The course begins by focussing on the early events in evolution, the origin of life itself and the advent of multicellularity. It goes on to investigate the challenges and opportunities that multicelled life forms had to face and how these were met in different ways by the major kingdoms. The last part of the course focuses on three of the most important and diverse groups of organisms: the arthropods, the flowering plants and the vertebrates. It explains what these groups can tell us about evolution and explores key innovations that have allowed them to become so successful.
What will I be studying?
The course is taught through three termly units, each having its own topic. The Saturday day-schools take place at Madingley Hall, just outside Cambridge.
Unit 1: Life: the first four billion years
5 Saturday day-schools: 8 October, 22 October, 12 November, 3 December, 10 December 2017
This unit introduces the process of evolution on the grandest scale – the big transitions that gave rise to wholly new ways of life. We cover the early events in the evolution of life, from its origin to the invention of multicellularity, to give students an understanding of how the cumulative process of natural selection opened doors to the existence of ever more elaborate kinds of organism.
Unit 2: Kingdom-building
4 Saturday day-schools and a fieldtrip: 21 January, 11 February, 25 February, 11 March (fieldtrip), 18 March 2017
This unit shows how the origin of multicellularity raised new physical and biological challenges, and investigates how these challenges were met by the major kingdoms: plants, animals and fungi. The chief aim is to give students a deeper understanding of why these kingdoms are the way they are, and in particular why their solutions to the problems of multicellular life are so different.
Unit 3: Success stories
5 Saturday day-schools: 8 April, 22 April, 6 May, 3 June, 10 June 2017
The final unit takes a more in-depth look at the evolution of three particularly important and diverse groups of organisms – the arthropods, flowering plants and the vertebrates – to uncover the secrets of their evolutionary success. Students learn about the concept of key innovations – critical transitions that opened doors to previously unexplored evolutionary possibilities – and come to understand how and why the unique vertebrate solution to life's challenges gave rise to humanity.
What is it like to study with us?
Try a weekend course in a related topic. If you’re thinking of applying for a Certificate or Diploma course then a weekend course could be an opportunity to find out what it is like to study with us, before signing up. You can choose to stay at Madingley Hall in our comfortable en-suite accommodation, or attend as a non-resident.
What can I go on to do?
Credit awarded by the Institute may also be transferred into the degree programmes of other higher education providers. However the volume of credit and the curriculum which can be transferred into degree programmes varies from institution to institution and is always at the discretion of the receiving institution.