Physics and Astronomy
4 years full-time
Please note: Courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Applicants will be informed of any changes which we are required to make to course entries as a result of Covid-19.
Durham is one of the leading physics and astronomy departments in the UK, enrolling around 170 students each year. The dedication to our teaching and research consistently puts us high up in all the league tables. While studying here you will benefit from the buzz and creative environment of a large research department and join a dynamic and focused intellectual community. Our research ranges from fundamental elementary particle physics and cosmology to more applied topics in which we collaborate closely with industry.
We offer degrees in Physics, Physics and Astronomy, and Theoretical Physics, all of which are accredited by the Institute of Physics. Our course structures have been designed to provide flexibility in your final choice of degree course. The three-year BSc degree is aimed at those mainly interested in a degree in Physics as a preparation for a career not necessarily in the Physics area.
Our four-year MPhys degrees will suit those looking for professional training leading to research in physics or a physics-related career. The first year of the BSc and MPhys degree courses in Physics, Physics and Astronomy, and Theoretical Physics is identical, and it is possible to select modules in your second year such that you need not make a firm choice of course until the end of the second year.
Foundations of Physics 1 is the main lecture module in the first year and is complemented with a practical laboratory module, including an introduction to programming. Two mathematics modules are taken in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. There is a further module of choice, with Introduction to Astronomy proving to be very popular.
- Foundations of Physics 2A/2B
- Mathematical Methods in Physics
- Laboratory Skills and Electronics
Additional topics also include Theoretical Physics 2 (the transition from classical to quantum mechanics), and Stars and Galaxies (an exploration of astrophysics), and Physics in Society.
At the end of the year, you need to decide your degree title, choosing between:
- BSc Physics (F300)
- MPhys Physics (F301)
- MPhys Physics and Astronomy (FF3N)
- MPhys Theoretical Physics (F344)
Besides core courses in Foundations of Physics 3A/3B and Physics Problem Solving, (which includes a computing project), there is a wide choice of topics, for example:
- Planets and Cosmology
- Theoretical Physics
- Maths Workshop
- Physics into schools
- Team Project
- Laboratory Project
- A module taken in another department (subject to approval).
Your options will have an emphasis on astrophysics.
A research-based project is undertaken in one of the Department’s wide range of research groups. Optional lecture course topics have included in the past: advanced and theoretical astrophysics (including general relativity and galaxy formation), biological and nanophysics, laser physics, advanced quantum physics and particle physics.
Your options will have an emphasis on astrophysics.
PlacementYou may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.
The experience of having lived independently abroad can be very rewarding in terms of employability and of personal development. For this reason, you are encouraged to apply during your degree for a year-long placement with one of the Physics Department's or the University's international partners, either in replacement of the third year of study within an MPhys degree or as an additional year of study. You may study in English at some of the partner universities, whereas at others foreign language skills are essential. You are fully supported by the Department both during the application process and during the year abroad.
Adding a supplementary international study placement to the BSc Physics degree or to an MPhys degree leads respectively to the degrees of BSc Physics with Year Abroad and MPhys Physics with Year Abroad. Adding a supplementary international work or training placement instead leads to the degrees of BSc Physics with Placement and MPhys Physics with Placement. Admissions to these degrees are through transfer from F300, F301, FF3N or F344 after Year 1.
AccreditationInstitute of Physics
The course is mainly delivered through a mixture of lectures, laboratories, tutorials and workshops. The lectures will provide the means to give a concise, focused presentation of the relevant area of Physics. The lecture material will be explicitly linked to the contents of recommended textbooks for the module, making clear where you can begin your private study. When appropriate, the lectures will also be supported by the distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on the University Virtual Learning Environment.
You will be able to obtain further help in your studies by approaching your lecturers, either after lectures or at other mutually convenient times (the Department has a policy of encouraging such enquiries). You will learn how to plan experiments and to interpret data quantitatively and systematically in the laboratory classes. Regular problem exercises will give you the chance to develop your theoretical understanding and problem-solving abilities. These problem exercises will form the basis for discussions in tutorial groups of typically six students in the first year. The tutorials will also provide an informal environment for you to raise issues of interest or difficulty.
