University of Exeter Physics Handbook Programme Specifications

Programme Specification (2023/24 Intake)

MPhys Physics with Astrophysics

1. Programme Name

MPhys Physics with Astrophysics (NQF level 7)

2. Description of the Programme

This physics programme will give you an excellent understanding of mainstream physics and develop your scientific intuition and prepare you for a wide range of careers. Our physics programmes are designed around a core curriculum, which can lead naturally on to PhD-level research or towards a more specialised qualification such as an MSc, and all are accredited by the Institute of Physics.

In Stage 1 you will develop your understanding of physics and become familiar with a variety of basic mathematical tools. The concepts and phenomena you will meet are many and varied, but are united by the underlying principles of physics. In a typical week you will spend 15 hours in a formal teaching environment, and be expected to spend a further 20 hours in independent study. You will have four hours of lectures in physics, two in mathematics, one tutorial, six hours in the teaching laboratories and two hours in problem-solving classes.

Stage 2 provides a firm foundation of physics, and the principles that constitute the framework of the subject. The use of mathematics gives these principles a precise form and provides physicists with the ability to make detailed quantitative predictions. This year focuses on four main cornerstones of physics: condensed matter, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism and thermodynamics. These provide the core of most of physics and of our understanding of the evolution of our universe. The other modules in your second and subsequent years draw in part on your knowledge of this core.

Stage 3 develops your problem-solving and knowledge of core physics in key areas, such as nuclear and high-energy particle physics and electrodynamics. You will also apply this knowledge to more specialised areas covered by astrophysics modules.

Stage 3 of this MPhys Physics programme also involves substantial project work on a topic related to one of the Department's astrophysics research area. You will work in a small group (typically three or four, but with individual roles), to undertake a project that will continue to completion at the end of your final year. The projects are original and open-ended, i.e., they each focus on a previously unstudied area or problem. You will meet with your supervisor (a professor or lecturer) once a week to discuss progress and future work.

In Stage 4, about half your time will be spent on masters-level core and optional physics modules with work on your research project, continuing from Stage 3, filling the remainder. You will also be encouraged to attend research seminars from visiting speakers, attend the weekly group meetings held by the Department's research groups, and engage with the PhD students and researchers who work here.

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

This programme is intended to:

Physics and Astronomy intends to provide students taking this programme with:

4. Programme Structure

The programme is divided into units of study called modules. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload. One credit is nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work. The level of a module indicates its position in the progressive development of academic cognitive abilities, and/or practical skills. An elective is an unspecified module that allows the student to broaden their education, e.g. by learning a foreign language. More details are given in the published module descriptors.

5. Programme Modules

The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules. Constituent modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme. Details of the modules currently offered may be obtained from the College web site:

You may take option modules as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module. Descriptions of the individual modules are given in full on the College web site:

You may take elective modules as indicated in the tables below as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

The fourth character of any module code signifies its NQF level, according to the following scheme:

Module CodeNQF Level

This is the programme planned for delivery to students commencing Stage 1 in the academic year 2023/24. Some modules will be updated or replaced in future years as a consequence of normal programme development activity, and staff rotation.

