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Course length

1 year full-time


Durham City

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Course details

From the fundamental constituents that form the building blocks of the universe to the study of the vast structures that populate it, Durham’s MSc in Particles, Strings and Cosmology explores some of the most important questions in science today. Developed and delivered by experts in the field, you will have the opportunity to work with internationally recognised researchers as you explore advanced theories and emerging techniques in these closely related areas. This 12-month taught MSc is an ideal choice if you achieved a good first degree in either physics or a mathematics degree which included modules in quantum mechanics and relativity.

You will receive a thorough training in theoretical high-energy physics through a combination of structured lectures and individual supervision with much of your learning shaped by the research taking place in the Centre for Particle Theory – a combined research group in the mathematics and physics departments that forms one of the largest and most highly regarded particle theory groups in the UK.

The course comprises a series of lecture-based modules covering areas from astroparticle physics to superstring theory. You will also complete a dissertation on a topic of current research, prepared under the guidance of a supervisor with expertise in the specific area.

The MSc is a rigorous course that offers a springboard for a PhD in Theoretical Particle Physics within the Centre for Particle Theory. By the end of the course, we aim to develop highly specialised skills that will equip you with the knowledge to understand advanced theoretical physics, the tools to solve complex problems and the confidence to draw your own conclusions.

Course structure

Core modules:

Elementary Particle Theory I A introduces the areas of quantum field theory (path integrals for quantum mechanics), general relativity, and group theory at an appropriate level for the study of particle physics, string theory and cosmology at MSc.

Elementary Particle Theory I B introduces quantum electrodynamics, particle theory, the standard model, and its interplay with cosmology at an appropriate level for MSc study.

Elementary Particle Theory II A explores the ideas, the mathematical methods and the experimental underpinnings of modern theoretical particle physics in greater depth. You will master a coherent body of knowledge from a selection of; conformal field theory, quantum chromodynamics, astroparticle physics, neutrino physics, renormalisation group, and supersymmetry.

Elementary Particle Theory II B explores the ideas, the mathematical methods and the experimental underpinnings of modern theoretical particle physics in greater depth. You will master a coherent body of knowledge from a selection of; flavour physics, superstring theory, scattering amplitudes, non-perturbative physics, Higgs physics, and cosmology II (advanced topics in cosmology).

The Dissertation, of up to 20,000 words, is a supervised extended report into a current area of research in elementary particle theory. It will develop your skills in creative and critical thinking, your ability to conduct research into a specialist area and present your findings clearly. You can choose to focus your dissertation on either physics or mathematics. 


The course is structured around a series of lectures, starting with a general survey of particle physics and introductory courses on quantum field theory and group theory, leading on to more specialised topics, including string theory, cosmology, supersymmetry and more detailed aspects of the standard model.

The main lectures take place during the first two terms, comprising of two teaching periods of 4 weeks. There are 14 lectures per week during these terms, the content of which is explored in depth in weekly tutorials. You will also be set a number of assignments to reinforce your understanding of the material.

We offer additional optional lectures in the third term, introducing advanced topics which are intended as preparation for research in these areas.

The final component of the course is a dissertation on a topic of current research, prepared under the guidance of a supervisor with expertise in the area. The dissertation must be submitted by mid-September, the end of the 12-month course period. There are also 8 hours of learning related to scientific computing during this period.

The lecture-based modules make up two-thirds of the course and are assessed by a 3-hour examination per module, with the final third of your marks gained through the research and writing of a dissertation of up to 20,000 words.

Entry requirements

2.1 Honours in either Physics or Mathematics.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £12,250 per year
EU students £27,900 per year
Island students £12,250 per year
International students £27,900 per year

The tuition fees shown 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

Career opportunities

Mathematical Sciences

As a postgraduate in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, you are empowered to develop your abilities in critical thinking, problem-solving and independent learning and improve skills and attributes that contribute hugely to professional career aspirations.

There are very real opportunities to develop an understanding of mathematics as a professional practice and to prepare for working life in a range of roles including research scientists, teachers, statisticians, operational researchers, investment analysts, actuaries, insurance analysts and accountants.

Postgraduates have secured rewarding and stimulating roles with the Civil Service, Deloitte, the Ministry of Defence, CERN, Royal London and Morgan Stanley.

You will also be well-placed to continue research activities at a higher level at Durham or another academic institution.

Department information

Mathematical Sciences

The Department of Mathematical Sciences offers a world class research-led education, combining a passionate commitment to teaching with expertise in a range of subject options including pure mathematics, applied mathematics, statistics and probability.

Key areas of research are Computational and Applied Mathematics, Pure Mathematics, Statistics and Probability and Theoretical Particle Physics.

We regularly review our course structures and update them where necessary to ensure they continue to offer world class learning and development opportunities to help students succeed in a rapidly changing professional arena.

The Department is part of MAGIC, a consortium of 21 universities offering distance learning for postgraduate students via interactive access-grid technology. We are also a member of the Academy for PhD Training in Statistics (APTS), giving access to high-quality training courses, covering key areas of statistics and probability.

In addition, we are a member of several scientific networks that work to address issues ranging from the mathematics of climate change to geometric group theory and to build constructive partnerships beyond the University.

For more information visit our department pages.


For a current list of staff, please see the Mathematical Sciences department pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 96% of our research outputs are world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021)


In the Department, you are part of a postgraduate community that is vibrant and engaged and enjoys a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities in which to study and carry out research.

We are housed in a contemporary building along with the Department of Computer Science. It features a student project space, open plan networking and work space, the Hazan Venture Lab as well as a café and teaching spaces.

Our Department is situated on the Science Site on the Upper Mountjoy campus to the south of the City centre, within easy reach of all Durham Colleges and close to the University Library.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
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