service spectrum, within the framework of the School’s overall objectives and values.
  • We are committed to welcoming a diversity of students and staff into the School and supporting them in the development of their careers.

Tikanga | Integrity

  • We believe that our reputation and success are measured by the quality of our graduates, both undergraduate and postgraduate, by the quality of our research, the reputation of our staff members and the willingness of our staff and students to serve as the public critic and conscience of society. We believe that the success of our staff is inseparable from the success of the communities we serve, and the success and well-being of our students during their studies, are of primary importance to us.

Tohungatanga | Expertise/Professionalism

  • We defend the academic freedom of students and staff as it applies to our choice of research activities, our right to hold differing points of view, and our teaching methodology. We also believe that collective and collaborative contributions are a powerful way to advance the core mission of the School.

Kaitiakitanga | Stewardship

  • We are committed to working actively to protect people, environment, and knowledge.