Stage One (2023-2024)
PHY1021 Vector Mechanics T1:01-05,07-12 15 4 Non-condonable.
PHY1022 Introduction to Astrophysics T1:01-05,07-12 15 4 Non-condonable.
PHY1025 Mathematics Skills T1:01-05,07-12 15 4 Non-condonable.
PHY1027 Practical Physics I T1:01-12, T2:01-11 15 4 Non-condonable.
PHY1031 Scientific Programming in Python T1:01-12, T2:01-11 15 4 Non-condonable.
PHY1023 Waves and Optics T2:01-11 15 4 Non-condonable.
PHY1024 Properties of Matter T2:01-11 15 4 Non-condonable.
PHY1026 Mathematics for Physicists T2:01-11 15 4 Non-condonable.
Stage Two (2024-2025)
PHY2021 Electromagnetism I T1:01-11 15 5 Non-condonable.
PHY2022 Quantum Mechanics I T1:01-11 15 5 Non-condonable.
List 2a Option(s) from List 2a   15    
PHY2025 Mathematics with Physical Applications T1:01-11, T2:01-11 15 5 Non-condonable.
PHY2026 Practical Physics II T1:03-11, T2:01-11 15 5 Non-condonable.
PHY2023 Thermal Physics T2:01-11 15 5 Non-condonable.
PHY2024 Condensed Matter I T2:01-11 15 5 Non-condonable.
PHY2030 Observing the Universe T2:01-11 15 5 Non-condonable.
List 2a Options
PHY2027 Scientific Programming in C T1:01-11 15 5  
PHY2029 The Physics of Living Systems T1:01-11 15 5  
PHY2032 Analytical and Chaotic Dynamics T1:01-11 15 5  
Elective Elective (Term 1)   15    
Stage Three (2025-2026)
PHY3051 Electromagnetism II T1:01-11 15 6  
PHY3070 Stars from Birth to Death T1:01-11 15 6  
PHYM002 Quantum Mechanics II T1:01-11 15 7  
PHY3053 General Problems T1:01-11, T2:01-11 15 6  
PHY3122 Project and Dissertation T2:01-11, T3:05-07 30 6 Non-condonable.
PHY3052 Nuclear and High Energy Physics T2:01-11 15 6  
PHY3066 Galaxies and High Energy Astrophysics T2:01-11 15 6  
Stage Four (2026-2027)
PHYM001 Statistical Physics T1:01-11 15 7  
PHYM012 Solar and Extra-Solar Planets and Their Atmospheres T1:01-11 15 7  
PHYM009 Project and Dissertation T1:01-11, T2:01-11 45 7 Non-condonable.
PHYM006 Relativity and Cosmology T2:01-11 15 7  
PHYM003 Condensed Matter II T2:01-11 15 7  
List 4a Option(s) from List 4a   15    
List 4a Options
PHYM004 Computational Physics and Modelling T1:01-11, T2:01-09 15 7  
PHYM013 Quantum Many-Body Theory T1:01-11 15 7  
PHYM005 Independent Study T1:01-11 or T2:01-11 15 7  
PHYM008 Physical Methods in Biology and Medicine T2:01-11 15 7  
PHYM015 Quantum Optics and Photonics T2:01-11 15 7  
List 4b Option(s) from List 4b   15    
List 4b Options
PHY3061 The Biophysics of Cells and Tissues T1:01-11 15 6  
PHY3062 Methods of Theoretical Physics T1:01-11 15 6  
PHY3064 Nanostructures and Graphene Science T1:01-11 15 6  
PHY3067 Energy and the Environment T1:01-11 15 6  
PHY3068 Principles of Theoretical Physics T2:01-11 15 6  
PHY3071 Soft Matter T2:01-11 15 6  
PHY3072 New Option Being Developed for T2 T2:01-11 15 6  

6. Programme Outcomes Linked to Teaching, Learning & Assessment Methods

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:    

A. Specialised Subject Skills & Knowledge

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of most fundamental laws and principles of physics, along with their application to a variety of areas in physics, in particular their application in the contexts of astronomy and astrophysics, some of which are at (or are informed by) the forefront of the discipline.
  2. Solve advanced problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools. Students should be able to identify the relevant physical principles, to translate problems into mathematical statements and apply their knowledge to obtain order-of-magnitude or more precise solutions as appropriate.
  3. Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour and interpret mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena.
Learning & Teaching Activities (in/out of class)
  • Material is introduced by lectures and directed reading/research. Students are given clear guidance in how to manage their learning and are expected to take progressively more responsibility for their own learning at each stage. Understanding is developed and consolidated in problems classes and tutorials and by laboratory work and private study exercises, carried out individually and in pairs or groups. A mix of self-assessed and tutor-marked work provides rapid feedback. Project work is used to integrate material and make knowledge functional. A set of compulsory core modules cover the 'fundamental physical laws' in progressively greater depth at each stage of the programme. These laws are applied in the options modules and projects at Stages 2-4. Mathematical skills are learned within dedicated modules and are applied and reinforced in the other Physics modules.
Assessment Methods
  • Direct assessment is through a range of mid-semester tests (Stage 1 and 2 only), formal written examinations, and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, laboratory reports, reports/essays based on directed reading and research.
  • The MPhys project assessment is based on performance in project work, oral presentations, planning ability, a formal written report and a poster presentation. An important element is the ability of the student to defend their work during vivas. Students must answer questions not just from their immediate supervisor/lab-demonstrator, but also from a professional physicist with a different background and perspective. Assessment criteria are published in the Physics Handbook.

