Physics and Philosophy BSc


Fact file - 2017 entry

UCAS code:FV35
Qualification:BSc Jt Hons
Type and duration:3 year UG
Qualification name:Physics and Philosophy
UCAS code
UCAS code
Physics and Philosophy | BSc Jt Hons
3 years full-time (available part-time)
A level offer
Required subjects
Maths and physics
IB score
36 (6 in maths, plus 6 in physics and 6 in a third subject, all at Higher Level
Course location
University Park Campus 
Course places


This course emphasises the interplay between these closely related subjects by allowing you the time to address some of the deeper philosophical questions that modern physics raises.
Read full overview

This course allows you to study both physics and philosophy to degree level. It emphasises the interplay between these closely related subjects by allowing you the time to address some of the deeper philosophical questions that modern physics raises, such as the implications of the probabilistic interpretations of quantum mechanics. The degree offers a broad range of core physics modules, coupled with a mix of general and specific philosophy modules.

Year one 

You will take a selected sub-sample of the core physics modules that connect to philosophy and a complementary selection of philosophy modules. You will also be taught the general mathematics that you will need to take physics to a higher level. 

Year two 

You will study more advanced areas in current physics (such as quantum mechanics), and choose from a selection of philosophy modules. 

Year three

In the first semester, you will finish the core syllabus of physics, and in the second semester, you will choose from a wide range of options in advanced physics and related subjects such as astrophysics. On the philosophy side, you will have a wide range of choices from among the more advanced options offered by the University. You will also complete a dissertation-style project in the third year.

More information 

See also the Department of Philosophy


Entry requirements

A levels: A*AA-AAA, including physics and maths at A level

English language requirements 

IELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

Students who require extra support to meet the English language requirements for their academic course can attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education (CELE) to prepare for their future studies.

Students who pass at the required level can progress directly to their academic programme without needing to retake IELTS.

Please visit the CELE webpages for more information.

Alternative qualifications

For details see the alternative qualifications page

Flexible admissions policy

In recognition of our applicants’ varied experience and educational pathways, The University of Nottingham employs a flexible admissions policy. We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances. Please see the University’s admissions policies and procedures for more information.

Notes for applicants 

Scholarships - we offer a range of scholarships designed to assist you in settling in to your studies and meeting the financial requirements of your course. Some of these are means-tested but we also offer special scholarships that reward academic achievement.

One is offered on the basis of performance in the qualifying examinations for university entrance (eg A levels). A scholarship package is also offered to reward good performance in the qualifying (first-) year examinations. This scheme includes special prizes that have been inaugurated in collaboration with our commercial partners. Full details of all scholarship prizes will be provided at the UCAS open days.

For more details about scholarships, please see



Typical Year One Modules
Self, Mind and Body 
In this module you’ll be introduced to the important central issues in philosophy of self, mind and body which continue to be debated to present day. You’ll examine Descarte’s Meditations focusing on his thoughts on dualism and mind-body interaction, comparing these with other related topics. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
Reasoning and Argument: An Introduction to Philosophical Method
In this module you’ll learn a series of key skills needed to follow critical methods of philosophical inquiry. It’ll help you understand the structure and nature of arguments of others and improve your reasoning ability to assist you in your further studies during your course. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
From Newton to Einstein
This year-long module aims to introduce core topics in physics which will underpin all subsequent physics modules. You’ll discuss classical mechanics in the language of vectors and the key notion of harmonic motion which is extended to cover wave phenomena. You’ll have an introduction to Einstein's special theory of relativity as well as the basic ideas of electromagnetism and electrical circuits and quantum physics. 
Appearance and Reality 
In this module you’ll examine some of the central themes surrounding the work of John Locke, one of the first philosophers who sought to integrate philosophy with our modern scientific worldview. Topics covered include empiricism and science, perception, justification and scepticism and the nature of objects among others. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
Elementary Logic
This module provides an introduction to modern logic including technical vocabulary required to aide your understanding of modern philosophical work. You’ll discuss the symbolism of modern logic, the theory of the structure of thought and practice translation between symbolism and English. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.

