Our students often say their enthusiasm to study Physics stems from a wanting to learn about the Higgs particle, dark matter, nanotechnology or just a wide-ranging curiosity about how things really work. Whatever your reasons, our Physics department aims to inform and excite you in the study of Physics, the most fundamental of the sciences.
On our three-year Astrophysics BSc, you’ll come to understand new concepts and paradigms, developing the deep conceptual framework that will allow an advanced understanding and appreciation of nature. You’ll develop core Physics concepts, including classical physics, quantum phenomena as well as mathematical and experimental skills.
Unlike solid-state physics (as with the Physics BSc) the emphasis will shift to astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology, and in later years you’ll cover topics such as Stellar Astrophysics and Atomic & Nuclear Physics.
We teach Physics in an accessible and rigorous style through small group tutorials, problem solving classes, lectures, laboratory and computing assignments, teamwork, and one-to-one teaching in our laboratories. So you’ll always have a close-knit support system around you.
The department is research-intensive, so our teaching is informed by the most up-to-date research. We have world-class research laboratories devoted to the search for Dark Matter, building next generation particle accelerators and enabling discoveries in nanophysics, quantum devices, ultralow temperatures, superconductors, new materials and other frontiers. Students study in our research laboratories in their final year.
Our flexible degree programmes enable you to apply to take a Placement Year, which can be spent studying abroad, working or carrying out voluntary work. You can even do all three if you want to (minimum of three months each)! To recognise the importance of this additional skills development and university experience, your Placement Year will be formally recognised on your degree certificate and will contribute to your overall result. Please note conditions may apply if your degree already includes an integrated year out, please contact the Careers & Employability Service for more information. Find out more
Core ModulesYear 1
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to solve problems involving one variable (either real or complex) and differentiate and integrate simple functions. You will learn how to use vector algebra and geometry and how to use the common probability distributions.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to solve problems involving more than one variable. You will learn how to use matrices and solves eigenvalue problems, and how to manipulate vector differential operators, including gradient, divergence and curl. You will also consider their physical significance and the theorems of Gauss and Stokes.
In this module you will develop an understanding of good practices in the laboratory. You will keep a notebook, recording experimental work as you do it. You will set up an experiment from a script, and carry out and record measurements. You will learn how to analyse data and plot graphs using a computer package, and present results and conclusions including error estimations from your experiments.
In this module you will develop a range of skills in the scientific laboratory. You will learn how to use the Mathematica algebra software package to solve simple problems and carry out a number of individually programmed physics experiments. You will also work as part of a team to investigate an open-ended computational problem.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to apply the techniques and formulae of mathematical analysis, in particular the use of vectors and calculus, to solve problems in classical mechanics. You will look at statics, dynamics and kinematics as applied to linear and rigid bodies. You will also examine the various techniques of physical analysis to solve problems, such as force diagrams and conservation principles.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how electric and magnetic fields are generated from static charges and constant currents flowing through wires. You will derive the properties of capacitors and inductors from first principles, and you will learn how to analyse simple circuits. You will use complex numbers to describe damped harmonic oscillations, and the motion of transverse and longitudinal waves.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the macroscopic properties of the various states of matter, looking at elementary ideas such as ideal gases, internal energy and heat capacity. Using classical models of thermodynamics, you will examine gases, liquids, solids, and the transitions between these states, considering phase equilibrium, the van der Waals equation and the liquefaction of gases. You will also examine other states of matter, including polymers, colloids, liquid crystals and plasmas.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the building blocks of fundamental physics. You will look at Einstein’s special theory of relativity, considering time-dilation and length contraction, the basics of quantum mechanics, for example wave-particle duality, and the Schrödinger equation. You will also examine concepts in astrophysics such as the Big Bang theory and how the Universe came to be the way we observe it today.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the mathematical representation of physical problems, and the physical interpretation of mathematical equations. You will look at ordinary differential equations, including linear equations with constant coefficients, homogeneous and inhomogeneous equations, exact differentials, sines and cosines, Legendre poynomials, Bessel's equation, and the Sturm-Liouville theorem. You will examine partial differential equations, considering Cartesian and polar coordinates, and become familiar with integral transforms, the Gamma function, and the Dirac delta function.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how computers are used in modern science for data analysis and visualisation. You will be introduced to the intuitive programming language, Python, and looking at the basics of numerical calculation. You will examine the usage of arrays and matrices, how to plot and visualise data, how to evaluate simple and complex expressions, how to sample using the Monte Carlo methods, and how to solve linear equations.
In this module you will develop an understanding of quantum mechanics and its role in and atomic, nuclear, particle and condensed matter physics. You will look at the wave nature of matter and the probabilistic nature of microscopic phenomena. You will learn how to use the key equation of quantum mechanics to describe fundamental phenomena, such as energy quantisation and quantum tunnelling. You will examine the principles of quantum mechanics, their physical consequences, and applications, considering the nature of harmonic oscillator systems and hydrogen atoms.
