Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices (MSc) 2019 entry

This MSc provides postgraduate vocational training in lasers, optics, and semiconductors tailored to the needs of those seeking to enter photonics-based industry and university research. Students benefit from classes using the expertise at St Andrews and Heriot-Watt universities, followed by an around 3.5 month project, often with a UK photonics company. The industrial project allows real-world application of the material covered at the universities, and gives valuable experience in commercial photonics. 

Applications for 2019 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

Course type

Postgraduate; leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 9 September 2019
  • End date: 30 September 2020

If you started this programme in 2018, you can find information about 2018 entry on the 2018 Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices (MSc) page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

Course duration

Twelve months full time

Entry requirements

A strong 2.2 Honours degree in physics, applied physics, electronic engineering, or equivalent qualifications.

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

English language proficiency. See Postgraduate English language requirements.

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

For 2019 entry, admission to the Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices MSc is administered by Heriot-Watt University. Further information can be found on the Heriot-Watt University fees webpage.

Application deadline

Applications are requested by the end of July 2019 but may be considered later. The admissions process will be run by Heriot-Watt University for 2019 entry.

Application requirements

  • CV
  • personal statement (optional)
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).

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

Course information

The MSc in Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices is a 12-month taught programme run jointly by the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews and the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, which makes available to students the combined diversity of research equipment and expertise at both universities.


  • Tailored to balance fundamental understanding with industrial relevance.
  • Gain an understanding of the fundamental properties of optoelectronic materials and devices with vocational training in modern optics, laser physics and semiconductor physics. You also gain practical experience in the operation of a wide range of laser devices and optoelectronic technologies.
  • Develop an appreciation of the widespread practical applications of coherent light sources in communications, material processing and testing, optical processing, medical treatments and diagnostics, and environmental monitoring. 
  • The industrial project placement occupies 12-14 weeks from late May to August and is assessed in September after the submission of a dissertation. 

Teaching format

Students take modules at St Andrews in Semester 1 and Heriot-Watt in Semester 2, followed by approximately 3.5 months working on a project, which is usually with an optoelectronics company. 

Teaching comprises lectures, tutorials and laboratory work. Lecture classes are relatively small, with typically around 20-30 students in a class. Lecture modules are assessed largely through examinations at the end of each semester whereas the laboratory work is assessed continuously. The lecture and lab modules develop important skills and knowledge that can be used in the project. The project is an on-the-job investigation or development of some aspect of photonics, often in a commercial setting.

Well-equipped teaching laboratories allow you to explore the science of photonics and interact directly with academic staff and the School’s early-career researchers. Teaching staff are accessible to students and enjoy explaining the excitement of physics and its applications.

Students are also encouraged to attend relevant research seminars and departmental discussions given by research staff from other universities and specialists from the industry.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.


The lecture modules in this programme are delivered through lectures combined with tutorials, discussions and independent study; they are assessed through examinations and, in some cases, coursework. In the two lab modules, which are continuously assessed, students explore practical photonics for three afternoons a week.

For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2018–2019 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2019 entry.

  • Optical Imaging Concepts: covers underpinning concepts such as ray-tracing, aberrations, and diffraction and addresses applications such as adaptive optics and optical coherence tomography.
  • Laser Physics: presents a description of the main physical concepts upon which an understanding of laser materials, operations and applications can be based.
  • One photonics application module: choose one from two or more application areas, for example Biophotonics, Applications of Quantum Physics and Nanophotonics.
  • Photonics Laboratory: gives training in experimental photonics and allows students the opportunity to explore photonics practically in a series of chosen open-ended investigations.
  • Fibres and Nonlinear Optics: topics include fibre optic attenuation, fibre amplifiers, and nonlinear fibres. The nonlinear optics section looks at second and third order nonlinear effects in fibres and in bulk media.
  • Photonics Sensors and Systems: covers modern photonics sensing devices and systems, such as fibre sensors, quantum sensors, spectroscopic systems, single-photon detection, and bio-chemical sensing. 
  • Photonics Experimental Laboratory: develops students' skills in experimental design, exploration of physical concepts, and experimental skills.
  • Semiconductor Optoelectronic Devices: topics include light emitting diodes, laser diodes and photoemissive detectors. 

The research and development project, which is often hosted by a UK company, is an ideal introduction to the optoelectronics and laser industry. It represents a great opportunity to get hands-on research and development experience in a commercial environment, working on a project that is important to the company concerned.

The project placement occupies 12 to 14 weeks from late May to August and is assessed in September through the submission of a dissertation (up to 15,000 words) and an oral exam. 

The programme coordinator aims to find host companies for students on the programme. Companies who have recently hosted projects for our students include Ceres Holographics, Coherent, Daqri, Elforlight, Helia Photonics, Leonardo, Optoscribe, STMicroelectronics, M-Squared Lasers, Silixa, Taylor Hobson, and Unik Lasers.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2019 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

Conferences and events

The Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices programme invites a number of industrial experts to speak with students throughout the year. 

The School usually organises visits to one or two relevant companies in the first semester.

Our Industrial Advisory Committee contributes to course design, and our industrial partners provide summer placements.

Zemax provides their optical design software as part of their Educational Support Program.


Tuition fee scholarships

Recent Graduate Discount
The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Find out more about postgraduate scholarships. 

Industrial support

STMicroelectronics, a semiconductor company, is offering financial support to UK and European students as well as summer internships.

Most of our students undertake their summer dissertation research/development project in industry. Many of these companies pay their placement student a salary. These projects provide an invaluable insight into the environment in commercial photonics research and development.

After the MSc

Research degrees

Some of our graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews, Heriot-Watt or elsewhere. For appropriate candidates, there are opportunities for fully funded PhD or EngDoc research projects in research fields within the School of Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews and the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University.

The School awards PhD scholarships funded by the UK Research Councils (EPSRCSTFC and NERC) which can cover both fees and stipend. 

PhD in Physics


The Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices MSc course aims to produce graduates with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes to go on to be successful in the photonics area. Some of our recent graduates are featured in our graduate profiles. In addition to employment in companies, some MSc graduates have found long-term employment in universities worldwide. Some of the locations where our MSc graduates have obtained employment include:

  • BAE Systems
  • Cascade Technologies
  • Coherent
  • Edinburgh Instruments
  • Gooch and Housego UK Ltd
  • Leonardo
  • M-Squared Laser
  • Osram
  • Silixa
  • STMicroelectronics
  • Taylor Hobson
  • Unik Lasers.

Contact information

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

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 3103

Physics and Astronomy website

Changes to modules

On 26 March 2019, the following modules were changed on this web page:

  • Displays and Nonlinear Optics was replaced by Optical Imaging Concepts.
  • Fibre Optic Communications was replaced by Fibres and Nonlinear Optics.
  • Modern Optics was replaced by Photonics Sensors and Systems. 


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).