Triangle

Course overview

About Physics at the University of Nottingham

We have a proud history of learning and innovation. Research undertaken within the School of Physics and Astronomy, by Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, was recognised with a 2003 Nobel Prize for the invention of Magnetic Resonance Imaging body scanners. This technology has already helped more than half a billion people worldwide. More recently, our use of quantum technologies to understand how the brain works is changing the way that neurological conditions are detected and treated.

Our research activities cover cutting-edge topics ranging from probing quantum mechanics at ultralow temperatures to understanding the largest structures in the Universe. We have been ranked joint third in the UK for research quality in physics (Research Excellence Framework 2014).

Our courses offer a wide range of optional modules, so you can explore new areas of physics and specialise in the ones that interest you the most. You can study topics as diverse as cosmology, nanoscience, and medical imaging and learn from experts in those fields. What’s more, there is flexibility to transfer between most physics courses after the first year.

Some of our teaching staff share their love of physics with budding scientists worldwide through the popular Sixty Symbols YouTube channel. Our unique, student centred MSci course offers innovative teaching methods, with few to no exams in the final year.

We encourage students to share their fascination with physics with the wider community through our outreach programme. This programme can help you further develop skills such as organisation, communication and team working. We also have an active student society, PhysSoc, which organises social events throughout the year. Our mentoring scheme gives new starters the opportunity to connect with more experienced physics students, helping you settle into university life.

Physics with European Language MSci

Expand your horizons and shape your future with a year abroad. We offer all the support you need to help you make the most of this unique, life-changing experience. You can choose study in a European country at one of our partner universities, such as France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Studying abroad and learning a new language will also develop your communication skills, independence and employability.

Our unique final year will develop your professional and transferrable skills with immersive, student-centred learning. You will focus on fewer but more specialised areas and complete a year-long research project. Under the guidance of our expert staff you will benefit from a range of learning styles. These include group work, projects, delivering seminars and independent learning.

Why choose this course?

Research project

supervised by one or more academic staff members

Study abroad

at one of our European partner universities

Develop fluency

and expertise in another language 

Specialise

in a range of options reflecting our expertise, from nanoscience to cosmology

Paid research project

available, where you can work directly with our researchers

Joint 3rd

in the UK for research quality in physics

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Accredited

by the Institute of Physics


Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.

UK entry requirements
A level A*AA-AAA
IB score 38 (6 in maths, plus 6 in physics and 6 in a third subject all at Higher Level)

A levels

A*AA including both maths and physics with at least one of these subjects achieving an A*. For example, A* maths, A physics or A* physics, A maths. Contextual offer goes to AAA.

A pass is normally required in science practical tests, where these are assessed separately. 

GCSEs

GCSE in a relevant language at grade 7 (A) or above.

Foundation progression options

If you don't meet our entry requirements there is the option to study the Engineering and Physical Sciences Foundation Programme. There is a course for UK students and one for EU/international students.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

Teaching methods

  • Computer labs
  • Lab sessions
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops
  • Problem classes

How you will be assessed

For a typical core module the examination carries a weight of 80%, the remaining 20% usually being allocated for regular coursework and workshop assignments throughout the year.

Experimental and other practical work is continually assessed through laboratory notebooks and formal reports.

Assessment methods

  • Coursework
  • Group project
  • Lab reports
  • Research project
  • Written exam

Contact time and study hours

Typically in the first year, there are 10 lectures per week including problem sheets and directed reading. You will take part in weekly small group tutorials (typically five students), where your tutor will provide support and guidance. The practical modules involve working between three and six hours per week in laboratories. Subsequent years will vary with the largest change being no more weekly tutorials.

Study abroad

Students who choose to study abroad are more likely to achieve a first-class degree and earn more on average than students who did not (Gone International: Rising Aspirations report 2016/17).

Benefits of studying abroad:

  • explore a new culture
  • a reduced tuition fee of up to 80% for the time you are abroad
  • improve your communication skills, confidence and independence

You can apply to spend your third year in countries such as:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Switzerland

Year in industry

Our year in industry degree courses give you the opportunity to spend a year on placement with an industrial partner. These placements enable you to apply your learning to a practical setting within a physics-related industry.

Placements

There are opportunities to take on a paid summer research internship within the School. 

Modules

In addition to your physics courses, you will take courses in your nominated language for the first two years before undertaking your year abroad. The level at which you will start will depend on how far you have previously studied. The appropriate level will be assessed by your language tutor.

The first-year modules will provide you with key practical, mathematical and computational skills.

From Newton to Einstein
This module aims to provide students with a rigorous understanding of the core concepts of physics at an introductory level. The module underpins all other physics modules in all years.
Introductory Experimental Physics

In this module you will receive: an introduction to the basic techniques and equipment used in experimental physics; training in the analysis and interpretation of experimental data; opportunities to observe phenomena discussed in theory modules and training in the skills of record keeping and writing scientific reports.

Mathematics for Physics and Astronomy

You’ll study a selection of mathematical techniques that are used for analysing physical behaviour. Topics will include:

  • complex numbers
  • calculus of a single variable
  • plane geometry
  • differential equations
  • calculus of several variables
  • matrix algebra

You’ll spend around three hours per week in workshops and lectures studying this module.

Computing For Physical Science

You’ll receive training in basic computing techniques using Python, and will be introduced to their use in solving physical problems.

You’ll spend two hours in computer classes and a one hour lecture each week. 

Quantitative Physics

This year-long module will train you in the mathematical modelling of physical processes. You’ll cover topics such as basic statistics and errors, dimensional analysis, curve sketching, orders of magnitude and estimates, and integrating problems in physics among others.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Tuesday 07 December 2021.

You will continue to study the same core modules as MSci Physics. You will also take the necessary language modules to raise your language skills to stage three.

Core modules

The Quantum World

This module will provide an introduction to the theory and elementary applications of quantum mechanics, a theory that is one of the key achievements of 20th-century physics.

Quantum mechanics is an elegant theoretical construct that is both beautiful and mysterious. Some of the predictions of quantum mechanics are wholly counter-intuitive and there are aspects of it that are not properly understood but it has been tested experimentally for over 50 years and, wherever predictions can be made, they agree with experiment.

Thermal and Statistical Physics

Macroscopic systems exhibit behaviour that is quite different from that of their microscopic constituents studied in isolation. New physics emerges from the interplay of many interacting degrees of freedom. In this module you will learn about the important physical properties of matter and the two main approaches to their description. One, thermodynamics, treats macroscopically relevant degrees of freedom (temperature, pressure and so on) and find relations between these and the fundamental laws which govern them, independent of their microscopic structure. The other approach, statistical mechanics, links the macroscopically relevant properties to the microphysics by replacing the detailed microscopic dynamics with a statistical description. The common feature of both of these methods is the introduction of two macroscopic quantities, temperature and entropy, that have no microscopic meaning.

Classical Fields

In the module From Newton to Einstein, you learnt about the idea of a field a quantity which is defined at every point in space. In this module, the description of fields will be extended by introducing the mathematics of vector calculus.

The module will begin with an introduction to vector calculus, illustrated in the context of the flow of ideal (non-viscous) fluids.

The math­ematics will then be used to provide a framework for describing, understanding and using the laws of electromagnetism. We discuss how electric and magnetic fields are related to each other and to electrical charges and electrical currents. The macroscopic description of electric fields inside dielectric materials and magnetic fields inside magnetizable materials will be described, including the boundary conditions that apply at material interfaces.

The last section of the module will discuss Maxwells equations of electrodynamics and how they lead to the vector wave equation for electromagnetic waves.

Wave Phenomena

Many physical systems support the propagation of waves, from the familiar waves on the surface of water to the electromagnetic waves that we perceive as light. The first half of the module will focus on optics: the study of light. Topics to be covered will include: geometrical optics; wave description of light; interference and diffraction; optical interferometry. The second half of the module will introduce more general methods for the discussion of wave propagation, and Fourier methods.

Intermediate Experimental Physics

In this module you will develop your experimental technique and gain experience of some key instruments and methods. The experiments will cover electrical measurements, optics and radiation. You will also learn how to use a computer to control experiments and to record data directly from measuring instruments.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on

This year is spent at one of our European partner universities, studying in the appropriate European language. Since different universities offer different modules, we tailor the programme to both the individual's interests and what the particular institution has to offer.

In the final year, you will work on a range of activities, projects and presentations. You will also carry out a major research project, either involving consultancy work in industry or collaboration within one of the research groups.

Core modules

Physics Research Project

In this year-long module you’ll aim to solve a theoretical or practical problem. You’ll spend semester one researching your chosen project and carry out your original research in semester two. You’ll have the opportunity to work with external parties such as an industrial laboratory, school or hospital if appropriate to your topic.

Optional modules

Gravity

This module provides an introduction to the modern theory of gravitation: Einstein's general theory of relativity. This module is based on a regular series of two one-hour lectures per week supplemented by a two-hour workshop once a fortnight.

Magnetic Resonance

This module will explain how the intrinsic spin of nuclei and electrons is exploited in magnetic resonance experiments. It will describe the classical and quantum pictures of the phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and show why NMR forms such a powerful analytical tool, today. Basic electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) will also be described, along with the equipment used for NMR and EPR, and some applications of these techniques. 

The Politics, Perception and Philosophy of Physics

In this module you'll gain an appreciation of the broad societal impact of physics (and science in general). You'll be introduced to the politics surrounding science policy (on, e.g., global warming/renewable energy R&D) and research funding. You'll also explorre some of the key ideas in the philosophy of physics and science, particularly as they relate to public perception of scientific research.

Imaging and Image Processing

This module aims to provide you with a working knowledge of the basic techniques of image processing. The major topics covered will include: acquisition of images, image representation, resolution and quantization, image compression and non-Fourier enhancement techniques, among others. You’ll spend around four hours in lectures, eight hours in seminars and have a one hour tutorial each week. 

Order, Disorder and Fluctuations

This module will develop the modern theoretical description of phase transitions and critical phenomena and provide an introduction to the dynamics of non-equilibrium systems. Topics to be covered will include:

 • ordered phases of matter;

 •  order parameters;

 •  scaling behaviour at critical points;

 •  mean-field approaches;

 •  finite-size scaling;

 • stochastic processes;

 • Langevin dynamics and the Fokker-Planck equation.
Applications, both within and beyond, condensed matter physics will be discussed.

