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Physics with Astrophysics BSc (F3F5)

Discover more about out Physics with Astrophysics BSc at Warwick


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Bachelor of Science (BSc)
3 years full-time
26 September 2022
Department of Physics
University of Warwick

This course is accredited by the Institute of Physics.


On our Physics with Astrophysics (BSc) degree, you will join one of our two astrophysics groups. You will be mentored by, and work on projects with, astrophysicists.

This course is accredited by the Institute of Physics.


Astrophysics has a special flavour. With the arrival of space-based instrumentation and gravitational wave detection, some of the most exciting discoveries in your lifetime are likely to come in astrophysics.

However, we can't conduct experiments on stars or galaxies as they're too far away and too big. Instead, we need to piece together explanations of what we see. This involves understanding the fundamental physics - mechanics, quantum theory, relativity, thermodynamics - and trying to work out what they imply for exoplanets, galaxies, stars, and the Universe as a whole.

The course covers the principles of physics and their application to explain astrophysical phenomena. In your first year, you will study the classification of astrophysical objects and how we observe them. During the second year, you will study the solar system and stars in some detail. In the third and fourth years, you can study a range of topics including cosmology, exoplanets, the physics of compact objects (black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs), general relativity, and our Sun.

You will be mentored by, and work on projects with, astrophysicists.


In the first two years, you cover the fundamentals that apply throughout physics, such as mechanics and quantum theory, and meet the major phenomena observed in stars and space. There are also practical classes to develop laboratory and observational skills.

In later years you look more closely at the phenomena that we can observe as well as those we would like to observe. Examples include star and galaxy formation, cosmology (how the universe was formed and where it may be going), the structure of our sun, and the formation of planets and other solar systems.

In the final year, you complete a year-long research project, which can be observational, theoretical, or some combination of these.

  • Lectures
  • Laboratory classes
  • Time on telescopes
  • Skills classes

Lecture size will naturally vary from module to module. The first year core modules may have up to 350 students in a session, whilst the more specialist modules in the later years will have fewer than 100.

The core modules in the first year are supported by weekly classes, at which you and your fellow students meet in small groups with a member of the research staff or a postgraduate student.

Tutorials with your personal tutor are normally with a group of 5 students.


You should expect to attend around 12 lectures a week and spend 7 hours on supervised practical (mainly laboratory and computing) work.

For each 1 hour lecture, you should expect to put in a further 1-2 hours of private study.


In any year, about 30% of the overall mark is assigned to coursework.

The weighting for each year's contribution to your final mark is 10:30:60 for the BSc course and 10:20:30:40 for the MPhys course.


A level typical offer

A*AA to include A in Mathematics (or Further Mathematics) and Physics

A level contextual offer

We welcome applications from candidates who meet the contextual eligibility criteria and whose predicted grades are close to, or slightly below, the contextual offer level. The typical contextual offer is A*AB including A*, A in A Level Maths and Physics (any order). See if you’re eligible.

General GCSE requirements

Unless specified differently above, you will also need a minimum of GCSE grade 4 or C (or an equivalent qualification) in English Language and either Mathematics or a Science subject. Find out more about our entry requirements and the qualifications we accept. We advise that you also check the English Language requirements for your course which may specify a higher GCSE English requirement. Please find the information about this below.


IB typical offer

38 to include 6 in Higher Level Mathematics ('Analysis and Approaches' only) and Higher Level Physics

IB contextual offer

We welcome applications from candidates who meet the contextual eligibility criteria and whose predicted grades are close to, or slightly below, the contextual offer level. The typical contextual offer is 36 including 6 in Higher Level Mathematics ('Analysis and Approaches' only) and 6 in Higher Level Physics. See if you’re eligible.

General GCSE requirements

Unless specified differently above, you will also need a minimum of GCSE grade 4 or C (or an equivalent qualification) in English Language and either Mathematics or a Science subject. Find out more about our entry requirements and the qualifications we accept. We advise that you also check the English Language requirements for your course which may specify a higher GCSE English requirement. Please find the information about this below.


We welcome applications from students taking a BTEC qualification alongside A level Maths and Physics.

