Why study this course
The BSc Physics with Astronomy has an emphasis on astronomy and observational techniques and is ideal for those interested in fundamental questions about our Universe.
Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP), this four-year course offers a professional placement year in industry, commerce, government or another placement provider. This valuable experience will give you the opportunity to engage in real-world work environments, using your knowledge to full effect.
The course aims to prepare you for a career in industrial or academic research and development, education or other sectors that require a practical, numerate and analytical approach to problem solving.
In your first two years, you will study a core component of physics and astrophysics modules, delivered to you through a range of teaching methods. In your final year you can study advanced astrophysics and astronomy topics in detail, with additional optional modules. You will also undertake an astrophysics research project.
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.
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
- You will be able to follow your passion for astronomy while developing your key skills in physics, mathematics and computing.
- 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
- The opportunity to follow a professional placement year in industry
We accept a combination of A-levels and other qualifications, as well as equivalent international qualifications subject to entry requirements. If you are applying to study this course via Clearing, entry grade requirements may be higher than those advertised. Typical offers are as follows:
AAB-ABB. Must include grade A in Maths or grade B in Maths and Physics. You will need to pass the science practical element of the A-level if this is part of your programme of study.
Extended/International Project Qualification: Applicants with grade A in the EPQ/IPQ will typically receive an offer one grade lower than the standard offer. Please note that any subject specific requirements must still be met.
Our grade range covers our standard offer and contextual offer. We carefully consider the circumstances in which you've been studying (your contextual data) upon application.
- Eligible students will be given an offer at the lower end of the advertised grade range.
- Where there is no grade range advertised and/or where there are selection processes in place (like an interview) you may receive additional points in the selection process or be guaranteed interview/consideration.
34-32 overall or 666-665 in 3 HL subjects. Must include grade 6 in HL Maths or grade 6 HL Maths and Physics.
From September 2023, there will be a new qualification called the Advanced Skills Baccalaureate Wales (level 3). This qualification will replace the Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate (Welsh Baccalaureate). The qualification will continue to be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.
Other qualifications from inside the UK
DD-DM in a BTEC Diploma in science and engineering subjects and grade A in Maths A-Level or D in any BTEC subject and grades BB in Maths and Physics A-Level.
Acceptance of T Levels for this programme will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Academic School. Consideration will be given to the T Level grade/subject and grades/subjects achieved at GCSE/Level 2.
Please see our admissions policies for more information about the application process.
Tuition fees for 2023 entry
Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.
Fees for home status
|Year three (sandwich year)||£1,800||None|
Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland
If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2023/24 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.
Fees for island status
Learn more about the undergraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
Fees for overseas status
|Year three (sandwich year)||£5,090||None|
Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.
Costs for sandwich years
During a sandwich year (e.g. year in industry, placement year or year abroad) a lower fee will apply. Full details can be found on our fees pages.
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.
Course specific equipment
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.
We have a range of residences to suit your needs and budget. Find out more on our accommodation pages.
We're based in one of the UK's most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.
This is a four-year full-time degree with the third year spent on a professional placement. 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 2023/2024 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2023.
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 single honours physics and astronomy degrees.
You will study core modules worth 120 credits.
|Module title||Module code||Credits|
|Mathematical Methods for Physicists 1||PX1120||20 credits|
|Mechanics and Matter||PX1121||20 credits|
|Planet Earth||PX1127||10 credits|
|Experimental Physics||PX1150||20 credits|
|Electricity, Magnetism and Waves||PX1221||20 credits|
|Computational Skills for Problem Solving||PX1224||10 credits|
|Introduction to Astrophysics||PX1228||10 credits|
|Mathematical Methods for Physicists 2||PX1230||10 credits|
The second year of the course continues to build on the core physics and astrophysics material. You will also take a 20-credit 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 year three.
|Module title||Module code||Credits|
|The Physics of Fields and Flows||PX2131||20 credits|
|Introductory Quantum Mechanics||PX2132||10 credits|
|Structured Programming||PX2134||10 credits|
|Observational Techniques in Astronomy||PX2155||20 credits|
|Thermal and Statistical Physics||PX2231||20 credits|
|Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics||PX2236||10 credits|
Year three: Sandwich year
Year three is spent on a professional placement in industry, commerce, government or some other institution approved by the University. It is designed to help you further develop your problem-solving skills and encourages the use of initiative to gain a professional work methodology and practical experience.
As well as enhancing your transferable skills such as report writing and oral presentations, you may experience team working, increase your self-confidence and better understand the importance of Health and Safety.
The placement (usually for nine months) also allows you to appreciate the structure of the workplace environment and reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses.
The final year of your degree allows you to specialise and study selected topics in depth. You will also undertake an independent project on a related topic of astronomy or astrophysics research.
|Module title||Module code||Credits|
|Condensed Matter Physics||PX3142||10 credits|
|Computational Physics||PX3143||10 credits|
|Electromagnetic Radiation Detection||PX3144||10 credits|
|Formation and Evolution of Stars||PX3145||10 credits|
|Digital Medical Imaging||PX3147||10 credits|
|Environmental Physics||PX3153||10 credits|
|Introduction to Magnetic Resonance Imaging||PX3155||10 credits|
|Science Communication||PX3160||10 credits|
|Semiconductor Devices and Applications||PX3242||10 credits|
|Laser Physics and Non-Linear Optics||PX3243||10 credits|
|High-Energy Astrophysics||PX3245||10 credits|
|Medical Ultrasound||PX3246||10 credits|
|Radiation for Medical Therapy||PX3247||10 credits|
|Theoretical Physics||PX3248||10 credits|
|Statistical Mechanics||PX3249||10 credits|
|Galaxies and Galaxy Evolution||PX3251||10 credits|
|Commercialising Innovation||PX3253||10 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.
Learning and assessment
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 physics 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 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.
Your professional placement provider is expected to provide you with experience of a working environment, where academic skills can be utilised and developed and which you can describe in a technical report.
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.
Your professional placement will be supervised by a placement mentor and overseen by a specially appointed academic staff member.
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 an end-of-semester exam and others are solely based on continuous assessment.
Continuous assessment (exercises and laboratory work) currently 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.
In year three you will undertake a placement (minimum nine months) in an industrial, commercial or other working environment, normally within the UK, that you have selected and has been approved by the University. You will complete a reflective assessment of your placement, initial and final reports and give an oral presentation of the technical outcomes of your placement year.
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:
- 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
Careers and placements
We provide a range of support to help our students to find the career opportunities that suit them best, such as a Careers Adviser who is located part-time in the School, on-site careers fairs and employer visits. We also aim to prepare our students by providing them with the skills they need to succeed in obtaining jobs and feeling confident in their chosen workplace.
The contacts you make and the work experience you gain during your placement year will enhance your CV and may even lead directly to employment or provide enhanced references for other job applications.
Employers included UK and international universities plus a range of organisations such as Rolls Royce, Barclays, Bank of England, Tata Steel, European Space Agency, and Lockheed Martin.
- Research Scientist
- Data Analyst
- Science Communicator
- Finance and Banking
- Airline Pilot
- Software Engineer
Year three is spent on a professional placement in industry, commerce, government or another relevant institution approved by the University.
HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.