Theoretical physics employs mathematical techniques and theories to gain a deeper understanding of the physical world. This course is ideal if you have a specific interest in the mathematical aspects of physics.
4 years full-time
This integrated Master's degree is the first step towards Chartered Physicist status. It will suit those looking for an accredited course that focuses on the mathematical and theoretical aspects of physics. Many graduates progress to higher level education followed by careers in research or teaching. For others, the course has opened the door to a range of professions where advanced analytic, numeric or computational skills are in demand.
Undergraduate physics degrees at Durham offer a high level of flexibility. We offer four Institute of Physics accredited courses - MPhys qualifications in Physics, Physics and Astronomy, and Theoretical Physics and the three-year BSc in Physics - which follow the same core curriculum in Year 1.
Subject to the optional modules chosen, it is possible to switch to one of the other courses until the end of the second year. You can also apply for a one-year work placement or study abroad opportunity with one of our partner organisations, increasing the course from four years to five or substituting the existing Year 3.
The first year lays the foundation in physics theory, mathematical skills and laboratory skills that you will need to tackle more complex content later in the course. As you progress through the course the level of theoretical content increases, extending your knowledge in areas such as electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, particle theory and advanced mathematical theory.
In Years 3 and 4 the curriculum is more closely aligned to real-world issues through a combination of theory and project work, including a final-year project on a topic at the forefront of developments in one of our research institutes.
Foundations of Physics introduces classical aspects of wave phenomena and electromagnetism, as well as basic concepts in Newtonian mechanics, quantum mechanics, special relativity and optical physics.
Discovery Skills in Physics provides a practical introduction to laboratory skills development with particular emphasis on measurement uncertainty, data analysis and written and oral communication skills. It also includes an introduction to programming.
Foundations of Physics A develops your knowledge of quantum mechanics and electromagnetism. You will learn to apply the principles of physics to predictable and unpredictable problems and produce a well-structured solution, with clear reasoning and appropriate presentation.
Foundations of Physics B develops your knowledge of thermodynamics, condensed matter physics and optics.
Mathematical Methods in Physics provides the necessary mathematical knowledge and understanding to successfully tackle the Foundations of Physics modules. It covers vectors, vector integral and vector differential calculus, multivariable calculus and orthogonal curvilinear coordinates, Fourier analysis, orthogonal functions, the use of matrices, and the mathematical tools for solving ordinary and partial differential equations occurring in a variety of physical problems.
Theoretical Physics provides a working knowledge of classical mechanics and complements the quantum mechanics content of the module Foundations of Physics A. In this module you will explore the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of classical mechanics and the rotational motion of a rigid body. You will learn to describe elements of quantum mechanics in a rigorous mathematical way and to manipulate them at the operator level.
Laboratory Skills and Electronics builds lab-based skills, such as experiment planning, data analysis, scientific communication and specific practical skills. It aims to teach electronics as a theoretical and a practical subject, to teach the techniques of computational physics and numerical methods and to provide experience of a research-led investigation in physics in preparation for post-university life.
Foundations of Physics A further develops your knowledge to include quantum mechanics and nuclear and particle physics. You will learn to apply the principles of physics to complex problems and produce a well-structured solution, with clear reasoning and appropriate presentation.
Foundations of Physics B includes the study of statistical physics and condensed matter physics.
Theoretical Physics introduces more advanced methods in electromagnetism that can be used to investigate more realistic problems and concepts. It also builds your quantum mechanics knowledge and addressing further applications and conceptual issues of measurement and interpretation.
The Computing Project is designed to develop your computational and problem-solving skills. You work on advanced computational physics problems using a variety of modern computing techniques and present your findings in a project report, poster and oral presentation.
Mathematics Workshop introduces some of the mathematical tools you will need to solve a variety of physical problems. These include vectors and matrices, complex analysis, calculus of variations, and integral variations.
