UCC Undergraduate courses


About This Course

Fact File

Course Outline

Physiology is the study of how humans and other animals function at all levels: the whole body, the cells it is composed of, and the molecular processes happening inside these cells.

An understanding of normal physiology forms the basis for the practice of human and veterinary medicine (and much of dentistry). Physiology is distinctive among the biological sciences in that it takes an integrated, holistic view of the whole organism, bringing together knowledge from a range of disciplines to create an overall understanding of the living organism. 

Other life sciences have adopted a reductionist approach, concentrating on a single component of a complex system rather than the system as a whole. Physiology brings these fragments together to understand how a living organism works. 

If you enjoy working with the details as well as the overall picture, then maybe Physiology is the degree for you.

The course starts with the basic Year 1 material common to Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics (CK402).

In Year 2 it builds on this by examining the fundamental molecular processes that occur in all cells and the function of some specialised cell types, such as nerve and muscle cells. Based on this foundation in cellular physiology, the course then deals with interactions between large populations of cells and with the integrated function of organ systems as they occur in whole animals, principally humans.

Year 3 provides a deep insight into the functions of the body systems (eg nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory systems) and includes core modules in Pharmacology (how drugs can be used both to alter biological function and to reveal new aspects of biology), immunology (study of the body’s defence mechanisms), and a literature review style research project.

In Year 4, you will be introduced to issues in diverse areas of Physiology with a focus on the research literature and exploration of methods, data analysis and theories of molecular, cell and integrative physiology. The application of basic science to human health and disease is explored. You will also undertake a research project under the supervision of academic staff. 

Refer to CK402 for more details.


Year 1 Modules:

  • BC1001 Introduction to Biochemistry and the Biological Basis of Disease (5 credits)
  • BL1002 Cells, Biomolecules, Genetics and Evolution (5 credits)
  • BL1004 Physiology and Structure of Plants and Animals (5 credits)
  • CM1200 Fundamentals of Modern Chemistry Part 1 (10 credits)
  • CM1201 Fundamentals of Modern Chemistry Part 2a (10 credits) 
  • MA1001 Calculus for Science Part 1 (5 credits) 
  • MA1002 Calculus for Science Part 2 (5 credits)
  • MB1003 Microbiology in Society (5 credits)
  • PY1010 Physics for Biological and Chemical Sciences (10 credits)

Years 2, 3 & 4 Modules:

Students select one degree stream (depending on choice of Year 1 Electives) from:

Applied Plant BiologyBiochemistryBiotechnologyChemistryChemistry of Pharmaceutical CompoundsChemistry with Forensic SciencesScience Education (Chemistry or Biology Route), MicrobiologyNeurosciencePhysiology

The subjects you will study from Year 2 onwards depend upon which programme you enter from the options above. Please see the individual course information pages for details of each of these programmes.

See the College Calendar for more detailed information on the Programme and the Book of Modules for a more detailed description of the Programme Modules.

Course Practicalities

This course comprises a combination of lectures, practicals (experiments) and tutorials/workshops.

See the College Calendar for more detailed information on the programme and the Book of Modules for a more detailed description of programme modules.


Written exams will take place before Christmas and in May. Not all modules will have formal examinations. Many modules use other types of assessment.

Why Choose This Course

In the final year, learning Physiology takes on a new dimension as you will get the opportunity to work in the lab with a member of staff and a research team.

Students currently work for at least eight weeks on projects as diverse as kidney function in anaesthetised rats, cardiovascular function in human volunteers, cellular calcium signalling, sensory function and the development of gene therapies for inherited diseases.

Student projects are regularly selected each year for presentation at the summer meeting of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland and some have been presented at international scientific meetings such as the Physiological Society.

Skills and Careers Information

A degree in Physiology is an ideal entry qualification for UCC’s Graduate Entry Medicine course, giving a strong grounding in normal human body function, which is an excellent basis for understanding disease and ultimately treating patients.

Physiology graduates are also well-placed to enter biomedical research – demand is currently increasing from the pharmaceutical industry for scientists with an understanding of whole-body function and the relevant research skills to apply that understanding.

Physiology is a particularly strong degree for teachers (via the Postgraduate Diploma in Education), as it integrates knowledge of Biology and the basic sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics) into an understanding of the complexity of life.

A number of Physiology graduates have also embarked on training and careers in the clinical therapies and in pharmaceutical sales and management.  


Refer to CK402.

Mature entry applicants

Find out about the mature entry requirements here.

Non-EU Applicants

Non-EU applicants are expected to have educational qualifications of a standard equivalent to the Irish Leaving Certificate. In addition, where such appicants are non-native speakers of the English language they must satisfy the university of their competency in the English language.

To verify if you meet the minimum academic and language requirements visit our qualification comparison page and refer to our International Office page for more information.

Fees and Costs

Refer to CK402.

Some modules incorporate practical laboratories and for these, students may be required to purchase basic safety items such as a laboratory coat or goggles. Other modules may require a kit of components to be purchased.

For International Fees see our Fees Schedule page.

How Do I Apply

Refer to CK402.

EU Applicants

The Central Applications Office (CAO) processes applications for undergraduate courses in Irish Higher Education Institutions. Refer to the CAO page for further information.

Mature Applicants (age 23 or over)

All interested mature applicants must make an application through the Central Applications Office (CAO). See the CAO Mature Applicants and the Mature Students Admissions Pathway (MSAP) pages. Visit our Mature Student Entry page for more information.


See our QQI/FET Applicants page for information on the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI)/Further Education and Training (FET) application process.

Non-EU Applicants

Non-EU applicants apply online via the UCC Apply portal. See our International Office page for more information.

All Applicants

Please note that the modules listed are indicative of the current set of modules for this course and are subject to change from year to year. Check the College Calendar for the full academic content of any given course for the current year. 

  • In UCC, we use the terms programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments. 

For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact