If you excel at science, are keen to develop your investigative skills in a variety of scenarios and have meticulous attention to detail, you will enjoy studying Forensic Science at Kent. Fascinating and challenging, it opens up a wide range of career opportunities.
At Kent, you study all aspects of forensic science, developing scientific and analytical skills. We create ‘crime scenes’ for you to examine and conduct ‘major incident’ exercises, where you react in real time to an unfolding event. We also demonstrate how your forensic skills can be used within archaeology and in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
This programme is fully accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.
Our degree programme
In your first year, you get to grips with the broad base of knowledge on which forensic science is built, including biochemistry, drug chemistry, and ballistics. You also develop your investigative and laboratory skills.
In your second and final years, you expand your knowledge to cover analytical chemistry, forensic archaeology, digital forensics, fires and explosions, and firearms. You also study criminal law (taught by Kent’s highly ranked Law School) and are trained in forensic expert witness skills. In certain modules, you are taught by industry specialists.
If you do not have the grades for direct entry on to the Forensic Science BSc, you can take Forensic Science with a Foundation Year. It is also possible to take a four-year programme, which leads to an MSci.
Year in industry
Many students choose to take a year in industry. You don’t have to make a decision before you enrol at Kent but certain conditions apply: see Forensic Science with a Year in Industry.
We recently invested £10 million in our laboratories and improved our general study spaces. Facilities to support forensic science include:
- dedicated ballistics and firearms kit
- scene-of-crime facilities that allow you to apply the theory of crime scenes, evidence recovery and fingerprinting
- a document examination instrument used in the detection of forged documents
- a full analytical suite for forensic chemical analysis, including:
- Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)
- High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
- Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (AAS)
- Raman Spectrometry
- Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectrometry (FTIR)
- Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM).
The School of Physical Sciences is home to an international scientific community of forensic science, chemistry, physics and astronomy students. Numerous formal and informal opportunities for discussion make it easy to participate in the academic life of the School. All students have an academic adviser and we also run a peer mentoring scheme.
You are encouraged to participate in conferences and professional events to build up your knowledge of the science community and enhance your professional development. The School also works collaboratively with business partners, which allows you to see how our research influences current practice.
You can also take part in:
- the School’s Physical Sciences Colloquia, a popular series of talks given by internal and external experts on relevant and current topics
- the student-run Forensic Science Society, which organises talks with top industry professionals, practical demonstrations and social events
All students are offered free membership of The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.
The School of Physical Sciences also has links with:
- the Home Office
- the Forensic Explosives Laboratory
- forensic science services
- local health authorities
- biotechnology, chemical and pharmaceutical companies in the UK and Europe
Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 6th in The Complete University Guide 2017. In the National Student Survey 2016, Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 7th for overall satisfaction.
For graduate prospects, Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 5th in The Guardian University Guide 2017.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘wild’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.
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PS301 - Introduction to Forensic Science
Forensic Science; Evidence and the Scene of the Crime
What is forensic science? Historical and legal background of forensic science exchange principles and linkage theory. Forensic science in the U.K inductive and deductive reasoning. Identification, characterisation, recovery and weighting of trace evidence types. Crime scene searching methodologies; the integrity and continuity of evidence. Introduction to laboratory testing dealing with glass, tool-mark, shoe-mark and tyre impressions. The management of scientific support at crime scenes. Procedures at crime scenes illustrated by reference to crimes of burglary, murder and sexual offences. Fingerprint history, classification, recovery and chemical enhancement of fingerprints. Blood pattern analysis supporting the advances in DNA techniques. Firearms classification, internal & external ballistics, trajectory, mass and velocity. Firearms injuries at crime scenes. Introduction to DNA analysis and the functioning of the National DNA Database. Sexual offence investigation and body fluid identification. Clinical indicators of death and murder scene investigation.
Drug Abuse, Alcohol and Forensic Toxicology
Drugs of abuse and their identification. Drugs, alcohol poisons and their metabolism. Toxicology and the role of the forensic toxicologist. Qualitative and quantitative laboratory analysis.
Signature and handwriting identification. Paper, inks and printed documents. Damage characterisation.
Fires and Explosions:
Arson. Fire and combustion. Types of explosives and the nature of explosions. The crime scene investigation: sampling and laboratory analysis.Read more
PS318 - Skills for Forensic Scientists
Quantitative skills beginning with GCSE mathematics through to algebra, data analysis, graphical treatment of errors, logarithms, basic probability, trigonometry and applications in forensic science.
Incident scene assessment, management and mapping.
Induction to the English legal system and laws of evidence.
