Continuing Students


Transitional Arrangements

If you have registered for a qualification under the Transistional Arrangements, the requirements for the qualifications for continuing students are unchanged since 2011. In practice, since all of the Life Sciences residential schools have been discontinued, there is not currently a chance of signing up for any course for which students could be expected to carry out procedures directly causing harm to animals. SD226 has its final presentation starting in February 2013.



Named biology qualifications 2012

The following information on named biology qualifications was updated in December 2012.

Since SXR270 and SXR376 have been discontinued, the information provided about them is of historical interest only.

The profiles for the following named qualifications:

B07: BSc (Hons) Psychology
B16: BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences
B28: BSc (Hons) Life Sciences
B64: BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences
G15: Foundation Degree Analytical Sciences
D47: Diploma in Natural Sciences
E05: Diploma in Life Sciences
E21: Diploma in Health Sciences
E53: Diploma of Higher Education in Analytical Sciences

include the following courses:


SD226: Biological psychology: exploring the brain

Compulsory course for BSc (Hons) Psychology
Specified course for BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences, Diploma in Natural Sciences
Recommended as preparation for SD329, specified course for BSc (Hons) Natural Science

Taking this course will not lead directly to any animals being killed, but 9 rats were killed initially for their brains to be studied in a virtual dissection. They were dosed with recreational drugs or saline before being killed. Scientists are ultimately interested in the effect of such drugs on humans, so it is perverse to study their effects on rats. It must surely be possible (and a lot more interesting and useful) to create virtual dissections of human brains, perhaps based on brain scans and post-mortems.

The last presentation starts in February 2013.


SXR270: Investigative Biology

Compulsory course for BSc (Hons) Life Sciences, Diploma in Life Sciences
Specified course for Foundation Degree in Analytical Sciences, Diploma in Natural Sciences, Diploma of Higher Education in Analytical Sciences

The last presentation started in May 2011.

The residential school programme consists of three themes. Each student is required to take part in all three of these themes. Theme 2 (Energy) uses material from animal tissue prepared by technical staff. This is "a small amount of rat tissue" in the study of cell respiration. The animals are freshly killed specifically for the experiment. The other remaining animal experiment involves the killing of caterpillars to study the transport of substances across gut cell membranes. Computer simulations have been available for these experiments for many years. Plant material can be used for the cell respiration experiment – there is no need to kill animals.


SXR376: Molecular Basis for Human Disease

Specified course for BSc (Hons) Life Sciences, BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences, Diploma in Life Sciences, Diploma in Natural Sciences

The last presentation started in May 2012.

Investigation is carried out into how variation or mutation at the gene level affects protein function. From the course description it is not clear whether animal cells or tissue are used. A query about this elicited the following response from Dr Christine Gardener:

SXR376 is a laboratory based course investigating several aspects of infectious disease.

This course does not use living animals, or tissues isolated from living animals, either to prepare the course or during the experimental work.

During the laboratory week, protein and DNA will be extracted from cells that have been cultured in vitro using standard cell culture techniques and reagents. The cells being used are immortalised cell lines of human and non-human origin. The nutrients used to culture these cells are supplied by synthetic liquid media supplemented with commercially available growth factors that are derived from animal serum. A number of animal-derived and bacteria-derived biological molecules (e.g. antibodies) will also be used in the experimental work.

Methods of obtaining serum and biological molecules from animals can be stressful, harmful and often lethal.

From Freedom of Information enquiries:

We purchase a serum that is designed to support the growth of human cells in culture dishes. It is not broken down into its constituents and the exact nature of the growth factors within it are likely to vary from batch to batch and are also only known to the manufacturers.

We use antibodies that recognise the key proteins that the SXR376 course is focussed upon, these being the human CCR5 protein, the human CD4 protein and the human CCL3L1 protein. In addition we use several secondary antibodies that recognise the 3 primary antibodies, one of which is linked chemically to a molecule called biotin and the other is linked to an enzyme called horse-radish peroxidise.

The only other animal derived biological molecules are used as blocking agents during various immuno-analysis stages; bovine serum albumin (BSA), serum and (cows) milk-derived proteins.

All these products are sourced commercially.

See F o I 2009 Replies from Beverley Midwood to questions 22 and 23.


Summary of requirements for Life Sciences degree

To gain the named Life Sciences degree there is a requirement to have taken any two level 3 discontinued residential school courses out of SXR374, SXR375: Plants, Pigments and Light, SXR376, the residential school part of the discontinued S328 Ecology.

There is also a requirement to have taken SXR270 (or its predecessor SXR204). Students have been allowed to opt out of animal experiments in SXR270/SXR204.


Open University Policy

The University policy on teaching and research involving animals states:

"Courses which require work with animal tissues are clearly identified as such on the courses website, and students not wishing to do such work are advised to make alternative course choices."

However the definition of biological tissue is an aggregation of morphologically similar cells and associated intercellular matter acting together to perform one or more specific functions in the body. There are four basic types of tissue: muscle, nerve, epidermal, and connective. Thus a course (for example SXR376) may use animal cells, but not animal tissue and this will not be made clear in the course description.

In direct contradiction of the University policy stated above, in response to a Freedom of Information request, in February 2009, Beverley Midwood stated:

“As students can opt out of experiments on animal tissue there are no named degrees that are impossible to complete without taking part in these experiments.”

However, since there is no guarantee that taking SXR376 does not involve harm to animals, even if this statement holds, it does not mean that it is possible for students who have not already taken the discontinued S328 Ecology to complete the Life Sciences degree without harming animals.

In 1999 the EU advisory body the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) recommended that:

"...everyone involved in education and training, and especially lecturers and students, should have access to comprehensive information about alternatives"


"Students wishing to participate in exercises that use animals should be required to opt in, rather than the current opt-out system..."


Future of named science qualifications

Some named science qualifications are being discontinued with new students being advised to study for a newer qualification.

B16: BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences and B28: BSc (Hons) Life Sciences are only available until 31st December 2014. New students are advised to study the new BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences (B64).

D47: Diploma in Natural Sciences and E05: Diploma in Life Sciences are only available until 31st December 2014. New students are advised to study the new Diploma of Higher Education in Natural Sciences (E69).


Further information

See the OU Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences.

Also see OUSA Science forums.