Deadlines, penalties and document limits

Items of coursework, such as essays and write-ups, will normally have strict deadlines. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure that you know both when the deadline for each submission is, and how the work has to be submitted (e.g. on paper to a particular office; electronically to a particular person or site). As your programme is preparing you for the world of graduate employment, where deadlines are often very strict indeed, you should treat School deadlines like train departure times (just a few seconds after the time has passed, it is very likely you will have missed the train!). Unless specifically exempted or mitigated, late submission of any piece of assessed coursework, including Project Reports, will result in a reduction of 10 marks per day (or part thereof beyond the deadline) for 5 days after which a mark of zero will be awarded. Students who submit referral assignments after the deadline will be automatically subject to a mark of zero. Exceeding the specified page limit will result in a deduction of 20 marks per page or part thereof.Penalty

Coursework will normally have a specified content limit.  This will normally be a number of pages, but in some cases may be a number of words - it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that you understand exactly what the limits are and how they are to be achieved. Again, in post-graduate work you will usually find that documents, such as applications for grants, reports etc., have stringent word or page limit requirements - with line spacing, font, margins etc. specified. The standard School of Biological Sciences instructions for coursework including essays, reports and write-ups follow, but it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that you are aware of any alternative requirements for a particular piece of work:

The [submission] must not exceed [x] pages of text excluding the list of references. Text must be in Arial, 10 point, one and a half line spacing, with margins of at least 2.5 cm all around the text. ALL supporting material, such as figures, tables, text boxes etc. must be included in the page limit, and you are advised to ensure that any such items are sufficiently large enough to be read and understood with ease.

If you prefer to prepare your work in a different font, font size or format you are advised to check frequently that the material will convert to the above for submission, as penalties will normally be imposed for exceeding the limits (e.g. a percentage of marks lost for each page over the limit or part thereof). If the work needs to be converted to a PDF for submission you should check very carefully that the conversion is accurate and conforms to the guidelines well in advance of the submission deadline.

Time Management

DeadlinesSome deadlines may be shortly after the delivery of the material, some quite a way off, and this may well differ for different cohorts of students. This mixture mirrors the graduate world of work, and the requirements of your final year programme, so you are advised to plan ahead!  Anticipate a few days of ill-health that might impact on your ability to complete assignments on time, and start wok early on items with far-off deadlines. Mastering time management is one of the most essential goals you should set yourself. To help you, every course where there are assessments/assignments/deadlines will have all the deadline dates available to you within the ‘Assessments’ area of Blackboard in the left hand menu. Any non-course-specific deadlines, such as essays, can be found in the Tutorials courses on Blackboard. Please note that it is possible that some dates may be adjusted throughout the semester at the Unit Coordinators discretion, therefore you should check your deadlines for each course regularly and complete work as early as possible.

Plagiarism, collusion and other forms of academic malpractice

These topics form an important part of the first stage of the Writing and Referencing skills modules in Y1 & 2 but general guidelines and advice are given hereunder.

Plagiarism is a serious offence - it is treated as seriously as cheating in exams.

  • As a student, you are expected to cooperate in the learning process throughout your programme of study by completing assignments of various kinds that are the product of your own study or research. Coursework, dissertations and essays submitted for assessment must be your own work, unless in the case of group projects a joint effort is expected and this has been indicated by the Unit Coordinator. For most students this does not present a problem, but occasionally, whether unwittingly or otherwise, a student may commit what is known as plagiarism, or some other form of academic malpractice, when carrying out an assignment. This may come about because students have been used to different conventions in their prior educational experience or through general ignorance of what is expected of them or of what constitutes plagiarism.
  • This guidance is designed to help you understand what we regard as academic malpractice and hence to help you to avoid committing it. You should read it carefully, because academic malpractice is regarded as a serious offence and students found to have committed it will be penalized. At the very least a mark of only 30% would be awarded for the piece of work in question, but it could be worse; you could be awarded zero (with or without loss of credits), fail the whole unit, be demoted to a lower class of degree, or be excluded from the programme, depending on the severity of the case.

Academic malpractice includes plagiarism, collusion, fabrication or falsification of results and anything else intended by those committing it to achieve credit that they do not properly deserve. You will be given exercises and guidance on plagiarism/academic malpractice in tutorials and if you are unsure about any aspect of this you should ask your Academic Tutor for advice. In addition, further guidance is available on the intranet (see ‘Plagiarism - Resources for avoiding Plagiarism’ which includes helpful exercises and explanations relating to plagiarism and referencing on the web. There is also information in My Learning Essentials. It is well worth visiting these sites in your spare time to ensure that you fully understand.Do it yourself

All students are required to confirm that they have read and agree to the University’s declaration on Academic Malpractice as part of the online registration process.

Further information on Academic Malpractice and how to avoid it can be found at

The University uses electronic systems for the purposes of detecting plagiarism and other forms of academic malpractice and for marking. Such systems include TurnitinUK, the plagiarism detection service used by the University.

As part of the formative and/or summative assessment process, you may be asked to submit electronic versions of your work to TurnitinUK and/or other electronic systems used by the University (this requirement may be in addition to a requirement to submit a paper copy of your work). If you are asked to do this, you must do so within the required timescales.

The School also reserves the right to submit work handed in by you for formative or summative assessment to TurnitinUK and/or other electronic systems used by the University.

Please note that when work is submitted to the relevant electronic systems, it may be copied and then stored in a database to allow appropriate checks to be made.

You will be given an opportunity within the tutorials to submit a draft essay through this system, and it is very much in your best interests to do this so that you understand how it works.

Please see the document Guidance to students on plagiarism and other forms of academic malpractice.




eLearning (Blackboard)

As a student at the University of Manchester, you will find that many of your units contain sections of work that you have to complete online (known as electronic (e)Learning). The University uses a website-like environment for this called Blackboard.

Online eLearning support for your course means that it is easy to fit your learning into your everyday life, as you can complete the work from almost any computer in the world with an internet connection. We are encouraging the use of students’ own mobile devices to support teaching and learning in lectures and tutorials. However, if the session requires a mobile device and you do not have one, one will be supplied.

Your eLearning work will often have strict deadlines and marks will be awarded for successful completion of assessments. Every Blackboard course is different, so read the rules regarding the course before you start, to ensure that you don’t miss any work.

Technical support from the eLearning team is available between 9:00 and 17:00 on all working days. This is accessible by selecting ‘Technical Support’ and then ‘eLearning enquiries’ from the menu bar on the left of your online courses; the eLearning team will reply to your University email address.

More information on eLearning in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health can be found here

Tutorial assessments

Although work submitted in tutorials in Year 3 not assessed, it will prepare you for your two degree programme-specific papers. You should make the most of the opportunity that this tutorial work affords you to prepare for these papers, as the two programme papers are significantly different to the lecture-unit examinations you will sit.


The Y3 Examinations consist of written papers, normally of two-hour duration, in each of the final-level lecture units. They will normally include two special programme papers in which essay writing (1.5h paper) and problem-solving and data handling/analysis (2.5h paper) are tested. Training for these papers is given in programme-based tutorial time.

StudyingWritten exams will be sat during the examination period at the end of the semester in which the unit is taught (i.e. January or May/June). Units that run across both semesters will normally be examined in the May/June exam period. Units taken from other Schools may be examined at a different time.

Students should note the requirement of taking and displaying their student card in all examinations as proof of their identity. Attendance at all appropriate examinations is compulsory.

To prepare for examinations, you are encouraged to use any quizzes and practice exercises posted on Blackboard and to look at copies of past examination papers.  These can be obtained from the My Learning tab in your MyManchester portal, where you can search for papers by Faculty, School, exam name or code, year or semester. If the unit has no past papers the Unit Coordinator should make questions that are representative of the kind that will be set in the examination available at least 6 weeks before the exam which will be representative of the kind that will be set in the examination.

Please note that there are no past problem papers, although example questions will be made available through programme-based tutorials.