Quantum Transport

The module will describe electronic transport phenomena in solid state systems. Topics to be covered will include:

• low-dimensional structures

• ballistic and diffusive transport

• quantum wires and dots

• carbon nanotubes and graphene

• coulomb blockade

• quantum Hall effects

• Anderson localization

• spin transport

• interference and decoherence

Research Techniques in Astronomy

This module develops a range of modern astronomical techniques through student-centered approaches to topical research problems. You’ll cover a range of topics related to ongoing research in astronomy and astrophysics, and will encompass theoretical and observational approaches. This module is based on individual and group student-led activities involving the solution of topical problems including written reports and exercises, and a project.

Advanced Techniques for Nanoscience Research

This module provides a detailed presentation of advanced research topics in nanoscience. The module is divided into four main parts:

  1. Atoms and molecules at surfaces: the effect of adsorption on the electronic, vibrational, and geometric structure of molecules, investigating geometric and electronic structure of adsorbed molecules (photoelectron spectroscopy and x-ray absorption spectroscopy), investigating vibrational structure of molecules on surfaces (electron energy loss spectroscopy and vibrational structure in photoelectron spectroscopy).
  2. Introduction to numerical methods in nanoscience: density functional theory calculations of molecules on and off surfaces.
  3. Assembly and local probing of nanostructures: self- and directed-assembly at the nanoscale, advanced scanning probe microscopy (specialised variants, simultaneous STM/AFM, sub-molecular imaging), measuring atomic and molecular interactions at the single bond limit.
  4. Near-field optics and optical spectroscopy: advanced optical microscopy, vibrational properties of molecules and nanomaterials; optical spectroscopy techniques for molecular characterisation of nanomaterials (UV-vis, Raman spectroscopy), evanescent waves, plasmonics, near-field scanning probe optical microscopy.
Quantum Coherent Devices

This module will focus on solid state and related devices which exhibit quantum coherent effects. Topics to be covered will include; theory of quantum electrical circuits, superconducting resonators and Josephson junctions, flux and charge qbits, superconducting SETs,nanomechanical resonators, noise and decoherence,and quantum information processing.

Modern Cosmology

This module introduces you to the key ideas behind modern approaches to our understanding of the role of inflation in the early and late universe, in particular through the formation of structure, the generation of anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the origin of dark energy. You’ll study through a series of staff lectures and student-led workshops.

Light and Matter

This module will extend previous work in the areas of atomic and optical physics to cover modern topics in the area of quantum effects in light-matter interactions. Some basic material will be introduced in six staff-led seminars and you’ll have around two hours of lectures and student-led workshops each week. 

Modern Applications of Physics

This module aims to help you gain insights into how physics is applied in a range of academic and industrial environments including research to advance knowledge, product development and problem-solving. The taught element of this module will consist of lectures given by staff and invited speakers from industry. Coursework will consist of problem sheets based upon the staff lectures, and a written report describing the physics, history and practical factors involved in the development of a piece of modern technology. There will be a project in which you will work in teams of three or four to address a specific problem and to propose a solution. The assessment of the project will take the form of a group presentation and individual briefing documents.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on

Fees and funding

UK students

£9,250
Per year

International students

£26,500*
Per year
*For full details including fees for part-time students and reduced fees during your time studying abroad or on placement (where applicable), see our fees page.

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2022/23 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies. If you do these would cost around £40.

Due to our commitment to sustainability, we don’t print lecture notes but these are available digitally. You will be given £5 worth of printer credits a year. You are welcome to buy more credits if you need them. It costs 4p to print one black and white page.

If you study abroad, you need to consider the travel and living costs associated with your country of choice. This may include visa costs and medical insurance.

Personal laptops are not compulsory as we have computer labs that are open 24 hours a day but you may want to consider one if you wish to work at home.

Scholarships and bursaries

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £1,000 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 students

We offer a range of international undergraduate scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

International scholarships

Careers

Studying abroad and learning a new language will also develop your communication skills and independence. These assets are hugely sought after by employers.

Studying advanced physics will enable you to become more adaptable and better at problem solving. These are invaluable traits for any career. Our students go on to work in a variety of industries, including engineering, aerospace, IT, and finance, as well as academic research.

Employers of our graduates include Accenture, EDF Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, and various NHS Trusts. Roles include Trainee Clinical Scientist, Medical Physicist, Systems Engineer, Data Analyst and Software Development Engineer.

Average starting salary and career progression

87.0% of undergraduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £26,673.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

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 consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers (Ranked in the top ten in The Graduate Market in 2013-2020, High Fliers Research).

Institute of Physics

The Institute of Physics accredits bachelor and integrated masters degree programmes for the purposes of the professional award of Chartered Physicist. Chartered Physicist requires an IOP accredited degree followed by an appropriate period of experience during which professional skills are acquired. 

An accredited integrated masters degree fulfills the academic requirement for Chartered Physicist status.

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Important information

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.