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Gateway to Physics and Astronomy 2021 entry

The Gateway to Physics and Astronomy provides an alternative entry route, with built-in additional support, for Scottish students who meet some or all of the University's widening participation criteria. 

In the Gateway entry year, you will study the same core physics modules and a math module as students on the traditional entry route, and some modules that are available only to those on the Gateway to Physics and Astronomy programme. The Gateway-specific modules aim to develop important academic skills within the context of astrophysics, physics, and mathematics study.

After successfully completing your first year, you will be able to progress from the Gateway programme to the second year of one of a number of the degree programmes in physics and related subjects. There are a number of scholarships available for students on this Gateway programme.

Register your interest

UCAS code

  • FH31 (Gateway BSc)
  • FH3C (Gateway MPhys)

Course type

Gateway programme

Course duration

BSc: Four years full time (including the Gateway first year)
MPhys: Five years full time (including the Gateway first year)

  • Start date: 6 September 2021

After successful completion of year one, students will progress directly into year two of one of a number of the University's Physics and Astronomy BSc or MPhys programmes. This programme is designed to be part of a four-year (BSc) or five-year (MPhys) programme; the Gateway year is an integrated part of this and not a separate one-year programme.

Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.


Typically, candidates for Gateway to Physics and Astronomy live in Scotland and meet one or more of the following contextual criteria:

Students who are not applying directly from school should contact to discuss the available options.

International applicants are not eligible for this Gateway programme, but may be eligible for the International Gateway to Physics and Astronomy.

Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.

Entry requirements

Typical academic entry requirements could be one of the following:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB, including A in Mathematics and B in Physics (or vice versa)

Minimum grades can be achieved over more than one sitting.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

You must have studied both Physics and Mathematics at SQA Higher. 

How to apply

Potential applicants should first email the Admissions team at who will confirm if you are eligible for the Gateway to Physics and Astronomy programme.

You should then apply through UCAS.


St Andrews students must meet with their Adviser of Studies at the beginning of Semester 1 in September to complete advising – a compulsory part of the matriculation process. After module choices have been decided, a timetable will be allocated indicating the dates and times of classes.

Course information

The Gateway to Physics and Astronomy is the first year of a four or five-year course run by the School of Physics and Astronomy. After the Gateway entry year, students will have the opportunity to progress into the second year of one of:

  • BSc or MPhys Physics
  • BSc or MPhys Astrophysics
  • BSc Mathematics and Physics
  • MPhys Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.

The Gateway programme provides a highly supported and interactive first year. About half of your modules are from existing St Andrews physics and mathematics modules where you will be taught alongside other first-year students. Your other modules are specially designed modules for the Gateway cohort. 

The Gateway-only modules introduce and reinforce relevant physics, mathematics and study skills. Students in the Gateway-only modules will benefit from a highly supportive learning environment and small class sizes (typically no more than 15 students). These modules have been designed to encourage group work and will provide a forum for student-led exploration of a variety of physics topics.

The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure web page.

Find out more about studying physics and astronomy at St Andrews.


To pass the first year of the Gateway to Physics and Astronomy programme, you must take the following compulsory modules.

Gateway-only modules

  • Mathematics for Physicists 1A: provides a secure base in elementary calculus and other mathematical tools to enable Gateway students to access the mathematics modules needed for progression into physics and astronomy degrees.
  • Physics Skills 1A: develops academic and transferable skills in problem-solving, team-working, information retrieval and analysis, and study skills, and introduces core aspects of astrophysics. 
  • Physics Skills 1B: develops academic and transferable skills in problem-solving in physics, in mathematical modelling of physical systems, in numerical and computational work applied to physics, and in study skills. 

Other first-year modules in this Gateway programme

  • Physics 1A: covers the core subjects of mechanics, waves and optics, and the physical properties of matter, including laboratory skills.
  • Physics 1B: covers an introduction to quantum physics, the mechanics of rotation and gravity, and lasers, including laboratory skills.
  • Mathematics: introduces the ideas and techniques required for further study of mathematics or applications to other sciences. 

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2021 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.


Teaching format

Physics and astronomy modules are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, workshops and laboratory work.

Physics 1A and Physics 1B typically consist of four or five lectures per week (around 120 to 150 students), along with one problem-solving workshop, one small group tutorial (around 8 students), and 2.5 hours in the teaching laboratory. Laboratory work is usually undertaken in pairs in first year.

The Gateway-specific modules typically have no more than 15 students. 

When not attending lectures, tutorials and labs, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve:

  • working on individual and group projects
  • undertaking research in the library
  • preparing for laboratory work
  • preparing coursework assignments and presentations
  • preparing for examinations.

You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge of physics and astronomy, and will have significant interaction with staff within the School. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of laboratory classes and tutorials under the supervision of the module leader.

Academic staff from the School who are teaching on the Gateway programme provide support and advice on a wide range of matters. Students on this Gateway programme benefit from significantly more contact hours per week than most other students in the School.

You can find contact information for staff on the School of Physics and Astronomy website.

In addition to your studies, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.

The University’s Student Services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long-term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities web page.


Most modules are assessed by a mix of coursework and written examinations. Most modules give a higher weighting to written examinations, but some are assessed solely through coursework.

Coursework includes:

  • laboratory work
  • classroom tests
  • presentations
  • reviews of research papers
  • tutorial participation.

Most examinations are held at the end of the semester during a dedicated exam diet, and revision time is provided beforehand.

The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework within a time specified for the assignment – in some cases two days, in some cases two weeks. Feedback is given with a view to improving your performance in the future.

For further information on the University's grading procedure, see the common reporting scale.

Meet us online

If you're interested in studying at St Andrews, join us on a virtual visiting day or daily information session to find out about our courses, how to apply, and to meet current students.

Virtual visiting days


Our spring 2021 visiting days have now passed. Dates for our Autumn 2021 visiting days will be available in early summer.


Tuition fees for 2021 entry

2021 fees are not available yet for this course. More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page. 

Accommodation fees 

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation. 

Funding and scholarships

Gateway to Physics and Astronomy scholarship

The Gateway to Physics and Astronomy scholarships provide up to £4,000 for maintenance and are awarded on the basis of financial need. 

University-wide scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.

Student life

From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students come from across Scotland, across the UK, and around the world to join an international community of students and staff, and all join the University from a wide variety of backgrounds.

The relatively small size of the town means that students get to meet easily with many other students. Some of the optional student traditions help with this mixing. Most entrant students live in University-managed accommodation. There are over 150 student societies and sports clubs to choose from. This can all help to ensure a community feel amongst students from first year onwards. 

Students of Physics may be interested in joining the following student academic societies:

  • Astronomy Society (Astrosoc) runs a range of events from stargazing to an annual ball. 
  • Physics Society (PhySoc) promotes the understanding and enjoyment of physics. PhySoc hosts a number of events including lectures, an annual ball, day trips and pub nights.
  • Mathematical Society (SUMS) organises talks on mathematics as well as lunchtime gatherings and pub nights.

The School of Physics and Astronomy is situated in a modern building located on the western edge of the town. Most teaching is conducted in this building, which includes a library (with two group study rooms) as well as computing and research facilities specifically for the use of astrophysics and physics students.

The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings, parks and beaches, providing a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. Find out more about the town of St Andrews.

Find out more about student life at the University of St Andrews.


Programme enquiries
Dr Bruce Sinclair
Director of Teaching (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 3111 

Application and eligibility enquiries
Admissions team

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2346


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).

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