BSc Physics with Astrophysics

UCAS code F3F5
Duration 3 years
Typical offer AAA–AAB; IB: 36–34; BTEC: DDD
Discipline Physics and Astronomy
Location Taught in Exeter Streatham (Exeter)


Our Physics with Astrophysics programmes focus on the core of mainstream physics, but also provide a balanced understanding of modern observational and theoretical astrophysics, from planets and stars to galaxies and cosmology. You will apply the fundamental laws of physics to some of the most remarkable environments in the universe. Observational astrophysics is taught using our recently upgraded teaching observatory.

Our BSc degrees are three-year programmes that give you a sound education in physics and astrophysics, and lead on to a wide variety of careers. The four-year MPhys degrees take you further and give you a great opportunity to undertake research in our world-leading astrophysics group.  Both the BSc projects, and the PhD-style MPhys research projects are often based on data from world-class ground and space-based facilities and state-of-the-art computational codes for theoretical astrophysics.

Normally students can transfer between any of the programmes during the first year. All our programmes 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. 

Studying at Exeter has been the busiest and most exciting time of my life. I’ve achieved so many things and I’m so glad I’m on a four-year course so I can stay here for longer. When I came for my interview here and had the chance to meet some of the staff in the department, I found how friendly and welcoming everyone was; it was obvious that the lecturers really want you to learn and are happy to help you anytime.

I really love getting involved in some of the societies and taking part in activities with them, in particular the Physics society and Space society who often run pub quizzes, bowling nights, and even trips to Paris. Otherwise my friends and I like going to open mic nights and to the campus cinema.

Hannah Osborne, MPhys Physics with Astrophysics, 3rd year .

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Year 1

In Year 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.

Compulsory modules

Title Code
Introduction to Astrophysics  PHY1022
IT & Astrophysics Skills  PHY1029


PHY1025 and PHY1026

Practical Physics  PHY1027
Properties of Matter  PHY1024
Vector Mechanics  PHY1021
Waves and Optics  PHY1023

Year 2

Year 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.

Compulsory modules



Condensed Matter I   PHY2024
Electromagnetism I PHY2021

Maths with Physical Applications


Practical Physics II  PHY2026
Quantum Mechanics I   PHY2022
Thermal Physics  PHY2023
Scientific Programming in C  PHY2027
Observing the Universe  PHY2030


Year 3

Year 3 of the programme allows you to apply the core principles in a broad range of important areas, such as Nuclear and High-Energy Particle Physics and Statistical Physics, plus advanced electromagnetism, quantum physics and condensed matter physics. There are numerous options in theoretical physics for you to choose such as Quantum Many Body Theory, and Relativity and Cosmology. You can also choose to study technologically-important areas such as Quantum Optics and Photonics, and Physical Methods in Biology and Medicine, and active research areas such as Galaxies and High Energy Astrophysics, and Nanostructures and Graphene Science. (Options are dependent on the programme of study). 

The final year of the programme also involves substantial project work. On the BSc programme you will undertake extended experiments utilising a suite of equipment that includes an atomic force microscope, an infra-red spectrometer, and our own observatory and radio telescope.  You also have the opportunity to undertake team-based work tackling a real-world problem proposed by local business or industry. 

Compulsory modules



Galaxies and High Energy Astrophysics PHY3066
Stars from Birth to Death PHY3070
Electromagnetism II  PHY3051
General Problems  PHY3053

Nuclear and High Energy Particle Physics 



PHY3122 (MPhys); PHY3138 

or PHY3147 (BSc)

Optional modules



Applying Physics (BSc Project) PHY3150
Energy and the Environment  PHY3067
Methods of Theoretical Physics PHY3062
Nanostructures & Graphene Physics  PHY3064
Principles of Theoretical Physics  PHY3068
Soft Matter  PHY3071
The Biophysics of Cells and Tissues PHY3061
Ultrafast Physics  PHY3069


Entry requirements 2020

Typical offer


Places are not normally offered to applicants who do not participate in an interview.

Required subjects

At least one grade A and a grade B in GCE AL Maths and Physics or at least one HL6 and one HL5 in IB Maths and Physics are required for all programmes.

GCE AL Maths, Pure Maths or Further Maths are all acceptable Maths subjects, and applicants may offer Physics, Maths and Further Maths towards their offer.

Applicants studying a BTEC Extended Diploma will also require at least one grade A and a grade B in GCE AL Maths and Physics.

Applicants offering non-standard qualifications (for example the Access to Higher Education Diploma or Open University credits) may need to pass an A level style mathematics test to demonstrate ability. This test will be undertaken as part of an interview.

