Marine Science BSc (Hons)

Study at the university on the beach

UHI 1st in Scotland and 3rd in UK for earth and marine sciences subjects

 - Guardian University Guide 2022

100% overall course satisfaction score

 - National Student Survey (NSS) 2021

Students on this four-year course in marine science develop a rounded understanding of the marine system. The programme integrates the biology, chemistry, physics and geology of the marine environment from Scottish lochs to the deep sea and from polar seas to the tropics. 

Besides knowledge students gain expert numerical, technical, analytical, field sampling, time management and communication skills that make them critical thinkers and highly employable.

The course is administered and awarded by the University of the Highlands and Islands and is delivered face-to-face at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). SAMS is Scotland's premier independent marine research institution and the degree curriculum strongly reflects the research strengths of our scientists.

Our campus is right on the beach of a stunning peninsula on the iconic and diverse west coast of Scotland. Next door is a 13th century castle on one side and the European Marine Science Park with various companies on the other. It's a great place to learn about the sea, live the outdoor lifestyle and build professional connections and friendships within the marine science community.

SAMS has 150 staff and a similar number of students enroled on BSc, Master and PhD programmes.

This amazing student to staff ratio gives our students an unmatched opportunity to learn from and with a team of highly research active and globally connected researchers. It also allows students great access to the latest research equipment and provides them with many opportunities for additional experience and networking. Check out information on our bursaries...

Students generally study full-time (40 hours per week between lectures, practical work, own study time and assignments) over four years but part-time options are available.

We encourage students to spread their wings while studying with us - spending exchange semesters away and gaining valuable experience in marine science during their holidays for example. Read the blog about an exchange experience in the Netherlands 'Kilts meet Clogs'...

Founded in 1884 by Sir John Murray, the father of oceanography, SAMS is among the oldest marine science organisations in the world. 

Each year, students study six 20 credit (10 ECTS) modules, usually three per semester.

Most modules are assessed through a combination of examination and continuous assessment. Continuous assessment is designed to suit the subject area and mostly includes one or several of these: lab reports, field course reports, essays, talks, poster presentations, research proposals, policy briefings etc

Named qualifications are available to students leaving after any year of successful study.

In the first year the new students develop solid foundations in the core sciences and develop the key skills they need in the laboratory, in the field, and for communicating their work. All six first year modules are mandatory.

  • >Fundamentals of Marine Biology (Semester 1)
  • >Fundamentals of Marine Chemistry (Semester 1)
  • >Fundamentals of Marine Geology (Semester 1)
  • >Fundamentals of Marine Physics (Semester 2)
  • >Introduction to Maths and Data Science (Semester 2)
  • >Marine Field Course (Semester 2)

If a student chooses to leave after passing the first year, they will be awarded a Certificate of Higher Education in Fundamentals of Marine Science.

In the second year students deepen their knowlege of the core sciences and continue developing analytical skills.  Students study five mandatory modules and may chose one optional subject.

Mandatory modules
  • >Chemical Oceanography (Semester 1)
  • >Statistics and Experimental Design (Semester 1)
  • >Marine Geology (Semester 1)
  • >Physical Oceanography (Semester 2)
  • >Marine Biology (Semester 2)
Optional modules (choose one - Semester 2)
  • >Advanced Maths and Programming
  • >Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • >Marine Resources

If a student chooses to leave after successfully completing the second year, they will be awarded a Diploma of Higher Education in Foundations of Marine Science.

Mandatory modules
  • >Literature review (either semester)
Optional modules (choose five)
  • >Marine Pollution (Semester 1)
  • >Marine Zoology (Semester 1)
  • >Marine Microbial Ecology (Semester 1)
  • >Marine Instrumentation and Data (Semester 1)
  • >Marine Conservation (Semester 2)
  • >Marine Biogeochemical Cycling (Semester 2)
  • >Marine Robotics (Semester 2)
  • >Marine Biotechnology (Semester 2)
  • >Ocean Circulation and Climate (Semester 2)

A student who chooses to leave the programme after three years of successful study will be awarded an (ungraded) BSc Marine Science.

