Course overview

Pharmacology is the study of how drugs work. This includes any type of chemicals that produce an effect on the body; medicines, drugs of abuse, poisons, and chemicals in the food we eat and drink. We aim to answer some of the biggest questions we have surrounding drugs and medicine today.

Pharmacologists have been at the centre of developing medicines to revolutionise the treatment of diseases. These include:

  • life-saving antibiotics
  • hypertension
  • asthma
  • depression
  • statins to reduce cardiovascular disease
  • revolutionary retroviral drugs to manage HIV

Why choose this course?

  • Benefit from more tailored and individual teaching with smaller class sizes
  • With teaching staff active in research, you will benefit from a learning and teaching experience based on the latest research developments and expertise.
  • Prepare for your future career by gaining practical lab experience throughout your course
  • Nottingham is 7th in the world QS rankings for Pharmacology and Pharmacy

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.

UK entry requirements
A level AAB

Please note: Applicants whose backgrounds or personal circumstances have impacted their academic performance may receive a reduced offer. Please see our contextual admissions policy for more information.

Required subjects

AAB - Including Chemistry A level and Biology A level

If only chemistry, then this will be looked at on a case by case basis

IB score 34 points overall including 6, 6, 5 at higher level - including chemistry and biology

GCSE English language and maths at grade 4 or above also required

Foundation progression options

Pharmacology is one of the progression pathways for our Science with a Foundation Year course. Requirements for progression are:

  • Foundation Chemistry - 60%
  • Overall pass - 50%
  • English language modules (if taken) - 55%

Mature Students

At the University of Nottingham, we have a valuable community of mature students and we appreciate their contribution to the wider student population. You can find lots of useful information on the mature students webpage.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

Teaching methods

  • eLearning
  • Lectures
  • Lab sessions
  • Practical classes
  • Self-study
  • Seminars
  • Small group learning
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops

How you will be assessed

Assessment methods

  • Coursework
  • Practical write-ups
  • Lab reports
  • Dissertation
  • Examinations

Study abroad

We offer the chance to study abroad at an approved partner university through the Universitas 21 programme. This is an exciting opportunity to gain a global perspective of science, boost your communication skills, and to discover a new culture.

Study Abroad and the Year in Industry are subject to students meeting minimum academic requirements. Opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university’s control. Every effort will be made to update information as quickly as possible should a change occur.


Compulsory Modules

In the first year, students will learn pharmacology-specific skills and begin to understand the basics of drug design.

Genes, Molecules and Cells

This module combines lectures and laboratory classes and introduces you to the structure and function of significant molecules in cells, and the important metabolic processes which occur inside them. You will study, amongst other topics, protein and enzyme structure and function, the biosynthesis of cell components, and the role of cell membranes in barrier and transport processes. You'll examine how information in DNA is used to determine the structure of gene products. Topics include DNA structure, transcription and translation and mutation and recombinant DNA technology.

Human Physiology

Primary objective of the module

To provide a broad understanding of the physiology of the major systems in the body, which will be built upon in future pharmacology module.

Module content

This module is concerned with modern aspects of human physiology providing an overview of all the major systems of the human body. The course aims to provide a basic understanding of modern aspects of human physiology. The course will focus on 10 key systems including excitable tissues, the nervous system, endocrinology, the cardiovascular system, blood, respiration, the renal system, the gastrointestinal system, metabolism and reproduction.

Core Skills in Pharmacology

Primary objective of the module

To provide students with an introduction to key experimental, analytical and transferable skills, and to reinforce scientific themes from the first year in the context of small group tutorials.

Module content

The module has three major components:

  1. Tutorials and supporting lectures (approx. 25% contact time). Lectures will provide advice about key transferable skills, including scientific writing, oral presentations, plagiarism, and career development. Tutorials will provide practice related to these skills (including writing an essay and giving a presentation), in the context of discussions about key scientific ideas relevant to Pharmacology.
  2. Experimental Design and data Analysis (approx. 50%). A combination of a) lectures on the principles of the scientific method, good experimental design, and basic statistical analysis, and b) training in the statistical interpretation and analysis of data, delivered via a combination of workshops and self-study.
  3. Pharmacology (approx. 25%). A series of lectures and practicals on the fundamentals and quantification of the action of drugs which will underpin material present in other modules. Sources of information: online databases of literature, chemical and pharmacological data. 
Drug Structure

This module introduces the basic concepts of molecular structure that underlie the physicochemical properties of drugs and their interactions with pharmacological binding partners. You will learn how to draw the chemical structures of drug molecules, name them, and understand their composition, three-dimensional shape, and flexibility.

