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Physics BSc (Honours) 2022 entry

The BSc (Hons) in Physics will allow you to explore the fundamentals of this central science, from classical dynamics to the intriguing theories of quantum mechanics and relativity, and how these and other underpinning ideas may be applied in fields such as electronics, lasers, music, and semiconductors. 

The Physics degree programme allows you to develop your knowledge and skills (including computational and lab work) to build competencies that will be useful in a wide range of careers, both in physics-based industry and in areas such as finance and management. 

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the Physics Integrated Masters and the Theoretical Physics Integrated Masters courses; the Astrophysics BSc or Integrated Masters Astrophysics; the joint degrees with Physics; or the Physics and Astronomy Gateway programme.


All St Andrews Physics and Astronomy degree programmes are accredited by the Institute of Physics for the UK and Ireland.

How to apply Register your interest

Key information

UCAS code


Course type

Bachelor of Science (single Honours degree)

Course duration

Four years full time

  • Start date: 5 September 2022
  • End date: 30 June 2026

Entry requirements

These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. 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.

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes. Please see our entry requirements for more information.

For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject specific entrance requirements as outlined on their pages.

Direct entry to second year

Some students may wish to apply for admission directly to the second year of this course. Such an entry point has the requirement of one of the following:

  • AA at Advanced Highers in Physics and Mathematics, and AAAA at Highers.
  • AAA at A-level, including Physics and Mathematics.
  • 38 IB points (HL 6,6,6), including HL6 in Physics and HL6 in Mathematics. 

Find out more about direct entry to second year for Physics BSc.

Gateway programmes

Students with high academic potential but who have had less access to advanced level qualifications may be interested in the Physics and Astronomy Gateway or International Gateway programmes.

International applicants

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. Find out more about English language requirements.

How to apply

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

Students must have studied both Physics and Mathematics at SQA Highers, GCE A-Levels, or equivalent. Preference will be given to candidates offering strong science qualifications.

General entry requirements

All applicants must have attained the following qualifications, or equivalent, in addition to the specific entry requirements for individual programmes.

  • SQA National 5 (B) in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing science
    • Geography
    • Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.
  • GCSE (5) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing Science
    • Geography
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.

Other qualifications

More information on how to apply via other entry routes or accreditation of prior learning and experience can be found on the University’s entry requirements web page.

Course information

The BSc in Physics is a four-year course run by the School of Physics and Astronomy. During your degree, you will be introduced to core topics in mainstream physics – such as mechanics, special relativity, waves, quantum physics, light, electricity and magnetism – as well as develop the necessary mathematical, computational, and laboratory skills needed as a physicist. Later in the course, these underpinning skills and knowledge bases may be used to explain and explore a range of contemporary topics.

In the first two years of your studies you will also study modules from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, as mathematics is the language of physics. Depending on how many mathematics modules you choose to do, you may be able to choose modules in other subjects such as astronomy, chemistry, computer science, philosophy, or many other subjects from across the University. The flexible nature of the degree programmes at St Andrews means that by appropriate choice of modules in first and second year, you may be able to change your final degree topic during your course. Find out more about how academic years are organised.

You have some choice of modules in first and second year. At the start of third year, your choice of degree title (in the School of Physics and Astronomy) largely determines what set of modules you take in third year. There is significant choice of modules in fourth year.

Final year students carry out a major project, which takes one-quarter of their time for the year. This is often carried out in close cooperation with one of the School’s research groups

Well-qualified school and college leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course. This allows them to complete their degree programme in three years instead of four. Find out more about direct entry to second year for Physics BSc

It is possible for students to take Physics as a five-year Integrated Masters course in PhysicsTheoretical Physics or Astrophysics, allowing you to graduate with a Master of Physics. Direct entry into second year for these courses is also possible, allowing you to complete an Integrated Masters degree programme in four years instead of five. 

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.


In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours), you will take the required modules in physics and mathematics, possibly alongside modules in one or more other subjects.

Typically, you will take one or two physics modules per semester during your first two years, and four to five modules per semester during your third and fourth year (known as Honours).

Find out more about the modular Scottish degree system.

Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their first year:

  • Physics 1Acovers the core elements 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.
  • Mathematicsintroduces the ideas and techniques required for further study of mathematics or applications to other sciences.

This typically leaves two or three other modules that may be chosen from astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, music, or a range of other topics.

Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their second year:

  • Physics 2Acovers mechanics, special relativity, oscillations and thermal physics, including laboratory skills.
  • Physics 2Bcovers quantum physics, electricity, magnetism and classical waves, including laboratory skills.
  • Linear Mathematicsintroduces the theory of vector spaces, linear independence, linear transformations and diagonalisation.
  • Multivariate Calculus: extends the techniques of calculus in a single variable to the setting of real functions of several variables.

This typically leaves room for half a semester of other modules which may be in astronomy, mathematics, or other areas. 

In your third year, you will cover advanced theory and applications in some or all of the following subjects:

  • electromagnetism
  • electronics
  • laboratory skills and investigations
  • mathematics for physicists
  • quantum mechanics
  • thermal and statistical physics.

You will also take ‘Transferable Skills for Physicists’ which provides training and practice in advanced written and oral communication skills, problem solving and teamwork.

During fourth year, you will further develop your knowledge and skills in physics in some of the following topics:

  • advanced quantum mechanics
  • atomic, nuclear, and particle physics
  • communication and teaching in science
  • condensed matter physics
  • fluids
  • optoelectronics and nonlinear optics
  • physics of music
  • principles of lasers
  • principles of optics
  • signals and information.

In fourth year, students undertake a major project which is often carried out within one of the School’s research groups. This provides a great chance to explore physics, and on occasion can lead to a paper in a refereed international scientific journal.

The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules appropriate to the programme for the current academic year can be found in the programme requirements.


Teaching format

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

In both first and second year, each core physics module typically consists of four or five lectures per week (around 20 to 150 students), along with one problem-solving workshop, one small group tutorial (about 8 students), and 2.5 hours in the teaching laboratory. Laboratory work is usually undertaken in pairs in first year and individually in second year.

At Honours level, lecture-based modules in this School typically consist of three lectures per week (5 to 100 students), some with associated small group tutorials (about 9 students). Students on the Physics BSc also take two laboratory based modules, each of which runs two afternoons a week in different semesters. 

In your final semester, you will spend around 20 hours per week focusing on your final-year project.

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 or online
  • 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 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.

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

In addition to your studies in the School of Physics and Astronomy, 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.


During first and second year, most modules are assessed by a mix of coursework and written examinations. In Honours years, assessment depends on the nature of the specific module. 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.

Undergraduates on the BSc in Physics can find information on progressing through the degree in the Physics programme requirements.

For further information on the University's grading procedure, please 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 online autumn visiting days will take place on:

  • Wednesday 6 October 2021
  • Wednesday 20 October 2021


Tuition fees for 2022 entry

Home-funded Tuition fees for Scottish applicants have yet to be set for 2022 entry.
RUK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland) and Republic of Ireland Tuition fees for applicants from the rest of the UK have yet to be set for 2022 entry.
Islands (Channel Islands, Isle of Man) Tuition fees for Islands applicants have yet to be set for 2022 entry.
EU and overseas Tuition fees for EU and overseas applicants have yet to be set for 2022 entry.

For overseas students, tuition fees will be fixed at this level for the duration of your programme.

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

Additional compulsory charges

There are no additional fees for labs and lab equipment in the School. Most students in the 'Transferable Skills for Physicists' module are normally expected to attend the residential conference weekend in the Highlands, and are asked to make a contribution (currently £30) towards the costs of the weekend.

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation.

Funding and scholarships

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

Joint Honours degrees

You can take BSc Physics as part of a joint Honours degree alongside one of the following subjects.

In taking a joint degree, you are required to take core modules in all of your subjects. Find out more about joint degrees.

Your future


Graduates in physics have developed important skills in:

  • critical analysis
  • problem-solving
  • mathematical and computational modelling
  • communication
  • designing experiments
  • making accurate measurements
  • analysing results.

These skills make them well qualified for a career in science and in various areas outside science such as the financial services. 

At the end of your degree, you should be equipped with the following skills that are valued in a wide range of occupations:

  • the ability to determine what information is needed to solve a problem, and a knowledge of where to find or generate such information
  • applicable mathematical and computational techniques and where to use them
  • knowledge and understanding of fundamental physical laws and principles
  • the ability to analyse data and evaluate the level of uncertainty in results
  • skills to identify relevant principles and laws of physics when dealing with problems
  • communication skills, including the ability to present complex information clearly and concisely.

Graduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy have found employment in fields including:

  • banking and commerce
  • biophysics
  • computing
  • geophysics
  • meteorology
  • research and development in industry and in government agencies
  • software development.

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

Study abroad

Physics and astronomy students can apply to participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad website

Student life

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:

  • Astronomical 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 currently conducted in this building, which includes 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.


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

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 3111

School of Physics and Astronomy website


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

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

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.

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.

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