Study at St Andrews

Astrophysics (MSc) 2017 entry

The MSc in Astrophysics allows students to gain experience in the core areas of astrophysics to to develop the necessary research skills to carry out astrophysical research.

2016 entry

Course type

Postgraduate; leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course duration

One year full time

Entry requirements

A good 2.1 undergraduate Honours degree in Physics, Mathematics or a related topic.  

If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.

English language proficiency. See English language tests and qualifications.

The qualifications listed are indicative minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Tuition fees

UK and EU£7,500
Overseas: £20,370

Application deadline

Applications are accepted until shortly before teaching starts in September. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

  • CV
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • English language requirements certificate
  • letter of intent (optional).

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes. 

Apply for this course

Course information

The MSc in Astrophysics is a one-year taught programme run by the School of Physics and Astronomy. The programme is intended to provide an entry route to astrophysics research and potentially PhD programmes for students who have taken an undergraduate BSc degree in Physics, Mathematics or an equivalent cognate discipline.

Highlights

  • Students are able and encouraged to use the University Observatory and the James Gregory Telescope, the largest working optical telescope in the UK.
  • The programme prepares students to undertake astrophysical research at PhD level.
  • Modules provide transferable skills which enhance employability in and out of academia.

Teaching format

The MSc consists of two semesters of taught courses including a 3.5-month significant research project and dissertation (15,000 words). Teaching methods include lectures and tutorials, covering areas of both theoretical and observational astrophysics, and modules are assessed through examination, research projects and continuous coursework.

Throughout the programme students will not only gain a full working knowledge of the fundamental aspects of astrophysics but will also develop their transferable skills such as programming, data analysis, problem solving, scientific writing, presentation and science outreach skills, enhancing employability in and out of academia.

Access to the University Observatory and James Gregory Telescope allows students receive a hands-on experience to develop their observational expertise, which can then be followed into their research projects with the option to use either facilities at St Andrews or remote observing facilities around the world.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.

Modules

The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2016–2017 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2017 entry.

Compulsory module

  • Research Skills in Astrophysics: provides the basic astrophysical background and introduces students to the research skills needed for a career in astrophysics.

Optional modules

Students choose six optional modules from the following:

  • Observational Techniques in Astrophysics: provides a complete overview of the practical part of research in observational astronomy.
  • Stellar Physics: develops the physics of stellar interiors and atmospheres from the basic equations of stellar structure and radiative transfer concepts developed in Nebulae and Stars 1.
  • Gravitational Dynamics and Accretion Physics: explores the basics of gravitational dynamics and accretion physics and their application to systems such as circumstellar discs, stellar clusters to galaxies and clusters of galaxies.
  • Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics: introduces the concepts of fluid dynamics and describes their application while providing students with the opportunity to develop the numerical skills required for a computational approach.
  • Extragalactic Astronomy: introduces the basic elements of extragalactic astronomy, including the morphological, structural and spectral properties of elliptical, spiral, quiescent and star-forming galaxies.
  • The Physics of Nebulae and Stars 1: introduces the physics of astrophysical plasmas, as found in stars and interstellar space, where interactions between matter and radiation play a dominant role.
  • Advanced Data Analysis: develops an understanding of basic concepts and offers practical experience with the techniques of quantitative data analysis.
  • Magnetofluids and Space Plasmas:covers the fundamental nature of magnetic field and plasma interaction to many problems in astrophysics, solar and terrestrial physics as well as efforts to harness fusion power using tokamaks.
  • Contemporary Astrophysics: provides an annual survey of the latest, most interesting, developments in astronomy and astrophysics at the research level.
  • General Relativity: provides an introduction and applications to the theory of general relativity, covering its historic evolution, fundamental principles, advanced mathematics, derived predictions and experimental tests.
  • Monte Carlo Radiation Transport Techniques: introduces the theory and practice behind Monte Carlo radiation transport codes for use in physics, astrophysics, atmospheric physics, and medical physics.

The modules listed ran in the academic year 2016–2017 and are indicative of this course. There is no guarantee that these modules will run for 2017 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

Dissertation research project

During the final 3.5 months of the course, students undertake a research project culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation. Students select a project from a list of those available and are supervised by a member of the academic staff.

The project aims to develop students' skills in searching the appropriate literature, astrophysical theory or experimental and observational design, the evaluation and interpretation of data, and the presentation of a report.

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MSc, there is an exit award available that allows suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MSc.

Visit St Andrews

If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at an open day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.

Next visiting day
November 2017

Sign up

Conferences and events

The Astronomy Group at the University hosts weekly lunchtime talks on a range of astronomy topics presented by academics from St Andrews and abroad.

The group also host a number of teaching and outreach projects, including:

  • Observatory open nights – includes access to the James Gregory Telescope, talks, tours and activities.
  • Mobile Planetarium – these shows recreate the night sky in an inflatable dome run entirely by Astronomy PhD students.

Find out more about Astronomy research work at St Andrews.

Funding

Recent Graduate Discount
The University of St Andrews offers a 10% reduction in tuition fees for students who have graduated during the last three years and are now starting a postgraduate programme.

Find out more about postgraduate scholarships. 

After the MSc

Research degrees

In addition to the MSc, the School of Physics and Astronomy offers tri-institutional doctorate programmes in Condensed Matter, Applied Photonics and Magnetic Resonance

Many of our graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews or elsewhere. Fully-funded scholarships are available for PhD study in all research areas in the School.

Science and Technology Facilities Council
The STFC provides annual Quota awards in February of each year to the University of St Andrews School of Physics and Astronomy.

PhD in Astrophysics

Careers

This degree course is intended to provide an entry route to astrophysics research, and potentially PhD programmes, at St Andrews or another university in the UK and abroad.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills. 

Contact

School of Physics and Astronomy
North Haugh
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 9SS

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 3103
Email: physics@st-andrews.ac.uk

Physics and Astronomy website


Admission to the University of St Andrews is governed by our Admissions policy.

Curriculum development

As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online. (PDF, 72 KB).

Tuition fees

The University will clarify compulsory fees and charges it requires any student to pay at the time of offer. The offer will also clarify conditions for any variation of fees. The University’s approach to fee setting is described online. (PDF, 84 KB)