Our Integrated Foundation Year will take you through a carefully-designed programme to help you to progress confidently onto your undergraduate degree.
Engineering, Physical, Computational and Mathematical sciences underpin modern technological society and can help us provide answers to fundamental questions. Graduates with these degrees are highly sought after by employers. The Physics Foundation Year provides progressive structures in which you are able to gain knowledge and understanding of approaches to scientific study and your chosen degree subject.
All Foundation Year students take ‘Global Perspectives’, then four subject-based courses provide familiarity with Mathematics and computation – the language of modern science and technology, and key for success in science, technology and engineering.
Once you have completed your Foundation year, you will normally progress onto the full degree programme, BSc Physics. There may also be flexibility to move onto a degree in another department (see end of section, below).
Our students often say their enthusiasm to study Physics stems from wanting to learn more 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 in the study of Physics, the most fundamental of the sciences.
As one of the most respected centres for Physics teaching and research in the UK, we can promise you a vibrant environment, where you can pursue your studies and plan your future career.
On our three-year Physics BSc course, we’ll cover the core material that a graduate physicist would be expected to know, including quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical physics and thermodynamics, Einstein’s relativistic physics and the study of the fundamental structure of matter and the universe. You’ll also develop mathematical, experimental and conceptual knowledge and skills.
We’re based at the heart of the campus where you’ll have access to laboratories, technical help, academic staff and (on the roof of the department) our astronomical dome; all dedicated to undergraduate study. In Egham Surrey, we’re well away from the light pollution of the big city so our telescopes can give you the best observational astronomy in the University of London. Beyond the specialist equipment, we also have video-conferencing facilities that allow people to take part in seminars and lectures at other institutions.
And though it may seem a long way away, when the time comes to do your final year project, you might find yourself in one of our well-equipped research labs, using the GRID computers to analyse real data from a particle physics experiment, attempting to guide a beam of fundamental particles in a High Energy Particle Physics collider or fabricating a nano-device in our suite of nanofabrication clean rooms.
On successful completion of your Foundation Year, you may be able to choose an alternative pathway which could include a degree from one of the other departments offering a Foundation Year within the School of Engineering, Physical and Mathematical Sciences. If you'd like to do this, you may take your Foundation Year Individual Project in one of these other departments. The degree programme you choose to take after progression is likely to depend on the individual project you select during the foundation year. Please note however that you must take 'Foundation Skills (Mathematics)' and your individual project in the Department of Mathematics if you wish to join a full degree programme in Mathematics.
Core ModulesFoundation Year
Provides a broad, interdisciplinary yet academically authentic introduction to global history and globalisation.
Introduces you to the core mathematical concepts in Engineering, Mathematical and Physical science, and how you might apply these techniques to solve applied problems.
An overview of the world of computational techniques and employs a hands-on approach to programming.
Builds on study in term 1.
Builds on the mathematical techniques developed in term 1 and provides you with the foundational skills in calculus, differentiation, integration and statistics required for entry onto a degree within the School of Engineering, Physics and Mathematical Sciences.
The aim of this course unit is to provide some key concepts in physical sciences that underpin all Physics and Engineering disciplines. The course is divided into four areas: matter, interactions, energy and dynamics.
A course within the School of Engineering, Physical and Mathematical Sciences focusing on developing basic mathematical techniques required for your degree.
An opportunity to engage with a theoretical or practical project on an agreed subject area relevant to Physics.
The year will culminate with a joint Poster Presentation with all students on the Foundation Year.
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 how the quantum mechanics of matter and light can be used to explain atomic and nuclear phenomena. You will look at the various quantum effects involved in the physics of electrons in atoms, and protons and neutrons in the nuclei. You will examine the atomic spectra, radioactive decay, nuclear reactions, the interaction of radiation with mater, as well as experimental techniques. You will also consider the applications of quantum effects, from modern spectroscopy techniques to the detection of radioactivity.
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.
- Advanced Skills
- Experimental or Theoretical Project
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
- All modules are core
- All modules are core
- Advanced Classical Physics
- Further Mathematical Methods
- Nonlinear Systems and Chaos
- C++ and Object Oriented Programming
- Signal Recovery and Handling
- Quantum Theory
- Particle Physics
- Metals and Semiconductors
- Superconductivity and Magnetism
- Frontiers of Metrology
- General Relativity and Cosmology
- Stellar Astrophysics
- Particle Astrophysics
- Planetary Geology and Geophysics
- Particle Detectors and Accelerators
In this module you will develop an understanding of astronomy, and observations of different wavelengths. You will look at the merits and limitations of earth and space-based telescopes, and consider key concepts, including coordinate systems, timekeeping systems, brightness measurement, distance, colour, temperature and spectrum. You will also examine the contents of the solar system, including the planets and their moons, rings, asteroids, comets, dust and the solar wind.
- Energy and Climate Science
Teaching & assessment
In your Foundation Year, teaching methods include a mixture of lectures, practical classes and workshops, laboratory classes, individual tutorials, and supervisory sessions. Outside of the classroom you’ll undertake guided and independent practice. You will be assigned a Personal Tutor in the Department of Physics and will have regular scheduled sessions. In the Foundation Year, you’ll also be assigned a Personal Tutor in the Centre for the Development of Academic Skills (CeDAS). Assessments are varied; practical exercises, weekly problem sheets, set exercises, written examinations, laboratory reports, scientific poster preparation and presentation. In addition the Foundation Year offers a full range of skills-based training and also the opportunity to take a micro-placement to enhance your employability.
Once you progress onto your full degree programme, 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.
A Levels: CCC
- 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. Socio - economic factors which may have impacted an applicant's education will be taken into consideration and alternative offers may be made to these applicants.
Other UK Qualifications
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway (apart from some language courses) 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. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For international students, we offer an International Foundation Year, run by Study Group at the Royal Holloway International Study Centre. Upon successful completion, you may progress on to selected undergraduate degree programmes at Royal Holloway, University of London.
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 and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9250
Foundation year essential costs**: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course.
This course is accredited by the Institute of Physics. Successful completion of this programme partially meets the educational requirement for becoming a Chartered Physicist.