Master of Science in Biology
The Master in Biology has a far-reaching influence on numerous areas within science and society. The research domain of biology itself is very broad, and covers the entire spectrum of life, its diversity and its formation at all the different organization levels, ranging from a cell and ecosystem to the level of the biosphere.
The Master in Biology has a far-reaching influence on numerous areas within science and society. The research domain of biology itself is very broad, and covers the entire spectrum of life, its diversity and its formation at all the different organization levels, ranging from a cell and ecosystem to the level of the biosphere. Actual topics and challenges such as protection of endangered species, global change, sustainability, cloning of organisms, dangerous diseases and medical progress all have their roots in biology. Biology also contributes to numerous conceptual innovations that lead towards new disciplines such as molecular biology and biotechnology. Biology is an exciting and ever-evolving field of study thanks to its close interaction with a broad range of other disciplines such as chemistry, geology, geography and physics.
The admission requirements vary. Depending on your preliminary training, you are either able to enrol directly, or there are additional requirements.
The two-year Master's programme (120 credits) contains the following components:
18 credits worth of general course units;
42 credits worth of major course units;
30 credits worth of minor (elective) course units;
30 credits worth of Master's dissertation.
The general course units prepare students for making an informed choice of major course units and their Master's dissertation.
In the first year of the Master's programme students choose one of four possible majors:
- General Biology
- Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology
- Global Change Ecology
- Functional biology
Their choice of major allows students to deepen their knowledge of one of the research areas in which Ghent University has expertise.
Students can also choose one of two minors, both consisting of broadening elective course units.
Possible combinations between minors and majors are:
Bio-inspired Innovation and Sustainability Minor - General Biology Major
Research Minor - Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology Major
Research Minor - Global Change Ecology Major
Research Minor - Functional Biology Major.
Students write their Master’s dissertation on a topic related to their choice of major. Most Master’s dissertations dovetail with current national or international (research) projects. However, the Master’s dissertation can also exploit the results of specific projects or it can even have a prospective character regarding future projects.
In addition to the (domain) Master’s programme described above, you can also choose a Master’s Programme in Teaching (in Dutch: Educatieve Master). The Educatieve Master, however, is a Dutch-taught programme. For more information, go to (www.ugent.be/educatievemaster 120 ECTS-credits).
Graduates of the Master in Biology can be professionally active in quite a broad spectrum of jobs. One important sector is scientific research at universities or other scientific research institutes, but they can also apply their research skills within an industrial context, in companies where research and development is the core business. Their profession can also be more education oriented, both at secondary or higher education level, but also indirectly in counseling or managerial functions within the government
Over the last couple of decades, the biologist's job profile has become quite versatile, with new perspectives being offered by more applied research in an industrial context. The term industry must be interpreted broadly here, ranging from biotech and food technology, to the pharmaceutical and biomedical industry. Overall, the job market is looking for more scientifically trained people, with a multitude of possible specifications. Many biologists are also professionally active in production, quality control and sales (f.i. biology or research related products), but also their statistical skills are highly valued. Our graduates can thus also apply their computing and statistical data analysis skills in several fields of the job market.
At Ghent University, we strive to educate people who dare to think about the challenges of tomorrow. For that purpose, we provide education that is embedded in six strategic objectives: Think Broadly, Keep Researching, Cultivate Talent, Contribute, Extend Horizons, Opt for Quality.
Ghent University continuously focuses on quality assurance and quality culture. The Ghent University's quality assurance system offers information on each study programme’s unique selling points, and on its strengths and weaknesses with regard to quality assurance.
Ghent University's Education Objectives
Unique Selling Points
- Multiperspectivism: our students start their training with a broad scientific basis, which paves the way for various specialized subdisciplines in biology later on the curriculum. In so doing, our students acquire a multidisciplinary outlook on all things biological. In addition, we broadly contextualize the importance and applicability of biology in society (e.g. nature conservation, sustainable development, climate change, bioethics), encouraging our students to becoming critical and socially conscious thinkers. By means of numerous group activities we create a stimulating environment for students to acquire a problem-solving attitude with a focus on interaction and multidisciplinarity.
- Talent development: our broad Bachelor’s curriculum equips our students with the necessary knowledge and skills for them to discover their own interests and talents. The Master’s curriculum, then, offers majors, minors and elective course units and the Master’s dissertation. It offers students the freedom to compose a curriculum that suits their own interests. Curricular choices are also determined by our students’ professional interests: research, education or entrepreneurship. By means of a specific choice of teaching methods we offer our students the tools to stimulate awareness of their own talents, also within a professional context (e.g. organizing a symposium, writing application letters, opting for a professional work placement, …).
