Astrophysics (MPhys)

The MPhys in Astrophysics is a four-year undergraduate degree that enables you to explore Astrophysics topics in greater depth than is possible on a three-year course.

Physics students in a lab

The MPhys Astrophysics degree covers core physical and mathematical concepts with a clear focus on our interpretation of the Universe. The course is designed to give a thorough education in theoretical aspects of physics and astrophysics and an understanding of observational astronomy.

Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP), this four-year programme is designed for those wishing to study astrophysics in greater depth than the three year BSc allows.

The course aims to prepare you for a career in industrial or academic research and development, education or other sectors which require a practical, numerate and analytical approach to problem solving.

 You will be part of a friendly and welcoming department currently housed in the Queen’s Building complex, which contains a wide variety of purpose-built laboratories, lecture theatres and computing facilities.

Distinctive features

The distinctive features of the course include:

  • The opportunity to learn in a department which has a strong commitment to research and is home to one of the UK’s largest Astronomy research groups
  • The involvement of research-active staff in course design and delivery
  • A large research project in your final year
  • Frequent opportunities to conduct practical work in the School’s laboratory facilities
  • An emphasis on independent learning

The course contains all the core content required for the degree to be accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP).


I asked some of my fellow students what they most enjoyed about their four years here at the School of Physics and Astronomy, and there was an unrivalled winner: project work. Being able to work on some real science and apply what we had learned in lectures. It was the sort of science that doesn’t go according to plan, hardly provides any significant results, and is very unpredictable. Yet, at the same time it is also exciting, thoroughly enjoyable and very rewarding. Throughout the entire final year we were able to apply our own insights and ideas to physics that was being studied.

Julie Gould, MPhys graduate 2012

Key facts

UCAS CodeF510
Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration4 years
ModeFull time
AccreditationsInstitute of Physics (IOP)
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 105 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 570 applications.
Typical A level offerAAA-ABB, must include Physics and Mathematics at A- level. General Studies is not accepted.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerWBQ core will be accepted in lieu of the non Science A-level (at the grades specified above).
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-34 points with 6 in Higher Level Physics and Maths.
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course
Admissions tutor(s)

This is a four-year full-time degree. The course includes a carefully chosen balance of core modules, along with some optional modules. Modules are typically worth 10 or 20 credits and you need to earn 120 credits a year.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2017/18 academic year. The final modules will be published by July 2017.

Year one

The range of modules in year one is designed to stimulate your interest in physics while giving you a sound foundation upon which to build in later years. At the end of the first year, you may continue with your degree programme of choice or choose another of our single honours physics and astronomy degrees. 

You will study core modules worth 110 credits and in the Autumn Semester you may take a module on mathematical practice for physical sciences or, if you have an A grade or higher in Mathematics A-level, an alternative 10-credit module.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Mathematical Practice For Physical SciencesPX112510 credits
Engaging PhysicsPX112610 credits

Year two

The second year of the course continues to build on the core physics and astrophysics material. You will also take a module on Observational Techniques in Astronomy. This introduces the theory and practice of making and interpreting astronomical observations and provides the necessary skills to undertake your astronomy or astrophysics research project in years three and four.

Students are required to maintain a minimum average of 55% in years one and two in order to continue their studies on the MPhys programme.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Observational Techniques in AstronomyPX233820 credits
The Sun and StarsPX213610 credits
Structured ProgrammingPX213410 credits
Introductory Quantum MechanicsPX213210 credits
OpticsPX223210 credits
The Physics of Fields and FlowsPX213120 credits
Synoptic AstrophysicsPX223510 credits
Introduction to Condensed Matter PhysicsPX223610 credits
Thermal and Statistical PhysicsPX223120 credits

Year three

In your third year you will study 80 credits of core modules with a further 20 credits from a selection of optional modules. You will also undertake an independent 20-credit physics-related research project.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Formation and Evolution of StarsPX314510 credits
CosmologyPX314610 credits
High-Energy AstrophysicsPX324510 credits
Atomic and Nuclear PhysicsPX314120 credits
Extragalactic AstrophysicsPX324410 credits
Astrophysics ProjectPX331620 credits
Particle Physics and Special RelativityPX324120 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Condensed Matter PhysicsPX314210 credits
Computational PhysicsPX314310 credits
Electromagnetic Radiation DetectionPX314410 credits
Digital Medical ImagingPX314710 credits
Acoustics and Studio SoundPX314810 credits
Semiconductor Devices and ApplicationsPX324210 credits
Laser Physics and Non-Linear OpticsPX324310 credits
Theoretical PhysicsPX324810 credits
Statistical MechanicsPX324910 credits
Environmental PhysicsPX325010 credits
Commercialising InnovationPX314910 credits