Typical Year Two Modules
The Quantum World 
This module will provide an introduction to the theory and applications of quantum mechanics, a theory that is one of the key achievements of 20th century physics. This module will begin with a discussion of simple systems and develop the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. The module will then extend the formalism to cope with the movement of particles and make links to the material that you have seen in the 'From Newton to Einstein' module.
Thermal and Statistical Physics 
In this year-long module you’ll learn about the two main themes relating to the description of important physical properties of matter; thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. You’ll discover that they share common features through two hours of lectures weekly and four practical workshops throughout the year.
Classical Fields 
In this module, you are introduced to the concepts of scalar and vector fields, and introduced to the mathematics of vector calculus that can be used to describe these fields. The mathematics will then be used to provide a framework for describing, understanding and using the laws of electromagnetism. 
Social Philosophy
In this module you’ll discuss key issues in social philosophy. Indicative topics that might be covered include: philosophy of gender; philosophy of race; philosophy of disability; philosophy of relationships and friendship; slavery and abolition; social and psychological oppression; the political thought of Hannah Arendt.  Recently, the focus for this module has been on the Philosophy of Race and has concerned questions such as: How should race be conceptualised following the discrediting of biological conceptions of race? What does it mean to consider race as a social construct? Should we be eliminitivists about race? What are the implications of how we conceptualise race for understandings of racism? The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
The Nature of Meaning
The module begins with an exploration of various theories of naming, paying particular attention to the works of Frege, Russell, and Kripke. We then turn our attention to various puzzles concerning the nature of meaning, including the distinction between analytic and synthetic sentences. In the final part of the module, we move on to a discussion of some of the mainstream theories of meaning; particularly, a truth-conditional semantics, and we explore how this might be developed to take into account indexical terms such as `I', `now', and `here'. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar. 
Freedom and Obligation
This module combines consideration of the political philosophy of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and J.S. Mill with related themes in contemporary debates. The module is designed to introduce you to each of the thinkers and then to consider how related issues are treated by contemporary writers. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
Mind and Consciousness
This module aims to introduce you to some of the major issues within contemporary philosophy of mind. We will examine four topics and the interactions between them: intentionality, consciousness, mental causation and the status of physicalism. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
History of Philosophy
The module involves the study of one or more texts by one or more influential pre-twenty-first century philosophers. The module will proceed via a close reading of the texts set and also draw on additional material by scholars, background material, and influential responses. For the 2015–16 session, the philosopher selected for study in this module is the 18th century philosopher David Hume, arguably the greatest, and undeniably one of the most influential, of all British philosophers. We focus on some of Hume’s most striking and influential contributions to philosophical topics (in the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind), including induction, causation, scepticism, and the implications of empiricism in general. The principal text is Hume’s short work An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (also known as his ‘First Enquiry’), supplemented with some passages from Hume’s other writings. Although the focus is on Hume’s philosophy, the module will include comparison of his views with those of some of his predecessors and contemporaries, including Locke and Berkeley. In addition, one of the aims of the module is to provide students with knowledge of ways in which Hume’s work has influenced subsequent theorizing in philosophy up to the present day. There is a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
Knowledge and Justification
This module explores contemporary treatments of issues pertaining to knowledge and the justification of belief. It addresses issues such as the following: the structure of justification and its relation to one's mental states and evidence; the justification of induction; the notion of a priori justification and the relation between your evidence and what you know, among others. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
Normative Ethics
We all have opinions about moral matters. But for most of us, our moral opinions are not very well-organized. Indeed, upon reflection we may discover that some of our beliefs about morality are inconsistent. One of the main projects of moral theorizing over the past few hundred years has been the attempt to systematically denominate right and wrong actions. In this module you will examine some of these, including consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics. Teaching will be via a weekly two hour seminar and one hour lecture. 
Being, Becoming and Reality
In this module you’ll discuss several topics in contemporary metaphysics. You will examine a number of topics in detail. Recent examples include: What is metaphysics? Do composite objects exist? And, if so, when does composition occur? Do numbers, sets, propositions (etc.) exist? Do other possible worlds exist? What is the nature of time?The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
Contemporary Metaethics
Are there moral fact? What is moral truth? Do psychopaths really understand moral language? These are just some of the questions we’ll be asking on this module. Metaethics isn’t anything like normative or applied ethics; rather it is about asking how ethics works. This means we’ll be thinking about, amongst other things, moral ontology, moral language, moral psychology and moral reasons. The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
Philosophy of Art
This module includes a discussion of some philosophical problems pertaining to art. Topics will include: definitions of art, Walton’s theory of make-believe, art, music, and the emotions, and the ontological status of artworks. This module aims to promote a deeper understanding of philosophical issues pertaining to art. By the end of the module, you should be able to discuss and evaluate different views of the expressive power of art, to explain certain current views on expression and representation, and to present the main contemporary viewpoints pertaining to the nature of artworks. The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.

