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, and 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 allows you to access 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.
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Theoretical Physics MPhys page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.
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.
Standard entry grades: AAAA, including an A in both:
Minimum entry grades: AAAB, including an A in both:
Gateway entry grades: ABBB, including A in Mathematics and B in Physics (or vice versa)
Standard entry grades: AAA, including an A in both:
Minimum entry grades: AAB, including an A in both:
Gateway entry grades: ABB, including A in Mathematics and B in Physics (or vice versa)
Standard entry grades: 38 (HL 6,6,6), including HL6 in both:
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL5 in both:
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.
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.
If English is not your first language you will need an overall IELTS score of 6.5, with a minimum score of 6.0 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English Language qualification.
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.
The School of Physics and Astronomy has an excellent reputation for the high quality of its teaching and research.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2019 as 95% of St Andrews final year students were satisfied with the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
The University has secured a TEF Gold Award for the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience.
The MPhys in Theoretical Physics is typically a five-year Integrated Masters 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, waves, light, electricity and magnetism – as well as learning the fundamental mathematical 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, whether that be in straight theoretical physics or in the direct application of physics to particular areas of interest.
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 you to complete it in three years instead of four.
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 webpage.
Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their first year:
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.
Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their second year:
Physics 2A: covers mechanics, special relativity, oscillations and thermal physics, including laboratory skills.
Physics 2B: covers quantum physics, electricity, magnetism and classical waves, including 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
Lagrangian and Hamiltonian 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
Foundations of Quantum Mechanics
Magnetofluids and Space Plasmas
Modern Topics in Condensed Matter Physics
Quantum Field Theory
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 available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews
Theoretical Physics modules are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and (in year one and two) laboratory work.
In both first and second year, physic modules typically consist of four to five lectures per week (20 to 150 students), along with one problem-solving workshop, one small group tutorial (4 to 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, modules typically consist of three lectures per week (5 to 100 students), along with tutorials (5 to 9 students).
In your final semester, you will focus solely on your final 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 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.
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 webpage.
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.
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.
There are no additional fees for labs and lab equipment in the School. Most students in the 'Transferable Skills for Physicists' module are expected to attend the Burn Conference and are asked to make a contribution (currently £30) towards the costs of the weekend.
In line with University policy, the School expects its students to purchase a number of textbooks as part of their study.
In taking a joint degree, you are required to take core modules in all of your subjects. Find out more about joint degrees.
Graduates from the School enjoy a range of career options, some using their physics knowledge and skills every day for example in research and development, others using the more general problem solving, programming and mathematical skills developed in the course in finance and management careers.
At the end of your degree, you will be equipped with the following skills that are valued in a wide range of occupations:
knowledge and understanding of fundamental physical laws and principles
ability to analyse data and evaluate the level of uncertainty in results
identification of 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
research and development in industry and in government agencies
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.
Physics and astronomy students can 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.
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 and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh makes it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland.
“The interaction between staff and students in the School is informal yet respectful, and the courses are well thought through. One of my best experiences so far has been the opportunity last summer to work within a Condensed Matter research group; this has made me more enthusiastic than ever for my chosen degree path of experimental physics.”
Alisa (Hertfordshire, England)
School of Physics and Astronomy University of St Andrews North Haugh St Andrews KY16 9SS
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).