We may consider a BTEC qualification in a relevant Science or Engineering subject alongside A level Maths only on an individual basis.


Year One

Mathematics for Physicists

All scientists use mathematics to state the basic laws and to analyse quantitatively and rigorously their consequences. The module introduces you to concepts and techniques which will be assumed by future modules. These include: complex numbers, functions of a continuous real variable, integration, functions of more than one variable and multiple integration. You will revise relevant parts of the A-level syllabus, to cover the mathematical knowledge to undertake first year physics modules, and to prepare you for mathematics and physics modules in subsequent years.

Classical Mechanics and Special Relativity

You will study Newtonian mechanics emphasizing the conservation laws inherent in the theory. These have a wider domain of applicability than classical mechanics (for example they also apply in quantum mechanics). You will also look at the classical mechanics of oscillations and of rotating bodies. It then explains why the failure to find the ether was such an important experimental result and how Einstein constructed his theory of special relativity. You will cover some of the consequences of the theory for classical mechanics and some of the predictions it makes, including: the relation between mass and energy, length-contraction, time-dilation and the twin paradox.

Physics Foundations

You will look at dimensional analysis, matter and waves. Often the qualitative features of systems can be understood (at least partially) by thinking about which quantities in a problem are allowed to depend on each other on dimensional grounds. Thermodynamics is the study of heat transfers and how they can lead to useful work. Even though the results are universal, the simplest way to introduce this topic to you is via the ideal gas, whose properties are discussed and derived in some detail. You will also cover waves. Waves are time-dependent variations about some time-independent (often equilibrium) state. You will revise the relation between the wavelength, frequency and velocity and the definition of the amplitude and phase of a wave.

Astrophysics Laboratory I

The module introduces experimental science and teaches the skills required for successful laboratory work. These include how to work with apparatus, how to keep a laboratory notebook, how to handle data and quantify errors and how to write scientific reports. The module also asks you to think critically and solve problems.

Electricity and Magnetism

You will largely be concerned with the great developments in electricity and magnetism, which took place during the nineteenth century. The origins and properties of electric and magnetic fields in free space, and in materials, are tested in some detail and all the basic levels up to, but not including, Maxwell's equations are considered. In addition, the module deals with both dc and ac circuit theory including the use of complex impedance. You will be introduced to the properties of electrostatic and magnetic fields, and their interaction with dielectrics, conductors and magnetic materials.

Physics Programming Workshop

You will be introduced to the Python programming language in this module. It is quick to learn and encourages good programming style. Python is an interpreted language, which makes it flexible and easy to share. It allows easy interfacing with modules, which have been compiled from C or Fortran sources. It is widely used throughout physics and there are many downloadable free-to-user codes available. You will also look at the visualisation of data. You will be introduced to scientific programming with the help of the Python programming language, a language widely used by physicists.


The Universe contains a bewildering variety of objects - black-holes, red giants, white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, gamma-ray bursts and globular clusters - to name a few. The module introduces these, and shows how, with the application of physics, we have come to know their distances, sizes, masses and natures. The module starts with the Sun and planets and moves on to the Universe as a whole.

Quantum Phenomena

This module explains how classical physics is unable to explain the properties of light, electrons and atoms. (Theories in physics, which make no reference to quantum theory, are usually called classical theories.) It covers the most important contributions to the development of quantum physics including: wave-particle 'duality', de Broglie's relation and the Schrodinger equation. It also looks at applications of quantum theory to describe elementary particles: their classification by symmetry, how this allows us to interpret simple reactions between particles and how elementary particles interact with matter.

Year Two

Statistical Mechanics, Electromagnetic Theory and Optics

Any macroscopic object we meet contains a large number of particles, each of which moves according to the laws of mechanics (which can be classical or quantum). Yet we can often ignore the details of this microscopic motion and use a few average quantities such as temperature and pressure to describe and predict the behaviour of the object. Why we can do this, when we can do this and how to do it are discussed in the first half of this module.

We also develop the ideas of first year electricity and magnetism into Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism. Establishing a complete theory of electromagnetism has proved to be one the greatest achievements of physics. It was the principal motivation for Einstein to develop special relativity, it has served as the model for subsequent theories of the forces of nature and it has been the basis for all of electronics (radios, telephones, computers, the lot...).