B. Academic Discipline Core Skills & Knowledge

  1. Plan and execute under supervision, an experiment or investigation, analyse critically the results and draw valid conclusions. Students should be able to evaluate the level of uncertainty in their results, understand the significance of error analysis and be able to compare these results with expected outcomes, theoretical predictions or with published data. They should be able to evaluate the significance of their results in this context.
  2. Make effective use of IT skills at the level needed for project work; for example a familiarity with a programming language, simulation software, or the use of mathematical packages for manipulation and numerical solution of equations.
  3. Demonstrate a sound familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
Learning & Teaching Activities (in/out of class)
  • The Practical Physics modules at Stages 1 and 2 provide a thorough training in the execution and critical analysis of an experimental investigation. These skills are developed further in the final projects, which require students to plan and execute experiments. Students must also present and defend their conclusions.
  • The 'IT Skills for Physicists' module, which is continually updated to reflect developments in technology, provides the essential training in IT skills needed by students to complete the programme. Other modules require students to apply and develop these skills. Several optional modules offer specific training in computer programming and packages. Computing and IT modules are taught in purpose-built computer rooms using a mix of lectures, and self-study packs supported by module instructors and demonstrators.
Assessment Methods
  • Analytical skills are assessed within many modules through a range of formal written examinations, and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, etc. These skills are primarily demonstrated in project work however. The MPhys project assessment is based on performance in project work, oral presentations, planning ability, a formal written report and a poster presentation. Assessment criteria are published in the Physics Handbook.
  • IT skills are assessed directly with marked worksheets, assessed portfolios, and practical tests. They are also indirectly assessed because such skills are necessary to complete project work satisfactorily.

C. Personal / Transferable / Employment Skills & Knowledge

  1. Demonstrate a working knowledge of a variety of experimental, mathematical and/or computational techniques applicable to current research within physics.
  2. Communicate complex scientific ideas, the conclusions of an experiment, investigation or project concisely, accurately and informatively.
  3. Manage your own learning and to make use of appropriate texts, research articles and other primary sources.
Learning & Teaching Activities (in/out of class)
  • Initial training in the manipulation, presentation and interpretation of data occurs during Stage 1 in the Mathematics, IT Skills, and Practical Physics modules and in tutorials. These skills are developed and used at progressively higher levels throughout the programme.
  • Initial training in scientific communication occurs during Stage 1 in the Practical Physics module and in tutorials. These skills are developed and used at progressively higher levels throughout the programme.
  • Students learn, with the guidance of tutors and module instructors, to take progressively more responsibility for managing their own learning at each stage of the programme.
  • Students learn, via project work, to interact with research staff beyond their peer group. They learn to obtain help and insights from staff beyond the teaching faculty, an important skill when moving to more advanced research environments.
Assessment Methods
  • Assessment of key skills is mostly through items of coursework: written and oral presentations, and through project work.

7. Programme Regulations

7.1. Credit

This MPhys programme consists of 480 credits with 120 credits taken at each stage. Normally not more than 75 credits would be allowed in any one term. In total, participants normally take no more than 120 credits at NQF level 4, and must take at least 210 credits at NQF levels 6 and 7, of which 120 must be at NQF level 7. The pass mark for award of credit is 40% for undergraduate modules (NQF levels 4–6) and 50% for masters-level modules (NQF level 7).

7.2. Progression

Up to 30 credits of failure can be condoned in a stage of this MPhys Programme on the following conditions:

  1. You must have registered for and participated in modules amounting to at least 120 credits in the stage.
  2. You must pass the modules marked as 'non-condonable' in the tables above.
  3. In stage 1 you must achieve an average mark of at least 40.00% across the full 120 credits of assessment, including any failed and condoned modules.
  4. In stage 2 you must achieve an average mark of at least 59.50% across the full 120 credits of assessment, before referral and including any failed and condoned modules.
  5. In stage 3 you must achieve an average mark of at least 40.00% across the full 120 credits of assessment, including any failed and condoned modules.
  6. In the final stage you must achieve an average mark of at least 50.00% across the full 120 credits of assessment, including any failed and condoned modules.

7.3. Assessment and Awards

Assessment at stage 1 does not contribute to the summative classification of the award. The award will normally be based on the degree mark formed from the credit-weighted average marks for stages 2, 3 and 4 combined in the ratio 2:3:4 respectively.

7.4. Classification

The marking of modules and the classification of awards broadly corresponds to the following marks:

Undergraduate Programmes
Class I70%+
Class II Division I 60–69%
Class II Division II 50–59%
Class III40–49%

Full details of assessment regulations for UG programmes and PGT programmes can be found on the University of Exeter website:

Generic marking criteria are also published here:

Please see the Teaching and Quality Assurance Manual for further guidance.

7.5. Interim Exit Awards

A student who progresses to the final stage of this programme but does not then pass their Project and Dissertation module will be eligible for a BSc (Hons) Physical Science award. A final stage student who passes their Project and Dissertation module but fails more than 30 credits of other modules will be eligible for a BSc (Hons) Physics with Astrophysics award.

8. College Support for Students and Students' Learning

8.1. Infrastructure and Learning Environment

Comprehensive details of this programme, support for its students and the learning environment are published in the Physics Handbook:

Physical facilities include: well-equipped teaching and research laboratories, a mechanical student-workshop supervised by technicians, computer workstations and classrooms, social and quiet-working space for students.

