Physics and Astrophysics MPhys

2024-25 entry
School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Develop the skills for a career in research, whether you want to help map the universe as an astrophysicist or apply your scientific knowledge to solve problems in industry. Our physics and astrophysics degree has more astrophysics content than most others in the UK.

Key details

Explore this course:

    Course description

    Students with the University of Sheffield's rooftop telescopes

    Expand beyond the limits of conventional degrees with a year-long research project, and over 50% of your time dedicated to exploring the matter and laws of our universe.

    The University of Sheffield Physics and Astrophysics MPhys has more astrophysics content than other physics departments. Along with essential physics modules, 50% of your time here will be dedicated to studying everything from the formation of our solar system, to stars and galaxies and the evolution of our universe.

    You’ll also develop the skills for a career in research, whether you want to help map our universe as an astrophysicist or apply your scientific knowledge to solve problems in industry.

    Because we shape you into fully rounded scientists, from your first year you’ll learn through practical work – including the use of our two telescopes on the roof of the faculty building.

    You’ll explore essential physics in even more depth in your second year, and continue to specialise in astrophysics with modules on the structure and evolution of stars and galaxies. 

    And because curiosity is what makes great astrophysicists, we’ll encourage you to dive into optional modules during your third year – exploring topics like dark matter and nuclear astrophysics, alongside core modules on cosmology.

    Finally, you’ll complete a year-long research project, where you’ll get to work with leading researchers to investigate a real scientific question. Alongside your scientific expertise, you’ll also gain time management, project planning and analysis skills – setting you up for a career in research, or in the industry of your choice.

    Why study this course?

    • No. 1 physics department in the UK - 100% of our research and impact was rated world-leading or internationally excellent by REF 2021.
    • More astro content than most degrees - you can study 50% astrophysics content throughout your degree, more than most universities offer.
    • The latest equipment - you’ll study in our newly refurbished teaching laboratories, and access loads of specialist technologies – including two telescopes on the roof of our building.
    • Incredible research opportunities - as well as the year-long research project, you can access incredible research opportunities, including a summer research placement, work placements and field trips, thanks to our links with organisations like CERN and the observatories on La Palma in the Canary Islands.
    • Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP) - our courses meet the educational requirement for you to become a Chartered Physicist.
    • Follow your ambition - you have the options to complete a research project, industrial group project, Quantum Information Lab, or Physics Education and Outreach project – giving you hands-on experience wherever your career aspirations lie.

    Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP) for the purpose of fully meeting the educational requirement for Chartered Physicist.

    Modules

    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:

    Title: Physics and Astrophysics MPhys course structure
    UCAS code: F3F5
    Years: 2023, 2024
    First year

    Core modules:

    Our Evolving Universe

    The course provides a general overview of astronomy suitable for those with no previous experience of the subject. The principal topics covered are (1) how we deduce useful physical parameters from observed quantities, (2) the structure and evolution of stars, (3) the structure of the Milky Way, and the classification, structure and evolution of galaxies in general, (4) an introduction to cosmology and (5) extrasolar plantets and an introduction to astrobiology. All topics are treated in a descriptive manner with minimal mathematics.

    10 credits
    Introductory Mathematics for Physicists and Astronomers

    This module provides the necessary introductory  level 1 mathematics for students taking physics and / or astronomy degrees except those taking theoretical physics degrees.

    Topics will be covered in two equally weighted streams: Stream A: common functions of one variable, differentiation, series expansions,  integration and ordinary differential equations. Stream B:  basic complex numbers, vector manipulation, properties and applications of matrices.

    20 credits
    Introduction to Astrophysics

    One of four half-modules forming the Level-1 Astronomy course, PHY104 aims to equip students with a basic understanding of the important physical concepts and techniques involved in astronomy with an emphasis on how fundamental results can be derived from fairly simple observations. The module consists of three sections:

    (i) Basic Concepts, Fluxes, Temperatures and Magnitudes;

    (ii) Astronomical Spectroscopy;

    (iii) Gravitational Astrophysics.

    Parts (i), (ii) and (iii) each comprise some six lectures. The lectures are supported by problems classes, in which you will learn to apply lecture material to the solution of numerical problems.