Mathematical Methods of Physicists

You will review the techniques of ordinary and partial differentiation and ordinary and multiple integration. You will develop your understanding of vector calculus and discuss the partial differential equations of physics. (Term 1) The theory of Fourier transforms and the Dirac delta function are also covered. Fourier transforms are used to represent functions on the whole real line using linear combinations of sines and cosines. Fourier transforms are a powerful tool in physics and applied mathematics. The examples used to illustrate the module are drawn mainly from interference and diffraction phenomena in optics. (Term 2)

Quantum Mechanics and its Applications

In the first part of this module you will use ideas, introduced in the first year module, to explore atomic structure. You will discuss the time-independent and the time-dependent Schrödinger equations for spherically symmetric and harmonic potentials, angular momentum and hydrogenic atoms. The second half of the module looks at many-particle systems and aspects of the Standard Model of particle physics. It introduces the quantum mechanics of free fermions and discusses how it accounts for the conductivity and heat capacity of metals and the state of electrons in white dwarf stars.

Astrophysics Laboratory II and Skills

This module develops experimental skills in a range of areas of physics and astrophysics. The module introduces the concepts involved in controlling remote instruments using computers and the collection and analysis of astrophysical data. The module explores information retrieval and evaluation, and the oral and written presentation of scientific material.

Stars and the Solar System

Our sky is dominated by the Sun and the Moon, the planets and stars, as well as occasional spectacular events that are associated with eclipses, comets, meteorites and supernovae. These objects are bright enough to be visible to the naked eye - they have been the subject of wonder and study for thousands of years. In this module, you will see how modern observations and advanced space probes are changing our knowledge of stars and Solar System objects. Our physical understanding is advancing rapidly and providing us with a basis for the exploration of exoplanetary systems and the more distant Universe.

Year Three

Astrophysics Project

The project will provide you with experience of working on an extended project in astrophysics in a research environment. You will normally work in pairs. Through discussions with your supervisor, you will establish a plan of work which you will frequently review as you progress. In general, the project will not be closely prescribed and will contain an investigative element.

Quantum Physics of Atoms

The basic principles of quantum mechanics are applied to a range of problems in atomic physics. The intrinsic property of spin is introduced and its relation to the indistinguishability of identical particles in quantum mechanics discussed. Perturbation theory and variational methods are described and applied to several problems. The hydrogen and helium atoms are analysed and the ideas that come out from this work are used to obtain a good qualitative understanding of the periodic table. In this module, you will develop the ideas of quantum theory and apply these to atomic physics.

Galaxies and Cosmology

Questions about the origin of the Universe, where it is going and how it may get there are the domain of cosmology. In this module, we will ask whether the Universe will continue to expand or ultimately contract. Relevant experimental data include those on the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, the distribution of galaxies and the distribution of mass in the Universe. Starting from fundamental observations, such as that the night sky is dark and, by appealing to principles from Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, you will develop a description of the Universe and the Big Bang Model.

Black Holes, White Dwarfs and Neutron Stars

In this module, you study the compact objects - white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes (BH) - that can form when burnt out stars collapse under their own gravity. The extreme conditions in their neighbourhood mean that they affect strongly other objects and even the structure of the space-time around them. Compact objects can accrete material from surrounding gases and nearby stars. In the case of BHs this can lead to the supermassive BHs thought to be at the centre of most galaxies. In the most extreme events (mergers of these objects), the gravitational waves (GW) that are emitted are now beginning to be detected on earth (the first GW detection was reported in 2015 almost exactly 100 years after their prediction by Einstein).

Communicating Science

Employers look for many things in would-be employees. Sometimes they will be looking for specific knowledge, but often they will be more interested in general skills, frequently referred to as transferable skills. One such transferable skill is the ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. Over the past two years you may have had experience in writing for an academic audience in the form of your laboratory reports. The aim of this module is to introduce you to the different approaches required to write for other audiences. This module will provide you with experience in presenting technical material in different formats to a variety of audiences.

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Scientific Computing
  • The Earth and its Atmosphere
  • Plasma Physics and Fusion
  • Physics of Life and Medicine