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.

Physics is for people who take a real interest in the world around them, those who have enquiring minds and want to understand why things are the way they are.

Physics is the basic science and lies at the very heart of all high technology and engineering. As a Physics student at Cardiff, you will be part of a School housed in a multi-million pound complex which also houses Engineering and Computing. It has modern well-equipped laboratories, lecture theatres, computing facilities, conference suites and a project resource centre.

Key facts

UCAS CodeF300
Entry pointSeptember 2016
Duration3 years
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. Please see detailed information about alternative entry requirements here

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark

Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics

ISBN 978 1 84482 805 0

Admissions tutor(s)

Miss Nicola Hunt, Admissions Tutor

Dr Christopher North, Course Administrator

Dr Christopher North, Admissions Tutor

Important Legal Information: The programme information currently being published in Course Finder is under review and may be subject to change. The final programme information is due to be published by May 2016 and will be the definitive programme outline which the University intends to offer. Applicants are advised to check the definitive programme information after the update, to ensure that the programme meets their needs.

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.

Year one

The range of modules available in the first year is designed to stimulate your interest in Physics whilst giving you a sound foundation upon which to build in later years. At the end of the first year, you may decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of Cardiff's physics and astronomy degrees. Weekly tutorials and exercise classes related to the module content ensure that students have a high level of support within their first year at Cardiff. In your first year, you will study a core component of modules worth 100 credits. In the Autumn semester, you will take the ‘Mathematical Practice for Physical Sciences’ module (PX1125) or a 10-credit optional module from the free standing module catalogue. You can take a free standing module if you have achieved an A grade or higher in Mathematics A-level. In the Spring semester, you will choose between ‘Planets and Exoplanets’ or ‘How the Human Body Works’

Year two

The second year of the programme continues to build on the core physics material and extends the range of choice available through the optional modules.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Intermediate Practical Physics IPX213310 credits
Introduction to Condensed Matter PhysicsPX223610 credits
OpticsPX223210 credits
Synoptic PhysicsPX223410 credits
The Physics of Fields and FlowsPX213120 credits
Structured ProgrammingPX213410 credits
Introductory Quantum MechanicsPX213210 credits
Thermal and Statistical PhysicsPX223120 credits
Intermediate Practical Physics IIPX223310 credits

