School of Physics & Astronomy

Gateway to Physics and Astronomy

Gateway to Physics and Astronomy

This programme provides opportunities to study at St Andrews for those from Scotland who have have talent but who have experienced disadvantage such that they have not been able to obtain the straight A grades that we normally require. Those from secondary schools with low progression rates to Higher Education and those living in places recognised as having a particular Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation are amongst the groups targeted.

The sister programme "International Gateway to Physics and Astronomy" provides a route in to our degree programmes for talented people wishing to join us from some countries which have less physics and maths in school than in the UK. We have been pleased to welcome a number of students from the USA to this programme in recent years, for example. We recommend our Gateway programme for students from the USA who are not completing AP in maths and physics. The two versions of our Gateway programmes follow on from the "Gateway to Physics and Engineering" that ran 2010-2013.

Our two Gateway programmes have a special first year, and success in this can open opportunities to progression in to the second year of our traditional degree programmes in physics and related subjects. The programmes are for talented school leavers who will benefit from the additional opportunties provided to assist their first year study.

Demand for the existing 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 has been the published typical asking rate at Higher for entry to the traditional physics and astronomy programmes at St Andrews for the last few years). To address this issue, we now offer a “Gateway” programme that will provide 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 degree programme here. These can range from “pure” theoretical physics to “applied” physics as appropriate. The Gateway-only modules have around 15 students in them, with dedicated teaching and support from Dr Lucy Hadfield (pictured).


  • Aimed particularly at talented school leavers
    a) in Scotland with expected four Highers including maths and physics of at least grade B, and
    b) as international applicants with appropriate qualifications
  • Recognition of the disadvantage faced by portions of the UK school population
  • Recognition of the benefit that may come from special additional learning / skill development for some students from overseas, and students in particular circumstances in the UK
  • Highly supported first year taught at the University of St Andrews
  • ~30 contact hours per week
  • About half the academic credits in the Gateway entry year come from existing St Andrews physics and mathematics modules, about half from specially designed modules for the Gateway cohort
  • The necessary time for the Gateway modules comes from reducing the subject spread that is often part of the traditional first year of an ancient Scottish University
  • Students are integrated with other first year students, but with additional learning opportunities
  • At the end of a successful “Gateway” first year students may progress to physics and maths modules in second year and a range of degree programmes.
  • Wide-ranging choice for degree programme including theoretical physics, physics, astrophysics, and joint degrees with mathematics
  • Applications can be made to St Andrews University via UCAS
  • Entrance bursaries of up to £4000 from the University of St Andrews may be applied for by those with particular financial need

Programme Structure

Year or level Gateway Route St Andrews Physics

Gateway Year at St Andrews

Physics 1A

Physics 1B

Gateway Maths for Physicists

Maths MT1002

Gateway Physics Skills 1A

Gateway Physics Skills 1B

Physics 1A

Physics 1B

Maths MT1001

Maths MT1002

Two other modules


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Progression from Gateway entry year to student choice of degree programme, dependent on level one grades.

St Andrews Physics and Maths etc, possibly including astrophysics
Three . Physics or Theoretical Physics or Astrophysics or Maths and (Theoretical) Physics
Four to BSc (Hons) . Physics or Theoretical Physics or Astrophysics or Maths and (Theoretical) Physics
Five to MPhys (Hons) . Physics or Theoretical Physics or Astrophysics or Maths and Theoretical Physics


Note: Maths MT1001 may be bypassed for students with sufficiently good prior qualifications.

The Gateway programme ran for the first time in 2010-11, and was piloted initially for three years. From 2013-entry the Gateway programme will be in physics and astronomy. The University is also be running a Gateway programme in Computer Science.


Potential students are advised to apply to the University of St Andrews through UCAS to course code FH31 for BSc and FH3C for MPhys.

An admissions decision will be made by the University of St Andrews depending on academic record and personal circumstances. As always, the decision will be based on a judgement of potential to succeed and excel academically on the programme, with note being taken of the background of the applicant.


Links to further information

Informal enquiries please to or

Dr Bruce Sinclair, Director of Teaching, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, KY16 9SS.  01334 463111

last updated BDS 8.1.15