School of Biological Sciences

Postgraduate study in Biology

Preparing slices of diseased coral for microscopic investigation.

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The School of Biological Sciences offers an outstanding postgraduate programme with many options to suit students’ needs.

Our approachable staff undertake research at an international level and the School’s fully-equipped labs facilitate all our science programmes.

If you are a qualified graduate, we welcome your application to undertake postgraduate study at Victoria University.


Honours Degrees

A Bachelor of Science with Honours, BSc (Hons), is a stand-alone one year full-time programme of coursework with a research project . It generally allows students to progress directly to PhD study. The School offers the degree with majors in:

  • Biotechnology
  • Cell and Molecular Bioscience
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecology and Biodiversity
  • Marine Biology
  • Microbiology

 A specialist Honours programme is offered in Biomedical Science (BmedSc).


About Honours

An Honours degree follows an undergraduate degree such as a BSc or BBMSc and is designed to provide students with depth in a specialised field.

Honours is normally a full-time, one year programme involving three 30 point courses and a research project. The courses can be chosen in line with a student’s interests. Minimum entry qualifications are a BSc or BBMSc degree in an appropriate field with an average grade of B+ or higher in relevant 300 level papers.

A research project is an important part of the year’s work and is a good opportunity for further study in a selected topic. The project also provides practical training in research methods, an evaluation of published research and experience of the scientific process.

Arranging a supervisor for the research project is very important. Supervisors for research projects in Cell and Molecular Biology are assigned to students, but in all other majors, potential candidates must arrange their own supervisor before enrolment.

Honours is a significant step up from undergraduate study and students are expected to behave in a collegial manner and contribute to the academic life of the School.

Any students interested in finding out more about Honours are encouraged to contact a member of academic staff.

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Masters Degrees

A Master of Science is a research degree. It consists of two parts and is normally completed in two calendar years. Part 1 (the first year) involves three courses of 30 points each and a research preparation course. Part 2 (the second year) is a full-time research project, leading to a thesis.

The School offers the degree with majors in:

  • Biotechnology
  • Cell and Molecular Bioscience
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecology and Biodiversity
  • Ecological Restoration
  • Marine Biology
  • Molecular Microbiology

A specialist Masters programme is offered in Biomedical Science.

In addition to the two-year MSc degrees described above, there are also taught Masters degrees in Conservation Biology and Marine Conservation consisting  of a range of postgraduate level courses only. A thesis is not required in taught Masters.

Find out more about these specialist courses here:

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Choosing Honours or Masters 

Many students find it hard to decide whether to follow their BSc with Honours or Masters. Here are some points to consider.

Honours is an intensive and sometimes stressful programme, but takes only one year. A good grade will give you access to PhD programmes in most New Zealand and Australian universities. Some overseas universities require an MSc for entrance into their PhD programmes.

A Masters degree takes most students two to two and a half years to complete, so will cost more in fees than Honours. A thesis and possibly additional publications are written to document the one year research component. Masters is recognised as a research degree and graduates acquire more technical and laboratory skills than Honours students. Masters Part 1is similar to an Honours year. It includes a 30 point paper, Preparation for Research, which contains assessed tasks such as a thesis proposal, literature survey, pilot studies and a draft thesis introduction.

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Diplomas and Certificates

Graduate Diploma in Science (GDipSc)

A Graduate Diploma in Science (GDipSc) is a one year course for students who already have a degree in another subject, but wish to pursue further study in science.

The course consists of 120 points above 100 level from the BSc schedule and must include at least 75 points at 300 level. Up to 30 points may be from courses outside science.

The GDipSc may be endorsed with the name of a subject major eg:GDipSc in Marine Biology. The School offers this in:

  • Biology
  • Biotechnology
  • Cell and Molecular Bioscience
  • Ecology and Biodiversity
  • Marine Biology

Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSc)

A Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSc) is a one year option for those who wish to extend their BSc with a coursework qualification. The course is made up of 120 points at 400 level and does not require a research project, although a project may be included where appropriate. The minimum entry qualification is a BSc with an average grade of B or higher in relevant 300 level papers.

The PGDipSc is offered in:

  • Biotechnology
  • Cell and Molecular Bioscience
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecological Restoration
  • Ecology and Biodiversity
  • Marine Biology
  • Molecular Microbiology

Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Research (PGDipCR)

The Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Research is a distance course that provides clinical researchers with the skills for undertaking drug development and clinical trials. It is the only qualification of its kind in New Zealand.

The Postgraduate Diploma is largely taught online by clinicians from Capital & Coast District Health Board and the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand . Victoria University staff will have advisory roles.

For more information visit the PGDipCR page.


Postgraduate Certificates (PGCert)

A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) may be completed in one semester and is offered in Marine Conservation (PGCertMarCon) and New Zealand Conservation (PGCertNZCon).

In addition to these named Postgraduate Certificates, a Postgraduate Certificate in Science (PGCertSc), consisting of 60 points at 400 level, is offered in:

  • Biotechnology
  • Cell and Molecular Bioscience
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecological Restoration
  • Ecology and Biodiversity
  • Marine Biology
  • Molecular Microbiology

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PhD Degrees

The PhD is the highest degree offered by the School of Biological Sciences and usually takes three to four years to complete. It is an internationally recognised research degree in the scientific community and opens up rich and varied career opportunities.

The Faculty of Graduate Research is the initial contact point for all PhD students. Please visit their website for all queries, including available funding, the role of a supervisor and the application process. The Faculty provides ongoing support to PhD students throughout their studies at Victoria.

More information about the PhD is available on the Faculty of Science website.

How to Apply for Postgraduate Study

Students are encouraged to discuss possible projects with potential supervisors or graduate coordinators although this is not necessary in order to apply.

Students wanting to study Ecology and Biodiversity and Marine Biology are encouraged to apply early, since some projects require summer fieldwork or have a seasonal requirement.