MPhys (Hons) PhysicsF300
Studying in a faculty
The University has four faculties and each course leading to a degree is administered by one of these faculties. You will belong to the same faculty throughout your time with us and most of the subjects you study will be offered by schools or departments within this faculty. Admission to the MPhys (Hons) Physics programme of study is through the Faculty of Science.
The programme details of this course are provided by:
School of Physics and Astronomy: The School of Physics and Astronomy is well known for the quality of both its teaching and its research. The School is rated highly in various teaching league tables, and in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework the quality of our physics and astronomy research was rated joint third in the UK. Students and staff in the School work together to form a supportive academic community. Our teaching is informed by our research; final year projects are usually carried out within our research groups.
Distinctive features of this course
Within the degree programme you have the opportunity to either start in level-one (first year) or if you have high marks in both Mathematics and Physics may start in level-two (second year) leading to the honours BSc degree in three years, or the MPhys. Your mathematical and experimental skills will be developed and you can expect to have the opportunity to engage with a number of specialist topics including for example quantum physics, optoelectronics, magnetism, superconductivity, biophotonics. It may be possible to spend a semester or year studying abroad as part of this degree programme. Please see http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/studyabroad for details.
You will be able to choose modules from our course catalogue which is published annually as module availability can change from year to year. As a Single Honours student you will gain more than three-quarters of your Honours years credits in a single subject area.
Learning and teaching at St Andrews
Our approach to Learning and Teaching is a little like the University itself: a mix of very traditional and very new. In every subject, we take care to cover all the bases, on the one hand familiarising our students with the knowledge and theories that are essential to understanding of the discipline; and on the other, giving you a chance wherever possible to develop practical uses for the expertise you acquire. From this starting-point, we expect our students increasingly to design their own studies, by selecting options and undertaking research-based activities that they devise by themselves, with support from academic staff.
Students put together their programme of studies by selecting a combination of compulsory and optional modules from our Course Catalogue. The Catalogue describes each module and gives information about the learning, teaching and assessment methods used.
We know that every student has a slightly different way of learning so, while we make use of some tried-and-tested methods that we believe should be part of any good university education, we also have a wide variety of complementary approaches that will enrich your experience and ensure there is an approach that suits.
Lectures and seminars / tutorials
Most subjects use lectures, especially in the first two years, referred to as sub-Honours. Students can use their first two years to discover their own specific strengths before finalising their Degree intentions at Honours level. Lectures are a good way to ensure everyone in the class receives the same key information, and they help students develop note-taking and summarising skills. The material covered in lectures is generally followed up in smaller seminar groups (15-20 or so students) or tutorials (5-10 or so), where there might be a structured open discussion, a general debate, a presentation by students, or a series of questions, exercises or examples to be worked through with the tutor. Owing to the relatively small undergraduate student body in comparison to some universities, St Andrews is in the enviable position of offering small group teaching in many subjects.
In addition to lectures and seminars or tutorials, some subjects require laboratory sessions. These take place in custom-designed labs, where students carry out practical tasks, following a programme of work devised by their lecturers and directed by experts during the session. Labs allow you to put theoretical knowledge into practice, perfect your skills and develop into competent, well-trained and highly-skilled specialists. Lab sessions are not just for science: Economics, Modern Languages and others use them too.
Other learning and teaching activities
One to one
Some academic Schools also offer ‘surgery’ hours, where students can drop in to speak with a tutor about a particular module. Our welcoming environment and relatively small size allow students to approach individual tutors for assistance in this way or via email.
Learning in the field
Many subjects include compulsory or optional fieldwork from an early stage. Students may investigate a site of particular scientific, historical, artistic or cultural interest; or they may carry out experiments or surveys by observing or interviewing the occupants of a particular location.
Learning from each other
Not all learning takes place in the physical presence of the tutor, of course. We also arrange student-led tutorials (real or virtual) in which students drive the discussion. And although we are an ancient university, our state-of-the-art facilities support learning through blogs, chat-rooms, podcasts, project forums, wikis and other forms of collaborative and independent learning.
Extra is included
Extra-curricular lectures and seminars in every School are open to students. Some student societies are linked to academic Departments and are an excellent way to expand understanding and appreciation of the subject. Societies organise talks, social events and other informal activities to support learning.
Internships and work experience are available in some areas as part of the degree programme, whether simulated or real: Medicine, for example, places emphasis on simulated doctor-patient consultations, while teaching abroad placements are routinely available in Modern Languages With Integrated Year Abroad. Competitive extra-curricular summer research internships, paid for by the University, are available in all subjects to supplement scheduled learning and teaching.