Year four

The final-year project is a significant assessed part of our MPhys courses and we attach particular importance to it. It currently accounts for half of the year four content (60 credits) and provides training in analysis, synthesis and problem solving – the key skills needed by a professional astrophysicist. The project will be linked to the research work of the School and give you the opportunity to work alongside professional researchers and academic staff.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Introduction to General RelativityPX412410 credits
ProjectPX431060 credits
Interstellar Medium and Star FormationPX422910 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Physics of the Early UniversePX422310 credits
Advanced General Relativity and Gravitational WavesPX422410 credits
Large Molecules and LifePX411910 credits
Instrumentation for AstronomyPX412510 credits
Data AnalysisPX412810 credits
Physics and RealityPX423010 credits
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

Teaching is carried out using a range of techniques, such as traditional lectures, tutorials and laboratory work and computer-based, project-based and skills-based exercises. Physics is a hierarchical discipline so the structure of the course is systematic, building on fundamental understanding.

Exercises are an integral part of all lecture-based modules, and these give you the opportunity to apply your knowledge, increase your critical awareness and enhance your problem-solving skills.

You will undertake weekly laboratory classes in the first two years, to prepare you for an experimental study as part of your year-three project and for your major final-year project.

Mathematics is taught alongside the major Physics and Astrophysics concepts in all years, with specific modules in the first year. It is fundamental to understanding the subject and is incorporated into many physics modules.

IT skills are taught in the first year as well as elementary programming using Python. You may take further computing and numerical-methods modules in later years.

Regular small-group tutorials are held in years one and two. These meetings will allow you to meet with other students in small groups (typically four or five students to one tutor) and receive feedback on your continuous assessment. In the first year these sessions are usually given on a weekly basis, in year two they take place fortnightly.

Throughout the delivery of the programme, wherever possible, recent research results are used to illustrate and illuminate the subject.

How will I be supported?

Your main interaction with academic staff will be through lectures, laboratory practical sessions, workshops or small-group teaching sessions (tutorials).

You will also be allocated a personal tutor, a member of academic staff who can provide pastoral support and academic advice during your course.

All lecturing staff can be contacted by email and have either an ‘open door’ policy for students with specific queries about course material, or a system to book meeting times. The School Office can answer most administrative queries immediately.

You will be given access to relevant multimedia material, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, further links, electronic exercises and discussion circles through the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central. Opportunities for you to reflect on your abilities and performance are available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module.

The University offers a range of services including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, and excellent libraries and resource centres.


Feedback on progress is typically provided through a combination of discussion in class, written comments on submitted work and review of outline solutions to problems. You are encouraged to discuss any queries related to specific modules with individual lecturers.

How will I be assessed?

There are a wide variety of assessment methods. Some modules combine continuous assessment and end-of-semester exam and others are solely based on continuous assessment.

At first the nature and methods of experiments are clearly defined for you, but by year three you are expected to tackle more open-ended investigations.

In your final-year project you will submit a fixed-format summary of your work plus a self-assessment at the end of the Autumn Semester. You will submit your final dissertation at the end of the Spring Semester. Part of your assessment will involve an interview with your supervisor and assessor (viva) and you will be asked to give a short research seminar about your project. All of these elements are assessed.

What skills will I practise and develop?

Studying this course will enable you to acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both discipline specific and based around general employability. You will:

  • Develop your experimental, analytical and investigative skills in laboratory classes
  • Learn how to design experimental equipment, electronic circuitry or computer data acquisition or data reduction algorithms
  • Use precise calculations or order-of-magnitude calculations in appropriate situations
  • Use computer packages and/or write software
  • Conduct independent research using source materials such as textbooks, scientific journals and electronic databases
  • Develop your communication skills, both orally and in writing
  • Enhance your team-working skills and ability to critically appraise your own work and the work of others
  • Develop your ability to undertake independent learning and effectively manage your time

Based on responses from the 2013-14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, 90% of our graduates were in employment and/or further study six months after graduating.

Employers included UK and international universities plus organisations such as Rolls Royce, European Space Agency, National Instruments and Barclays.


  • Research scientist
  • Teaching
  • Operational research

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Additional costs

The School covers the cost of essential equipment, including core course textbooks in the first two years. All other suggested textbooks are available through the University libraries.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

The University will provide all essential equipment. It currently also provides the core first-year physics and maths textbooks. You may choose to buy additional textbooks following advice from staff. You may also wish to consider purchasing a personal computer, laptop or tablet device, although specific computing facilities are available on site.

Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.