    10 credits
    The Solar System

    One of the four half-modules forming the Level 1 astronomy course, but may also be taken as a stand-alone module. PHY106 covers the elements of the Solar System: the Sun, planets, moons and minor bodies. What are their structures and compositions, and what dothey tell us about the formation and history of the Solar System?

    10 credits
    Further Mathematics for Physicists and Astronomers

    This module provides the necessary additional mathematics for all students taking physics and/or astronomy degrees including those taking theoretical physics degrees. The following topics will be covered: introduce the students to vector calculus; elementary probability theory; ensure that the students have a thorough knowledge of how to apply mathematical tools to physical problems.

    10 credits
    Fundamentals of Physics

    This module introduces the fundamentals of University Physics that are built on in later years of study.  This includes the development of data analysis skills, laboratory skills, scientific report writing and communication along with the ability to analyse physics problems and solve them using pen and paper, experiment and computer programming. Key concepts in electromagnetism, classical mechanics, thermal physics, waves and oscillations and quantum mechanics will be studied and used to develop problem solving.

    50 credits
    Observing the Night Sky

    This module aims to equip the student with a grounding in the observational and computational data analysis skills they will need as part of an astronomy degree programme, and is an essential pre-requisite of the more advanced handling of astrophysical data that will be expected as part of Levels 2, 3 and 4. The module consists of a mixture of taught material, workshops, and practical activities in positional astronomy, telescope optics, practical observing skills, basic python programming, and astrophysical data analysis.

    10 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Learning and assessment

    Learning

    You'll learn through lectures, small group tutorials, programming classes, practical sessions in the lab and research projects.

    We invest to create the right environment for you. That means outstanding facilities, study spaces and support, including 24/7 online access to our online library service.

    Study spaces and computers are available to offer you choice and flexibility for your study. Our five library sites give you access to over 1.3 million books and periodicals. You can access your library account and our rich digital collections from anywhere on or off campus. Other library services include study skills training to improve your grades, and tailored advice from experts in your subject.

    Learning support facilities and library opening hours

    Assessment

    You will be assessed through a portfolio of problem sets, lab work and other material, as well as exams, essays, lab reports and presentations.

    Programme specification

    This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.

    Find programme specification for this course

    Entry requirements

    With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible.

    Standard offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
    AAA
    including Maths and Physics + pass in the practical element of any science A Levels taken

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    AAB, including AA in Maths and Physics + A in a relevant EPQ
    International Baccalaureate
    36, with 6 in Higher Level Maths and Physics
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    Not accepted
    BTEC Diploma
    Not accepted
    Scottish Highers + 2 Advanced Highers
    AAABB + AA in Maths and Physics
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    A + AA in Maths and Physics
    Access to HE Diploma
    Award of Access to HE Diploma in Science, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 39 at Distinction (all in Maths/Physics units), and 6 at Merit
    Access Sheffield offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
    AAB
    including Maths and Physics + pass in the practical element of any science A Levels taken

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    AAB, including AA in Maths and Physics + A in a relevant EPQ
    International Baccalaureate
    34, with 6, 5 (in any order) in Higher Level Maths and Physics
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    Not accepted
    BTEC Diploma
    Not accepted
    Scottish Highers + 2 Advanced Highers
    AABBB + AB in Maths and Physics
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + AA in Maths and Physics
    Access to HE Diploma
    Award of Access to HE Diploma in Science, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 36 at Distinction (all in Maths/Physics units), and 9 at Merit
    English language requirements

    You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for an International Foundation Year in Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

    Graduate careers

    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    Our physics students develop numerical, problem solving and data analysis skills that are useful in many graduate jobs, including computer programming, software engineering, data science, and research and development into new products and services. Their expertise can be applied to many of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, from developing renewable energy technologies and improving medical treatments to creating quantum telecommunications systems and exploring outer space.

    Students who want to work as a physics researcher often do a PhD, which can lead to a career at a top university or a major international research facility such as CERN.

    The University of Sheffield is part of the White Rose Industrial Physics Academy. This partnership of university physics departments and technical industries can set up collaborations between our students and industrial partners through internships, year in industry placements, final year projects and careers activities. WRIPA also organises the UK’s largest physics recruitment fair, where our students can meet potential employers.

    Ciaran Allen

    My degree fostered my interest in data, which I use every week in my job

    Ciaran Allen BSc Physics and Astrophysics

    Ciaran went into the medical implant and instrument manufacturing industry after graduation, to build on the interest in data he developed during his degree.

