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F344 Theoretical Physics MPhys Undergraduate  2019


UCAS code F344
Degree MPhys
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 4 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications

Department(s) Website
Contacts Fill out our enquiry form
Phone: +44 (0)191 334 1000

Course Summary


Durham is one of the leading physics and astronomy departments in the UK, enrolling around 170 students each year. The dedication to our teaching and research consistently puts us high up in all the league tables. While studying here you will benefit from the buzz and creative environment of a large research department and join a dynamic and focused intellectual community. Our research ranges from fundamental elementary particle physics and cosmology to more applied topics in which we collaborate closely with industry.

We offer degrees in Physics, Physics and Astronomy, and Theoretical Physics, all of which are accredited by the Institute of Physics. Our course structures have been designed to provide flexibility in your final choice of degree course. The three-year BSc degree is aimed at those mainly interested in a degree in Physics as a preparation for a career not necessarily in the Physics area.

Our four-year MPhys degrees will suit those looking for professional training leading to research in physics or a physics-related career. The first year of the BSc and MPhys degree courses in Physics, Physics and Astronomy, and Theoretical Physics is identical, and it is possible to select modules in your second year such that you need not make a firm choice of course until the end of the second year.

Year 1

Foundations of Physics is 1 the main lecture module in the first year and is complemented with a practical laboratory module, including an introduction to programming. Two mathematics modules are taken in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. There is a further module of choice, with Introduction to Astronomy proving to be very popular.

Year 2

Core modules:

  • Foundations of Physics 2A/2B
  • Mathematical Methods in Physics
  • Laboratory Skills and Electronics.

Additional topics include Theoretical Physics 2 (the transition from classical to quantum mechanics), Stars and Galaxies (an exploration of astrophysics), and Physics in Society.

At the end of the year, you need to decide your degree title, choosing between:

  • BSc Physics (F300)
  • MPhys Physics (F301)
  • MPhys Physics and Astronomy (FF3N)
  • MPhys Theoretical Physics (F344).

Year 3

Besides core courses in Foundations of Physics 3A/3B and Physics Problem-Solving (which includes a computing project), there is a wide choice of topics, for example:

  • Planets and Cosmology
  • Theoretical Physics
  • Physics into schools
  • Maths Workshop
  • Team Project
  • Laboratory Project
  • A module taken in another department (subject to approval).

Your options will have an emphasis on theoretical physics.

Year 4

A research-based project is undertaken in one of the Department’s wide range of research groups. Optional lecture course topics have included in the past: advanced and theoretical astrophysics (including general relativity and galaxy formation), biological and nanophysics, laser physics, advanced quantum physics and particle physics.

Your options will have an emphasis on theoretical physics.

A complete description of the current Physics modules can be found at physics modules 2017.   Bear in mind that the details will change as we develop and update our course, but these pages provide a good guide to the range and breadth of the physics we teach.

We review course structures and core content (in light of e.g. external and student feedback) every year, and will publish finalised core requirements for 2019 entry from September 2018.

Study Abroad

The experience of having lived independently abroad can be very rewarding in terms of employability and of personal development. For this reason, students are encouraged to apply during their degree for a year-long placement with one of the Physics Department's or the University's international partners, either in replacement of the third year of study within an MPhys degree or as an additional year of study. Students may study in English at some of the partner universities, whereas at others foreign language skills are essential. Students are fully supported by the Department both during the application process and during the year abroad.

Adding a supplementary international study placement to the BSc Physics degree or to an MPhys degree leads respectively to the degrees of BSc Physics with Year Abroad and MPhys Physics with Year Abroad. Adding a supplementary international work or training placement instead leads to the degrees of BSc Physics with Placement and MPhys Physics with Placement. Admissions to these degrees are through transfer from F300, F301, FF3N or F344 after year one.

Course Detail

To find out more about the modules available to students studying at Durham University please click here.

Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.

Course Learning and Teaching

The programme is mainly delivered through a mixture of lectures, laboratories, tutorials and workshops. The lectures will provide the means to give a concise, focused presentation of the relevant area of Physics. The lecture material will be explicitly linked to the contents of recommended textbooks for the module, thus making clear where students can begin their private study. When appropriate, the lectures will also be supported by the distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on the University Virtual Learning Environment. Students will be able to obtain further help in their studies by approaching their lecturers, either after lectures or at other mutually convenient times (the Department has a policy of encouraging such enquiries). Students will learn how to plan experiments and to interpret data quantitatively and systematically in the laboratory classes. Regular problem exercises will give students the chance to develop their theoretical understanding and problem-solving abilities. These problem exercises will form the basis for discussions in tutorial groups of typically six students in the first year. The tutorials will also provide an informal environment for students to raise issues of interest or difficulty.

The balance of these types of activities changes over the course of the programme, as students develop their knowledge, and their skills as independent learners.

In the first year, students typically attend 12 hours a week of lectures, one three-hour laboratory session per week, one one-hour Physics tutorial each week and two one-hour Mathematics tutorials. Outside timetabled contact hours, students are also expected to undertake their own independent study to prepare for their classes and broaden their subject knowledge.

A similar balance holds in the second year, although with a change from tutorials to module-specific workshops. In the workshops, typically three supervisors circulate among typically 50 students to provide support. By the end of the second year, students will have covered the vast majority of the material specified in the Institute of Physics ‘Core of Physics’, required for any accredited Physics degree, allowing them considerable flexibility in the choices for the remainder of their degree.

By the third year, students have greatly extended their abilities as independent learners. At this stage also, laboratories are replaced by Mathematics Workshops and additional lectures in Theoretical Physics, resulting in a similar contact time to the previous years.

