School of Physics & Astronomy

School of Physics & Astronomy

Choice and Flexibility

A major feature of our course provision is in the choices available for students.  There is a choice of entry point, there are choices in exit point, and there is major flexibility in choosing modules and changing degree intentions along the way.

Students who have done sufficiently well in Advanced Highers or A levels (or equivalent)  in physics and mathematics may opt to start some of our degree courses at either level one or level two.  If they enter at level two on our accelerated-entry scheme then they can then proceed to a BSc honours degree in physics, astronomy, or the joint degrees with Mathematics in three years, or the MPhys honours degree in four.  If they enter at level one these degree programmes take a year longer, but the students can benefit from the broad based first year provision, and can choose modules in subjects from across the University. Entry at level one also allows a wider choice of degee intention, including the joint degrees that we have with chemistry and with computing and with logic and philosophy of science. In recent years between about a quarter and a half of our entrant students took the level two entry option.  In appropriate circumstances students may change their level of entry in the first weeks of study at St Andrews.

Level two electronics practicalStudents who join us straight from Highers will find level one physics courses designed to dovetail onto their school studies at a level similar to Advanced Highers and some of A-level, though going somewhat further in certain areas.   These students can also benefit from the traditional broad-based first year, taking modules from across the University.  Some students from an Advanced Higher or A-level background may also appreciate the revision of core concepts that can be undertaken with the "foundation" material in our level one courses, and the emphasis on seeing how the various ideas and equations are determined.

In common with many universities across the UK, we provide both a BSc and an MPhys (sometimes called MSci) degree programme.  Both are classified first degrees with honours, but the MPhys is a more advanced degree than the BSc.  Those students who have done sufficiently well in their assessments in the first part of their study at St Andrews are given the option of aiming to graduate with a BSc at the end of level four, or to remain in St Andrews for a further year to aim towards the MPhys degree.  

This system of an optional additional MPhys year is common with many Universities across the UK.  A number of the Scottish Universities run a similar system to ours with a choice of entry levels in addition to the choice of the MPhys year.

Students in the School's Main ConcourseWithin the School we offer a number of degree titles, and students readily change from one degree intention to another, as long as they have taken the appropriate prerequisite modules.  Indeed, with the flexible system within the University we see many students changing their degree intention from one academic discipline to another.  For example, a level one student taking physics, maths, and chemistry could choose at the start of level two any one of these subjects (or combinations) for their final degree.  Indeed, it would often be possible for students to postpone a final decision between (say) physics and mathematics until the start of level three.  This sort of change of degree option is commonplace; the ability of students to experience university-level education in in a number of subjects before making their final degree choice may be one of the reasons for the very low non-completion rate at St Andrews.

In addition, even within a particular degree programme, there can be substantial module choice at honours levels (levels three, four, and five).

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