International students

International students should check details of our English language requirements

If your academic qualifications or English language skills do not meet our entry requirements our INTO University of Exeter centre offers a range of courses to help you reach the required language and academic standards.

International Foundation programmes

Preparation for entry to Year 1 of an undergraduate degree:

Further information

Please read the important information about our Typical offer.

For full and up-to-date information on applying to Exeter and entry requirements, including requirements for other types of qualification, please see the Applying section.

At this time in your life you face a set of really tough choices! Deciding where to study and what to study feels, and is, a pretty huge decision. Understanding and exploring the options before you is very important, but remember that what is most important is that you feel excited (even if a little scared) about the next step in your life. We have several options to study Physics at the University of Exeter, but transfer between the options is easy during the first year, aside from some capacity issues, such as having a limited number of places available on the Year Abroad and Professional Experience programmes. Therefore, you don't have to make the choice yet! If you want to come to Exeter, the exact programme you study during the 3 or 4 years you spend with us can be decided later.

Dr Nathan Mayne, Admissions Tutor.

Physics and Astronomy interview days

All shortlisted applicants will be invited to visit the department between November and March. The interview will include tours and presentations relating to our research activity and a short period for discussion with a member of staff, during which details of programmes can be explained and any queries answered. All applications are considered on an individual basis and offers will be made shortly after an interview has taken place. Places are not normally offered to applicants who do not attend an interview. However, if visiting the campus is difficult for you please contact us when you receive your invitation letter to discuss alternative arrangements.

"The way in which the interview was conducted was very good and I was made to feel very comfortable. It also gave me an insight into the excellent teaching quality from discussing interesting physics problems with a professor."

"The interview was wonderfully friendly; I felt quite relaxed as soon as I sat down. I felt like I learned something and it gave me an opportunity to show my enthusiasm for the subject."

"The interview was my personal highlight because it was above all else just fun to talk to another physics enthusiast."

Interview Day Applicants.

Learning and teaching

We believe that every student benefits from being part of a culture that is inspired by research and being taught by experts. Not only do we teach you about our pioneering research, we teach you how to undertake the research yourself.  Experimental skills are acquired in the laboratories and astronomical observatory, and here you are introduced to a wide range of apparatus and techniques. Training in theoretical techniques are provided by our methods and computational modules.  By the time you reach the start of their extended project work, you will have received the necessary preparation to undertake it with confidence in either experimental or theoretical topics, and these projects are tackled with great enthusiasm and energy.

We will fully support you as a student in a friendly environment: you will receive individual attention and feedback throughout your programme. Weekly tutorials form the core of our academic support, complementing all the modules and project work that you are taking. You will meet with your tutor (a professor or lecturer) in a small group with four or five others for one hour during every teaching week of your programme. These sessions are your opportunity to discuss any element of your academic studies. Assignments will also be set, discussed and marked – sometimes these will be on unfamiliar topics: we wish to encourage active discourse in physics as this is a good way of understanding the more subtle concepts and gaining confidence in your intuition. You will also have the opportunity to practice your oral presentation skills, and gain support with your professional development. In the final year of the MPhys programmes, your research-project supervisor is your tutor.  Throughout your time in Exeter, your tutor will also be your first point of call for pastoral support and will advise about the availability of University services including wellbeing, disability and financial help.

Teaching is undertaken in a variety of ways, with lecturing the primary method. There are also weekly problem-solving classes in the first two years for both mathematics and physics modules. Physics at the University of Exeter is also actively engaged in introducing new methods of learning and teaching, including increasing use of interactive computer-based approaches to learning through our virtual learning environment where the details of all modules are stored in an easily navigable website. Students can access detailed information about modules and learning outcomes, as well as sets of lecture slides/notes, example and problem-sheets, videos, and interact through activities such as the discussion forums. Video recordings of lectures are normally made available whenever possible to aid your revision.

There are also a number of services on campus where you can get advice and information, including the Students’ Guild Advice Unit. You can find further information about all the services in the University’s undergraduate prospectus or via the undergraduate home page.

Assessment in the first two years is a combination of continuous assessment and exams. About 65 per cent of the assessment in each of these years is by written examinations and short mid-term tests; the rest involves work for projects, laboratories, problems classes, and more. You must obtain a pass mark for your first year in order to proceed but your performance at this stage does not count towards your final degree classification.

I chose the University of Exeter because the staff I met always seemed to value me as an individual. They made a noticeable effort to remember me and to fit things around my interests and what I wanted.

The department have been really encouraging and helpful - they provide loads of opportunities to develop you as a person and not just a physicist. Some of the lecturers are really outstanding and have given me an interest into fields I’d have never thought I’d have enjoyed as much before I came to university.

