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Study information

Physics (2023)

1. Programme Title:


NQF Level:


2. Description of the Programme (as in the Business Approval Form)

This physics programme will give you an excellent understanding of mainstream physics and develop your scientific intuition and prepare you for a wide range of careers. Our physics programmes are designed around a core curriculum, which can lead naturally on to PhD-level research or towards a more specialised qualification such as an MSc, and all are accredited by the Institute of Physics.
In Stage 1 you will develop your understanding of physics and become familiar with a variety of basic mathematical tools. The concepts and phenomena you will meet are many and varied, but are united by the underlying principles of physics. In a typical week you will spend 15 hours in a formal teaching environment, and be expected to spend a further 20 hours in independent study. You will have four hours of lectures in physics, two in mathematics, one tutorial, six hours in the teaching laboratories and two hours in problem-solving classes.
Stage 2 provides a firm foundation of physics, and the principles that constitute the framework of the subject. The use of mathematics gives these principles a precise form and provides physicists with the ability to make detailed quantitative predictions. This year focuses on four main cornerstones of physics: condensed matter, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism and thermodynamics. These provide the core of most of physics and of our understanding of the evolution of our universe. The other modules in your second and subsequent years draw in part on your knowledge of this core. There is a 0-credit Employability and Placement Preparation module that all Stage 2 students can take. This will benefit those who are considering doing a work placement/year in industry as part of their degree programme and is highly recommended for those who are already on the “with Professional Placement” element of their degree programme. There will be support sessions and workshops by Careers Consultants and speakers from industry that will prepare students for the recruitment cycle and applying for placements. 
Stage 3 develops your problem-solving and knowledge of core physics in key areas, such as nuclear and high-energy particle physics and electrodynamics. You will also apply this knowledge to more specialised areas covered by astrophysics modules.
Stage 3 of this MPhys Physics programme also involves substantial project work on a topic related to one of the Department's astrophysics research area. You will work in a small group (typically three or four, but with individual roles), to undertake a project that will continue to completion at the end of your final year. The projects are original and open-ended, i.e., they each focus on a previously unstudied area or problem. You will meet with your supervisor (a professor or lecturer) once a week to discuss progress and future work.
In Stage 4, about half your time will be spent on masters-level core and optional physics modules with work on your research project, continuing from Stage 3, filling the remainder. You will also be encouraged to attend research seminars from visiting speakers, attend the weekly group meetings held by the Department's research groups, and engage with the PhD students and researchers who work here.


3. Educational Aims of the Programme

This programme is intended to:
  • Provide education and training of high quality in physics.
  • Stimulate and encourage in students a questioning and creative approach, thus developing their enthusiasm for physics and a capacity for independent judgement.
  • Facilitate students' personal development through the acquisition and use of a wide range of transferable skills.
  • Provide students with a sound foundation in Physics with an emphasis on astrophysics, preparing them well for employment or further study and meeting the national needs for qualified graduates as identified by the relevant professional accrediting bodies.
  • Produce graduate physicists who are well-prepared for more-advanced professional work, and research, in physics and related areas.
Physics and Astronomy intends to provide students taking this programme with:
  • Opportunities to engage with a range of advanced concepts and applications, drawing upon the specialist expertise of the staff.
  • The opportunity, through the flexibility provided by a wide range of choices of both degree programmes and modules, to complete a programme of study relevant to their interests and aptitudes.
  • Regular and frequent small-group contact with staff with the appropriate teaching skills and experience, including current activity in high-level research.
  • An environment which is caring and supportive in both academic and pastoral aspects and which will have encompassed an appropriate range of teaching methods and broadened their learning experience.

4. Programme Structure

The programme is divided into units of study called modules. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload. One credit is nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work. The level of a module indicates its position in the progressive development of academic cognitive abilities, and/or practical skills. An elective is an unspecified module that allows the student to broaden their education, e.g. by learning a foreign language. More details are given in the published module descriptors.

