Physics with Astronomy BSc (Hons) or MPhys (Hons) – 2017 entry

The Department of Physics has some amazing facilities and provides students with a wide variety of opportunities. There is something to suit every style of learning.

What you'll study

We’re partnered with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and are home to wonderful teaching and superb facilities at Surrey.

If you join us, you’ll have chance to explore particle physics, quantum mechanics, relativity and astrophysics – and discover how physics shapes our understanding of the entire universe.

Programme overview

Physics underpins so many of today’s scientific advances. Everything from space exploration to fibre-optic communication, and even the Human Genome Project, could not have happened without physics. Its influence touches a surprising range of areas – for example, providing new ways to improve the environment, develop new technologies and treat cancer.

Studying on our general Physics programme will give you a thorough understanding of all the core elements of traditional physics, including key topics like particle physics, atoms and molecules, quantum mechanics and astrophysics.

This programme will give you the greatest access to our full range of optional modules, allowing you to tailor your studies to fully match your interest in physics.

Our MPhys programme will interest you if you are considering a career in research. You will be able to explore the discipline in greater depth with additional specialist physics modules. All MPhys students also take our unique MPhys Research Year placement – this is a twelve-month research placement that provides an outstanding research experience.

Research Year placements can be at top research institutes or universities, either in the UK or overseas, or will be based in our research groups at Surrey. And MPhys students only pay the reduced Professional Training fee for Year 4 of their studies.

The BSc programme allows you to take a Professional Training placement option after Year 2. Opportunities range from research to engineering or computing, with placements in small and large organisations, national laboratories, hospitals and government agencies.

The BSc Professional Training placement gives students excellent paid experience of the world of work, considerably boosting their employment prospects upon graduation.

After your degree, you may decide to become a professional scientist, but physics opens many other doors too. Your skills will be valued by a wide range of employers in areas such as journalism, law, IT, education and finance.

Our Physics degree programmes reflect the huge diversity of modern physics, with modules ranging from General Relativity to Nuclear Astrophysics to Medical Imaging. We prize our flexibility, which allows you to switch between any of the specialist Physics degrees during your first year, and even to change between some programmes as late as the second year.

A particularly attractive aspect of these modular programmes at the University of Surrey is that you can select options in all years to complement the core subjects, tailoring your programme to your specific interests.

We offer a Professional Training placement  with international opportunities. We have been placing students with companies for more than 40 years. Placement employers are often so impressed with the student’s performance that they offer them a permanent job when the student graduates.

Read about the experience of Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics student Laurence Stant.

Programme structure

Year 1 (FHEQ Level 4)

Year 1 will give you the core physics, mathematics knowledge and professional research skills you need. You will get to grips with the fundamental principles of physics and be introduced to modern physics, from quantum mechanics to relativity.

Building on these principles, you will explore the breadth of the world of physics, looking at atoms, star formation, cosmology, the Schrödinger equation, and even measure the speed of light.

You will also be introduced to the theories developed to deal with physical processes beyond the normal speeds and sizes of everyday life. 

Compulsory modules:

Year 2 (FHEQ Level 5)

In Year 2, you will continue to expand your understanding of and experience with both classical and modern physical theories and concepts. In addition, you will be able to choose the areas that you want to specialise in, and tailor your degree pathway to suit your interests by selecting from a choice of optional modules.

Compulsory modules:

Professional Training placement (optional)

The optional Professional Training placement starts at the end of the second academic year.

Preparation for the Professional Training placement begins during Year 2. If you decide not to do the Professional Training year, you proceed directly to Year 3 to complete your taught modules and graduate in your third year.

Year 3 (FHEQ Level 6)

Year 3 will see you specialise in your chosen field and deliver your final-year project. Through your work on this final-year project, you will develop your scientific writing skills, as well as your communication and presentation style.

BSc students undertake an extended research project in their final semester and can currently choose up to six optional modules:

Compulsory modules:

Compulsory MPhys modules:

Optional modules:

Year 4 (MPhys only, FHEQ Level 7)

Our MPhys programmes are four-year courses with an integrated MPhys Research Year that is unique in the UK. MPhys students start their Research Year half-way through Year 3, after completing the Year 3 taught modules.

In Year 4, you will complete your Research Year and then take a final semester of taught specialist modules, including a problem-solving module and up to five optional modules covering advanced topics in physics.