Module titleModule codeCredits
Julian the ApostateHS330710 credits
Greek ValuesHS330910 credits
Athens in the Age of Demosthenes and LykourgosHS337110 credits
Hellenistic Art and ArchitectureHS435610 credits
Latin Historical TextsHS334310 credits
Latin Historical TextsHS334410 credits
Reading Greek IHS342320 credits
Reading Greek 2HS332420 credits
Reading Latin 1HS342120 credits
Reading Latin 2HS332220 credits
Greek Historical TextsHS334510 credits
Byzantium: The Golden Age, c. 850 - 1050HS332910 credits
Greek Historical TextsHS334610 credits
Conquest & Crisis: The Roman RepublicHS331630 credits
Gender & Sexuality in Greece and RomeHS336220 credits
The Roman ArmyHS436720 credits
Viking-Age ScandinaviaHS238010 credits
Complex Societies in Barbarian EuropeHS236510 credits
Structure & Corrosion of MetalsHS235910 credits
Neolithic Beginnings: Last Foragers and First Farmers in the Eastern MediterraneanHS242420 credits
Viking Britain and IrelandHS231010 credits
Neolithic/Early Bronze Age BritainHS235720 credits
Medieval ArchaeologyHS238220 credits
Art & Archaeology of Archaic GreeceHS238620 credits
War, Peace and Diplomacy, c.900-c.1250HS170730 credits
Heresy & Dissent 1000-1450HS171030 credits
Class, Protest and Politics: South Wales 1918-39HS186830 credits
Heresy & Dissent 1000-1450HS171030 credits
Culture, Soc & I.D. in Wales 1847-1914HS186530 credits
Poverty and Relief in Medieval EuropeHS171430 credits
The British Civil Wars and Revolution, C.1638-1649HS174230 credits
Building the Modern WorldHS174430 credits
Being Human: Self and Society in Britain from Darwin to the Age of Mass CultureHS174830 credits
Nations, Empire and Borderlands from 1789 to the presentHS174930 credits
From King Coal To Cool Cymru: Society and Culture in Wales, 1939-2000HS175630 credits
"An Empire for Liberty": Race, Space and Power in the United States, 1775-1898HS176030 credits
India and The Raj 1857-1947HS176530 credits
The Search for an Asian Modern: Japanese History from 1800 to the Post-War EraHS176830 credits
The Soviet Century: Russia and the Soviet Union, 1905-1991HS177630 credits
Into The Vortex: Britain and The First World WarHS178730 credits
Making Empires: Britain and the World, 1541 - 1714HS179330 credits
Medicine and Modern Society, 1750-1919HS179930 credits
The World of the Anglo-Saxons, c.500-c.1087HS180330 credits
Sexuality and the Social Order in Medieval EuropeHS180430 credits
The Military Orders 1100-1320HS180530 credits
Deviants, Rebels and Witches in Early Modern Britain and IrelandHS182830 credits
From Bismarck To Goebbels: Biography and Modern German History, 1870-1945HS182930 credits
Politics, Economics and Strategy: Britain's European Dilemma, 1951-1975HS183930 credits
Race, Sex and Empire & India, 1765-1929HS185530 credits
Glimpses of the Unfamiliar: Travellers to Japan from 1860 to the Post-War EraHS185830 credits
Cymru a'r Rhyfel Mawr, 1880-2014HS186730 credits
Identity and The British State: Wales, 1485-1660HS187230 credits
Violence and Ideology in Inter-War Soviet RussiaHS188330 credits
Europe and the Revolutionary Tradition in the Long Nineteenth CenturyHS188730 credits
Slavery and Slave Life in North America, 1619-1865HS189030 credits
Gender, Power and Subjectivity in Twentieth-Century BritainHS189430 credits
The Dangerous City? Urban Society & Culture 1800-1914HS189630 credits
Intermediate Sanskrit TextsRT122420 credits
Islam in The Contemporary WorldRT121120 credits
Early HinduismRT133820 credits
Exploring GnosticismRT121820 credits
Indian Philosophy, Indian HistoryRT122320 credits
Understanding Muslim ScripturesRT122620 credits
Buddhism: The First Thousand YearsRT122720 credits
New Testament EpistlesRT320520 credits
New Testament Greek Texts IRT320920 credits
Reformation HistoryRT420520 credits
The Early Church: History and MemoryRT420820 credits
The Medieval Church in the Latin WestRT420920 credits
Beliefs in the CrucibleRT520420 credits
Christian 'Church' Today: Its Meaning, Life and MissionRT520520 credits
History & Religion of Ancient IsraelRT230120 credits
Arabic Texts IRT131020 credits
Arabic Texts IIRT131120 credits
Early Hindu Texts in SanskritRT132820 credits
Gender and Sexuality: Islamic PerspectivesRT134520 credits
The Life of the BuddhaRT135220 credits
Christian Spirituality, 150-1550 CERT430720 credits
Understanding Christian WorshipRT432020 credits
Theology On The Edge: Christian Thought in A Changing WorldRT531520 credits
Christian Social Ethics TodayRT731720 credits
Modern Welsh LiteratureCY373210 credits
Wales and The Welsh LanguageCY373310 credits
Welsh 1CY377420 credits
Welsh 2CY377520 credits
Welsh Culture and FolkloreCY373410 credits
Cyflwyniad I'r GymraegCY374220 credits
Llenyddiaeth GymraegCY374320 credits
O Destun I DraethawdCY374420 credits
C++ Programming ICE265220 credits
C Programming 1CE334020 credits
C Programming IICE334110 credits
Shell and Perl Programming ICE501120 credits
Introduction To Irish 1CY401110 credits
Introduction To Irish 2CY401310 credits
Developing Enterprise & Employability SkillsCE506710 credits
Japanese HistoryML150110 credits
Contemporary Japanese SocietyML250510 credits
Linear AlgebraMA021210 credits
GroupsMA021310 credits
Elementary Number Theory IIMA021610 credits
Analysis IIIMA022110 credits
Modelling with Differential EquationsMA023210 credits
Elementary Fluid DynamicsMA023510 credits
Operational ResearchMA026120 credits
Visual Basic Programming For ORMA027610 credits
AccountancyMA029110 credits
Calculus of Several VariablesMA200110 credits
Matrix AlgebraMA200210 credits
Complex AnalysisMA200310 credits
Series and TransformsMA200410 credits
Ordinary Differential EquationsMA200510 credits
Mechanics IIMA230010 credits
Vector CalculusMA230110 credits
Foundations of Probability and StatisticsMA250020 credits
Programming and StatisticsMA250110 credits
Numerical Analysis IIMA270010 credits
Yr Ystafell Newyddion 1MC261720 credits
Yr Ystafell Newyddion 2MC261820 credits
C ProgrammingCE514010 credits
Java ICE333720 credits
Gods & the Polis: Athenian FestivalsHS333010 credits
C++ ProgrammingCE514310 credits
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 our degree allows students to specialise and study selected topics in depth. A research project forms an important part of the teaching. The third year project provides the opportunity to apply the physics learnt in years one and two and to develop independent research skills. There are a number of additional skills associated with the project such as presentations, report writing and information management.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Atomic and Nuclear PhysicsPX314120 credits
Particle Physics and Special RelativityPX324120 credits
Physics ProjectPX331520 credits
Condensed Matter PhysicsPX314210 credits

Module titleModule codeCredits
Computational PhysicsPX314310 credits
Electromagnetic Radiation DetectionPX314410 credits
CosmologyPX314610 credits
Digital Medical ImagingPX314710 credits
Acoustics and Studio SoundPX314810 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
Commercialising InnovationPX314910 credits
High-Energy AstrophysicsPX324510 credits
Java ICE333720 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.