- Knowledge creation: in our curriculum, we strive for a balance between knowledge development and practical skills acquisition. We apply this balance in as integrated (and interdisciplinary) a manner as possible. Critical, analytical and problem-solving thinking is key in coming to well-founded yet easy-to-understand solutions and syntheses. The Biology curriculum relies on the extensive research expertise from the lecturers involved, whose teaching practice is based on their own specialization and excellence.
- Programme: in our English-taught Master’s curriculum students choose one of three profiles/majors: Research Biology, the Master of Science in Teaching in Biology, or General Biology (entrepreneurship). Each major is founded on the core expertise of researchers at the Biology department: Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, Functional Biology and Global Change Ecology. Depending on the chosen profile, the curriculum offers further options and room for studying abroad.
- Integration of theory and practice: the Master’s curriculum contains a balanced combination of lectures and an extensive set of practical teaching methods (in the lab, the computer lab, in the field, the classroom, etc.). Individual or group assignments stimulate a creative and critical approach to scientific problems, and how to translate them to specific target groups (other students, policy makers, society, etc.). In so doing, our curriculum emphasizes and stimulates the students’ growth in academic integrity, communication skills, technical and analytical skills.
- Educational vision and objective: our revised curriculum is based on a well-considered and up-to-date education vision (i.e. “delivering “creative and reflective practitioners”, who translate their problem-solving thinking within a realistic (professional) context into adequate action, through a process of constant assessment and adjustment of their learning and thinking process”), which was regarded as ‘excellent’ by the visitation committee. Among other things, this vision translates into a curricular structure and curricular options that steer students towards a more conscious professional profile. At Master’s level, the education vision also reflects the Biology Department’s policy vision, which guarantees education provided by experts from the focus disciplines involved.
- Broad scientific basis: the Bachelor’s curriculum starts with a broad scientific foundation, based on three learning pathways (i.e. functional biology, biodiversity and evolution, and ecology). In the Master’s curriculum these learning pathways make sure that students can make targeted choices tailored to their individual interests and talents, while at the same time stimulating a broad interdisciplinarity.
- Integration of theory and practice: Theory in lectures is extensively linked to a wide range of different active teaching methods (either individually or in group), during which integration (of interdisciplinary information and techniques) and critical self-reflection are key.
- Analytical Skills: Research competencies in biology require extensive analytical competencies in statistics. Throughout the curriculum, students are given the opportunity to develop the necessary statistical and analytical skills, and to apply them in research (also in a professional context).
- Communication and accessibility: We place great store by an efficient communication structure, both among the teaching staff (in the context of quality assurance) and towards students (course units and active teaching methods aimed at acquiring communicative competencies for reaching a wide range of target audiences). Our low-threshold approach stimulates an active flow of information in both directions.
- Integration of practical teaching methods: the current curricular structure implies that practical teaching methods are linked to individual course units, while interdisciplinarity and integration would benefit from a more coordinated approach. We will carry out a feasibility study to detach practical teaching methods from individual course units, and to integrate these into an overarching integrative practicum.
- Feedback: students rightly wish for more interim feedback on assignments completed throughout the year. We encourage our lecturers to communicate their expectations and achievements more clearly and more frequently.
- External view: graduated biologists end up in a very broad field, ranging from researcher in biodiversity and nature management, to environmental consultant or medical representative. However, the needs of the professional field are evolving very quickly under the influence of new scientific and social developments, such as the increasing use of genome analysis in all branches of biological research, or the urgent need for adequate assessment techniques to map the impact of climate change on ecosystems. Keeping abreast of these changing needs and developments, and adjusting the curriculum accordingly, can only be achieved through close consultation with the broad and dynamic professional field. Since 2016 we are advised by an advisory group counting representatives from 10 major sectors within the (international) professional field. However, it is a challenge to develop a modus operandi that suits our needs as well as theirs.
This study programme is accredited by the Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders (Dutch: NVAO). Accreditation was extended following the positive outcome of the institutional review in 2022. Programme quality was validated by a quality review, i.e. a screening of the Education Monitor by the Education Quality Board. The Quality Assurance Resolution (in Dutch) can be found here.
This information was last updated on 01/02/2023.
In case of questions or suggestions with regard to the publicly available information, please contact the study programme.