Natural Sciences

Teaching and Learning


Studying at university-level is different to your previous learning, classes are often larger and you are taught by academics who are working at the cutting edge of their field.

Teaching is provided via a modular structure. Modules are measured in credits, and notionally each credit takes ten hours of study time. Students take 120 credits worth of modules a year.

Each year is divided into two 15 week semesters (Autumn and Spring), and modules will run in either one of those semesters or span a full year. Students take a mixture of compulsory modules, which are essential to the understanding of the subject, and optionally modules, which enable students to further tailor their degree to their interests.

There are modules in the first and third year which are compulsory for all Natural Sciences students but the majority of modules are dictated by the subjects you are studying as part of Natural Sciences. Modules taken by Natural Sciences students are often taught jointly with other programmes so you study biology alongside other biological degrees and mathematics alongside other mathematical degrees. 


Types of Classes

Because you'll be studying three different subjects you will experience many teaching styles and types of class:

  • Lectures - Standard lecture sessions with a class size of up to 400 students.
  • Tutorials - classes of 5-6, where lecture material is discussed in greater detail.
  • Problem Classes - similar to tutorials, these classes reinforce work covered in lectures, but with a greater emphasis on practical work.
  • Seminars - sessions for discussion and debate, in a class size typically ranging from 5-25 
  • Laboratory Classes - classes in which you'll be conducting experiments. Over the 3-4 year period your lab work will become self-led. Our labs usually have no more than 50 students at any given time.


All your assessments, whether coursework or exams, are set by the lecturers who are teaching you.

Some modules will be assessed entirely by exam, others entirely by coursework, but more commonly a combination of the two.

  • Examinations - during the last 2-3 weeks of each semester, ranging from 1-3 hours.
  • Coursework - both assigned and submitted during the semester in which the module is taught. 
  • A module may have several pieces of coursework or even regular weekly deadlines with work that is continually assessed (common in laboratory classes).


Facilities for learning

The University has enviable facilities for teaching and learning including modern lecture theatres which hold anywhere from 30 to 500 students at a time to smaller rooms to facilitate problem classes, discussion classes and workshops.

Since the modules you study are taught by the individual contributing subjects Natural Sciences students benefit from specialised teaching facilities in each of the subjects that you study including fully equipped teaching laboratories and dedicated networked computer labs providing access to any software required for your studies.

Independent learning is supported through our excellent learning facilities with space for individual and group study, a wide selection of electronic and physical resources through our libraries and access to PCs and printers across our campuses.


What does a typical week look like?

The following timetable is based on the first-year timetable for the Biology, Chemistry, Maths pathway.  Tutorials are often not part of your core teaching timetable but are arranged separately at a mutually convenient time with your tutor for that subject.

The number of contact hours in a typical week ranges from 18 to 25 depending on the pathway. Subjects with less contact time involve more self-led study, so having fewer hours of contact time does not mean there will be less work to do. 

Typical Timetable for first year - Monday - four hours 9-1 with a mixture of lectures, tutorials and study groups: Tuesday - two hours 10-12 a tutorial followed by a lecture: Wednesday - 9-1 Lab class all morning: Thursday - a full day with some gaps, lecture 9-10, workshop 11-1 followed by a lecture at 12, lecture and workshop back-to-back 4-6: Friday - a full day, lecture at 9 followed by a lab class at 10-1, lectures at 2,3,4 and 5.


Natural Sciences

School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Nottingham
University Park

Tel: +44 (0) 115 823 2376
Fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3555