The intention of the School of Physics and Astronomy is to provide students with an in-depth education over a broad range of widely applicable skills. Teaching is carried out using a range of different techniques. There are the traditional lectures, tutorials and laboratory work and, in addition, there are computer-based courses, project-based courses and skills-based courses.

There is a wide variety of assessment methods. Some modules are assessed purely by an end of semester exam (in January or May), some combine continual assessment with an end of semester exam and others are all continual assessment.

Students are assigned an Academic and Personal Tutor. Personal tutors are there to advise on academic, non-academic and personal matters in a confidential and informal manner. You will meet with your academic tutor once a week in the first year to discuss any study-related issues. You will also receive your marked coursework back with feedback during your tutorial.

Based on responses from the 2012-14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) surveys, 50% of the School's graduates were in professional employment within six months of graduation while a further 33% were engaged in further study. Employers included: UK and international universities plus organisations such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Oclaro Technology and the Ministry of Defence.


  • Research scientist
  • Intellectual property
  • Airline pilot


3 Year(s)

Next intake

September 2016

Places available

Typical places available




Applications received

Typical applications received

600-700 each year


QAA subject benchmark

QAA subject benchmark

Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics

ISBN 978 1 84482 805 0

Overview and aims of this course/programme

The BSc Physics degree programme is designed to give a broad-based education in both theoretical and experimental physics and their application to describing the physical universe and providing an insight into the impact of physics on modern technologies. The overall aim of this programme is to give students a sound training in physics in preparation for a wide variety of employment, including industrial or academic research and development, education, and diverse areas requiring a pragmatic, numerate and analytical approach to problem solving, such as business and finance.

What should I know about year five?

The School of Physics and Astronomy undertakes to provide high-quality taught programmes of study, to deliver them in a competent and professional way, and to listen to your comments. But you also have responsibilities which, when fulfilled, will help you gain the most from your studies. Not all of these responsibilities are stated in explicit rules and regulations because we expect that you will become self-motivated, develop a responsible attitude to the use of your time, and acquire the ability to organise your work to meet deadlines. We have tried to help you focus your efforts by providing “learning outcomes” for each of our modules. Learning outcomes form a list which shows the principal things which an “average-ranking student” should be able to do after completing the module, i.e. a kind of “syllabus” but concentrating on what you need to be able to do or to be able to reproduce to demonstrate your understanding of the subject.

Learning outcomes do not describe everything you should expect to gain from the course and you are expected to extend your knowledge and expertise by further reading, discussion and reflection. So what are your responsibilities? The most obvious is that you should take command of your learning – we do our best to teach you and guide you through the various subjects, but you have to do the learning! To this end, you should attend all teaching sessions – including lectures, laboratories, exercise classes and tutorials. 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; you will then get feedback as to where you have gone wrong.

When you meet concepts or problems you do not comprehend, you should ask staff for help – we can only deal with problems when we know they exist. If you have comments on the modules, tell us. Tell the lecturer, tell your representative on the staff-student panel, put it on the questionnaire which you are asked to complete at the end of each semester. If you are unable to complete work on time or attend teaching sessions for good cause, then you should inform your tutor or the General Office and where required submit written extenuating circumstances.

If illness or other external factors have affected your work or prevented you from taking examinations, this will be taken into account by the Examinations Board, but note that written notification with supporting documentation from a doctor or counsellor is then required.

You also have a responsibility to work in accordance with the School’s safety procedures. In doing experimental work and in moving round the building you should always be aware of the safety of yourself and others. You have a responsibility to report all accidents to a member of staff, who will then complete an accident report form. Any enquiries on safety matters in the laboratories should be addressed to the responsible member of staff or the laboratory technician whenever practical.

How is this course/programme structured?

Core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, exercise classes, experimental laboratory classes, computing classes, tutorials and guided study. Physics is an hierarchical discipline which requires systematic exposition.

The first two years of the programme are designed to cover carefully-chosen core material. A “team approach” has been adopted for course delivery in Years 1 and 2 to establish common approaches to organisation, to share experience and to oversee student workloads. These two years prepare students for their final year of study, which encompasses a wide range of contemporary subject material, some of which reflects research interests in the School; students have some choice in their final-year modules. Throughout the delivery of the programme, wherever possible, recent research results are used to illustrate and illuminate the subject.

Students undertake a major project in their final year (double module) under the supervision of a member of academic staff. Some projects are undertaken in research laboratories or as part of a research group’s activities.