In this module you develop an understanding of the properties of light, starting from Maxwell’s equations. You will look at optical phenomena such as refraction, diffraction and interference, and how they are exploited in modern applications, from virtual reality headsets to the detection of gravitational waves. You will also examine masers and lasers, and their usage in optical imaging and image processing.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how James Clerk Maxwell unified all known electrical and magnetic effects with just four equations, providing Einstein’s motivation for developing the special theory of relativity, explaining light as an electromagnetic phenomenon, and predicting the electromagnetic spectrum. You examine these equations and their consequences, looking at how Maxwell’s work underpins all of modern physics and technology. You will also consider how electromagnetism provides the paradigm for the study of all other forces in nature.
In this module you will develop an understanding of thermal physics and elementary quantum mechanics. You will look at the thermodynamic properties of an ideal gas, examining the solutions of Schrödinger’s equation for particles in a box, and phenomena such as negative temperature, superfluidity and superconductivity. You will also consider the thermodynamic equilibrium process, entropy in thermo-dynamics, and black-body radiation.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the physical properties of solids. You will look at their structure and symmetry, concepts of dislocation and plastic deformation, and the electrical characteristics of metals, alloys and semiconductors. You will examine methods of probing solids and x-ray diffraction, and the thermal properties of photons. You will also consider the quantum theory of solids, including energy bands and the Bloch theorem, as well as exploring fermiology, intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors, and magnetism.
This module will consolidate the core laboratory components from other modules, together with the observations previously contained within PH2900 Astronomy, to create a coherent, stand-alone course designed to build your lab experience with more specialist support, enabling you to engage better with course material.
- Advanced Skills
- Experimental or Theoretical Project
- Quantum Theory
- Particle Physics
- Stellar Astrophysics
- Particle Astrophysics
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.Year 1
- General Relativity and Cosmology
- Planetary Geology and Geophysics
- Energy and Climate Science
- Further Mathematical Methods
- C++ and Object Oriented Programming
- Atomic Physics
Teaching & assessment
As teachers, we want to introduce, explain, challenge and excite students in their studies.
A year’s worth of study is normally broken down into eight modules, each of a nominal 150 hours of study. Physics combines experimental work with conceptual thinking and mathematical analysis, each demanding its own teaching and assessment techniques. So these modules can take a variety of forms, including small group tutorials, problem classes, lectures, laboratory and computing assignments, teamwork, and one-to-one teaching in our laboratories.
For lecture course units, you’ll normally be assessed by a two-hour examination at the end of the year. Coursework and in-class tests also contribute to the assessment of many course units. Experimental work is generally assessed by written reports or oral presentation. You have to pass a minimum of six of the eight course units, with a minimum score of 40 per cent each year.
You’ll be taught the most up-to-date and exciting physics by internationally recognised experts in their fields – who are actively involved in research and bring their working knowledge to the course. Our teaching consistently scores high satisfaction ratings in the annual National Student Survey.
Our close-knit, small-group teaching structure helps create a friendly environment, with an open-door policy, so students feel comfortable coming to us for advice and support.
A Levels: AAA-AAB
- A-levels in Mathematics and Physics, plus a pass in the practical element of all science A-levels being taken.
- At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.
Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall. No subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 54. No subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.
For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, the International Study Centre offers the following pathway programmes:
● International Foundation Year - for progression to the first year of an undergraduate degree.
● International Year One - for progression to the second year of an undergraduate degree. You can join the International Year One in January 2021 and progress to degree study in September 2021.
Your future career
A degree in Physics is one of the most sought after and respected qualifications available.
The training in logical thinking, the ability to analyse a problem from first principles in an abstract, logical and coherent way, and to define a problem and then solve it, are critically important skills. These skills go well beyond your specific knowledge of physical phenomena they’re the reason why Physics graduates go on to excel in all types of employment, including those only loosely related to Physics, like management and finance, as well as scientific, technical, engineering and teaching careers. In this way, a degree in Physics helps keep your future employment options both bright and open.
Fees & funding
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250
EU and International students tuition fee per year**: £22,600
Other essential costs***: £55
How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, scholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.
*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2020/21, the fee will be £9,250 for that year. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2021/22 has not yet been confirmed.
**The Government has confirmed that EU nationals starting a degree in 2020/21 will pay the same fee as UK students for the duration of their course. For EU nationals starting a degree in 2021/22, the UK Government has recently confirmed that you will not be eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2021, we will award a fee reduction scholarship which brings your fee into line with the fee paid by UK students. This will apply for the duration of your course.
Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions. Fees shown above are for 2020/21 and are displayed for indicative purposes only.
***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.