Compulsory modules:

Professional recognition

Our Physics, Physics with Astronomy and Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics are accredited by the UK’s Institute of Physics (IOP) and can lead to the award of Member of the Institute of Physics (MInstP) and Chartered Physicist (CPhys), after appropriate career experience. 

Teaching

You will have a stimulating mixture of lectures, laboratory work, tutorials, practical exercises and computational classes. There will be assigned coursework, problem solving and projects.

Computers are used extensively, as teaching aids via self-learning packages, in the laboratory for experimental control and data analysis, in modelling of physical problems and for effective communication.

Eight practical laboratory half-modules are designed to introduce particular elements of physics, experimental design, data analysis, background research and technical writing. A ninth module introduces computational modelling, the topic of which can be based upon your personal interests.

Experimental and computational exercises, undertaken in the teaching laboratory, are designed to complement and aid the learning of concepts taught in lectures.

Assessment

All modules are assessed by written examination, coursework or, most commonly, a combination of the two.

For the MPhys degrees, 30 per cent of the degree is awarded for the Year 2 modules, 30 per cent for the Research Year and associated dissertation, and 40 per cent for the Year 3 modules.

For the BSc degrees, 35 per cent of the degree mark is awarded for the Year 2 modules with 65 per cent awarded in Year 3.

Coursework accounts for about 30 per cent of the overall degree mark.

Contact hours

The following represents an indicative estimate of how you can expect your time to be split on this programme, based on the information available at the time of publication (February 2016):

  • 4 per cent personal tutorial/small group teaching
  • 1 per cent medium group teaching
  • 34 per cent large group teaching
  • 61 per cent studying and revising in your own time

Facilities

We can boast extensive facilities within the Department of Physics, including our undergraduate teaching laboratories which recently underwent a thorough refurbishment.

The Department has recently installed a new student observatory for astronomy, which will be used both by students for assessed laboratory experiments and also by enthusiasts for informal use.

The Department has also recently benefited from a £3.5 million refurbishment of its research laboratories, which our undergraduate students use as they carry out their final-year research projects. The Department’s new Astrophysics Research Group supports computational and observational projects in astronomy and astrophysics.

Career opportunities and graduate prospects

Physicists are highly sought after in industry, research, education, management, medicine, law and business, because of their broad practical skills and knowledge of fundamental theory. Our degrees will provide you with the analytical, experimental and computational skills valued in a wide range of career opportunities.

All Surrey Physics students learn a range of employability skills during their studies. These include a dedicated Year 1 module, Scientific Investigation Skills, which covers key communication skills, group work and presentations, problem solving in the laboratory environment, plus sessions on interview techniques, CV preparation and job applications.

Students who take either the Professional Training or Research Year placements also get invaluable employment experience at their host institution.

Many of our graduates, particularly those with an MPhys degree, go on to postgraduate degrees in order to become researchers. Other graduates have launched careers with organisations such as:

  • Shell International Petroleum
  • 3M
  • GEC Marconi Research
  • Nokia
  • BT
  • National Physical Laboratory
  • BBC
  • NHS
  • Defence Research Agency
  • Surrey Medical Imaging Systems

Graduates have taken up roles such as research physicists, consultants, engineers, teachers and bankers in companies including the BBC, BAE Systems and Astrium. Many have gone on to take Masters degrees in a range of subjects, such as geophysics, nanotechnology, meteorology, quantum field theory, education management and science communication, while others have chosen to study for PhDs in astrophysics, semiconductors or photonics.

Global opportunities

You have the option of spending one or two semesters abroad in your second year at one of our partner universities, including:

  • Aachen Technical University
  • University of Ulm
  • Claustahl Technical University
  • University of Halle
  • University of Tessaloniki
  • University of Drebchen
  • Nanyang Technological University
  • Seoul National University
  • University of Cincinnati
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of North Texas
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • University of Sydney
  • La Trobe University
  • Victoria University, Wellington
  • Brock University

International experiences can expose you to a new cultural environment that develops your adaptation and communication skills and also your ability to deal with unfamiliar situations, thus strengthening your academic and professional profile.

In addition, or alternatively, you may wish to consider spending your Professional Training year working in another country. If you work in another part of Europe, you will be eligible for an Erasmus+ grant. This is an excellent opportunity not only to acquire valuable work experience but also to improve or learn another language.