Bethan Cornell, MPhys Physics with Professional Experience.


Employability fairs

Employability skills are an integral part of the physics curriculum. The flexibility and adaptability of a well-trained physicist is appreciated by employers: they acknowledge the benefits of excellent problem solving skills, an educated scientific intuition, and the confidence to be able to grasp new concepts quickly. 

Our programmes include:

  • A two-day employability and graduate development workshop in year one
  • A two-day communication skills course in year one
  • Annual personal development planning exercises
  • Training in the formulation and solution of problems
  • Substantial amounts of practical and project work, the results of which must be presented and defended in various formats (written reports, posters, oral presentations)
  • Working with others in projects and problem-solving classes
  • IT skills training
  • Mathematical skills training
  • An opportunity to take a commercial and industrial experience module

In addition, the purpose of the extended project work in both the BSc and MPhys programmes is for you to develop research skills. You will learn to present and scientifically defend your work and ideas in a variety of ways. The experience and skills developed not only form a valuable basis for a research career, but are also known to be highly valued by employers. 

The most academically-able graduates are normally strongly encouraged to apply for a fully-funded PhD studentship in physics or astrophysics. Visit the Physics postgraduate research degrees page for details, including of our Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials.

The largest proportion of our graduates enter science-based industries in positions involving research and development, production and management. Other careers include scientific work in government establishments (e.g., QinetiQ or Harwell Laboratories), hospital physics in the NHS, and technical management in broadcasting and the communications sector. Some work in high-tech start-up companies.

For further information about what the careers service at Exeter offers, please see the Career Zone website.

Examples of the destinations of our recent graduates:


  • Met Office
  • NHS
  • British Gas
  • Novia Financial PLC
  • DSTL
  • Randall & Payne LLP
  • Reddie & Grose LLP
  • Rolls Royce
  • BMI
  • Frazer-Nash Consultancy
  • IMS Research
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Science and Technology Facilities Research Council
  • Renshaw Plc
  • AWE
  • Thales
  • IBM
  • KPMG
  • First Great Western
  • QinetiQ


  • Geophysicist
  • Medical Physicist
  • Air Quality Scientist
  • IT Security Officer
  • Field Support Engineer
  • Financial Modeller/Analyst
  • Technical Consultant
  • Commercial Analyst
  • Complex Energy Products Analyst
  • IT Consultant
  • Trainee Chartered Accountant
  • Data Analyst
  • Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Software Developer

Examples of further study and research followed by our graduates are:

  • PhD Physics
  • PhD Biophysics Analysis
  • PGCE Secondary Science
  • MA Terrorism, Security and Society
  • MSc Water and Environmental Management
  • MSc Materials for Nuclear Fusion
  • MA Marine Engineering
  • MSc Machine Learning
  • MSc Theoretical Physics
  • MA Astrophysics
  • MSc Petroleum Engineering

Physics is such a desirable subject for employers; you have the pick of any career you want to go into – which makes deciding on one very difficult!

I love the subject though, and really want to keep learning about it. I’ve been considering teaching, but I’m thinking of a PhD after my degree as I’ve really enjoyed the research module so far (where you carry out research in a small team as part of a research group, over the final two years of your Masters degree), I love the ethos of academia (where the researchers aren’t driven by money, they’re motivated by a desire to learn and solve problems!) and I love being part of the University.

I worked in a company for a few years before this degree, and the world of academia is so refreshingly unique in comparison to ‘the real world’; you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject, to be surrounded by a huge variety of interesting people, and take part in so many societies and activities, I don’t want to lose that!

Natalie Whitehead, MPhys Physics

Professional Experience

While it is not possible to read Physics with Astrophysics and undertake a year in professional experience, students may wish to consider undertaking the MPhys Physics with Professional Placement and choosing all the astrophysics options available.

Contact us

We invite potential applicants to visit the Department of Physics and Astronomy at any time. Please contact us in advance of your trip so that we an organise for the admissions tutor, or another meber of staff and a student to meet you. When planning your trip, please be aware that in-year applicants are normally required to visit us to participate in an Interview Day (details below)

You can also register your interest now for upcoming Open Days

Streatham Campus, Exeter

WebEnquire online
Phone: +44 (0)1392 725349


Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on our research and events: @UoE_Physics

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Meet our ambassadors

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Ambassadors deliver talks and presentations at Open Days and Offer-Holder Visit Days on campus.

All our MPhys and Single Honours BSc degrees are accredited by the Institute of Physics. Accredited MPhys degrees fully satisfy the educational requirements of the Chartered Physicist (CPhys) professional qualification.