Course overview

Our MSc course in Biotechnology is about discovery and innovation of novel products and translation of knowledge into application. The emphasis of the course is about the impact of modern biotechnological tools and approaches to address today's global challenges, from food to therapeutics. You'll learn about fundamental cellular mechanisms, genetic manipulations of biological systems and production processes. You will be trained in high throughput technologies in taught modules such as advanced molecular methods and be equipped with strong research and professional skills throughout the curriculum.

Industrial and commercial aspects of biotechnology bring you closer to the current trends and careers in the field.

You can specialise in plant, microbial or animal biotechnology:

  • Plant pathway – provides the theory and practical skills in plant genetic manipulation, plant breeding, crop improvement and genome research.
  • Microbial pathway – study gene expression and metabolic engineering of micro-organisms. You'll gain theory and practical skills on the use of microbial production platforms for various end purposes such as therapeutics and biofuels.
  • Animal pathway – gain specialist knowledge and practical skills, from reproductive biotechnologies to stem cell therapies.

Research project

You can carry out the project on campus or as part of an industrial placement. Placements in industry will be subject to meeting academic requirements.

The majority of the course is delivered at Sutton Bonington Campus, with one taught module being delivered at Jubilee Campus. Research projects are hosted by supervisors based at Sutton Bonington and University Park Campus.

Why choose this course?

Teaching laboratories

Our technology enhanced labs provide a world-class practical learning experience

Research led teaching

You'll learn about the latest research trends addressing global challenges 

Careers workshops

help you to develop the professional skills to succeed in the global job market

Industrial experience

Learn about innovation, commercialisation in practice through curriculum embedded modules and industrial placements

Course content

The course consists of 180 credits and is taught over three semesters. Taught modules contribute 120 credits, with a research project and a dissertation contributing to 60 credits. This course offers unique components related to specialist skills in three pathways: 

Plant Biotechnology pathway

This pathway provides theory and practical skills in plant genetic manipulation, plant breeding and genome research, which underpin all aspects of agriculture and horticulture worldwide. Specialist modules will provide an understanding of plant cell biology and the role of phytohormones in plant physiology. Genetic improvement of crop plants forms part of a pipeline to transfer novel plant traits into crops. A series of off-site visits will inform you about the latest technologies and research related to plant improvement and provides insight into current plant research in the agricultural and agro-industry sectors.

Microbial Biotechnology pathway

This pathway offers knowledge in using micro-organisms as production platforms for valuable compounds such as therapeutics, biofuels, food additives and antibiotics. It covers a range of topics in expression systems, from metabolic engineering to synthetic biology. Specialist modules such as bioprocessing, bioengineering and antibody biotechnology will provide you with an understanding of how technologies can help to solve problems in an industrial and biomedical context.

You'll use case studies and practicals to understand production processes in Industrial Biotechnology. Theory is supported by practice-based learning approaches and industry visits.

Animal Biotechnology pathway

This stream covers a range of topics from molecular techniques used to study gene function in eukaryotic cells to whole organisms, with specialised topics in bioinformatics, molecular immunology, developmental epigenetics, molecular nutrition, reproductive biotechnologies and stem cell technologies. Specialist modules are related to our areas of expertise, for example, transgenic technologies, in vitro embryo production systems, biomarker discovery and genetic and epigenetic basis of disease.


Core modules

Postgraduate Research Project 60 credits

You can carry out the project on campus or as part of an industrial placement. Placements in industry will be subject to meeting academic requirements. If you are completing your project in industry you will have an industrial supervisor who will determine the topic. You will design the study; and gain familiarity with previously published literature, together with the methods/techniques. You will use data collection and appropriate quantitative analysis in preparation for the report and poster presentation.

Advanced Molecular Methods in Biotechnology 20 credits

You will be introduced to modern molecular methods in biotechnology. Particular focus will be on transgenic methods and the use and application of bioinformatics in understanding the functional roles of genes, metabolites and proteins and how they can be analysed using a variety of new technologies, including deep sequencing, proteomics, mass spectrometry and transcriptomics. You will gain knowledge in applying, analysing and manipulating cells using current molecular methods and high-throughput technologies.

Cell Factories 10 credits

Microbes, Plants and Animal cells have been largely exploited for the controlled production of substances of interest in biotechnology. This module will give an overview of nascent and current trends in development and commercialisation of products relating to food, energy, and pharmaceuticals and the need to push towards fully sustainable bio-production of a larger spectrum of substances and their economic feasibility.

The module will also highlight ethical and environmental concerns on the use of genetically modified biological systems. Topics highlighted in this module include but not limited to ethics of GMO’s, commercial development of GM varieties, products of commercial significance, current issues, patenting and risk assessments.

Technology Entrepreneurship 10 credits

This module aims to provide students with the skills, knowledge and practical experience required to respond to the challenges involved in managing, commercialising and marketing technological innovation and new business development.

Professional Skills for Biotechnologists 10 credits

The content of the module focusses on career management skills and the knowledge required to gain success within the global job market. You will have the opportunities to evaluate your own skills, interests, experiences and goals to identify suitable opportunities. Training will be given in core competencies and techniques needed to be able to make applications that have positive impact on employers.