Typical Year Three Modules

Atoms, Photons and Fundamental Particles
In this year-long module you’ll be introduced to the physics of atoms, nuclei and the fundamental constituents of matter and their interactions. You’ll gain knowledge about the quantum mechanical description of their interactions.  Every week, you’ll have two hours of lectures; you'll also have with five 90-minute workshops throughout the year to aide your understanding.

Typical Optional Modules

Environmental Ethics
Environmental ethics addresses the issue of how human beings should interact with the non-human natural world. This module will cover a range of topics from contemporary philosophical literature on environmental ethics, including: the scope of moral concern (i.e. whether and how our moral theory should concern itself with animals, plants, rocks, ecosystems); whether nature is intrinsically valuable, or whether it possesses value only by being valuable to us; whether it is reasonable to search for just one overarching ‘environmental ethic’ (i.e. the debate between monism and pluralism in ethics); the metaphysics, ethics and politics of the ‘deep ecology’ movement; whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature (as ecofeminists claim); the nature of sustainability and whether it is worth seeking; the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development; whether there are any distinct environmental virtues.
Free Will and Action
This module will focus on  a number of questions, including: what would it take for an action to be free (or an exercise of ‘free will’)? Is there is any way in which our actions could be free in the relevant sense, whether or not determinism is true? How do actions differ from bodily movements that are not actions? Actions are typically (perhaps always) done for reasons, but what exactly is the relation between the reasons and the actions? Do the reasons cause the corresponding actions – and if they do, can this be the same kind of causation as is involved in ordinary ‘mechanistic’ causal explanation? What is the connection between intentional or voluntary action and rational action? In particular, it seems that we sometimes intentionally and voluntarily do things that we ourselves regard as irrational – but how is such ‘weakness of will’ possible? You’ll be taught through a two-hour lecture each week. 
In this module you’ll be introduced to the theories of Karl Marx through selected texts from his works. Topics covers will include: alienation, the material conception of history, the labour theory of value and French political theory among others. You’ll gain an understanding of concepts essential for advanced study on this course.
Advanced Logic
This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will look at logics of possibility and necessity, time, and knowledge, as well as alternative logics, including ‘anti-realist’ logic and fuzzy logic. We will apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics including vagueness, the liar paradox and anti-realism. We will also investigate basic set theory, infinity and the limits of formal logic, including soundness, completeness and decidability proofs.
This module will take a detailed look at one of the main topics of contemporary analytical political philosophy: the theory of distributive justice. This theory attempts to specify abstractly the conditions under which a distribution of benefits and burdens amongst a group of persons would be just. You will consider challenges to the legitimacy of any redistributive principle, and attempts to accommodate values such as responsibility and choice in different patterns of distribution. You’ll have a two hour lecture and one hour seminar each week.
Buddhist Philosophy
The module will focus on a critical examination of core aspects of Buddhist thinking, with emphasis on some of its basic psychological, spiritual, and metaphysical conceptions. These include, in particular: the origin and nature of suffering, the no-self thesis, enlightenment, consciousness, experiential knowing, and the doctrine of Emptiness ( the lack of inherent nature in all things and impermanence). The module will focus particularly on Nâgârjuna’s philosophy of the ‘middle way’ and some modern commentaries on it. The module will approach Buddhism as a philosophical world-view, rather than as a religious one. The module will not be involved in detailed exegesis of ancient texts. When possible the module will try to link Buddhist conceptions to contemporary ideas about personhood, consciousness and the fundamental nature of reality. You will have a mixture of seminars and lectures for this module. 
The aim of this module is to provide students with an opportunity to write an 8,000 word dissertation on a philosophical topic, the precise subject of which is by agreement with the supervisor. At the completion of the module you will have had an opportunity to work independently, though with the advice of a supervisor.
Metaphysics and Language: Quine, Kripke and Lewis
The module involves the study of Naming and Necessity, a seminal text in the philosophy of language, philosophical logic and metaphysics of one of the most influential philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century: Saul Kripke. His work is generally considered the starting point of a twentieth century revolution in the philosophy of language and metaphysics, overturning the consensus established through the writings of Frege and Russell on reference and naming, and inaugurating a new era of analytical metaphysics, central to which is the acknowledgement of necessary a posteriori truths and a division between essential and accidental properties of individuals and kinds. The course will proceed via a close reading of Naming and Necessity, and also draw on additional material by Kripke, background material and some influential responses.
