School of Physics & Astronomy

Undergraduate Course Summary 2014-15

Degree Programmes

 

Level one or level two entry

Entrants with good Advanced Highers or A-levels in both physics and mathematics may start in level-two to take some of the above programmes leading to the honours BSc degree in three years, or the MPhys in four.  It is the degrees within the School and the joint degrees with Mathematics that are available for level-two entry, which is sometimes referred to as "direct entry" or "accelerated entry". Physics modules at level-two are designed to be at an appropriate level for those entering with good Advanced Highers or A levels in physics and maths.  By "good" we mean A grades, and for A-level candidates we would wish to see at least one mechanics module in their A-level mathematics study. In recent years about 30-40% of students in our level two physics module have taken direct entry to this level.

Those BSc and MPhys students opting for level-two entry will in their entry-year normally take the two level-two physics modules along with at least 30 credits of level-two mathematics. Astrophysics students add astrophysics modules to this, and all students need 120 credits in the year. In the pre-advising document on the School's Students and Staff web page we give suggestions for various combinations of modules, which have been revised for 2014-entry.

Level-one entry, on the other hand, is particularly suitable for students who are entering directly from Highers and those wishing to take advantage of the broad Scottish first year.  Level-one entry is the only entry route available for the joint degrees with Computer Science, Logic and Philosophy of Science, and Chemistry. Significant numbers of those who were qualified to take level two entry chose, for various reasons, to take level one entry instead. A final decision on the level of entry need not be made until the discussion with your adviser of studies in the week before the start of your degree progamme.

 

Choices

There is considerable flexibility in the choice of degree finally taken, depending on the choice of subjects in the initial years.  There are also two main exit points, with  students leaving with an honours BSc or an honours MPhys degree.  Students who have done sufficiently well in years two and three are given the option of continuing after the end of year-four for a further MPhys year; more details on these procedures are in the honours handbook.  The MPhys "Integrated Masters" degree is still a first degree, but is more advanced than the BSc degree. The project undertaken by students in the MPhys year is more substantial than the one taken by BSc students in their final year, and the lecture courses in this year are at a more advanced level. 

In years one and two other topics (including mathematics) are studied in addition to modules within this School.  Most modules last for one semester (one half of the academic session) and are assessed at the end of the semester in which they are taught, and/or continuously.  Most year-one modules are each worth 20 credits, and the year-two many modules are each worth 30 credits, though the new year-two modules in maths are each worth 15 credits.  In both years the selection of modules depends primarily on the degree in view and on the student's own interests. Guidance on the former, and details of many of the modules are in the online handbooks in this website, or in the University's course catalogue.

 

Gateway to Physics and Astronomy

Demand for the traditional programmes is so high that our asking rates have had to rise to a level that means that even very talented pupils in many parts of the country may find it difficult to gain entry (eg AAAA is the typical asking rate at Higher for entry to physics and astronomy at St Andrews). To address this issue, we now offer a “Gateway” programme that provides a highly-interactive first year university education in physics, maths and study skills for suitably qualified students. At the end of first year this will open up progression to second-year in relevant degree programme possibilities. In this way our institution can recognise the disadvantage experienced by some potential entrants, and provide a means for assisting these people in realising their potential. More details are given via the link below.

 

Module Tables

The following tables show the routes towards gaining a BSc or MPhys degree involving physics or astrophysics.   One "level" normally lasts for one academic year. 

 

Level One

Physics 1A
Core module for all

Physics 1B
Core module for all

Astronomy & Astrophysics 1
General interest option for physicists; compulsory for astronomers
Other modules

Mechanics I
Waves & optics

Properties of matter

 

Quantum phenomena

Lasers & optoelectronics

Mechanics II
Group discovery project

The solar system
Stars and astrophysics
The galaxy
Cosmology

Mathematics module(s)
Wide choice of other modules, to make a total usually of six level 1 modules
Total ~ 42 lectures, PH1011 Total ~ 42 lectures, PH1012 Total ~ 44 lectures, AS1001  
Six modules are normally taken in first year, allowing combinations directed toward a particular honours course. Chosen modules may include any or all of the above, each of which in this School contains suitably graded practical work and tutorials.   For those reading for a degree within this School and entering at level one, Physics 1A and 1B are required modules, along with a mathematics requirement.  Intending astronomers entering at this level must also take the Astronomy module.  The material in Physics 1A and Physics 1B is designed to be at a level similar to Advanced Higher or A-level, though it also contains some additional material, such as the lasers and optoelectronics.  There is also a module on the Physical Universe, which is designed for students not currently taking one of the above modules, and which is not on the pathway to a degree within this School.