Fundamentals of Neuroscience

This module will give you a good grounding in the basic principles of the nervous system of humans and other animals. Topics will include neuroanatomy, cellular neuroscience, neuropharmacology, sensory systems, neuroendocrinology, memory, behavioural neuroscience and diseases of the nervous system. These will be delivered through weekly lectures and practical classes.

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 Friday 26 November 2021.

Compulsory Modules

In the second year, students will increase their scientific knowledge associated with pharmacology and drug discovery. Students will learn many of the core concepts outlined in the British Pharmacological Society core curriculum, relating these to treatment of disease.

Drugs and Diseases
Molecular Mechanisms of therapeutic drugs

The module aims to allow the student to develop an understanding of drug discovery and the pharmacology behind some of the most important classes of medicines that are currently in the clinic.

The course deals with fundamental concepts and methods in molecular pharmacology and protein structure. Students will study the major classes of drug targets, their role in signalling systems that lead to changes in cell and tissue function, and thus how their modulation can influence patient health.

As part of the focus on drug development, students will research in a focussed area of early drug discovery to identify how drug candidates may be taken on to become medicines.

Experimental Pharmacology

Primary objective of the module

This is a practical module to introduce students to experimental pharmacology, experimental design, data analysis, and how to write a scientific report.

Module Content

Students will carry out a series of practicals and workshops that will be closely tied-in with the lecture material delivered in the other pharmacology modules. Through this module, students will develop their practical skills, as well as their data analysis and scientific writing skills

Drug Design

You will learn how knowledge of structural and synthetic aspects of molecules is applied in the discovery and design of new drugs. The concepts of pharmacophores and structure–activity relationships are introduced with the aid of instructive examples of drugs in clinical use. You will learn to apply medicinal chemistry concepts to the design and optimisation of molecularly targeted drug candidate molecules.

Signalling and Metabolic Regulation
This module will explain the main signalling mechanisms that take place in eukaryotic cells. You will learn about the main signalling mechanisms and pathways which can control protein levels, activity and intra-cellular site of action. This knowledge will then be placed in the context of the regulation of major metabolic pathways, such that you will understand the factors influencing metabolic control, and dysregulation leading to major modern diseases like type II diabetes and heart disease.

Optional Modules

20 credits from other modules which will be chosen as options, for example:

Building Brains

Studying this module, you'll be able to explain how the nervous system develops, is organised, and processes information. This will be achieved through presentation of comparative invertebrate and vertebrate studies, consideration of evolutionary concepts, and a detailed analysis of the development, structure, and function of the mammalian brain. The lecture sessions are complemented by workshops on Drosophila and chick embryo development, on the neuroanatomy of the human spinal cord, and dissection of pig brains subject to the availability of tissue.

The Genome and Human Disease

In this module you will learn about the structure and function of the eukaryotic genome, including that of humans, and the approaches that have led to their understanding. You will learn about techniques that are employed to manipulate genes and genomes and how they can be applied to the field of medical genetics. By using specific disease examples, you will learn about the different type of DNA mutation that can lead to disease and how they have been identified. Practical elements will teach you about basic techniques used in medical genetics such as sub-cloning of DNA fragments into expression vectors. Practical classes and problem based learning will be used to explore the methods used for genetic engineering and genome manipulation.

Structure, Function and Analysis of Proteins

This module considers the structure and function of soluble proteins and how individual proteins can be studied in molecular detail. More specifically you will learn about the problems associated with studying membrane-bound proteins and build an in-depth understanding of enzyme kinetics and catalysis. You will learn about the practical aspects of affinity purification, SDS PAGE, western blotting, enzyme assays, bioinformatics and molecular modelling approaches.

From Genotype to Phenotype and Back

This module studies transporters and channels, groups of proteins responsible for controlling the flow of substances across lipid bilayers that are critical for cellular homeostasis. You will learn the basics of transporter and channel biology, and then apply this knowledge to design virtual experiments, the simulated results of which would gradually reveal the molecular basis of a transporter or channel related disease. You will design a series of “virtual experiments”, with appropriate controls, in order to probe the function of a particular gene in a physiological condition.

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

Compulsory Modules

Modules place emphasis on current and possible future advances in pharmacology.