Criteria and marking for answers on theory examination papers

Criteria for marking theory papers is available on the Faculty intranet:

Research Projects

MSci students will not complete a research project during Year 3. Instead, you will take the below units that will prepare you for your research project during Year 4. These units will provide you with research skills that are essential for a modern biological science researcher.  Depending on your programme you will be required to do either or both of MSci Bioinformatics Tools and Resources, or Computational Approaches to Biology.

  • MSci Research Project Proposal (10 credits).

This unit will introduce you to the critical reading and writing skills required to assess and author research papers and grants.  You will be split by your MSci degree programme into groups of up to 10 students.

The unit will start with a week-long workshop during Welcome Week. Within this workshop, you will be given guidance on how to critically read research papers and determine whether the experiments presented within a research paper address: the proposed hypothesis; are appropriately designed with suitable controls; and support the stated conclusions.  You will also be given guidance on how to critically read and review grant applications to determine: whether the stated hypothesis is timely and interesting; and whether the proposed experiments will address the stated hypothesis and are not overly reliant on each other.  Your acquisition of these skills will be assessed during the workshop by writing a 250 word abstract for a paper (5%), a 2 page critical review of a paper similar to those written when a paper is reviewed for a journal (10%), a 2 page grant review (10%), and through an oral grant pitch to a grant panel (5%).

Through the remainder of the academic year, you will be expected to draw up 2x5 page grant proposals (35% each) for your Year 4 project in consultation with potential supervisors, one in semester 5 and one in semester 6.  You will be expected to identify 2 members of academic staff whose work you find interesting, and then liaise with them to identify appropriate projects and discuss suitable experimental approaches.  One of these grant proposals will form the basis of your Year 4 project and should be selected in consultation with your Programme Director.  You should hand in a completed project preference form by the deadline indicated in the section on Key Dates and Deadlines.


  • MSci Bioinformatics Tools and Resources (10 credits).

This unit will introduce you to a wide range of bioinformatics tools and resources, including online databases, search algorithms, and basic scripting techniques.  The unit will be delivered through a series of eLearning modules, with supporting lectures and weekly computer lab sessions.

  • Introduction to Bioinformatics: The importance of bioinformatics and computers in modern biology; generating and analysing large datasets; range of tools and resources covered in the unit.
  • Command line basics: Introduction to Unix systems; the Unix/Linux/Mac OSX command line; directories and files; manipulating text files.
  • Scripting for bioinformatics: Introduction to the Perl programming language; scalars, arrays and hashes; operators, functions and loops; reading and writing files.
  • Sequence searches: Manipulating sequence data; BLAST searches and variants; other tools for protein sequence searches.
  • Protein databases: Protein domains and databases; Interpro, Pfam, PRINTS, PROSITE; domain searches; structure databases.
  • Genome analysis: The UCSC genome browser; comparative genomics; Galaxy tools and workflows.
  • RNAseq and differential expression: RNAseq for transcriptomics; mapping and counting reads; estimating transcript relative expression; Tophat, Cufflinks, Cuffdiff pipeline in Galaxy.
  • Functional pathway analysis: Gene Ontology; KEGG pathways; assessing functional enrichment of gene lists in DAVID.
  • Structural bioinformatics: Manipulating protein structure information; predicting the effects of mutations on protein structure and function.
  • Phylogenetics: Understanding phylogenetic trees; multiple sequence alignment; inferring and visualising trees; distance, parsimony, and maximum likelihood methods.

Completion of each eLearning module will be assessed by a MCQ quiz (2% each), delivered through Blackboard.  After all chapters have been delivered, you will be given a gene or protein sequence tailored to your MSci degree programme, and asked to find out all you can about it using the taught range of tools and resources.  The outcome of this research will be written up as a 7 page report (80%).


  • MSci Experimental Skills Module (20 credits).