5. Programme Modules

Stage 1

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
PHY1021Vector Mechanics15YesYes
PHY1022Introduction to Astrophysics15YesYes
PHY1025Mathematics Skills15YesYes
PHY1027Practical Physics I15YesYes
PHY1023Waves and Optics15YesYes
PHY1024Properties of Matter15YesYes
PHY1026Mathematics for Physicists15YesYes
PHY1031Scientific Programming in Python15NoNo

Stage 2

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
PHY2021Electromagnetism I15YesYes
PHY2022Quantum Mechanics I15YesYes
PHY2025Mathematics with Physical Applications15YesYes
PHY2026Practical Physics II15YesYes
PHY2023Thermal Physics15YesYes
PHY2024Condensed Matter I15YesYes
Choose 15 credits of List 2a options:
PHY2027Scientific Programming in C15NoNo
PHY2029The Physics of Living Systems15NoNo
PHY2032Analytical and Chaotic Dynamics15NoNo
Elective (Term 1)15NoNo
Choose 15 credits of List 2b options
PHY2030Observing the Universe15NoNo
PHY2037Nonlinear Optics and Imaging15NoNo
PHY2222Physics of Climate Change15NoNo
Elective (Term 2)15NoNo
PHY2038Employability and Placement Preparation0NoNo

Please note that 0-credit module PHY2038 Employability and Placement Preparation is entirely optional and can be taken in addition to a weighted module. It is recommended to those Stage 2 students who are considering or are on the 'with Professional Placement' element of their degree programme.

Stage 3

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
PHY3055Electromagnetism and Quantum Mechanics15YesNo
PHY3053General Problems15YesNo
PHY3052Nuclear and High Energy Physics15YesNo
Choose 30 credits of List 3a options:
PHY3061The Biophysics of Cells and Tissues 15NoNo
PHY3062Methods of Theoretical Physics15NoNo
PHY3064Nanostructures and Graphene Science 15NoNo
PHY3070Stars from Birth to Death15NoNo
Elective (Term 1)15NoNo
Choose 15 credits of List 3b options:
PHY3066Galaxies and High Energy Astrophysics15NoNo
PHY3068Principles of Theoretical Physics15NoNo
PHY3071Soft Matter15NoNo
PHY3220Fluid Dynamics in Physics and Astronomy15NoNo
PHY3222Energy, Materials and Sustainability15NoNo
Elective (Term 2)15NoNo
Choose 30 credits of List 3p options:
PHY3138Projects and Dissertations30NoYes
PHY3147One-Semester Physics Project and Report15NoYes
PHY3150Applying Physics (Group Project)15NoNo

Students must take either PHY3138 (30 credits) or PHY3147 (15 credits) AND PHY3150 (15 credits).

6. Programme Outcomes Linked to Teaching, Learning & Assessment Methods

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to: Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be accommodated & facilitated by the following learning & teaching and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

A Specialised Subject Skills & Knowledge

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of most fundamental physical laws and principles, and competence in the application of these principles to diverse areas of physics.
  2. Solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools. Students should be able to identify the relevant physical principles and make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  3. Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.

Learning & Teaching Activities

  • Material is introduced by lectures and directed reading/research. Students are given clear guidance in how to manage their learning and are expected to take progressively more responsibility for their own learning at each stage. Understanding is developed and consolidated in problems classes and tutorials and by laboratory work and private study exercises, carried out individually and in pairs or groups. A mix of self-assessed and tutor-marked work provides rapid feedback. Project work is used to integrate material and make knowledge functional. A set of compulsory core modules cover the 'fundamental physical laws' in progressively greater depth at each stage of the programme. These laws are applied in the options modules and projects at Stages 2 and 3. Mathematical skills are learned within dedicated modules and are applied and reinforced in the other 'physics' modules.

Assessment Methods

  • Direct assessment is through a range of mid-term tests (Stage 1 and 2 only), formal written examinations, and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, laboratory reports, reports/essays based on directed reading and research. The Stage 3 project assessment is based on performance in laboratory work, oral presentations, planning ability, a formal written report and a poster presentation. Assessment criteria are published in the Physics Handbook.