Mandatory modules
  • >Dissertation (double module - running over both semesters)
Optional modules (choose four)
  • >Aquaculture (Semester 1)
  • >Behaviour and Biological Clocks (Semester 1)
  • >Coastal Shelf Sea Dynamics (Semester 1)
  • >Fisheries Ecology (Semester 1)
  • >Defining the Carbon Cycle (Semester 1)
  • >Marine Environmental Impact Assessment (Semester 1)
  • >Deep Sea Ecosystems (Semester 2)
  • >Marine Modelling (Semester 2)
  • >Polar Seas (Semester 2)

After successful completion of all four years students are awarded the qualification of BSc (Hons) Marine Science. This qualification is graded as first class (70%+), second class (upper) (60-69%), second class (lower) (50-59%) and third class (40-49%).

Through the Marine Science BSc programme students gain a wide range of knowledge and skills. They also learn about the many jobs and sectors that require or benefit from a marine science education. 

  • >Aquaculture
  • >Fisheries 
  • >Marine conservation
  • >Environmental consultancy
  • >Environmental management eg in government agencies
  • >Eco-tourism 
  • >Education
  • >Research
  • >Biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry
  • >Marine energy (oil & gas, nuclear, renewables, biofuels)
  • >Science / environment journalism
  • >Surveying
  • >Diving
  • >Marine technology

Throughout their four-years at SAMS each students has a personal academic tutor. This is a member of the teaching staff who help the student with their academic development, define their career direction and plan how to prepare for the professional future they aspire to.

Not sure which career to follow? Career exploration tools

UHI career centre

The ultimate guide to passing any interview

Read up about some of the careers previous graduates from this programme are pursuing now...

Students must have

  • >English and Maths to at least GCSE /Intermediate2/S Grade/ National 5


  • >Scottish Higher: BBB or above (at least 2 from Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geology, Geography, Maths) OR
  • >A Level: BCC or above (at least 2 from Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geology, Geography, Maths) OR
  • >International Baccalaureate: 28 pts OR
  • >Relevant Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP): BBB

You don't have these qualifications?

Students with other qualifications, especially international, should contact us to discuss the specifics.

Applicants without traditional entry qualifications are welcome if they can provide evidence of required knowledge and competence.

How to apply - for UK and EU applicants

You must apply via UCAS using the following codes

  • >Marine Science BSc course code: F710
  • >Institution code (UHI): H49

 UCAS applications have strict deadlines, usually you must apply by mid-January if you want to start studying with us in September.

How to apply - international applicants

International applicants must apply using the UHI international application form. Please visit the international student part of this website for language and visa requirments etc. Please get in touch with us if you are a prospective international candidate - we are friendly and here to help!

Course fees

The course fees for this programme vary for a) Scottish and EU (outside UK) students, b) UK students from outside Scotland, and c) international students who do not reside in the UK or EU. Please visit the University of the Highlands and Islands website for current fees - click here.

Living expenses

How much a student needs to live on depends on their personal needs and chosen lifestyle. Below is an idea of monthly living expenses of a typical student:

Rent in shared accommodation or small flat      £200-£400
Bills for electricity, gas, water £30-£100
TV and internet £15-£30
Food and household items £130-£200
Travel to SAMS from Oban by bus £45
Study supplies £20-£50
Mobile phone £15-£40
Insurance £5
Other (hairdresser, gifts, dentist etc) £40
Leisure £100-£140
TOTAL £600-£1,050 per month

Other costs to consider

Council Tax:  Students can apply for exemption from Council Tax, which is otherwise added to the cost and varies with type of property

Deposit: You are very likely to have to pay a deposit for accommodation that will be repaid if you cause no damage but you need to budget this in

Medical expenses: We have excluded these here as they vary from person to person (eg glasses, prescriptions, treatments)

Loan repayments: These too are excluded but if you need to make any you must of course include them in your personalised budget

Car: If you choose to run a car, your monthly expenditure will go up significantly (road tax, insurance, petrol, maintenance, MOT)

Clothing: Depending on personal choices and needs

Home travel: This too is excluded in the above table as these costs vary individually

Visas: International students may have to pay a fee for their visa to enter the UK

Student hostel accommodation: This currently costs IRO £500 p.c.m. including all bills and internet costs (not payable over the summer)


Funding support

Various funding opportunities are available, depending on where you come from and your personal circumstances. Click here for more...

