F3FM Physics with Astrophysics

Programme Specification (2017/18 Intake)

1. Awarding institution:

University of Exeter

2. Department(s)/teaching institution:

Department of Physics and Astronomy

3. Programme accredited/validated by:

Institute of Physics

4. Final award(s):


5. Programme title:

Physics with Astrophysics

6. Programme code:


7. FHEQ Level of Final Award


8. QAA subject benchmarking group:

Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics

9. Date of production/revision:

October 2009

This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if they take full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided.

More detailed information about the learning outcomes, content and teaching, learning and assessment methods are published in the School Handbook, and each module code below is linked to its detailed description.

10. Programme structures and requirements, levels, modules, credits and awards

This programme is studied in four 'stages' usually over four years, each divided into two semesters, and is University-based throughout that time. School of Physics programmes have a Stage 1 year structured so that transfers between programmes are straightforward in most cases.

The programme is divided into units of study called modules. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload. 1 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.

The following tables describe the programme planned for delivery to students commencing Stage 1 in the academic year 2017/18. Some modules will be updated or replaced in future years as a consequence of normal programme development activity, and staff rotation.

11. Educational aims of the programme

This programme is intended to:

  • Provide education and training of high quality in Physics.
  • Stimulate and encourage in students a questioning and creative approach, thus developing their enthusiasm for Physics and a capacity for independent judgement.
  • Facilitate students' personal development through the acquisition and use of a wide range of transferable skills.
  • Provide students with a sound foundation in Physics with an emphasis on astrophysics, preparing them well for employment or further study and meeting the national needs for qualified graduates as identified by the relevant professional accrediting bodies.
  • Produce graduate physicists who are well-prepared for more-advanced professional work, and research, in Physics and related areas.

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

  • Opportunities to engage with a range of advanced concepts and applications, drawing upon the specialist expertise of the staff.
  • The opportunity, through the flexibility provided by a wide range of choices of both degree programmes and modules, to complete a programme of study relevant to their interests and aptitudes.
  • Regular and frequent small-group contact with staff with the appropriate teaching skills and experience, including current activity in high-level research.
  • An environment which is caring and supportive in both academic and pastoral aspects and which will have encompassed an appropriate range of teaching methods and broadened their learning experience.

12. Programme outcomes

On successful completion of this programme, it is intended that the student should be able to demonstrate:

  1. Subject knowledge and skills
    • 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.
    • Ability to 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.
    • Ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour and interpret mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena.
  2. Core academic skills
    • Ability to 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.
    • 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.
    • Sound familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
  3. Personal and key skills
    • A working knowledge of a variety of experimental, mathematical and/or computational techniques applicable to current research within physics.
    • The ability to communicate complex scientific ideas, the conclusions of an experiment, investigation or project concisely, accurately and informatively;
    • The ability to manage their own learning and to make use of appropriate texts, research articles and other primary sources;

Reference points used to construct this specification:

13. Teaching, learning and assessment methods


  1. Subject knowledge and skills
    • 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.
  2. Core academic skills
    • 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. They 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 the School's own computer rooms and a mix of lectures, and self-study packs supported by module instructors and demonstrators.
  3. Personal and key skills
    • 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:

  1. Subject knowledge and skills
    • 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 School Handbook.
  2. Core academic skills
    • 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 School 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.
  3. Personal and key skills
    • Assessment of key skills is mostly through items of coursework: written and oral presentations, and through project work.

14. Support for students and students' learning

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

Information Technology (IT) Services provide a wide range of services throughout the University including open access computer rooms, some of which are available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Helpdesks are maintained on the Streatham, St Luke's and CSM campuses, while most study bedrooms in halls and flats are linked via RESNET to the University's campus network. Additionally, the School of Physics has its own dedicated facilities.

The University provides a wide range of student support services including:

  • Student Counselling Service
  • Student Health Centres
  • Study Skills Service
  • Nursery (Streatham campus)
  • Student Advice Centre (Guild of Students)
  • Chaplaincy
  • International Office
  • English and Foreign Language Centres

The University Careers Advisory Service provides expert advice to all students to enable them to plan their futures, through guidance interviews, psychometric testing, employer presentations, skills events, practice job interviews and CV preparation.

Teaching staff can be easily contacted by e-mail, telephone, letter, or in person.

Further information about the above services is published on the WWW.

The Department provides:

15. Admissions criteria

Candidates must satisfy the general admissions requirements of the University.

The normal minimum entry qualifications required for this programme are equivalent to Three GCE A levels including Mathematics (or Pure Mathematics) and Physics. Offers of places typically require three GCE A levels at grades in the range AAA-ABB, or IB 36-32. The School has an Equal Opportunities Policy and welcomes applications from students with other types of qualifications or prior learning experience (for example, an Access to Science course). For more information, refer to the detailed entrance requirements School of Physics which are published on the Physics Entry Data page of the University of Exeter Undergraduate Prospectus, or contact the Admissions Tutor.

16. Regulation of assessment and academic standards

Each academic programme in the University is subject to an agreed School Assessment Marking Strategy, underpinned by institution-wide assessment procedures. The security of assessment and academic standards is further supported through the external examiners appointed for each programme. Their responsibilities are described in the University's Code of Good Practice for External Examiners and include access to draft papers, course work and examination scripts. Attendance at the Board of Examiners and the provision of an annual report are both required. Clear procedures are also in place for the monitoring of these annual reports at both School and University level. See the University's Teaching Quality Assurance (TQA) Manual for details of these processes.

School assessment marking strategy is published in the School Handbook. The Handbook also publishes the rules governing degree awards and classification for this programme. Briefly, an Honours Degree is awarded to students who have passed all modules and it is classified based on a weighted average of marks, as follows:

Class I 70% +
Class II, Division I60-69%
Class II, Division II50-59%
Class III40-49%

17. Indicators of quality and standards

The University and its constituent Schools draw on a range of data in their regular review of the quality of provision. The annually produced Performance Indicator Dataset details admission, progression, completion and first career destination data, including comparisons over a five-year timespan.

Progression statistics are included in routine internal monitoring and review processes (see 18 below).

This programme is accredited by the Institute of Physics.

The School of Physics was subject to Subject Review by the Quality Assurance Agency in 1999, when the educational provision was graded as excellent with a score of 22/24 points. QAA reports are published on the QAA website.

Research activity in Physics and Astronomy was classified as 5A by the RAE 2001 exercise.

18. Methods for evaluating and improving quality and standards

The University has procedures in place for the regular review of its educational provision, including the annual review of both modules and programmes which draw on feedback from such sources as external examiners' reports, student evaluation, student achievement and progression data, and the staff peer appraisal scheme. In addition, subject areas are reviewed every three years through a subject and programme quality review scheme that includes external input. These procedures are recorded in codes of practice contained in the TQA Manual.

Certain programmes are also subject to review and/or accreditation by professional and statutory bodies, while nearly all subject areas are reviewed from time to time by the national Quality Assurance Agency for HE; see the QAA web site for review reports on subjects at Exeter. See section 17 for details of recent outcomes applicable to this programme.