F344 Theoretical Physics MPhys Undergraduate 2021
Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.
For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see www.durham.ac.uk/coronavirus
|Mode of study||Full Time|
|Typical Offers||A Level|
|Please also check Requirements and Admissions.|
|Contextual Offers||You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.|
|More information||Still have questions?|
|Department(s) Website|| www.durham.ac.uk/physics
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.
Foundations of Physics is 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.
- 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).
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.
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.
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 2021 entry from September 2020.
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.
You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.
Course Learning and Teaching
The degree 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.
You will be able to obtain further help in your studies by approaching your lecturers, either after lectures or at other mutually convenient times (the Department has a policy of encouraging such enquiries). You will learn how to plan experiments and to interpret data quantitatively and systematically in the laboratory classes. Regular problem exercises will give you the chance to develop your 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 degree, as you develop your knowledge, and your skills as an independent learner.
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 degree, 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.
Subject requirements, level and grade
A level offer – A*A*A including Physics and Mathematics.
BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – D*D*D and A levels as above.
IB Diploma score – 38 with 776 in higher level subjects, including Mathematics (maths analysis & approaches) and Physics.
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.
- Entry requirements for all four Physics degrees are the same and transfer from the BSc degree to the MPhys degree 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.
- If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.
- 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||£27,350.00 per year|
|Home Student||£9,250.00 per year|
|Island Student||£9,250.00 per year|
|International non-EU Student||£27,350.00 per year|
The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.
The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).
Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.
Scholarships and funding
Of those students who graduated in 2018:
- 89% are in paid employment or further study 6 months after graduation across all our programmes
Of those in employment:
- 98% are in a professional or managerial job
- Average salary of £29-,000.
(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here www.graduateoutcomes.ac.uk)
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: www.durham.ac.uk/opendays
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
Physics is central to our understanding of natural phenomena, from the smallest-length scales probed in elementary particle accelerators to the grandest structures of the universe.
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.
- World Top 100 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2020.
- 4th in The Guardian University Guide 2020.
- 4th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020.
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.