The research-based MPhys Project can be carried out individually or as part of a small group. It provides experience of work in a research environment on a topic at the forefront of developments in a branch of either physics, applied physics, theoretical physics or astronomy, and develops transferable skills for the oral and written presentation of research. The project can be carried out in one of the Department's research groups or in collaboration with an external organisation.
Advanced Theoretical Physics provides a working knowledge of non-relativistic quantum mechanical problems. You will explore some of the modern theories of electronic structure and vibrational properties of materials including superconductivity; the quantum nature of light; and the concepts of entangled states and mixed states and their relevance in experiments.
Particle Theory will familiarise you with some of the key results of relativistic quantum mechanics and its application to simple systems; the principles of quantum field theory and the role of symmetry in modern particle physics; and the standard model of particle physics and its experimental foundations.
Students on the MPhys in Theoretical Physics can apply to be transferred onto either the 'with Year Abroad' or 'with Placement' pathway during the second year. Places on these pathways are in high demand and if you are chosen you can choose to extend your course from four years to five, or substitute the existing Year 3.
Lectures are the starting point of the learning process. You will actively engage with the topics introduced in lectures through a combination of laboratory classes, problem exercises, tutorials and workshops.
Laboratory classes give you the chance to plan experiments and to interpret data. You will also be set regular problem exercises which develop your theoretical understanding and problem-solving abilities; these exercises form the basis for discussions in small-group tutorials.
Assessment is mainly by end-of-year examinations and by project reports and presentations.
The range of assessment methods is designed to assess your knowledge and understanding of the course content, test your capacity to solve problems, enhance your written and oral communication skills, and assess your ability to relate your learning to real-world scenarios.
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:
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.
The tuition fees for 2024/25 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.
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.
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
We seek to develop the practical and intellectual skills sought by employers and we are regularly ranked among the country's top performers for graduate employment. Our graduates have progressed to careers in business, industry, commerce, research, management and education, and typically more than fifth of our graduates go on to study for higher degrees.
The Department also has an impressive track record of spin-out technology companies that commercialise our knowledge in areas of semiconductors, composites and advanced instrumentation. Examples of high-profile employers include BT, Procter & Gamble, Rolls Royce and BAE Systems.
(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)
When you study physics at Durham you will work with experts across a range of specialisms to explore subjects such as the Big Bang, black holes, the Higgs boson, high-temperature superconductors, lasers, cold-atom Bose-Einstein condensates, biophysics and more.
Our undergraduate physics degrees offer outstanding teaching, learning and employability outcomes for students. We offer four Institute of Physics accredited BSc and MPhys qualifications which share a common first year. Course content ranges from fundamental topics, such as elementary particle physics and cosmology, to applied areas which include material physics and biophysics.
All courses allow you to select a number of modules tailored to your interests and career aspirations, and the course structures have been designed to provide flexibility in your final choice of degree. This means, depending on modules chosen, you need not make a firm decision about your course until the end of the second year. You also have the option to apply for a year-long work placement or study abroad opportunity with one of our partner organisations.
For more information see our department pages.
Our Department lies in the heart of the University on the main campus among the science and engineering departments and the University library. The main Department building houses all the lectures and teaching laboratories as well as some of our world-class facilities such as our Cosma 7 supercomputer, which has the processing power and memory of about 28,000 home PCs. This enables scientists to simulate the evolution of the Universe from the Big Bang to the present day with unprecedented accuracy.
We also have state-of-the-art scanning electron microscopes (SEM), transmission electron microscopes (TEM) and focused ion-beam microscopes (FIB) that are accessible to staff and students from physics, chemistry, earth sciences, engineering and biology areas. Students who undertake a project in observational astronomy will have access to the telescopes sited on the roof of the Physics building as well as our remotely operated telescope (pt5m) on La Palma.
The Department also includes the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics, which is home to the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology and the Institute for Computational Cosmology.
More information on our facilities and equipment.
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