MPhys students have spent their research placements at Notre Dame, Indiana; WNSL, Yale University; ORNL in Tennessee, USA and TRIUMF in Vancouver, Canada and the University of Marburg in Germany and CERN in Switzerland.

If you choose to do your placement in another part of Europe, you will be eligible for an Erasmus+ grant.

Professional Training placements

Undertaking a Professional Training placement can add real value to your experience and enable you to apply theoretical understanding, bringing it alive in the world outside university. Over the years, we have placed our students with many companies and laboratories, including:

  • BAE Systems
  • BT
  • HMS Sultan
  • INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma
  • Instituto de Carboquímica
  • Jaguar Cars
  • National Physical Laboratory
  • National Radiological Protection Board
  • Royal Surrey County Hospital
  • Science Museum
  • National Oceanography Centre

We offer a Professional Training placement with international opportunities, and we have been placing students with companies for more than 40 years. Placement employers are often so impressed with the student’s performance that they offer them a permanent job when the student graduates.

After your degree, you may decide to become a professional scientist, but physics opens many other doors too. Your skills will be valued by a wide range of employers in areas such as journalism, law, IT, education and finance. 

If you are studying a BSc programme, you will discuss your particular interests and abilities with your personal tutor and the Professional Training tutor during Year 2. The Department will look closely at your CV and help you with all aspects of applying to potential employers.

Every October, a Professional Training conference allows the previous year’s students to tell you about their experience first-hand. The Department will help you to apply to companies in our extensive database.

2017 Entry requirements

What qualifications do you need?

A-level

BSc: AAB

MPhys: AAA (or AAB if A-level Further Mathematics is included)

We do not include General Studies or Critical Thinking in our offers.

Applicants taking either Physics, Biology, Chemistry or Psychology are also required to pass the Science Practical Certificate in the subject.

BTEC (QCF Level 3) Extended Diploma

BSc: DDD

MPhys: D*DD

European Baccalaureate

BSc: 75 per cent

MPhys: 76 per cent

International Baccalaureate

BSc: 35 points

MPhys: 36 points 

Other international qualifications

If you are an international student and you don’t meet the entry requirements to this degree, we offer the International Foundation Year.

Select your country:

Required subjects

GCSE English Language and Mathematics at grade C/4 or above (or international equivalent – see relevant country page)

Mathematics and Physics A-levels (or equivalent).

Selection process

Offers are normally made in terms of grades.

Suitable candidates will be invited to an Applicant Day. During the visit to the University the candidate can find out more about the programme and meet staff and students.

English language requirements

6.5 IELTS minimum overall

6.0 IELTS minimum in each sub-skill

If you are an international student and you are concerned that your English is not to the required standard, you may benefit from the International Foundation Year, run by the Surrey International Study Centre.

Please note that the University of Surrey offers English language programmes and is also an IELTS Test Centre.

See 2016 entry information

Course Options

Qualification Course Length Professional Training UCAS code KIS code
BSc (Hons) 3 Years F3FN View KIS data set
BSc (Hons) 4 Years F3FL View KIS data set
MPhys (Hons) 4 Years FHF5 View KIS data set

Tuition fees

View a complete listing of all ongoing fees for our undergraduate programmes.

Fees for UK/EU students

Tuition fees are currently set at £9,000 per year for UK/EU undergraduates starting in 2017.

Fees for overseas students

Fees for 2017/2018 entry for students classed as overseas (for fees purposes) are being reviewed and will be available shortly.

Annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

The University will assess your fee status. If you are unsure whether you are likely to be considered a home, EU or overseas student for fees purposes, the UKCISA website offers more information.

Professional Training placement fees

Programmes marked with a tick in the table above include a Professional Training placement.

A reduced fee is charged for Professional Training placements.

Fees will not have to be paid up front for those eligible students who decide to take up the Government's loan for higher education fees. The Professional Training placement is a key factor in the high employability rates achieved by students with Surrey degrees.

Bursaries and scholarships

We're committed to making sure that we offer support for students who might need it.

Find out more

International students

Experienced staff in our International Student Office are available to help from the moment you consider studying at the University. We offer professional advice on immigration, visa issues, entry qualifications, pre-departure information, employment regulations and international student welfare.

How to apply

Find out how and when to apply to study at Surrey.

More info

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Phone: +44 (0)1483 681 681

General undergraduate enquiries

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Undergraduate admissions enquiries

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