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Study information

Physics (2023)

1. Programme Title:


NQF Level:


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

Supported by our world-leading physics research, this MSc programme will give you the opportunity to broaden and deepen your knowledge through studying a range of topics taught by internationally leading researchers who are actively working in your chosen field. The programme will allow you to gain both advanced core physics knowledge and in your chosen more specialised areas of physics. You have the option to choose from pre-selected pathways aligned with the departments research groups, or to build your own bespoke pathway through a range of taught modules.
The programme will provide you with the essential skills required to become a professional physicist and to lead naturally on to PhD-level research. By attending research seminars given by leading international researchers you will develop an appreciation of the frontiers of knowledge and understanding in your chosen area of Physics. You will develop skills to critically review scientific literature and to prepare a research proposal for a project in your chosen area of physics. 
Approximately half of your time on the programme will be spent working on a research project in one of our internationally recognised research groups. You will develop skills in research planning, execution, and reporting, possibly leading to publication of your work in an international journal and prepare you to progress to PhD study.

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

This programme is intended to:
  • Provide postgraduate level 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.
  • Allow students to broaden and deepen their knowledge of Physics through studying a range of topics taught by research active academics.
  • Produce postgraduate physicists who are well-prepared for advanced professional work, and research, in physics and related areas. 
  • Prepare students with the core research skills required to become a candidate for a PhD in Physics, and ultimately to pursue a career as a professional researcher. 
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 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 MSc in Physics is a 12-month programme of study at Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 7 (as confirmed against the FHEQ). The programme is divided into units of study called ‘modules’ which are assigned a number of ‘credits’. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload, with 1 credit being nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work.
Exit Awards 
  • A Postgraduate Diploma is awarded when a student gains at least 120 credits, including at least 90 at RQF Level 7 on a designated programme.
  • A Postgraduate Certificate is awarded when a student gains at least 60 credits including at least 45 at RQF Level 7 on a designated programme.

5. Programme Modules

Stage 1

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
PHYM502Frontiers in Physics Research15YesYes
PHYM503Research Project90YesYes
Level 5/6 Optional Modules
PHY2029The Physics of Living Systems15NoNo
PHY2030Observing the Universe15NoNo
PHY2032Analytical and Chaotic Dynamics15NoNo
PHY2037Nonlinear Optics and Imaging15NoNo
PHY3051Electromagnetism II15NoNo
PHY3052Nuclear and High Energy Physics15NoNo
PHY3055Electromagnetism and Quantum Mechanics15NoNo
PHY3061The Biophysics of Cells and Tissues 15NoNo
PHY3062Methods of Theoretical Physics15NoNo
PHY3064Nanostructures and Graphene Science 15NoNo
PHY3066Galaxies and High Energy Astrophysics15NoNo
PHY3067Energy and the Environment15NoNo
PHY3068Principles of Theoretical Physics15NoNo
PHY3070Stars from Birth to Death15NoNo
PHY3071Soft Matter15NoNo
M Level Optional Modules
PHYM001Statistical Physics15NoNo
PHYM002Quantum Mechanics II15NoNo
PHYM003Condensed Matter II15NoNo
PHYM004Computational Physics and Modelling15NoNo
PHYM006Relativity and Cosmology15NoNo
PHYM008Physical Methods in Biology and Medicine15NoNo
PHYM012Solar and Extra-Solar Planets and Their Atmospheres15NoNo
PHYM013Quantum Many-Body Theory15NoNo
PHYM015Quantum Optics and Photonics15NoNo
NSCM005Mathematical Modelling in Biology and Medicine15NoNo
The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules. Constituent modules may be updated, deleted, or replaced as a consequence of the annual review of this programme. Details of the modules currently offered may be obtained from the Faculty website: 
You may take optional modules as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module. 
Stage 1: 105 credits of compulsory modules, 75 credits of optional modules
You must select a minimum of 45 credits from the list of RQF Level 7 (XXXMXXX) optional modules. You can select a maximum of 30 credits from the Level 5/6 optional modules.


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 breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding in specialised areas of physics, along with their application at the forefront of physics research.
  2. Solve advanced problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools. Students should be able to identify the relevant physical principles, to translate problems into mathematical statements and apply their knowledge to obtain order-of-magnitude or more precise solutions as appropriate.
  3. Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour and interpret mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena.

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. 
Project work is used to integrate material and make knowledge functional. 
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 formal written examinations, and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, laboratory reports, reports/essays based on directed reading and research.
The research project assessment is based on performance in project work, oral presentations, planning ability, a formal written report and a poster presentation. An important element is the ability of the student to defend their work during vivas. Students must answer questions not just from their immediate supervisor/lab-demonstrator, but also from a professional physicist with a different background and perspective.

B Academic Discipline Core Skills & Knowledge

  1. Plan and execute under supervision, an experiment or investigation, analyse critically the results and draw valid conclusions. Students should be able to evaluate the level of uncertainty in their results, understand the significance of error analysis and be able to 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 IT skills at the level needed for project work; for example a familiarity with a programming language, simulation software, or the use of mathematical packages for manipulation and numerical solution of equations.
  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 final 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 MPhys project assessment is based on performance in project work, oral presentations, planning ability, a formal written report and a poster presentation. Assessment criteria are published on ELE.
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. Demonstrate a working knowledge of a variety of experimental, mathematical and/or computational techniques applicable to current research within physics.
  2. Communicate complex scientific ideas, the conclusions of an experiment, investigation or project concisely, accurately and informatively.
  3. Manage your own learning and to make use of appropriate texts, research articles and other primary sources.

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.

Students learn, with the guidance of tutors and module instructors taking responsibility for managing their own learning.

Students learn, via project work, to interact with research staff beyond their peer group. They learn to obtain help and insights from staff beyond the teaching faculty, an important skill when moving to more advanced research environments.

Assessment Methods

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

7. Programme Regulations

Full details of assessment regulations for all taught programmes can be found in the TQA Manual, specifically in the Credit and Qualifications Framework, and the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook.

Additional information, including Generic Marking Criteria, can be found in the Learning and Teaching Support Handbook

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:
Physics and Astronomy Handbook - Table of Contents
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:
Undergraduate Physics Tutorials
Each programme stage is supported and overseen by a stage coordinator (senior tutor) responsible for monitoring all aspects of the student experience:
Programme Support Roles
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:
Information Technology Facilities
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

Undergraduate applicants must satisfy the Undergraduate Admissions Policy of the University of Exeter.

Postgraduate applicants must satisfy the Postgraduate Admissions Policy of the University of Exeter.

Specific requirements required to enrol on this programme are available at the respective Undergraduate or Postgraduate Study Site webpages.


11. Regulation of Assessment and Academic Standards

Each academic programme in the University is subject to an agreed Faculty 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. See the University's TQA Manual for details.

12. Indicators of Quality and Standards

Certain programmes are subject to accreditation and/or review by professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs).

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 TBC
18 Final Award(s) MSc
19 UCAS Code (UG programmes) MScPhysics
20 NQF Level of Final Awards(s): 7
21 Credit (CATS and ECTS) 180 credits (90 ECTS)
22 QAA Subject Benchmarking Group (UG and PGT programmes)
23 Origin Date February 8th 2023 Last Date of Revision: February 8th 2023