Philosophy of Criminal Law
There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. The criminal law raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as these: Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation? What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why? What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible? What is the proper role for the presumption of innocence: Who must presume whom to be innocent of what? Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why? Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment? How should the criminal law function in the international context? Readings will include seminal works by historical figures such as Plato, Bentham, and Kant, as well as prominent work by more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others.
Communicating Philosophy
This module will teach students how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing them in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, digital marketing campaigns, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations). A number of the sessions may be delivered by professionals from outside the University, with support from the module conveners.
Personal Identity
If you and another person had your brains swapped, would you have swapped bodies? Or should we say that you still exist in your old body, only now your memories, beliefs, personality traits, etc. are different? Would you survive teleportation? What if teleporting worked by recording your body state, destroying your body, and then creating a copy of it elsewhere? Would this copy be morally responsible for your crimes? What if the teleporter created two copies? These puzzles raise the issue of what your continued existence consists of - are you essentially a brain, a soul, a body, a set of mental states, or something else? This is the issue we will examine in this course. We will also examine the moral implications of personal identity.
Philosophy of Science
What is science? Is there a scientific method, and if so, what is it? Can science tell us what the world is really like? Is it the only way to know what the world is really like? Does science progress? What is a “paradigm” and when/how does it “shift”? Is science “socially constructed”? Can a sociological study of the practice of science tell us anything about the nature of science? Is science "value-neutral"? Should we “save society from science”? What are "the science wars" and who won? These are some of the questions we will explore in this module. We will start with the positivism-empiricism of the early 20th century and culminate with the postmodernismrelativism of the late-20th century and its aftermath. Readings will include seminal works by Ayer, Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyeraband, Bloor, and Laudan.
The Structure of Stars
This module will develop your knowledge of the various physical processes occurring in stars of different types. You’ll use this knowledge to build both mathematical models and your qualitative physical understanding of stellar structure and evolution will be enhanced. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.
Symmetry and Action Principles in Physics 
Symmetry is a powerful notion, both in the development of theories of physical phenomena and in the solution of physical models. In this module the basic aspects of the mathematical language of symmetry will be introduced and applied to a range of physical phenomena, as well as the principle of least action, introduced in The Principles of Dynamics module, will be further developed.
Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics
In this module you’ll have an introduction to theoretical aspects of the standard model of particle physics. You’ll learn about ideas such a symmetry and conservation laws through a number of different topics including relativistic notation, relativistic particles, Feynman diagrams and discrete symmetries among others. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



You will have a sound knowledge of both subjects and an understanding of how the two relate. Throughout the course you will have developed a range of transferable skills including the ability to communicate effectively, study independently, develop and sustain a reasoned argument, process complex information, and to critically analyse data and information.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2014, 87% of first-degree graduates in the School of Physics and Astronomy who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £23,046 with the highest being £30,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU first-degree graduates, 2013/14.

Careers Support and Advice

Studying for a degree at The University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our Careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.  

The University of Nottingham is the best university in the UK for graduate employment, according to the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide.



Fees and funding

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £2,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

The University of Nottingham provides information and advice on financing your degree and managing your finances as an international student. The International Office offers a range of High Achiever Prizes for students from selected schools and colleges to help with the cost of tuition fees.


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This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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