The structure and composition of DNA, genetic analysis and applications relevant to forensic science.Read more
PS324 - Introduction to Ballistics
Mathematical Concepts for Impact Studies
Newton's laws of motion
Introduction to ballistics
Categories of weapons
Overview of Forensic Ballistics
The 1968 Firearms Act (as amended)
Categorisation of firearms and ammunition
Shooting case studiesRead more
PS381 - Chemical Skills For Forensic Scientists
Laboratory safety: lectures on laboratory safety including safe handling of chemicals, electrical supplies, solvents and gases both within and outside fume cupboards, safe disposal of chemicals, CoSHH and risk assessment, accident prevention.
Laboratory skills: the completion of a set of experiments in a lab environment within the safety structure as laid out by lab risk assessments. To include: fundamental organic chemistry methodology, chemical handling, use of equipment (including calibration and accuracy), infra-red spectroscopy, analytical chemistry and titrations, colorimetry, gravimetric analysis, solvent extraction.
Data presentation methods: the correct and succinct planning and preparation of scientific reports, correct referencing, data manipulation and presentation, literature searches and library catalogues, academic integrity and referencing styles.
Periodic table and inorganic chemistry: Periodic trends in the periodic table: chemical properties, reactivity and compounds across periods 1 and 2, introduction to diagonal relationships; hydrogen and its compounds; Group 1 the alkali metals, their compounds and reactivity; Group 2 the alkaline earth metals, their compounds and reactivity; introduction to redox chemistry; the p-block: Group 13 elements, their properties and reactivity, the inert pair effect, the chemistry of boron; Group 14 elements, properties, compounds and reactivities, carbon and its allotropes; Group 15: the chemistry of the pnictogens, nitrogen, phosphorus and its allotropes; Group 16: the chemistry of the chalcogens; Group 17: the chemistry of the halogens; extension to MO and VSEPR theory; introduction to groups 12 and 18.
Molecular graphics: use of MarvinSketch to represent and draw chemical structures and calculate molecular properties, using J-mol and J-ice to present molecular and crystal structures graphically, use of HULIS software to calculate energy levels from Hückel theory.
Maths for physical scientists: basic mathematics and functions used in physical sciences, curve sketching and plotting simple functions, differentiation and integration, examples of physical science applications including chemical reaction rates.Read more
CH308 - Molecules Matter & Energy
This module introduces and revises the basic concepts of chemistry that underpin our understanding of the stability of matter. This starts with introducing atomic and molecular structure, with a focus on understanding the electronics of bonding in the molecular compounds around us. You will then study the laws governing the behavior of gases and origins of other interactions that hold solids and liquids together, alongside describing some of their basic properties such as conductivity, viscosity, and the way in which ions behave in solution. In the final aspect of this module we cover the critical role thermodynamics plays in determining the stability of matter, including the fundamental laws of thermodynamics and the importance of equilibrium in reversible reactions.Read more
CH309 - Fundamental Organic Chemistry for Physical Scientists
This module reintroduces the basic concepts of organic chemistry that are vital in understanding pharmaceutical and biological substances. You will study the basics of the chemistry of carbon, the element critical to underpinning life, including its basic building blocks and functional groups. We also cover the mechanisms by which basic organic reactions including elimination, substitution and oxidation processes occur. This module concludes with studying aromatic compounds and chirality, which crucially influence how organic molecules interact within living systems.Read more
CH314 - Introduction to Biochemistry and Drug Chemistry
Chemistry in context
Using an organic chemistry perspective, you will study the fundamentals of biochemistry, the chemistry of life, including enzyme reactions, protein chemistry, DNA, lipids and carbohydrates. These topics are underpinned by the role chemical phenomena such as thermodynamics and intermolecular interactions play in a biological context. We then explore the nature and discovery of drugs, how they work, and the potential effects of their misuse.Read more
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CH506 - Chemical Identification Techniques
You will develop an understanding of the theory and application of techniques for chemical identification. You will study symmetry, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), gas chromatography (GC), mass spectrometry (GCMS), infrared and Raman spectroscopy, spectrophotometry/fluorimetry, basic diffraction methods and electron spin resonance.Read more
LW562 - Criminal Law for Forensic Scientists
This module seeks to provide a sound knowledge and understanding of the concepts and principles underlying the criminal law, including a grounding in its historical development and underlying philosophy; to provide a detailed grasp of key concepts and general principles; and to promote a critical discussion about the nature, function and effects of the use of criminal law in given contextual situations.Read more
PS501 - Forensic Physical Methods
Evidential practice and law in relation to location, recovery, preservation, and interpretation of a wide range of forensic samples.
