Physics (BSc)

The BSc Physics degree is designed to give you a broad physics education and, in addition, supply you with a wide range of mathematical and computational skills.

The BSc Physics degree is designed to give you a broad physics education and, in addition, supply you with a wide range of mathematical and computational skills.

Designed for those with an enquiring mind, this degree provides a wide-ranging education in how theoretical and experimental physics can be used to describe the universe. It also provides an insight into the impact of physics on modern technologies.

Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP), this 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, such as business, finance and government.

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
  • The involvement of research-active staff in course design and delivery
  • Frequent opportunities to conduct practical work in the School’s laboratory facilities
  • An emphasis on independent learning
  • Effective course monitoring and opportunities for student feedback

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

Key facts

UCAS CodeF300
Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration3 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.
Admissions tutor(s)

Entry requirements

For detailed entry requirements see the School of Physics & Astronomy admissions criteria pages.

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.

This is a three-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 original degree choice or choose another of our physics and astronomy degrees. 

You will study core modules worth 100 credits and two optional 10-credit modules.

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.

In the Spring Semester you can choose between optional modules, such as Planets and Exoplanets or How the Human Body Works.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Mathematical Practice For Physical SciencesPX112510 credits
Engaging PhysicsPX112610 credits
How The Human Body WorksPX122610 credits
Planet EarthPX122710 credits

Year two

Year two of the course continues to build on the core physics material and offers a choice for your one optional module.

Module titleModule codeCredits
The Physics of Fields and FlowsPX213120 credits
Introductory Quantum MechanicsPX213210 credits
Intermediate Practical Physics IPX213310 credits
Structured ProgrammingPX213410 credits
Thermal and Statistical PhysicsPX223120 credits
OpticsPX223210 credits
Intermediate Practical Physics IIPX223310 credits
Synoptic PhysicsPX223410 credits
Introduction to Condensed Matter PhysicsPX223610 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Electronic InstrumentationPX213510 credits
The Sun and StarsPX213610 credits
Electricity in the Human BodyPX213710 credits
Engaging PhysicsPX213810 credits

Year three

The final year of the course allows you to specialise and study selected topics in depth. A 20-credit physics-related research project gives you the opportunity to apply your physics learning and to develop skills in independent research, making presentations, report writing and information management.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Atomic and Nuclear PhysicsPX314120 credits
Condensed Matter PhysicsPX314210 credits
Particle Physics and Special RelativityPX324120 credits
Physics ProjectPX331520 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Computational PhysicsPX314310 credits
Electromagnetic Radiation DetectionPX314410 credits
CosmologyPX314610 credits
Digital Medical ImagingPX314710 credits
Acoustics and Studio SoundPX314810 credits
Commercialising InnovationPX314910 credits
Semiconductor Devices and ApplicationsPX324210 credits
Laser Physics and Non-Linear OpticsPX324310 credits
Medical UltrasoundPX324610 credits
Radiation for Medical TherapyPX324710 credits
Theoretical PhysicsPX324810 credits
Statistical MechanicsPX324910 credits
Environmental PhysicsPX325010 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 a major experimental study as part of your 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 modules.

Key IT skills are taught throughout the course as well as elementary programming using Python. You may also have the opportunity to take further computing and numerical-methods modules as the course develops.

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 take place 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.

What is expected of me?

You should attend lectures and all timetabled laboratory sessions. You should attempt all exercises and problems provided, handing in work by the specified deadline. In some cases exercise marks are part of your continuous assessment. If you cannot complete an exercise, hand in your efforts anyway, as you will then get helpful feedback on where you have gone wrong.

While a 10-credit module represents 100 hours of study in total, typically this will involve two or three hours of contact time with teaching staff each week. The remaining hours are for private study, coursework, example sheets, revision and assessment. You are expected to spend around 20 hours a week studying independently.

You must keep your personal tutor and the Teaching Office informed of any circumstances or illnesses that might affect your capacity to attend teaching or undertake assessment.

You must follow a code of behaviour in laboratory practical classes. This is based on essential health and safety considerations for these environments, and you must follow the instructions of the supervising member of staff at all times.  

You should check your emails regularly and answer them.

When you meet concepts or problems you do not understand, you should ask staff for help. If you have comments on the modules, tell us. Tell the lecturer, tell your representative on the staff-student panel and/or put it on the questionnaire you are asked to complete at the end of each semester.

You should familiarise yourself with School and University policies and regulations and must respect the Student Charter and Cardiff University’s Policy on Dignity while Working and Studying.

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

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 are assessed purely by an end of semester exam , some combine continuous assessment with an exam and others are all continuous assessment.

Continuous assessment (exercises and laboratory work) typically makes up 40% of your marks in year one.

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

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 more generic ‘employability skills’. You will:

  • Use laboratory classes to develop your experimental, analytical and investigative skills
  • 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.

Jobs

  • Research scientist
  • Intellectual property
  • Airline pilot

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 text books in the first two years. All other suggested text books 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 other 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.

There is the option of taking a Professional Placement Year between your second and third years, when you can work in industry, commerce, government or with another relevant placement provider. This would extend the BSc degree to four years.


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.