You will complete a group research project within this unit.  You will be placed in groups of up to eight students and will be given an experimental problem that is appropriate to your MSci degree programme.  You will be expected, with the rest of the group and the support of a member of academic staff, to design the appropriate experiments to test the problem. You will be expected to explore the range of different experimental approaches available, select the most appropriate approach and plan the suitable controls; these experimental approaches will include state of the art techniques that are supported within the core facilities within the Faculty.  Then you will be responsible for executing one part of the plan and to produce data for your part of the project.  Your experimental planning and findings will be assessed through the following:

  • a 2 page write-up describing the technique, experimental design and statistics to be used to complete your component of the eoverall experimental plan (10%).
  • laboratory performance (10%)..
  • a 5 page write-up of your results, presenting data in an appropriate style for publication along with a short introduction and conclusion (30%). This component can also include deposition of data into an appropriate database.
  • preparation of a group A1 poster that is suitable for an international scientific conference (30%).
  • a 15 minute presentation of the poster as a group at a poster session for all MSci students (20%).


  • Computational Approaches to Biology (10 credits)

This unit will introduce you to essential mathematical concepts used in biological modelling. You will alsol be introduced to the Jupyter Notebook system, a widely used online application allowing the development of code for data analysis and numerical simulation based on the Python language.

The core of the unit will be structured along four main sections, each covering a particular set of techniques and applications:

  • Modelling of intracellular signalling and transcription pathways. This section will introduce you to the mathematical approaches used to model cellular signalling pathways and biological noise.
  • Techniques for modelling of large cellular systems. This section will introduce you to the mathematical approaches used to model protein-protein interaction networks in both normal and disease situations and to model metabolic systems.
  • Ecological and evolutionary modelling. This section will introduce you to the mathematical approaches used to model population dynamics and evolution.
  • Probabilistic modelling and machine learning. This section will introduce you to the mathematical approaches to model sequence data and expression data

The unit will be assessed by completing four online modules, one for each of the main sections of the course. These modules will consist of a series of multiple choice questions and short questions, some of which will require a short piece of code to be written.

Guidelines on feedback to students

Feedback is a broad term, which can be interpreted in different ways. The purpose of this section is to define the activities associated with feedback mechanisms, as they relate to lecture-based BIOL units so that you are aware of the feedback available for any unit which you decide to take.

Lecturers are expected to provide general guidance to students on appropriate reading material and other learning resources for the unit in advance of the start of the unit on Blackboard.

We encourage you to ask questions both during lectures or later during the year when, for example, you are revising for exams. However, if the lecture course has finished, then we suggest that you seek confirmation of the answer to your own question. What do we mean by this? Lecturers are unlikely to respond favourably to questions phrased along the lines of ‘Can you tell me the answer to this? Thus, if you want to ask a question, particularly by email, please make sure you include your own interpretation of the answer, including the literature sources that you used, and ask only for confirmation that you are correct. For example:

Wrong format: Can you tell me the primary role of voltage-gated sodium channels?

Correct format: It is my understanding that voltage-gated sodium channels are primarily responsible for the depolarising phase of the action potential. I used Kandel’s Principles of Neuroscience to obtain this information. Is this correct?

NB: The School does not normally publish marking schemes or answers to examination questions - you are expected to deduce these yourself using text books, peers, and PASS sessions.

In addition to providing the mandatory level of feedback, Unit Coordinators may provide more detailed feedback on your work. You should consult the feedback entry within the unit description in this handbook for further details on the additional feedback provided.

Examination feedback240px-General_Feedback_Loop

Students have a right to receive feedback on their examination performance from Unit Coordinators. This may be done in a number of ways. A Unit Coordinator may

  • publish a general feedback document outlining how questions were answered, addressing general strengths and weaknesses of students and giving a general indication of how well the questions were answered.
  • hold a feedback session, to which students are invited.
  • review an answer paper for a student and summarise his/her feedback via email.
  • provide online feedback.

A student may seek individual feedback, in which the Unit Coordinator will obtain their exam scripts and report feedback on their answers including, where appropriate, any written comments recorded on the manuscript. A student does not, however, have the right to challenge any academic judgements on the quality of the answer. This means there is NO opportunity for papers to be re-marked.

Return to Contents