Statement and report writing, and witness interview to evidential standard.
Incident assessment and management in a wide variety of forensic environments.
Location, recovery and preservation of a range of forensic samples including: Fingerprints, DNA, fibres, trace samples, blood distribution patterns, gunshot residues, tool marks and impressions, foot shoe and tyre prints, sexual offence samples.
Incident mapping and photography.
Document and forgery analysis.Read more
PS502 - Forensic Archaeology
Dating : Radioactive decay and detection of radiation, radiocarbon dating and related methods, accelerator mass spectrometry, uranium series dating, potassium-argon dating, radioactive tracers, isotope dilution, neutron activation, stable isotope techniques with forensic applications, electron spin resonance spectroscopy, thermoluminescence dating and thermal history, Lindow Man, detection of irradiated food.
Detection : Magnetometry, metal detectors, resistivity surveys, ground penetrating radar, aerial photography, and remote sensing.
Osteology : The study of human osteology is fundamental to the discipline of forensic anthropology. This series of lectures begins by examining the structure, growth, and function of bones and teeth. Methods of skeletal analysis in forensic anthropology are then examined, including age, sex, stature, trauma, disease, and race. Applications in biological anthropology will also be reviewed. This section of the course will include a laboratory practical.Read more
PS511 - Digital Forensics
Facial reconstruction, facial composites, description by witness cognitive interview - Turnbulls rules (R v Turnbull, 1976), identity parades psychology of facial identification video identity parades, facial mapping, automated recognition technologies, age progression.
Digital Image Analysis
Image formation, image storage, image distortion, image restoration methods, the digital image in crime detection, steganography (implementation and detection).
Encryption, fallacies about hiding and destroying data, where to find data and methods for retrieving it, disk imaging, file integrity, cryptographic hashing, privacy vs need for investigation.Read more
PS512 - Numerical, Statistical and Analytical Skills
Trace analysis: definitions, methods and problems. Sampling, storage and contamination. Quality control. Random and systematic errors; statistical treatment of data. Accuracy and precision. Signal/noise ratio. Sensitivity and detection limits. Choice of methods for trace analysis.
Units, dimensions, exponentials and logarithms:
Decimal places and significant figures. Units and dimensions: SI units, dimensional analysis. Manipulation of exponentials and logarithms. Power laws. Exponential decay and half-life. Beer-Lambert law, Arrhenius equation, Boltzmann distribution, Gaussian functions.
Balancing chemical equations. Amount of substance, molar quantities, concentration and volumetric calculations, gravimetric analysis, gas pressures and volumes.
Equilibrium calculations, strong and weak electrolytes. pH, acid-base equilibria, buffer solutions. Solubility. Chemical kinetics: reaction rates, rate constants and orders of reaction.
Probability and Statistics:
Elementary probability, probability spaces, Venn diagrams, independence, mutual exclusion, expectation. Quantitative treatment of the effect of evidence: Bayes Theorem and conditional probability Samples and populations, mean, standard deviation, moments, standard error. Probability distributions: binomial, normal, poisson. Limiting cases. Use of normal tables. Significance testing and confidence limits. Hypothesis testing. The chi-squared test. A brief look at probability-based arguments used by expert witnesses, recent controversies and challenged convictions. Regression and correlation
Analysis of alkaloids by HPLC
Accelerant analysis by gas chromatography
Analysis of metal cartridge cases and counterfeit coins using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy
Determination of copper by atomic absorption spectroscopy
Quantifying substances in a mixture using UV-visible spectroscopy
Isolation & purification of caffeine from tea leavesRead more
PS534 - Inorganic Chemistry, Fibres and Microscopy
Stereochemistry of metal complexes: geometrical, optical, structural, ionisation/hydration, linkage, coordination isomerism.
Bonding in transition metal complexes. Crystal field theory: crystal field splitting, factors effecting crystal field splitting, the spectrochemical series, low spin and high spin complexes, crystal field stabilisation energy (CFSE), hydration energy of M2+ ions, site selection in spinels and the Jahn Teller effect. Thermodynamic and kinetic stability of metal complexes. Stability constants. The chelate effect. Lability of ligands. Preparation and reactivity of transition metal complexes.
Colours of complexes: d?d spectra, spin and Laporte selection rules, intensities of absorptions. Measurement of ligand field splitting energy. Charge transfer absorptions. Diamagnetism, paramagnetism, magnetic moment.
Comparison with the d-block elements. Position of lanthanides and actinides in the periodic table. Electronic configuration, oxidation states and chemistry. The lanthanide contraction. Separation of lanthanide elements. f?f spectra. Chemistry of actinides: uranium.