What should I know about year four?

The University will provide the core first year Physics and Maths textbooks. Students may choose to purchase additional textbooks following advice from staff.

What should I know about year three?

Students undertake weekly laboratory classes, which, over the first two years, are designed to develop experimental and analytical skills to the extent that students can conduct a major experimental study as part of their final-year project. Investigative skills, mathematical skills, communication skills and team work are developed in all modules.

What should I know about the preliminary year?

Exercises are an integral part of all lecture-based modules, and these give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge, increase their critical awareness and enhance their problem-solving skills. Supplementary exercise classes are held in some modules. Students undertake weekly laboratory classes, which, over the first two years, are designed to develop experimental and analytical skills to the extent that students can conduct a major experimental study as part of their final-year project. Investigative skills, communication skills and team work are developed in both laboratory-based work and in Topics in Physics. Mathematics is taught in separate modules in all years, and it is also incorporated into many physics - based modules.

IT skills are taught in the first year, where students are introduced to various software packages, including Mathcad and elementary programming. Students have the opportunity of taking further computing and numerical - methods modules in later years.

Regular small-group tutorials are held in Years 1 (weekly) and 2 (fortnightly). Tutorials provide an effective means of supporting students academically and tailoring teaching methods to their specific requirements. Tutorials provide an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills, to promote a wider view of the subject and encourage good oral communication.

What should I know about year one?

In the first year, approximately 60% of the year mark is obtained by conventional end-of-semester examination with the remaining 40% determined by continual assessment (exercises and laboratory work). The proportion of the marks determined by continual assessment falls progressively to about 20% in the final year. The format of all assessments, including examination papers, is dependent on the learning outcomes of each specific module. Exercises and laboratory-based work provides both summative and formative assessment. Experimental work assesses practical skills, data collection, analysis of data and errors as well as general writing skills. In the first instance, the nature and methodology of experimental work is clearly defined, but progressively students are expected to tackle more open-ended investigations.

Project work is assessed by both the supervisor and an assessor. Summative and formative assessment takes place at the end of the first semester in the form of a written interim report and a viva voce examination. The majority of the assessment is based on the final written report and the supervisor’s assessment of the student’s ability to organise and manage the project.

Other information

Students are supported in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, one-to-one personal and academic tutorials, feedback sessions and extensive use of Learning Central.

Distinctive features

The programme outcomes have been informed by the QAA Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics benchmark statement and also by the accreditation requirements of the Institute of Physics. The programme provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate a range of learning outcomes that can be categorised into three distinct groups: subject knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills and more general transferable skills. 

A.  Subject Knowledge and Understanding

Upon completion of the programme a typical student should be able to demonstrate:

- knowledge and understanding of the theory and application of core physics concepts, such as electromagnetism, quantum and classical mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, wave phenomena and the properties of matter;
- an awareness of current trends in physics research and developments at the frontiers of the subject;
- an appreciation of the role of experimental physics;
- an appreciation of applying mathematical methods to describe the physical world.

B. Intellectual Skills

Upon completion of the programme a typical student should be able to:

- formulate problems in physics by identifying appropriate physical principles and seek solutions by applying mathematical or computational tools;
- appraise theory or test solutions by identifying special limiting cases or making order of magnitude estimates;
- plan, design and execute an extended experiment or investigation, using appropriate methods to analyse data and estimate uncertainties;
- sustain a critical argument, both in writing and through oral presentation;
- make critical comparison of data from models and those from experimental observations.

C. Transferable Skills

Upon completion of the programme a typical student should be able to:

- solve well- defined and open-ended problems and identify key issues;
- solve problems of a practical nature;
- design experimental equipment, electronic circuitry or computer data acquisition or data reduction algorithms;
- conduct independent research using a variety of source materials, including textbooks, scientific journals and electronic databases;
- communicate clearly and concisely complex problems or concepts;
- use precise calculations or order - of - magnitude calculations in appropriate situations;
- use computer packages and/or write software;
- describe and critically appraise their own work and the work of others, through written and verbal means;
- work effectively in a team and as an individual;
- undertake independent study;
- meet deadlines.

How will I be taught?

The distinctive features of the programme include:

- the opportunity for students to learn in a department which has a strong research ethos;

- the involvement of research-active staff in programme design and delivery;

- effective course monitoring and feedback from students used for review purposes;

- the emphasis on independent learning in a research led


- provision of excellent laboratory facilities;

- the opportunity to study free-standing modules;

- the opportunity to study abroad on an ERASMUS programme;

- an emphasis on progression towards independent learning.

Admissions tutors

Miss Nicola Hunt, Admissions Tutor

Dr Christopher North, Course Administrator

Dr Christopher North, Admissions Tutor

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.


Get information and advice about making an application, find out when the key dates are and learn more about our admissions criteria.

How to apply
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