Astrophysics (MSc) 2020 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.

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Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 7 September 2020
  • End date: 30 September 2021

If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Astrophysics (MSc) page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

Course duration

One year full time

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.

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Tuition fees

UK and EU: £9,450
Overseas: £23,090

Application deadline

Wednesday 12 August 2020. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

Astrophysics applicants should not submit a cover letter, CV or writing sample with their applications.

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

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.
  • Students will also have the opportunity to take part in an observing run at the Teide Observatory on Tenerife, Spain.
  • 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. 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 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.

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 2019–2020 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2020 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: develops an understanding of basic concepts and offers practical experience with the techniques of quantitative data analysis.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Optional modules are subject to change each year, and some may only allow limited numbers of students (see the University's position on curriculum development).

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
  • 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 2020 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

Visit St Andrews

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

Upcoming postgraduate visiting days:

  • Wednesday 13 November 2019

Sign up

Virtual events

Find out more about studying at St Andrews, why it's unique and what it will do for your future.

Upcoming virtual events:

  • Sunday 18 October at 3.15pm (UK time)
  • Tuesday 22 October at 9.15pm (UK time)
  • Tuesday 29 October at 3.15pm (UK time)
  • Tuesday 5 November at 9.15am (UK time)
  • Friday 15 November at 3.15pm (UK time)

Register

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% 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. 

After the MSc

Research degrees

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.

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 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 on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students in building 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

Policies

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).