B Academic Discipline Core Skills & Knowledge

  1. Execute and analyse critically the results of an experiment or investigation and draw valid conclusions. Students should be able to evaluate the level of uncertainty in their results and compare these results with expected outcomes, theoretical predictions or with published data. They should be able to evaluate the significance of their results in this context.
  2. Make effective use of appropriate IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and the retrieval of appropriate information.
  3. Demonstrate a sound familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.

Learning & Teaching Activities

  • The 'Practical Physics' modules at Stages 1 and 2 provide a thorough training in the execution and critical analysis of an experimental investigation. These skills are developed further in the Stage 3 projects, which require students to plan and execute experiments. Students must also present and defend their conclusions.
  • The 'IT Skills for Physicists' module, which is continually updated to reflect developments in technology, provides the essential training in IT skills needed by students to complete the programme. Other modules require students to apply and develop these skills. Several optional modules offer specific training in computer programming and packages. Computing and IT modules are taught in purpose-built computer rooms using a mix of lectures, and self-study packs supported by module instructors and demonstrators.

Assessment Methods

  • Analytical skills are assessed within many modules through a range of formal written examinations, and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, etc. These skills are primarily demonstrated in project work however. The 'Practical Physics II' module at Stage 2 includes a small scale project, assessed by practical work/results and a presentation. This leads onto the Stage 3 projects. The Stage 3 project assessment is based on performance in laboratory work, oral presentations, planning ability, a formal written report and a poster presentation. Assessment criteria are published in the Physics Handbook.
  • IT skills are assessed directly with marked worksheets, assessed portfolios, and practical tests. They are also indirectly assessed because such skills are necessary to complete project work satisfactorily.

C Personal / Transferable / Employment Skills & Knowledge

  1. Perform numerical manipulation and to present and interpret information graphically.
  2. Communicate scientific information. In particular, students should be able to produce clear and accurate scientific reports.
  3. Manage your own learning and to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources.

Learning & Teaching Activities

  • Initial training in the manipulation, presentation and interpretation of data occurs during Stage 1 in the mathematics, IT Skills, and Practical Physics modules and in tutorials. These skills are developed and used at progressively higher levels throughout the programme.
  • Initial training in scientific communication occurs during Stage 1 in the Practical Physics module and in tutorials. These skills are developed and used at progressively higher levels throughout the programme.
  • Students learn, with the guidance of tutors and module instructors, to take progressively more responsibility for managing their own learning at each stage of the programme.

Assessment Methods

  • Assessment of key skills is mostly through items of coursework: written and oral presentations, and through project work.

7. Programme Regulations

7.1. Credit
This BSc programme consists of 360 credits with 120 credits taken at each stage. Normally not more than 75 credits would be allowed in any one term. In total, participants normally take no more than 120 credits at NQF level 4, and must take at least 120 credits at NQF level 6. The pass mark for award of credit in UG modules (NQF levels 4-6) is 40%.
7.2. Progression
Up to 30 credits of failure can be condoned in a stage of this BSc Programme on the following conditions:
  • You must have registered for and participated in modules amounting to at least 120 credits in the stage.
  • You must pass the modules marked as 'non-condonable' in the tables above.
  • You must achieve an average mark of at least 40.00% across the full 120 credits of assessment in the stage, including any failed and condoned modules.
7.3. Assessment and Awards
Assessment at stage 1 does not contribute to the summative classification of the award. The award will normally be based on the degree mark formed from the credit-weighted average marks for stages 2 and 3 combined in the ratio 1:2 respectively.
7.4. Classification
The marking of modules and the classification of awards broadly corresponds to the following marks:
Undergraduate Programmes
Class I 70%+
Class II Division I 60–69%
Class II Division II 50–59%
Class III 40–49%
Full details of assessment regulations for UG programmes and PGT programmes can be found on the University of Exeter website:
Generic marking criteria are also published here:
Please see the Teaching and Quality Assurance Manual for further guidance.


