University of Canterbury offers first internationally accredited BSc Biology major

The University of Canterbury (UC) is the first institution to gain its international accreditation for a three-year (pre-Honours) undergraduate major – the degree type offered in New Zealand and Australia. The Royal Society of Biology (RSB), based in London, United Kingdom, recently made the decision after assessing the UC programme and meeting with the teaching team.

UC’s Head of School of Biological Sciences | Te Kura Pūtaiao Koiora, Professor Matthew Turnbull says he was thrilled UC was asked to become the first international institution outside the UK to receive the RSB degree accreditation for a pre-Honours undergraduate major.

The major is accredited by the Royal Society of Biology for the purpose of meeting in part the academic and experience requirement for the Membership and Chartered Biologist (CBiol).

Graduates from RSB-accredited programmes are equipped with well-rounded knowledge and skills, making them highly employable both within and beyond their chosen field, he says.

Accreditation followed an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.

“The RSB accreditation panel identified some key features of our BSc degree programme that have special merit,” Professor Turnbull says. “These include our research-led curriculum and engagement with students; our emphasis on laboratory and fieldwork and effective use of the University’s diverse field stations; the fact that experimental design and statistics are introduced early and developed throughout the programme; and the integration of bi-cultural competence into the curriculum.”

Biological sciences encompass a set of experimental subjects, which require a hands-on approach to learning, he says.

“Transferable skills such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork are integral to the degree. Biologists must be equipped with the skills necessary for self-learning and the ability to apply basic principles of maths, chemistry, physics and information technology to their learning and career.”

Graduates from RSB-accredited programmes are entitled to a free year of membership to the Society. This gives them access to a significant network of bioscience professionals, making it easier to stay up to date with biology-related developments and provides graduates with additional international recognition of their skills and experiences.

“This is extremely beneficial to graduates when they are applying for their first employment,” Professor Turnbull says. “Membership of the Society gives them a sense of belonging to a wider community of biologists, and to contribute their knowledge and skills to help meet world challenges.”