In the final year, a flagship module, distinctive to St Andrews, allows selected students to obtain credits for teaching their subject of study in local schools, under the joint supervision of a teacher and a university academic. The Careers Centre supports students arranging their own vacation internships for work experience.
Our Careers Centre – the most used of the top 30 universities in the UK – supports students arranging their own vacation internships for work experience. Our students are in the top 5 UK universities for both the proportion who have had internships and for the length of those internships.
Further personal and professional development opportunities are available, for example through the St Andrews Award, administered by the Careers Centre; and the Certificate in Professional Skills run by the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development.
Individual and group work
As students progress through their programme, they are expected to undertake work in groups or pairs. This is a good way of sharing work in order to learn more about the subject; but learning to be part of a team is also a key skill for employment and life in a community.
At the same time, one of our chief aims at St Andrews is to enable students to become increasingly self-reliant, not only in the intellectual questions they ask and answers they give, but also in the way they manage their time, organise their work and achieve the high standards of professionalism prized by employers. Students are therefore expected to conduct much of their work alone, and the Honours project or dissertation in particular is the culmination of independent thinking and personal development: in this, a student selects a topic, defines a question, conducts the research necessary to explore it thoroughly and according to the norms of their discipline, and writes up the results of their enquiries. All this is done with readily available support and guidance from academic staff – but the burden of work, and the ultimate achievement, is entirely the student’s own. Thus we support a gradual departure from a typical school or college environment where structures and schedules prevail, to a more scholarly approach where interaction is focused on support for autonomous learning, exchanging ideas and stimulating thinking.
Workload, preparation and follow-up for learning and teaching
Like other universities, we expect full-time students to put in a full week’s work on their studies, split between scheduled classes and private study. As a guide, each credit earned should be the result of about 10 hours’ work, so a full year’s credit load (120 credits) represents 1,200 hours of concentration and hard work.
To get the most out of your studies, you need to prepare carefully for every class you attend, and to follow it up afterwards, whatever its nature. You may be asked to look carefully at specific material; in addition, you should independently use learning resources like the Library to ‘read around’ the subject, fill gaps in your knowledge and understanding, check the reliability of information you have discovered and feel confident that you have grasped what is being taught.
To help in this, module booklets are given out in advance, clearly showing the programme of study and assessment involved. Bibliographies of extra reading are provided at the start; further recommendations may be given during class, depending on what comes up. Many tutors post material on the web; others may conduct short ‘refresher’ tests during the class itself to check that everyone has reached the necessary level of understanding.
Some subjects require a high percentage of scheduled learning hours, for example because a student can only make progress by attending a laboratory, or carrying out supervised fieldwork. In other subject areas, a large amount of individual reading or practice is the only way to ensure adequate learning. In both cases, students must quickly develop time management skills to enable efficient use of the full-time study week.
How you will be assessed
We use a combination of coursework and examinations.
Coursework is assessed in the course of the semester, and may have various purposes: an essay, for example, allows for mature reflection and relatively long, exploratory treatment of a question; a lab report demonstrates ability to summarise actions and draw effective analytical conclusions, while acquiring the discipline of systematic note-taking; a short class test may be used to check levels of understanding or knowledge. Group activities may be assessed: in this case marking methods will be communicated to you in advance.
Examinations generally test knowledge, recall, analytical power and accuracy under pressure of time. A few subjects set ‘take-home’ examinations, assessing ability to produce high-calibre work to a tight deadline, while allowing access to the full range of resources. Most of our examinations are held at the end of the semester during a dedicated exam diet; revision time is provided beforehand. Only a few subjects use oral examinations, specifically the Modern Languages, to test oral proficiency, and some Honours projects where a viva voce discussion with examiners complements a written submission.
We regard all assessment as formative: this means that you can receive feedback on every assessment, with a view to improving your performance in future.
Accreditation details for this course
Like all degree programmes at the University of St Andrews, this course is assured by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).
Some courses may also lead to professional accreditation by one of the Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) recognised by the government. Accreditation by one of these bodies is a mark of assurance that the degree programme meets the standards set by the accrediting body.
The course has been accredited by the following PSRBs:
Why study at St Andrews?
The hallmarks of a St Andrews education are:
- an exceptional breadth and opportunity of choice, with a large range of subjects that can lead to joint degrees – you will be encouraged to try new disciplines while following your own established academic interests
- a world-renowned academic community – from the very first day, you will work with inspiring, passionate tutors who lead their field in research
- a variety of opportunities to supplement cutting-edge knowledge with the practical skills needed for successful employment – you will be encouraged to develop your capabilities across the whole university experience
- a range of support services designed to assist your academic, professional and personal development
- a unique combination of history, location and size, leading to a mix of traditional and innovative teaching and assessment methods, attractive facilities and friendly staff–student contacts