Level two, continuing students

Physics 2A
Core module for all
Physics 2B
Core module for all
Astronomy & Astrophysics 2
General interest option for physicists; compulsory for astronomers
Other Modules

Classical mechanics,

Special relativity,

Thermal physics,
Oscillations in physics

Classical waves

Quantum mechanics,
Electricity and electromagnetism

Chemical evolution of the universe,
Stellar structure & evolution,
Galactic astronomy,
Observational techniques

To a total of 120 credits, which must include Linear Mathematics MT2501 and Multivariate Calculus MT2503.

Total ~48 lectures, PH2011 Total ~48 lectures, PH2012 Total ~48 lectures, AS2001  
120 credits are normally taken in level-two by continuing students. Each of the above three modules from this School contains practical work and tutorials.  As these modules build on the work in level-one, entry to the level-two physics modules for continuing students requires passes in first year Physics 1A, Physics 1B and Maths MT1002; a pass in first year Astronomy & Astrophysics is an additional requirement for second year Astronomy & Astrophysics. There are minimum grade requirements in level two modules for progression into the honours programme.

 

Level two, direct-entry students

Physics 2A
Core module for all
Physics 2B
Core module for all

Astronomy & Astrophysics 1
General interest option for physicists; compulsory for astronomers

Other modules

Classical mechanics,

Special relativity,

Thermal physics,
Oscillations in physics

Classical waves

Quantum Mechanics,
Electricity and electromagnetism

The solar system,
Stars and astrophysics,
The galaxy,
Extragalactic astronomy & cosmology
To a total of 120 credits, which must include Linear Mathematics MT2501 and Multivariate Calculus MT2503.

 

Total ~48 lectures, PH2011 Total ~48 lectures, PH2012 Total ~44 lectures, AS1001  

Direct entrant students may take a mix of level one and two modules.  All take the Physics 2A and 2B modules, which are designed for those entering with good Advanced Highers or A-level qualifications. All take MT2501 Linear Mathematics and MT2503 Multivariate Calculus. Direct Entry atrophysicists take a short astrophysics AS1101 module in first semester, and a second level astrophysics module in second semester.

Each of the three modules taught by this School contains practical work and tutorials.  There are minimum grade requirements in level two modules for progression into the honours programme.

 

Levels Three, Four, and MPhys

Degrees Degree titles
BSc MPhys Physics
BSc MPhys Astrophysics
  MPhys Theoretical physics
  MPhys Mathematics & theoretical physics
BSc   Mathematics & physics
  MSci Chemistry & physics
BSc   Physics & computer science
BSc   Physics & logic and philosophy of science
All students progressing to year-three of these degrees will require passes and specified grades in Physics 2A and 2B, and in Mathematics MT2501 and MT2503 (see School handbooks).  Entry to Astrophysics degrees additionally requires Astrophysics 2.   Degrees which are joint with other Schools have pre-requisites with the other School also.
The honours BSc degree is completed at the end of level-four.   Those who do sufficiently well in levels two and three are given the option of carrying on their studies beyond level four for an additional year to obtain the honours MPhys degree, which is a more advanced first degree than the BSc degree.
Some of the above programmes contain a substantial amount of choice of modules.   Practical work is provided for astrophysics and experimental physics students, and optionally for theoreticians.  Small group and whole-class tutorials allow for further discussion and exploration of the science.  A module on transferable skills provides additional development in communication, research, and team skills.  All final year students undertake a major experimental or theoretical project, which is often associated with the research interests of the School.

 

Last updated BDS 8.14