• Anytime
    Application Deadline
  • 6 months
This online Science - Microbes course from The Open University UK explores the intriguing world of bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms – an empire of creatures that extends into every facet of human life and the environment.
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The Science - Microbes course from The Open University UK  is one of a series of 100-hour flexible online courses introducing fascinating topics in science. It allows you to learn about this topic just for interest and enables you to try out a new area of study before you commit yourself to further study. You can register and begin this course at any time and will have at least 6 months to complete it.

What you will study

What have flu pandemics got to do with beer? Both involve microbes. Since the birth of civilisation humans have had an uneasy alliance with the microbial world. These microscopic organisms have brought us terrible afflictions such as Black Death, flu pandemics and food poisoning, but at the same time they ferment our wine, help our bread rise and work in the soil to enable our crops to grow.

This course provides an introduction to microbes, explaining their importance in disease and environmental issues and their role in making and spoiling food. You will learn how many microbes exist harmlessly on and in the human body with key beneficial roles, such as in the human digestive system, and how they can cause disease if this natural balance is disturbed. Microbes are used to manufacture the antibiotic drugs to treat these infections but bacteria can evolve to become resistant to such drugs, requiring continual scientific work to develop new antibiotics against these 'superbugs'.

Microbes play a major role in the environment, influencing climate and playing a vital part in recycling elements in the soil, the atmosphere and other natural systems. On a more mundane level, microbes are involved in making cheese and pickled foods, fermenting beer and producing a huge variety of other foods. Food spoilage is also caused by microbes and is a major problem for food distribution and preservation.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Deadline and start date A student can apply at any time for this programme, there is no deadline.
  • Programme intensity Part-time
    • Average part-time duration 6 months
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
  • More information Go to the programme website

Programme Structure

  • You will learn about: the biology of microbes and how they have been studied and cultured from historical times to the present; the efforts made to combat the negative effects of microbes in the health and food industries; how microbes are beneficially used to make drugs and food; the basic ideas behind genetic engineering; and some of the science behind the major environmental cycles in which microbes are involved. 
  • This will enable you to understand more about the role and importance of microbes in human society.

English Language Requirements

This programme may require students to demonstrate proficiency in English.

General Requirements

  • This course is designed for people who are new to the subject area, and although a little knowledge of general science would be useful, you will need little more than an interest in microbes and the motivation to discover more about these fascinating organisms.
  • You should be able to read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper. 
  • Mathematically you need only to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide simple numbers.

Tuition Fee

  • International

    165 GBP/full
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 165 GBP for the full programme and a duration of 6 months.
  • EU/EEA

    165 GBP/full
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 165 GBP for the full programme and a duration of 6 months.
We've labeled the tuition fee that applies to you because we think you are from and prefer over other currencies.


Check the programme website for information about funding options.

Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

Science - Microbes
Visit programme website


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