Fibres and Microscopy:What is a fibre and associated polymers and how are they made? Cellulose and other natural polymers. Synthetic polymers and fibres such as nylon. Overview of methods of identification and analysis. A particular emphasis will be on polarized light microscopy for comparative analysis various materials including fibres, paper and soils.
Experiments in preparative and analytical inorganic chemistry, to include: the separation of nickel and cobalt by ion-exchange chromatography; measurement of the ligand field splitting energy in a titanium (III) complex; preparation and properties of complex ions; isomerism in coordination complexes.Read more
PS556 - Firearms & Ballistics
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PS601 - Fires and Explosions
Physics and chemistry of fires and explosions:
Fire and arson occurrence and importance. Combustion definitions. Thermodynamics and enthalpy. Flammability limits, flash point, fire point, ignition temperature. Pyrolysis of wood and plastics. Fuels and accelerants. Propagation and spread of fires. Sampling and laboratory analysis of fire scene residues.
Explosions definitions. Vapour phase and condensed phase explosions. Detonation and deflagration. High and low explosives. Primary and secondary high explosives. Molecular design of explosives. Survey of important explosives. Stoichiometry, oxygen balance, gas volumes, thermodynamics and enthalpy. Sampling and laboratory analysis of explosives residues. Preventative detection of explosives in contexts such as airports.
Fire dynamics. Propagation and spread of fires flames, fire types, flashover. Fire investigation. Forensic Science Service procedures at the scene. Damage observation and assessment. Fire and smoke patterns. Sources of ignition. Injuries and fatalities. Evidence recovery: sampling and laboratory analysis. Establishing the origin : the seat of the fire. Finding the cause: natural, accidental, negligent or deliberate? Indicators of arson. Evidence procedures. Case studies.
Control of the explosion scene and procedures for recovery of evidence. Damage observation and assessment. The work of the Forensic Explosives Laboratory. Identification of explosives: organics and inorganics. Bulk analysis. Trace analysis of explosives: recovery, extraction and analysis of samples. Physical evidence: detonators. Preventative detection. Precursor identification. Explosives evidence in court: legal definitions and procedures. Terrorism. Case studies.Read more
PS602 - Forensic Expert Witness Skills
PS620 - Forensic Science Project
PS637 - DNA Analysis & Interpretation
The module lectures will cover the following topics:
DNA sample collection, processing and storage
DNA databases and statistical interpretation
Quality Assurance, management and control
Forensic case studies
Future trendsRead more
PS712 - Advanced Topics in Forensic Science
This module will include the principles of application, quality and legal aspects of analysis and identification using several evidence types entwined with case examples of major crimes. The module is intended to cover the most up to date topics within forensic science and will be supported with a wide range of contemporary case studies. The module will include the following subject areas:
Case Assessment & Interpretation
A selection of contemporary case studies demonstrating the application of forensic science
Quality standards in forensic science
Ethics in forensic scienceRead more
LW573 - Law of Evidence for Forensic Scientists
Module Details:The role of evidence in a courtroom is technical but its rules reflect core principles of the due process of law. These are becoming more significant with the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 and it is important for forensic scientists, who may act as expert witnesses, to have an understanding of these rules and their operation in the trial process. This module considers the position of forensic evidence within the trial process, rules governing the recognition of such evidence and the perception of its value in the trial. In addition matters such as the function of the judge and jury, burden and standard of proof, and hearsay are considered from a central focus of how they relate to forensic evidence.Read more
CH604 - Analytical Chemistry
Here, you will be introduced to a variety of modern techniques used to understand the structure, properties and potential applications of materials. Analytical techniques include: atomic emission/absorption spectrometry, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE), ion chromatography, mass spectrometry and gas chromatography (GCMS), electro-analytical chemistry, optical microscopy, electron microscopy.Read more
Teaching and assessment
There are approximately eight one-hour lectures each week, laboratory classes, project work and problem-solving seminars.
Assessment is by a combination of written examinations, continuous assessment and other assignments. You must pass the Stage 1 examinations in order to go on to Stage 2. Coursework assessments include incident analysis, evidence preservation, presentation skills and expert witness testimony.