The balance of these types of activities changes over the course of the degree, as you develop your knowledge, and your skills as an independent learner.
In the first year, you will typically attend 12 hours a week of lectures, one three-hour laboratory session per week, one one-hour Physics tutorial each week and two one-hour Mathematics tutorials. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to undertake your own independent study to prepare for your classes and broaden your subject knowledge.
A similar balance holds in the second year, although with a change from tutorials to module-specific workshops. In the workshops, typically three supervisors circulate among typically 50 students to provide support. By the end of the second year, you will have covered the vast majority of the material specified in the Institute of Physics ‘Core of Physics’, required for any accredited Physics degree, allowing them considerable flexibility in your choices for the remainder of your degree.
By the third year, you will have greatly extended your abilities as an independent learner. Although the contact time breakdown remains similar, there is considerable freedom in the way in which laboratory projects are carried out. There is also a possibility of performing a Team Project – open-ended research projects supplied by industrial partners, where you will be reporting back to the partner directly on your results.
This move towards greater emphasis on independent learning continues in the final year. Half of your time will be spent on a Research project in one of the (world-leading) research groups in the department. You will meet with a research supervisor for typically an hour per week during term-time, and depending on the project (laboratory-based or theoretical) may be working in the Department for an additional 12-15 hours per week. These projects are genuine open-ended research which has commonly resulted in material publishable in refereed Physics journals. In addition, you will typically spend six hours per week in lectures on advanced topics which can be chosen from the various research areas in the Department.
Throughout the degree, you will also have access to an academic adviser who will provide you with academic support and guidance. Typically you will meet with your adviser three times a year, in addition to which all members of teaching staff are available to meet with students, either on a ‘drop-in’ basis or during regular ‘office hours’. There are also regular seminars run throughout the year by the student-led Physics society and Astronomy society.
A level offer – A*A*A including Physics and Mathematics.
BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – D*D*D and A levels as above.
IB Diploma score – 38 with 776 in higher level subjects, including Mathematics (maths analysis & approaches) and Physics.
In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:
- We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.
- Entry requirements are the same for all four Physics programmes and transfer from the BSc degree to the MPhys degree is possible and is based upon first and second-year examinations.
- We may request further information such as UMS marks and/or predicted grades if this information is not available on the UCAS application. This is to ensure that we have an equal amount of information for all applicants. If for some reason this cannot be supplied, the candidate’s application will not be disadvantaged.
- If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre
- We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.
Science A levels
Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.
International students who do not meet direct entry requirements for this degree might have the option to complete an International Foundation Year.
Fees and funding
Full Time Fees
|Home students||£9,250 per year|
|EU students||£28,500 per year|
|Island students||£9,250 per year|
|International students||£28,500 per year|
The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.
The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).
Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.
Scholarships and Bursaries
We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities.Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries
Of those students who graduated in 2018:
- 89% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes
Of those in employment:
- 98% are in a professional or managerial job
- Average salary of £29-,000.
(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here www.graduateoutcomes.ac.uk)
Physics is central to our understanding of natural phenomena, from the smallest-length scales probed in elementary particle accelerators to the grandest structures of the universe.
Physics has enhanced our lives, by underpinning inventions such as mobile communications, the Internet, solar cells and medical scanners. At Durham University you can learn about the Big Bang,black holes, the Higgs boson, high-temperature superconductors, lasers, cold-atom Bose-Einstein condensates, biophysics and much more, from leading researchers in the field.
For more information see our department pages.
- World Top 100 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2021.
- 4th in The Guardian University Guide 2021.
- 4th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.
Research Excellence Framework
- Ranked joint 1st in the UK for internationally excellent and world-leading research impact (REF 2014).
From SEM labs in the basement to telescopes on the roof, the Department of Physics is home to a range of world-class facilities. Our laboratories and equipment are looked after by a dedicated team of technicians and our facilities are used by our students and researchers. Several of these facilities are available to external users, and the Department welcomes enquiries from external research and from industry.
More information on our facilities and equipment.
The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!