Module code: MHUM016

Module Overview

In this module students will be introduced to the key aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) system highlighting important features in humans (and where appropriate animals). The module will focus on the anatomy and physiology of the normal GI system covering digestion and absorption as well as the gut microbiome and immunology. It will also cover disorders associated gut diseases including those associated with dysbiosis and investigate the mechanisms of disease and appropriate food/nutrition treatment/functional foods.

Module provider

School of Biosciences

Module Leader

BROWN Jonathan (Biosciences)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 110

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 4

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 4

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:


In this module students learn about: The features of a healthy gut; digestion and absorption; Areas of the gut and the different cell types involved in the digestion and absorption of nutrients; Immune cells of the gut and their function; The gut microflora and its interaction with the cells of the gut; The origins of gastro-intestinal infectious diseases, their effects and control; Pathological states of the gut: Coeliac disease, irritable bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, allergy and intolerance; Fermented foods and gut health; fibre and gut health; Colorectal cancer and diet.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

That they can describe, explain and understand the features (structure & function, including the cells involved in the gut) of a healthy gut physiology, the diseases that impact upon the gut and the important role of foods (in a variety of forms) in their ability to resolve/ameliorate gut diseases. That they develop and demonstrate critical review skills.

The formative assessment for this module consists of:

A short test performed on-line to enable students to test their knowledge of the material delivered in the first part of the module focused on the gut and its normal healthy functioning. Feedback on this test, which will be a mixture of MCQs and short answers, will be provided.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A MCQ and short answer online test based on the first half of the module.

  • Critical review essay (2000 words) due end of Semester 1. The coursework will be a critical report on the strategies used to improve gut health with a particular emphasis on food/food products.

The summative critical review essay is designed to test the students’ knowledge of key features in the diet that can impact on gut health (a key topic in the role of food in health), their ability to select appropriate sources, critically review them and summarize them concisely in written form, as they may be required to do in their future careers.

The course work assessment will have an associated assessment brief and rubrics, so students can self-assess their work.


Feedback on the formative MCQ and short answer exam will be provided in class, and 1:1 as requested.

Feedback on the summative MCQ and short answer test will be provided 1:1 as requested.

Feedback on the coursework will be provided in written form (individually) as well as general feedback to the class.

Rubrics will be used for the coursework assessment. More detailed and individualized feedback will be given on the marked assignment within the time allowed for marking coursework.

Module aims

  • To provide an in-depth appreciation of the structure and function of the normal functioning gut and the important role of the various cell types in terms of digestion and absorption
  • To detail the role of immune cells in the gut and to illustrate the relationship between the different cell types in the gut
  • To cover the importance of the gut microflora and the features that influence it
  • To provide information on infectious disease and its impact on the gut and the treatments available
  • To detail the main diseases of the gut and their impact on health and to cover the role of different foods on gut health
  • To cover the role of probiotics and other functional foods in gut health (animals and humans)

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 To be able to demonstrate a detailed understanding of the main features of a healthy gastrointestinal tract, the structure and function of different sections and the different cell types involved in digestion and absorption of nutrients and non-nutrients KCT
002 To have an appreciation of the role of immune cells in the gut and their interaction with other cells KC
003 To have a good understanding of the role of gut microflora, their interaction with the cells of the intestine and the role of diet and life stage KCT
004 To have an appreciation of the origin of infectious disease in the gut, their effects and treatment KC
005 To have an appreciation of the various pathological states of the gut - e.g. coeliac disease, IBD, IBS, colon cancer, allergy and intolerance KC
006 To have an awareness, be able to evaluate their effectiveness and be able to critically appraise the role of probiotics, fermented foods, fibre and other functional foods in humans and animals KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The module is designed to provide in-depth knowledge of key topics in the area of gut physiology and health and in particular the role of foods, through lectures, tutorials and journal clubs, providing examples where relevant from around the world. There will be external guest speakers who will provide, when available, material in their areas of expertise.

Lectures cover key areas in the subject area and some of these are critically discussed in the tutorials and journal clubs. An extensive reading list provides a starting point for students to explore the individual topics in depth. The tutorials and journal clubs encourage critical thinking and review skills. Students will also learn how to interpret relevant data, including statistical data, and their importance in understanding the subject more deeply. All of which will be helpful for the MSc research project and future employability.

The learning and teaching methods include:

Lectures will be run live to encourage discussion but will be recorded. These lectures will provide the key points/concepts of each of the areas. Each section of the module will be followed by a tutorial, to give an opportunity to clarify concepts from the lectures and independent reading.

Assessment guidance will be provided. A formative online test on the first part of the module will be provided to allow students to familiarize themselves with the summative test format. An assessment brief will be provided for the coursework.


The journal clubs run in the tutorials will allow more in-depth discussion and critical analysis of key papers from the reading list or wider literature. This will facilitate student interaction and discussion. The journal club will allow students develop their critical review skills further in preparation for the coursework.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: MHUM016

Other information

Global and cultural capabilities: This module explores the epidemiological evidence in support of the relationships between foods/diet and gut health using studies conducted across the globe. The module also refers to foods developed, processed, and consumed around the world, in terms of their effects/benefits on gut health


Employability: The module provides students with the latest knowledge and understanding of key concepts related to the impact of foods on gut health, the mechanisms through they may act and their potential and usefulness when developing new products. It also equips students with the skills to critically appraise the literature with regards to the health effects of these components.


Digital Capabilities: Skills in using digital resources (such as using SurreyLearn and literature searching) will be developed on this module. A selection of relevant creditable literature (e.g., books, original research papers, systematic reviews and meta-analyses) will be provided, however, students are encouraged to source and retrieve peer-reviewed literature via databases such as Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus.


Resourcefulness and resilience: This module contains a formative test on the first part of the module. This test, where students have the capacity to fail, enables students to learn from the online exam process in advance of the main MCQ & short answer summative exam. Students may find that taking the online test stressful, so the formative test provides the opportunity to develop their exam taking skills in a safe environment in readiness for the summative test.


Sustainability: The module provides information on how certain foods/food groups can help improve gut health and prevent gut disease. Many of these are based on foods that can be viewed as having a reduced impact on the environment (e.g., traditionally fermented foods, plant-based foods) and thus can be viewed as sustainable.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Food Science MSc 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.