The programme aims to:
- instil enthusiasm for forensic science, an appreciation of its application in different contexts
- provide a broad and balanced foundation of the science and law that underpins forensic practice and methodology in a modern society
- develop the ability to apply knowledge and skills to the solution of forensic problems
- teach you the use and understanding of a variety of scientific and quantitative techniques applied to forensic science problems
- provide a knowledge and skills base from which you can proceed to further studies in the forensic and scientific area or in aspects of chemistry, physics or bioscience that are relevant to forensic and related practices
- provide a stimulating, research-active environment for teaching and learning
- provide an understanding of scientific methodology and the ability to undertake and report on an experimental investigation
- generate an appreciation of the importance of forensic science and its practice in a judicial, industrial, economic, environmental and social context, and of the importance of chemistry in an industrial, economic, forensic, and social context.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
- core and foundation scientific physical, biological, and chemical concepts, terminology, theory, units, conventions, and laboratory methods in relation to forensic science
- areas of chemistry as applied to forensic analysis, and areas of bioscience, including cells, biochemistry, human DNA
- numeracy, forensic investigation and interpretation and apply them to forensic examination and analysis
- incident investigation, evidence recovery, preservation, and presentation as an expert witness within the judicial environment.
You gain intellectual skills in how to:
- demonstrate knowledge, understanding and application of essential facts, concepts, principles and theories relating to the subject to find the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems
- recognise and analyse novel problems and plan strategies for their solution by the evaluation, interpretation and synthesis of scientific information and data by a variety of computational methods
- recognise and implement good measurement science and practice and commonly used forensic laboratory techniques
- write essays and present scientific material and arguments clearly and correctly, in writing and orally, to a range of audiences including legal contexts
- communicate complex scientific argument to a lay audience.
You gain the following subject-specific skills:
- safe handling of chemical materials, taking into account their physical and chemical properties, including any specific hazards associated with their use and to risk assess such hazards
- conduct of standard laboratory procedures involved in analytical work and in the operation of standard forensic instrumentation
- competence in the planning, design and execution of investigations, from the problem-recognition stage through to the evaluation and appraisal of results and findings
- safe handling of firearms, ammunition, and propellants; analysis of forensic evidence related to firearms, firearm discharge, and ballistic theory; collision analysis: mathematical interpretation, field application and reconstruction
- ability to interpret data derived from laboratory observations and measurements, and to present such data to an examining body in the role of expert witness.
You gain the following transferable skills:
- communication skills covering both written and oral communication
- self-management and organisational skills with the capacity to support lifelong learning
- problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information
- information-retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources
- IT skills
- interpersonal skills
- time-management and organisational skills
- study skills needed for continuing professional development and preparation for employment as a practising forensic scientist
- ability to plan and implement independent projects at degree level.
Forensic skills are used in a range of professions and industries, for instance at disaster scenes, within archaeology and in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
Our graduates go into areas such as:
- government agencies
- forensic service providers
- emergency services
- local authorities
- contract laboratories
- research or further vocational training.
Some of our graduates have gone on to work at the Forensic Explosives Laboratory, which is part of the Ministry of Defence and provides scientific support to the Police and Crown Prosecution Service.
Help finding a job
The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service which can give you advice on how to:
- apply for jobs
- write a good CV
- perform well in interviews.
You graduate with excellent forensic skills, including:
- scene-of-crime skills
- laboratory skills
- document examination
- criminal law and forensic expert witness skills.
In addition, you develop the key transferable skills that graduate employers look for, including:
- excellent communication skills
- the ability to analyse problems
- time management.
You can also enhance your degree studies by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.
For graduate prospects, Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 5th in The Guardian University Guide 2017.
According to Which? University (2017), the average starting salary for graduates of this degree is £18,000.
Your experience is what you make it, but I think Kent, and what it has to offer, made it easy.Kumaree Ramhit Forensic Science MSci
The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice.
It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.
New GCSE grades
If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.
The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.
If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.
Meet our staff in your country
For more advise about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.
English Language Requirements
Please see our English language entry requirements web page.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.
General entry requirements
Please also see our general entry requirements.
The 2017/18 tuition fees for this programme are:
UK/EU fee paying students
The Government has announced changes to allow undergraduate tuition fees to rise in line with inflation from 2017/18.
In accordance with changes announced by the UK Government, we are increasing our 2017/18 regulated full-time tuition fees for new and returning UK/EU fee paying undergraduates from £9,000 to £9,250. The equivalent part-time fees for these courses will also rise from £4,500 to £4,625. This was subject to us satisfying the Government's Teaching Excellence Framework and the access regulator's requirements. This fee will ensure the continued provision of high-quality education.
For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.*
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
General additional costs
Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details.
You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.
The Government has confirmed that EU students applying for university places in the 2017 to 2018 academic year will still have access to student funding support for the duration of their course.
Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.
The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence
At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.
The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either Mathematics or a Modern Foreign Language. Please review the eligibility criteria.