This move towards greater emphasis on independent learning continues in the final year. Half of their time will be spent on a Research project in one of the (world leading) research groups in the department. Students will meet with a research supervisor for typically an hour per week during term-time, and depending on the project may be working in the department for an additional 12-15 hours per week. These projects are genuine open-ended research which has commonly resulted in material publishable in refereed Physics journals. In addition students will typically spend 6 hours per week in lectures on advanced topics which can be chosen from the various research areas in the Department.

Throughout the programme, all students also have access to an academic adviser who will provide them with academic support and guidance. Typically a student will meet with their adviser three times a year, in addition to which all members of teaching staff are available to meet with students, either on a ‘drop-in’ basis or during regular ‘office hours’. There are also regular seminars run throughout the year by the student-led Physics society and Astronomy society.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study. Please contact our Admissions Selectors via for more information
  • A*A*A at A level, or equivalent, including Physics and Mathematics, is the standard A level offer.
  • Typical IB score 38 points overall including 776 in Higher Level subjects, to include Higher Level Maths and Higher Level Physics
  • Entry requirements are the same for all four Physics programmes and transfer from the BSc programme to the MPhys programme is possible and is based upon first and second-year examinations
  • We may request further information such as UMS marks and/or predicted grades if this information is not available on the UCAS application. This is to ensure that we have an equal amount of information for all applicants. If for some reason this cannot be supplied, the candidate’s application will not be disadvantaged
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £9,250.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £24,300.00 per year

Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities


Durham University is highly regarded by employers and has an excellent graduate employment record with over 95% of students finding employment or entering further training within six months of graduation. The University is regularly among the country's top performers in graduate employment.

We seek to develop the practical and intellectual skills sought by employers, and offer preparation for a range of careers, while at the same time maintaining a high level of academic content. Our courses aim to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Physics. Apart from familiarity with key theoretical concepts, experimental methods and technology, you will gain training in problem solving, communication skills, group working, interpreting numerical data, experimental design and project work. This range of skills will provide you with excellent all-round training for many future careers. Our graduates enter a wide variety of careers in business, industry, commerce, research, management, education, and typically over a fifth of our graduates go on to study for higher degrees.

Of those students who left in 2016:

  • 85% are in employment or further study six months after graduating

Of those in employment:

  • 97% of those are in graduate level employment
  • Median salary £26,766

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2015/16 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found

As a Durham graduate now working in the field of Human Resources for Rolls Royce, there are certain things we look for in our graduates: influence, judgement, integrity, leadership, breadth of knowledge and teamwork to name but a few. We consistently recruit high calibre graduates from Durham University who demonstrate these competencies and are a true asset to our organisation.

Employment development opportunities

The Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre works extremely closely with the Physics Department to ensure that current students receive information and details of vacancies relevant to their needs. Innovative talks take place by a Careers Adviser to ensure that the students receive the most relevant and up-to-date advice about professions that Physics students are attracted to.

A wide range of work is carried out in conjunction with the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre to develop our students' employability skills including presentations on scientific CV preparation, interview preparation for scientific and non-scientific employers and those considering PhD study. A wide range of recruiters of Durham physics graduates are present at the annual Science, I.T. and Engineering Fair (DETICA, DSTL, BAE Systems, The Thales Group, Sage UK Ltd, Lloyds Register).   

Vacation placements

Each year Durham University is awarded a number of bursaries for students interested in working on research projects as vacation placements. Full details of these and other work placement opportunities are listed in the Physics web pages.

Professional endorsement and recognition

The Institute of Physics is the professional body addressing the needs and interests of physicists in the U.K. All students registered for Single Honours Physics, Physics and Astronomy, and Theoretical Physics degrees are entitled to free electronic membership of the Institute. Benefits include electronic access to a monthly magazine, Physics World, dealing with issues and topical articles in the world of physics. Nexus is the student wing of the Institute of Physics and runs additional events, just for students, such as careers evenings, CERN trips and the Young Physicists Conference.

All of the Department's Single Honours degrees are accredited by the Institute of Physics. In addition, the M.Sci. Joint Honours degrees in Mathematics and Physics and in Chemistry and Physics are also currently accredited. Holders of accredited degrees are eligible to follow a route to corporate membership of the Institute and to the C.Phys. professional qualification. Degrees which are successfully accredited are listed in the Register of Accredited Courses which is available in the public domain.

Further information on the Institute of Physics, including full details of the benefits of membership, can be found at

What our students say...

To read comments and first-hand accounts of student life at Durham from Physics graduates visit


Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information



Physics has enhanced our lives, by underpinning inventions such as mobile communications, the Internet, solar cells and medical scanners. At Durham University you can learn about the Big Bang,
black holes, the Higgs boson, high-temperature superconductors, lasers, cold-atom Bose-Einstein condensates, biophysics and much more, from leading researchers in the field. 

You will have excellent opportunities to study abroad and you will develop a wide range of skills of lasting value in whatever career you choose.


  • Ranked joint 1st in the UK for internationally excellent and world-leading research impact (REF 2014).
  • 94% of our Physics students said they felt the course was intellectually stimulating in the National Student Survey 2017 (sector average 89%).
  • 4th in The Complete University Guide and The Guardian University Guide 2018.


For a current list of staff, please see the Physics Department web pages.


The Department is situated in a modern, well-equipped building with excellent facilities for undergraduate laboratories and projects, including four modern computer-controlled telescopes.

All Durham students have free access to the internet and are provided with an email account. Lab projects are analysed on dedicated computers. The Computing and Information Services provide a large number of networked PCs across campus, and college study bedrooms are wired for network access.


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