Some students have been lucky to obtain sponsorship eg from the Society for Underwater Technology.

Support for home students

Most British students are eligible to apply for a loan to cover tuition fees and may addionally qualify for a loan or bursary to contribute to paying living costs.

Scottish students and those who have resided in Scotland for at least three years should apply to the Student Award Agency Scotland as soon as they receive a conditional (or unconditional) university place.

Students from other parts of the UK (or who have resided legally in other parts of the UK for the past three years at least) should apply via (for England), Student Finance Wales or Student Finance NI respectively.

For further information on student loans, interest rates and repayment: 

Support for EU students

EU students are currently eligible to apply for a loan to cover tuition fees only from the Student Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS).  For further information please see students living in the European Union.


For autumn 2020 entry, the Scottish Government extends existing arrangements for the duration of a student's study programme. This means that EU students starting in the autumn of 2020 as first year marine science undergraduate students at SAMS UHI will NOT have to pay tuition fees for the four years of the BSc honours programme.

There is no substantial information available yet regarding the changes Brexit might make for EU citizens who are - or are wanting to - study in Scotland.

Support for international students

There is no centralised support agency to help international students but several countries offer bursaries to their nationals to study abroad, and there are support arrangement for specific programmes targeted at international students. Our Aquaculture, Environment and Society MSc course for example provides full studentships to international students. More information for international students...

Applicant's Day 2022| SAMS UHI

WHEN: Friday 1st April, 2022

WHERE: SAMS UHI, Dunbeg, Oban, PA37 1QA

Applicants holding an offer to our 2022 marine science degree course can join programme leaders, staff & students for more info and Q&A.



Stay tuned for information on our next 2022 Open Day......coming soon.


WATCH: Virtual Tour of SAMS UHI with Sam and Dan

READ: SAMS UHI Student Blog 


About our Open Days

Open Days at SAMS can take place online and on-campus where attendees can get the latest on our marine science degree course from programme leaders, staff & students. Open Days online can include interactive Q&A sessions and panel discussion featuring students, programme leaders and student services. Our popular Campus Tours give attendees the opportunity to explore the campus, meet students, programme leaders, scientists and lecturers and have a look round our teaching facilities.

Are you ready to sea the world differently and get inspired for a career in marine science? Study at the #universityonthebeach!

The BSc (Hons) Marine Science at SAMS UHI received a 100% student satisfaction score in the 2021 National Student Survey. UHI was also 1st in Scotland and 3rd in the UK for earth and marine science subjects in the #GuardianUniversityGuide2022 .

Attend our Open Days to learn more about why SAMS UHI is one of the top places in the world to study marine science and what joining our programme could mean for your future and the future of our oceans.

SAMS is an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).


Get in touch!

Contact: Polly Crooks, SAMS UHI Student Services and Course Advice

Email: | Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm

#universityonthebeach #ThinkUHI #marinescience

Studying at SAMS is different... and better!

Diverse modules

Diverse and highly relevant modules delivered by active world class researchers

Research culture

Integration into a dynamic, supportive and international research culture

Class size

Small class sizes, easy access to lecturers, high fieldwork and practical content

Student satisfaction

100% student satisfaction

Academic tutor

Personal academic tutor throughout your four year study

Transfer option

Opportunity to transfer to Arctic Studies stream

Our location

Stunning marine location with access to diverse coastal habitats and outdoor lifestyle opportunities

Research facilities

Excellent study and research facilities including research vessels and aquaria

Students introduce their dissertations (films produced in the science communication module)

More dissertation videos...

Are you ready to APPLY?

Take the first step towards a marine science career...

Apply now

Get in Touch

SAMS is Scotland’s largest and oldest independent marine science organisation, dedicated to delivering marine science.

SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute,
Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA

+44 (0)1631 559000

Contact Us

It would be great to hear from you! If you got any questions, please do not hesitate to send us a message. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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