Pharmacology Project

Primary objective of the module

This module will enable students to experience contemporary research methods.

Module content

Students will perform a laboratory based research project on a topic related to the interests of a member of the academic staff. They will produce a dissertation explaining what work was performed and a discussion of the results obtained.

Practical Techniques in Pharmacology

Primary objective of the module

To give students the skills to design and develop assays and to manage a project.

Module content

This module will run concurrently with the project module and provide students with project management skills e.g. scheduling, decision making.

Also covered will be assay development and design. Use of fluorescence techniques, radioisotopes, microscopy. Statistical analysis.

Other skills will include communication and presentation skills, team working skills. Students will be required to write a grant proposal and present the proposal to their peers. Students will need to consider the aim, experimental design, work plans, budgets, contingencies.

Translation to medicines

Primary objective of the module

To give students the skills required to analyse in vivo data from both animal studies and from clinical trials.

Module content

Students will gain an understanding of pre-clinical testing incl. toxicology and will gain an understanding of the laws and ethics underlying drug testing in pre-clinical and clinical trials. Students will learn how to analyse clinical pharmacology data from patients, applying pharmacokinetic aspects of drugs and expertise in pathophysiology of diseases, interpretation of in vivo data, and human dose prediction.


Drug Discovery and Future Medicines

Primary objective of the module

To cover the pharmacological treatment of disease, both current and future treatments, in detail.

Module content

This 3rd year module will look at mechanisms of drug action in further detail and complexity. Students will also be taken through the drug discovery process, including: overview of the drug discovery process (target identification- human genetics data; target-driven drug discovery, HTS strategies; target validation; QSAR); Target driven drug discovery. This will be linked to future/ novel targets for CVD, obesity, diabetes, immune diseases, Cancer, Respiratory disease, CNS disorders. Students will also be provided with an understanding of what is required to get a drug approved. Lectures from guest clinical speakers will put the pharmacology in a clinical setting.

 As part of this module, students will work in groups as part of a Virtual Drug Discovery simulator:

Students will be guided through the drug discovery process through identification of a novel drug for treatment of “X” with a combination of self-directed learning and workshops. Workshops will be linked in with lectures. Students will be expected to work in teams and drive the drug discovery process. They will be provided with data in workshops. The data they are provided with will depend on the decisions they make about what experiments or testing is required. They will start at target identification, do an initial screen, decide on which drugs to take forward and how to develop them into the clinical phase. They will then carry out a clinical trial and analyse the data.

Molecular Pharmacology and advanced quantitative pharmacology

Primary objective of the module

To build on the detail and add further complexity to the drug discovery problems studied in year 2, with a focus on how the interpretation of quantitative pharmacology data can be dependent upon the signalling pathways measured.

Module Content

The lectures will be linked to a series of drug discovery problems. Topics covered include signal transduction, spare receptors, amplification, biased signalling, and molecular biology applied to pharmacology (biotechnological techniques, cloning receptors, recombinant proteins for therapy, gene manipulation in animals, mutants and their uses). Kinetics of drug binding, enzymology, ion channel pharmacology, non-GPCR targets, and mode of action of drugs targeting enzymes.

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

Fees and funding

UK students

Per year

International students

Per year

*For full details including fees for part-time students and reduced fees during your time studying abroad or on placement (where applicable), see our fees page.

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) .

Additional costs

There are some key textbooks that students may wish to purchase themselves. However, these textbooks are freely available from the library in electronic version.

Students will be required to purchase a lab coat and safety glasses.

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £1,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International students

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

International scholarships


A Pharmacology degree will enable students to develop transferable skills such as data handling and communication skills. According to British Pharmacological Society data, many Pharmacology graduates (around 25%) go on to further their education in PhD, PGCE or MSc studies. This is higher than other STEM graduates.

Pharmacologists play an important role throughout the Drug Discovery process. In a standard Pharmacology degree, around 20% of graduates enter employment in the pharmaceutical industry to pursue research or related careers. Pharmacologists are employed in both SME Biotech companies as well as large pharmaceutical companies. As well as drug discovery, pharmacology expertise is used in clinical trials, manufacturing, regulatory affairs, and patenting.

Other popular industries include:

  • the financial services
  • the Civil Service and the NHS
  • marketing and medical information, providing a link between pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and patients

Studying for a degree at the University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take.

Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers (Ranked in the top ten in The Graduate Market in 2013-2020, High Fliers Research).

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Important information

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.