This paper reviews biodegradable synthetic polymers focusing on their potential in tissue engineering applications. The major classes of polymers are briefly discussed with regard to synthesis, properties and biodegradability, and known degradation modes and products are indicated based on studies reported in the literature. A vast majority of biodegradable polymers studied belongs to the polyester family, which includes polyglycolides and polylactides. Some disadvantages of these polymers in tissue engineering applications are their poor biocompatibility, release of acidic degradation products, poor processability and loss of mechanical properties very early during degradation. Other degradable polymers such as polyorthoesters, polyanhydrides, polyphosphazenes, and polyurethanes are also discussed and their advantages and disadvantages summarised. With advancements in tissue engineering it has become necessary to develop polymers that meet more demanding requirements. Recent work has focused on developing injectable polymer compositions based on poly (propylene fumarate) and poly (anhydrides) to meet these requirements in orthopaedic tissue engineering. Polyurethanes have received recent attention for development of degradable polymers because of their great potential in tailoring polymer structure to achieve mechanical properties and biodegradability to suit a variety of applications.