Basic Laboratory Techniques 10 credits

This module will provide practical experience in basic laboratory techniques including microbiological methods (media preparation, sterile technique, growth measurement etc), basic biochemical methods (buffer preparation and centrifugation) and molecular biological techniques (preparation and analysis of DNA). Practical work will be supported by lectures to provide an understanding of the basis of the techniques, the limitations of the methods and the appropriate methods of analysis.

Plant pathway

Plant Cell Signalling 10 credits

The module deals with the production and perception of plant signalling molecules. The ways in which these signals are integrated to ensure appropriate responses to environmental conditions or plant pathogen attack are discussed.

Sex, Flowers and Biotechnology 10 credits

The processes of floral development and reproduction are some of the most critical stages occurring during plant growth and development. They are fundamental for plant breeding, crop productivity and horticulture. The significance of plant reproduction is particularly pertinent to issues of food security and the future development of high yielding crops. In this module, you’ll focus on recent developments that have been made in the understanding of floral development, reproduction and seed production, including the current goals, methods and achievements in the genetic engineering of crop and horticultural plants. With an emphasis on reproductive biology or fruit production, you’ll learn how such processes can be manipulated for commercial exploitation and to facilitate crop improvement. Through a mix of lectures and seminars, you’ll gain a detailed knowledge on the developmental and molecular processes associated with flowering, seed production and fruit development.

Industrial and Commercial Aspects of Plant Biotechnology 10 credits

The module will cover the application of the latest and emergent biotechnology options for crop improvement in relation to crop production. This will involve consideration of the genetic engineering of plant species to introduce new traits and new genetic mapping techniques as an aid to conventional plant breeding programmes. You will visit research institutes and agri-biotech companies to see the latest technologies in action. The visits will include days spent at Rothamsted Research, NIAB, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and several plant breeding companies. Instruction will be in the form of lectures and practical demonstrations including cereal transformation, molecular approaches to varietal analysis and image analysis for varietal profiling.  A visit to Elsoms Seeds will enable you to see seed quality testing, breeding strategies for vegetable crops, trialling and tissue culture for homozygous plant production.

Plant Biotechnology MSc Pre-Project 10 credits

This module provides you with the information and advice necessary to choose and carry out a project topic.

Early in the Autumn Semester, a list of project topics will be provided and discussed with you. This is followed up by individual tutorials with the module convenor to assist project choice. Project areas reflect the current research expertise within the Plant and Crop Sciences Division. All projects involve laboratory work and many involve the introduction and expression of agronomically important genes into crop species using tissue culture and molecular techniques. Individual tutorials with project supervisors provide the support allowing you to present a completed research plan which will form the basis of seminar presentations in the Spring Semester.

During the Autumn Semester you are required to select a recent plant biotechnology research paper for oral presentation. This allows you to develop the skills of summarising a primary research paper and developing a group discussion. The module is completed by an extensive literature review guided by the project supervisor.

Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants 20 credits

The genetic improvement of crop plants is critical to address issues of food security for a growing world population and in the face of a changing climate. It is also the key to tackling environmental degradation and to meeting the increasing strict regulations on agricultural pollution which are coming into force in many Western countries. While these issues are not identical, they are linked and efficient plant breeding can be part of the solution to both. In this module, you’ll develop an understanding of crop genetic improvement through lectures, case and literature studies, research plan presentations, external expert seminars and practical exposure to crop breeding and molecular techniques. You’ll examine how modern and technological approaches can enhance crop breeding programmes and be able to assess the limitations of these approaches. The emphasis is on the application of biotechnology to conventional breeding, but you’ll also learn about genetic modification in the genetic improvement of crops. You’ll cover temperate and tropical, annual and perennial, and in-breeding and out-breeding crops.

Animal pathway

Industrial and Commercial Aspects of Animal Biotechnology 10 credits

The module will cover visits to industries relevant to animal biotechnology. The objective is to provide you with an understanding of the processes involved in research and development. Activities include lectures and tutorials.

Molecular Nutrition (Biotechnology Option) 10 credits

This module will introduce the concept of metabolic control at the gene expression level with particular reference to the role of nutrients in these processes. Through the provision and application of relevant biochemical and molecular biology information, you will gain an understanding of the regulatory effects of nutrients, either directly or indirectly, on gene expression and how this influences metabolism and growth in eukaryotic systems.

Animal Biotechnology 20 credits

This module will cover current state of the art technologies used in the animal biotechnology industry. Content includes the genetic modification of animals and animal cells with the purpose of using them as bioreactors, models of human disease and for regenerative medicine. Content is delivered via a highly interactive program of activities, including lectures, seminars, practicals, workshops, and paper discussions, that require students’ active participation in the learning process.

Antibody Biotechnology 10 credits

This module will provide you with an understanding of how antibody biotechnology can be applied to solve problems in an industrial and biomedical context. It will cover the following: antibody structure and function, monoclonal antibodies, IgE and its receptors, the immunoglobulin system, the structure of immunoglobulins and their complexes with antigen, solution structure and properties of antibodies, and other related topics.

