Theoretical Physics MPhys (Honours) 2024 entry

The Integrated Masters in Theoretical Physics will allow you to explore the fundamentals of this central science, from classical dynamics to the intriguing theories of quantum mechanics and relativity. You will learn how these and other underpinning ideas may be applied in fields such as quantum optics, condensed matter, quantum field theory, and applications of quantum physics.

The final year contains a number of advanced modules that have strong links with the School's research programme. The final-year project is full time for the final semester and is usually with one of the School's research teams. 

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


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

UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2029
Five years full time
School of Physics and Astronomy
Honours lecture on atomic physics
“Physics is a collaborative subject and full of students who are enthusiastic and hard working. The flexible course structure means you have the option to choose subjects outside of your selected degree. St Andrews offers a unique experience and there is always something to do - with a wide range of societies and sports clubs that you can join.”
- Swansea, Wales

Entry requirements

The University offers different entry requirements, depending on your background. 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.

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 entry requirements as outlined on their pages.

  • Standard entry grades:
    AAAA, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    AAAB, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
    Gateway entry grades:
    Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades, but meet the University's contextual criteria, may be interested in one of the University’s Gateway programmes.
  • Standard entry grades:
    AAA, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    AAB, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
  • Standard entry grades:
    38 (HL 6,6,6), including HL6 in both Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL5 in both Mathematics and Physics.

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

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

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.

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.

Alternative study options

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the following:


Students can also take Physics as a standard four-year BSc degree. Direct entry into second year for the BSc degree is also possible, allowing them to complete it in three years instead of four. Students interested in this course may also be interested in the BSc in Astrophysics. 

Direct entry to second year

Well-qualified school leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course.

Integrated Masters

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the Integrated Masters courses in  Astrophysics or  Physics. 

Gateway programmes

The Physics and Astronomy Gateway 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. 

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 site.

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 approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The MPhys in Theoretical Physics is typically a five-year Integrated Masters course run by the School of Physics and Astronomy.  It will take four years for those taking direct entry to second year. During your degree, you will be introduced to core topics in mainstream physics – such as mechanics, waves, light, electricity and magnetism – as well as learn the fundamental mathematical and computational skills needed for application to physics. 

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

As you advance in your degree, you are given more flexibility to choose your focus of study.

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 physics module per semester during your first two years, and four to five modules per semester during your third, fourth and fifth year (known as Honours). 

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

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

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

  • Physics 2A: covers mechanics, special relativity, oscillations, thermal physics, and laboratory skills. 
  • Physics 2B: covers quantum physics, electricity, magnetism and classical waves, and laboratory skills. 
  • Linear Mathematics: introduces 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. 

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

  • atomic, nuclear, and particle physics 
  • condensed matter physics 
  • electromagnetism 
  • Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics 
  • quantum mechanics 
  • special relativity and fields 
  • 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 fifth year, you will take advanced research-led modules in your chosen speciality.  Advanced modules offered in the past include: 

  • Advanced Data Analysis 
  • Applications of Quantum Physics 
  • General Relativity 
  • Magnetofluids and Space Plasmas 
  • Modern Topics in Condensed Matter Physics 
  • Nanophotonics 
  • Quantum Field Theory 
  • Quantum Optics. 

In fifth year, you will also undertake an advanced theoretical physics project on a topic selected from an offered list and with supervision by a member of academic staff. The project allows you to explore an aspect of theoretical physics in some considerable depth, ideally at the frontiers of published knowledge. The project aims to develop students' skills in searching physics literature and in the design of the investigation, the evaluation and interpretation of data, and in the presentation of results.

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.


Theoretical physics modules are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, workshops and (in year one and two) laboratory work. 

In both first and second year, each physics module typically consists of four to five lectures per week (120 to 150 students), along with one problem-solving workshop, one small group tutorial (about 7 to 15 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, modules typically consist of three lectures per week (5 to 140 students). Some modules also have small group tutorials (5 to 12 students). 

In your final semester, you will focus solely 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. 

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: 

  • critical comparison of research papers 
  • laboratory work 
  • classroom tests 
  • tutorial participation 
  • tutorial solutions 
  • oral and written presentations.  

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 at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honours and in the relevant programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.

You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge of theoretical 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 all Physics staff on the School of Physics and Astronomy website. 

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.



England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Channel Islands, Isle of Man

EU and overseas

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

Additional costs

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 £40) 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 also take Theoretical Physics as part of a joint Honours degree in which you will take core modules of your chosen subjects.

  • UCAS code FG31: Bachelor of Science (Honours) Mathematics and Physics
  • UCAS code FV30: Bachelor of Science (Honours) Philosophy and Physics
  • UCAS code FGH1: Master in Physics (Honours) Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
  • UCAS code FF13: Master in Science (Honours) Chemistry and Physics


Graduates from the School enjoy a range of career options. Some use their physics knowledge and skills every day, for example, in research and development. Others use the more general problem solving, programming and mathematical skills developed in the course in IT, finance, and management careers.  

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

  • knowledge and understanding of fundamental physical
  • laws and principles 
  • the ability to determine what information is needed to solve a problem, and a knowledge of where to find or generate such information 
  • 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.

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.

Undergraduate visiting days

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

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 3111
School of Physics and Astronomy
North Haugh
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9SS

School of Physics and Astronomy website

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