8.2. Personal and Academic Tutoring

It is University policy that all Colleges should have in place a system of academic and personal tutors. The role of academic tutors is to support you on individual modules; the role of personal tutors is to provide you with advice and support for the duration of the programme and extends to providing you with details of how to obtain support and guidance on personal difficulties such as accommodation, financial difficulties and sickness. You can also make an appointment to see individual teaching staff.

Students on this programme are assigned a physics tutor, who combines the academic and personal roles and holds small-group (typically five students) tutorial meetings lasting an hour each week during the teaching periods. Further details of this system are published in the Physics Handbook:

Each programme stage is supported and overseen by a stage coordinator (senior tutor) responsible for monitoring all aspects of the student experience:

8.3. Library and Other Learning Resources

In addition to a large number of journals and academic works, the nearby University stocks reference and/or for-loan copies of all recommended texts for Physics modules. Where possible e-Books and e-Journal subscriptions are purchased to allow internet access.

Each module has its own page on ELE, the Exeter virtual learning environment. Resources available for each module normally include sets of lecture slides/notes, video capture recordings of lectures, problems sets and examples, resources for self-study, etc.

8.4. Local Access to Computers and Printers

There are approximately 100 computer workstations reserved for undergraduate use within the Physics Building. Facilities include two computer classrooms, printers and further provision within practical laboratories. Further details are published in the Physics Handbook:

8.5. Student-Staff Liaison Committee

The Student-Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) enables students and staff to participate jointly in the management and review of the teaching and learning provision.

9. University Support for Students and Students' Learning

9.1. Learning Resources

The University Library maintains its principal collections in the main library buildings on the Streatham and St Luke's campuses, together with a number of specialist collections in certain Colleges. The total Library collection comprises over a million volumes and 3000 current periodical subscriptions

9.2. IT Services

IT Services provide a wide range of services throughout the Exeter campuses including open access computer rooms, some of which are available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Helpdesks are maintained on the Streatham and St Luke's campuses, while most study bedrooms in halls and flats are linked to the University's campus network.

9.3. Other Services

Other services currently provided by the University include:

10. Admissions Criteria

All applications are considered individually on merit. The University is committed to an equal opportunities policy with respect to gender, age, race, sexual orientation and/or disability when dealing with applications. It is also committed to widening access to higher education to students from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.

Candidates must satisfy the:

10.1. Minimum Requirements

The equivalent of at least:

are required for all Physics programmes. Applicants with other qualifications (for example the Access to Higher Education Diploma or Open University credits) may need to pass an AL-style mathematics test to demonstrate ability. This test will be undertaken as part of an interview.

Applicants who meet our entry criteria will be invited to visit the Department between November and March. Places are not normally offered to applicants who do not participate in an interview.

10.2. Further Details

Further details, including typical offers and English language requirements for International students are published on the University's Admissions webpages:

11. Regulation of Assessment and Academic Standards

Each academic programme in the University is subject to an agreed College assessment and marking strategy, underpinned by institution-wide assessment procedures.

The security of assessment and academic standards is further supported through the appointment of External Examiners for each programme. External Examiners have access to draft papers, course work and examination scripts. They are required to attend the Board of Examiners and to provide an annual report. Annual External Examiner reports are monitored at both College and University level. Their responsibilities are described in the University's code of practice. For details see:

12. Indicators of Quality and Standards

Certain programmes are subject to accreditation and/or review by professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs).

This programme is accredited by the Institute of Physics.

For more information, refer to the Physics Handbook:

13. Methods for Evaluating and Improving Quality and Standards

The University and its constituent Colleges draw on a range of data to review the quality of educational provision. The College documents the performance in each of its taught programmes, against a range of criteria on an annual basis through the Annual Student Experience Review (ASER):

Subject areas are reviewed every five years through a College Academic Audit scheme that includes external contributions.

13.1. Reference Points

These reference points have been used to construct/update this programme:

14. Awarding Institution:University of Exeter
15. Lead College / Teaching Institution:CEMPS / Physics and Astronomy
16. Partner College / Teaching Institution:N/A
17. Programme Accredited/Validated By:Institute of Physics (status: accredited)
18. Final Award(s):MPhys
19. UCAS Code (UG Programmes):F3FM (UCAS)
20. NQF Level of Final Award:7
21. Credit:480 CATS / 240 ECTS
22. QAA Subject Benchmarking Group:Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics
23. Origin Date / Latest Revision:01-Oct-2009 / 01-Sep-2017

University of Exeter Physics Handbook Programme Specifications