Research Techniques in Animal Biotechnology 10 credits

This module considers dry lab demonstrations on techniques in animal and laboratory research, research processes in government and industry funded research, experimental design, data analysis and interpretation and other topics as deemed appropriate to the module content.

Microbial pathway

Antibody Biotechnology 10 credits

This module will provide you with an understanding of how antibody biotechnology can be applied to solve problems in an industrial and biomedical context. It will cover the following: antibody structure and function, monoclonal antibodies, IgE and its receptors, the immunoglobulin system, the structure of immunoglobulins and their complexes with antigen, solution structure and properties of antibodies, and other related topics.

Industrial and Commercial aspects of Microbial Biotechnology 10 credits

This module will cover visits to industries relevant to Microbial Biotechnology. The objective is to provide you with an understanding of commercial development of products and the processes involved in research and development. A wide range of industries from pharmaceutical to food will be covered as a part of this module. Activities include industrial visits, team based learning, lectures, seminars and tutorials.

Bioprocessing and Bioengineering 20 credits

The module content includes advanced aspects of protein expression and the impact of genetic engineering in the biotechnology industry. This module covers underpinning principles for bio-processing technologies, including an overview of microbial expression systems, their metabolism and challenges in scale up of biomolecules of industrial, commercial significance. You will take part in practical sessions, lectures, seminars and tutorials.

Research Skills in Microbial Biotechnology 10 credits

This is a core module taught to MSc in Microbial Biotechnology specialism and is designed to introduce you to basic techniques for use in research project. In addition, current trends in microbial biotechnology with microbes as examples will be examined from the current literature. As a research preparation module it is intended to supplement and prepare you for D24PRO by gaining information on relevant techniques both in the lab and also helpful in data interpretation.

Yeast Fermentation Biotech 10 credits

This module considers advanced aspects of yeast cell physiology, biochemistry and the fermentation process, delivered using a blended learning approach. The content is related to yeast and fermentation, particularly relevant to the production of fermented beverages, biofuels and other related products. The specific characteristics of yeast which make this organism valuable will be described in detail. Aspects including functionality, metabolic pathways and their ability to convert substrates into commercially valuable end products for a range of industrial applications is the key focus.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Tuesday 09 April 2024.

Due to timetabling availability, there may be restrictions on some module combinations.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • Practical classes
  • Problem-based learning
  • Workshops
  • Seminars

Although lectures and practical classes still play an important role as the course progresses, your learning experience is enhanced by placing greater reliance on self-directed study, written dissertations in research project work.

Teaching is provided by teaching fellows, assistant professors, associate professors and professors. Technical staff, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers provide additional support in small group and practical classes.

How you will be assessed

  • Examinations
  • Coursework
  • Presentation
  • Essay
  • Lab reports
  • Dissertation
  • Poster presentation

Modules are assessed using a variety of individual assessment types which are weighted to calculate your final mark for each module. Typically all taught modules have one or two pieces of coursework and/or an exam.

You will need an average mark of 50% to pass the MSc overall. You will be given a copy of our marking criteria when you start the course and will receive regular feedback from your lecturers and tutors.

Contact time and study hours

The number of formal contact hours varies depending on the core and specialist modules you are studying. As a guide, you will typically spend around 22 to 30 hours per module.

You will work on your research project between June and September, either based at the University or via an industry placement. You would be supervised for 3 hours per week, on average.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:2 (or international equivalent) in biotechnology, plant sciences, animal sciences, microbiology, genetics or veterinary medicine


Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification MSc
Home / UK 11,850
International 30,200

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies. If you do these would cost around £40.

Due to our commitment to sustainability, we don’t print lecture notes but these are available digitally. You will be given £5 worth of printer credits a year. You are welcome to buy more credits if you need them. It costs 4p to print one black and white page.

If you do an industry placement, you may need to consider the travel and living costs associated with this.

Personal laptops are not compulsory as we have computer labs that are open 24 hours a day but you may want to consider one if you wish to work at home.


There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

Previous graduates have taken up roles with Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Gene Script and Biogenuix Medsystems. Others have pursued research careers with universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, BOKU Vienna, Tu Darmstadt and the BBSRC DTP PhD studentships. 

Career progression

94.1% of postgraduate taught students from the School of Biosciences secured graduate level employment or further graduate level study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £32,173*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Guardian Outcomes % is derived using the Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on data from graduates who completed a full-time postgraduate taught degree with home fee status and are working full-time within the UK. 

You will complete a three-month research project in your chosen pathway (plant, microbial or animal biotechnology) supervised throughout by an member of academic staff. Our dedicated Placements Team work with you on a one-to-one basis to help you find and prepare for the industry placement, if applicable.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" I have extensive experience in biotechnology having worked in both academia and industry. My research expertise is in microbial biotechnology. I have specific interests in sustainability, waste management, search and discovery strategies for novel bioactive compounds and enzymes. I am a Senior Fellow of Advance HE, Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and recipient of the 'Lord Dearing Award' for excellent student support. "
Dr Nagamani Bora is the Course Director for MSc Biotechnology

Related courses

This content was last updated on Tuesday 09 April 2024. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.