Gravity, Particles and Fields MSc


Fact file

MSc Gravity, Particles and Fields
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
At least a second class honours (2:1) BSc degree (or equivalent from other countries) in Physics, Mathematical Physics or Mathematics, or joint degrees containing substantial elements of physics or mathematics.
Other requirements
Previous knowledge of mechanics, quantum mechanics, special relativity and methods of mathematical physics (all as taught typically at BSc level 2) is required.
6.0 (no less than 5.5 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park Campus
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This course provides an introduction to the physical principles and mathematical techniques of current research in general relativity, quantum gravity, particle physics, quantum field theory, quantum information theory, cosmology and the early universe.
Read full overview

The programme of study includes a taught component of closely-related modules in this popular area of mathematical physics. The course also includes a substantial project that will allow students to develop their interest and expertise in a specific topic at the frontier of current research, and develop their skills in writing a full scientific report.

This maths course will provide training in advanced methods in mathematics and physics which have applications in a wide variety of scientific careers and provide students with enhanced employability compared with undergraduate bachelors degrees.

In particular, it will provide training appropriate for students preparing to study for a PhD in the research areas listed above. For those currently in employment, the course will provide a route back to academic study.

Key facts

  • The course is taught jointly by the School of Mathematical Sciences and the School of Physics and Astronomy.
  • Dissertation topics are chosen from among active research themes of the Particle Theory groupthe Quantum Gravity group and the Quantum Information group. In addition to the lectures there are several related series of research-level seminars to which masters students are welcomed.
  • The School of Mathematical Sciences is one of the largest and strongest mathematics departments in the UK, with over 70 full-time academic staff.
  • The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results place the School in the top 10 nationally within Mathematical Sciences for 'research power' and 'research quality'; with 32% of its research recognised as world-leading and a further 56% as internationally excellent.
  • The research environment was classified as 75% world-leading in vitality and sustainability, with the remaining 25% internationally excellent, reflecting the outstanding setting the School provides for its academic staff as well as its postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers.
  • Ranked 8th in the UK for three subject areas within the School, namely pure mathematics, applied mathematics, statistics and operational research.
  • The School scored 94% for Student Satisfaction in the 2017 National Student Survey.

Academic English preparation and support

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK. Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress to postgraduate study without retaking IELTS or equivalent. You could be eligible for a joint offer, which means you will only need to apply for your visa once.


Course details

The course provides introductory material on general relativity and its mathematical language of differential geometry. This is followed by more advanced modules with applications to the study of black holes, cosmology and aspects of general relativity related to string theory. There is a year-long introduction to quantum field theory which introduces the famous Feynman diagrams of particle physics in a systematic way, and studies aspects of modern particle physics. There is also an introduction to the concepts of quantum information theory.

The course assumes students have a familiarity with quantum mechanics and special relativity at an introductory level. No prior knowledge of general relativity is assumed.

Taken full-time, the course lasts a full year, starting in September.

The course has a simple structure, consisting of 180 credits, split into 120 credits of taught modules during the autumn and spring semesters and a 60-credit research project that is completed in the summer period. All modules are compulsory.

Modules are mainly delivered through lectures and example and/or problem classes. You will typically be assessed by an examination at the end of the semester in which a given module is taught. However a small proportion of the assessment is by coursework, essay and student presentation.

During the summer period, you will concentrate on an independent maths research project under the supervision of a member of academic staff, writing a substantial dissertation.

Prerequisite Information

Here are a few maths books that can be used to brush up on prerequisite material. 

  • Classical Mechanics by Kibble and Berkshire (In particular, it is worth looking at Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics in Ch10, 11 and 12).
  • Quantum Mechanics Demystified by David McMahon
  • Flat and curved space-times by George F. Ellis and Ruth M. Williams (The first part covers special relativity and the second part will be useful for the MSc course).
  • Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering: A Comprehensive Guide by K. F. Riley, M. P. Hobson, S. J. Bence (the key topics are vector calculus/analysis, Fourier series and Fourier transforms, the Laplace equation, the heat equation, the wave equation, complex variables and contour integration).

For the modules taught during the MSc, here are a few suggestions for preliminary reading that will introduce some of the ideas in a fairly non-technical way. These aren't supposed to cover all the module material but are there just to get you started.

  • General Relativity, black holes and cosmology: Flat and curved space-times by George F. Ellis and Ruth M. Williams. 
  • Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein's General Relativity by J.B. Hartle.
  • Quantum Field Theory: Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell by A. Zee. This book has a very good discussion of the concepts but does get to quite advanced topics (some of which are not in the MSc). 
  • QED The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, by R.P. Feynman. 

Learning Outcomes

Students successfully completing the course should have demonstrated:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of a range of mathematical core concepts and results in gravitation and quantum theory.
  2. Knowledge and understanding of some advanced concepts and techniques related to current research in gravitation and quantum theory.
  3. Awareness of some current problems and new insights in gravitation and quantum theory. 
  4. Conceptual understanding that enables the critical evaluation of current research, methodology or advanced scholarship.
  5. The ability to apply knowledge in the discipline to novel problems.


Students successfully completing the course should be able to: 

  1. Apply complex concepts, methods and techniques to familiar and novel situations.
  2. Work with abstract concepts and in a context of generality.
  3. Reason logically and work analytically.
  4. Perform with high level of accuracy.
  5. Relate mathematical results to their physical applications.
  6. Transfer expertise between different topics in mathematical physics.
  7. Select and apply appropriate methods and techniques to solve problems.
  8. Justify conclusions using mathematical arguments with appropriate rigour.
  9. Communicate results using appropriate styles, conventions and terminology.
  10. Use appropriate IT packages effectively. 
  11. Communicate with clarity. 
  12. Work effectively, independently and under direction.
  13. Adopt effective strategies for study. 


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. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



UK/EU Students

Tuition Fees

Current information on course tuition fees can be found on the University finance pages.

Postgraduate loans 

The government have announced new postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 for students studying a taught or research masters course commencing in September 2016/17.

These loans will be a contribution towards the costs associated with completing a postgraduate masters course and can be used towards tuition fees or living costs as you decide. The loan is non means tested and will be paid directly to you, the student, rather than the University.

If you are a home student or have UK residential status you will be eligible for a government loan and in some cases EU students may also be eligible.

Full information can be found at the postgraduate loans page on the student services website. 

Graduate School

The Graduate School website at The University of Nottingham provides more information on internal and external sources of postgraduate funding.

International Students

Tuition Fees

Current information on course tuition fees can be found on the University finance pages.

School Scholarships for UoN UK alumni

For 2018-19 entry, 10% Alumni scholarships may be offered to former University of Nottingham graduates who have studied at the UK campus.

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



Average starting salary and career progression

In 2016, 89% of postgraduates from the School of Mathematical Sciences who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £25,933, with the highest being £35,000.*

*Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers** and 
can offer you a head-start when it comes to your career. 

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity with us will not only receive support in terms of close contact with supervisors and 
specific training related to your area of research, you will also benefit from dedicated careers advice from our Careers and Employability Service

Our Careers and Employability Service offers a range of services including advice sessions, employer events, recruitment fairs and skills 
workshops – and once you have graduated, you will have access to the service for life.

** The Graduate Market 2013-2017, High Fliers Research.

Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

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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Madalin Guta
School of Mathematical Sciences
The University of Nottingham
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