8. College Support for Students and Students' Learning

8.1. Infrastructure and Learning Environment
Comprehensive details of this programme, support for its students and the learning environment are published in the Physics Handbook:
Physical facilities include: well-equipped teaching and research laboratories, a mechanical student-workshop supervised by technicians, computer workstations and classrooms, social and quiet-working space for students.
8.2. Personal and Academic Tutoring
It is University policy that all Colleges should have in place a system of academic and personal tutors. The role of academic tutors is to support you on individual modules; the role of personal tutors is to provide you with advice and support for the duration of the programme and extends to providing you with details of how to obtain support and guidance on personal difficulties such as accommodation, financial difficulties and sickness. You can also make an appointment to see individual teaching staff.
Students on this programme are assigned a physics tutor, who combines the academic and personal roles and holds small-group (typically five students) tutorial meetings lasting an hour each week during the teaching periods. Further details of this system are published in the Physics Handbook:
Each programme stage is supported and overseen by a stage coordinator (senior tutor) responsible for monitoring all aspects of the student experience:
8.3. Library and Other Learning Resources
In addition to a large number of journals and academic works, the nearby University stocks reference and/or for-loan copies of all recommended texts for Physics modules. Where possible e-Books and e-Journal subscriptions are purchased to allow internet access.
Each module has its own page on ELE, the Exeter virtual learning environment. Resources available for each module normally include sets of lecture slides/notes, video capture recordings of lectures, problems sets and examples, resources for self-study, etc.
8.4. Local Access to Computers and Printers
There are approximately 100 computer workstations reserved for undergraduate use within the Physics Building. Facilities include two computer classrooms, printers and further provision within practical laboratories. Further details are published in the Physics Handbook:
8.5. Student-Staff Liaison Committee
The Student-Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) enables students and staff to participate jointly in the management and review of the teaching and learning provision.

10. Admission Criteria

All applications are considered individually on merit. The University is committed to an equal opportunities policy with respect to gender, age, race, sexual orientation and/or disability when dealing with applications. It is also committed to widening access to higher education to students from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.
Candidates must satisfy the:
10.1. Minimum Requirements
The equivalent of at least:
one grade A and one grade B in GCE AL Maths and Physics, or
at least one HL6 and one HL5 in IB Mathematics and Physics
are required for all Physics programmes. Applicants with other qualifications (for example the Access to Higher Education Diploma or Open University credits) may need to pass an AL-style mathematics test to demonstrate ability. This test will be undertaken as part of an interview.
Applicants who meet our entry criteria will be invited to visit the Department between November and March. Places are not normally offered to applicants who do not participate in an interview.
10.2. Further Details
Further details, including typical offers and English language requirements for International students are published on the University's Admissions webpages:


11. Regulation of Assessment and Academic Standards

Each academic programme in the University is subject to an agreed College assessment and marking strategy, underpinned by institution-wide assessment procedures.
The security of assessment and academic standards is further supported through the appointment of External Examiners for each programme. External Examiners have access to draft papers, course work and examination scripts. They are required to attend the Board of Examiners and to provide an annual report. Annual External Examiner reports are monitored at both College and University level. Their responsibilities are described in the University's code of practice. For details see:

12. Indicators of Quality and Standards

Certain programmes are subject to accreditation and/or review by professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs).
This programme is accredited by the Institute of Physics.
For more information, refer to the Physics Handbook:


14 Awarding Institution University of Exeter
15 Lead College / Teaching Institution College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
16 Partner College / Institution N/A
17 Programme accredited/validated by Institute of Physics (IOP)
18 Final Award(s) BSc (Hons)
19 UCAS Code (UG programmes) F300
20 NQF Level of Final Awards(s): 6
21 Credit (CATS and ECTS) 360 Credits (180 ECTS)
22 QAA Subject Benchmarking Group (UG and PGT programmes) Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics
23 Origin Date February 8th 2023 Last Date of Revision: September 21st 2023