Astrophysics (MSc) 2023 entry

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

Start date
September 2023
End date
September 2024
Duration
One year full time
School
School of Physics and Astronomy

Application deadline

Thursday 10 August 2023

Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

“The exposure to various research groups is a great way to stay updated on current research. Having access to the telescopes in Spain for remote observations meant that I gathered a lot of first-hand experience. Studying here has helped me weigh up my options and opened up a world of opportunities.”
Tanvi
- Haryana, India

Entry 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.

Application requirements

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

English language proficiency

If English is not your first language, you may need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. See approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

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. 
  • Students may also have the opportunity to take part in a remote observing trip at the Teide Observatory on Tenerife, Spain (this option is still to be considered). 
  • The programme prepares students to undertake astrophysical research at PhD level. 
  • Modules provide transferable skills which enhance employability in and out of academia. 

Modules

The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details about each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue, which is for the 2022-2023 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2023 entry. 

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

Students choose six optional modules.  

Here is a sample of optional modules that may be offered. 

  • Advanced Data Analysis: covers modern modelling methods for situations where the data fails to meet the assumptions of common statistical models and simple remedies do not suffice. 
  • 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. 
  • Contemporary Astrophysics: provides an annual survey of the latest, most interesting, developments in astronomy and astrophysics at the research level. 
  • Extragalactic Astronomy: introduces the basic elements of extragalactic astronomy, including the morphological, structural and spectral properties of elliptical, spiral, quiescent and star-forming galaxies. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Knowledge Discovery and Datamining: covers many of the methods found under the banner of "datamining", building from a theoretical perspective but ultimately teaching practical application. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Observational Techniques in Astrophysics: provides a complete overview of the practical part of research in observational astronomy. 
  • Solar Theory: describes the basic dynamic processes at work in the Sun, enlivened by dramatic new results from space missions. 
  • 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.
  • 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. 

Optional modules are subject to change each year and require a minimum number of participants to be offered; some may only allow limited numbers of students (see the University's position on curriculum development). 

During the final 2.5 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 
  • experimental and observational design 
  • evaluating and interpreting data 
  • presenting 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. 

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2023 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

Teaching

The MSc consists of two semesters of taught courses and a 2.5-month significant research project and dissertation (15,000 words).

Teaching methods include lectures and tutorials, covering areas of both theoretical and observational astrophysics. 

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 to receive hands-on experience to develop their observational expertise. This expertise can be used for their research projects with the option to use facilities at either St Andrews or remote observing facilities around the world. 

Modules are assessed through examination, research projects and continuous coursework. 

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. 

Fees

Home
£11,120

Overseas
£27,230

More information on tuition fees can be found on the postgraduate fees and funding page.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews is committed to attracting the very best students, regardless of financial circumstances. Find out more about the scholarships and postgraduate loans available.

All taught postgraduate scholarships

After your degree

Careers

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

The course also prepares students for careers in data science, finance, and education, amongst others.  

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.


Further study

Many 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. 

Postgraduate research

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Postgraduate virtual days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online visiting days.

Contact us

Phone
+44 (0)1334 46 3103
Email
physics@st-andrews.ac.uk
Address
School of Physics and Astronomy
North Haugh
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9SS

School of Physics and Astronomy website