    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    1st in the UK in terms of the quality of our physics research

    Research Excellence Framework 2021

    2D materials laboratory

    The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences is leading the way with groundbreaking research and innovative teaching. We provide our students with the skills and knowledge to support them in a wide range of careers.

    Physics courses at the University of Sheffield are focused on some of the biggest questions in science, such as how to build a quantum computer, how to detect dark matter and how to distribute clean energy. Our lecturers run experiments on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and help to map the Universe using the Hubble Space Telescope. They’ll guide you through key topics and offer you a huge range of optional modules.

    Physics and astronomy students are based in the Hicks Building, which has undergraduate teaching laboratories with all the equipment you need for your physics and astronomy training, as well as classrooms, lecture theatres, computer rooms and social spaces. It's right next door to the UK’s number one students’ union, down the road from the 24/7 library facilities at the Information Commons and the Diamond, and a short walk from the city centre.

    Facilities

    Physics and astronomy students are trained in our teaching laboratories and can access a range of specialist technologies. We have telescopes and a solar technology testbed on the roof, state-of-the-art laboratories for building super-resolution microscopes and analysing 2D materials, and the UK’s first Quantum Information Laboratory, where students can study the fundamental science behind the next technological revolution.

    In their final year, MPhys students are based in a specialist research laboratory where scientists are studying technologies such as 2D materials, photovoltaic devices and advanced microscopy tools.

    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    University rankings

      Number one in the Russell Group
    National Student Survey 2024 (based on aggregate responses)

      University of the Year and best for Student Life 
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024

      92 per cent of our research is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent
    Research Excellence Framework 2021

      Top 50 in the most international universities rankings
    Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023

      Number one Students' Union in the UK
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024, 2023, 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017

      Number one for teaching quality, Students' Union and clubs/societies
    StudentCrowd 2023 University Awards

      A top 20 university targeted by employers
    The Graduate Market in 2023, High Fliers report

    Student profiles

    Kyle Young

    The most appealing thing to me was the high student satisfaction rate

    Kyle Young BSc Physics and Astrophysics

    Kyle was attracted to Sheffield thanks to our high rates of student satisfaction. Now he's enjoying the range of astrophysics topics we cover on his degree programme.

    Lauren Lewis

    Sheffield's student-centred approach confirmed it was the university I wanted to study at

    Lauren Lewis Physics and Astrophysics BSc

    Lauren expanded her passion for physics during her degree, studying topics that range from stellar structure to galaxy formation and evolution, and from special relativity to astronomical spectroscopy.

    Fees and funding

    Fees

    Additional costs

    The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.

    Examples of what’s included and excluded

    Funding your study

    Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.

    Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.

    Additional funding

    The University of Sheffield’s Experience Sheffield Scholarships includes a number of scholarships that are guaranteed to go to students in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences scholarships

    Placements and study abroad

    Placement

    You may have the opportunity to add an industrial placement year as part of your course, converting the four year course to a five-year Degree with an Industrial Placement Year.

    A placement year will help you to:

    • gain an insight into possible careers
    • develop a range transferable skills 
    • build a professional network
    • get a feel for what you do and don’t like doing
    • add valuable work experience to your CV
    • gain experience of applying for jobs and interview practice
    • apply elements of academic learning in the workplace

    Study abroad

    Spending time abroad during your degree is a great way to explore different cultures, gain a new perspective and experience a life-changing opportunity that you will never forget.

    You can apply to extend this course with a year abroad, usually studying abroad between the second and third year at Sheffield. Or you can apply to replace a year of your time at Sheffield with a period abroad without adding an additional year to your course. 

    We have over 250 University partners worldwide. Popular destinations for our students include Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. 

    Find out more on the Global Opportunities website.

    Visit

    University open days

    We host five open days each year, usually in June, July, September, October and November. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.

    Open days: book your place

    Subject tasters

    If you’re considering your post-16 options, our interactive subject tasters are for you. There are a wide range of subjects to choose from and you can attend sessions online or on campus.

    Upcoming taster sessions

    Offer holder days

    If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our offer holder days, which take place between February and April. These open days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.

    Campus tours

    Our weekly guided tours show you what Sheffield has to offer - both on campus and beyond. You can extend your visit with tours of our city, accommodation or sport facilities.

    Campus tour: book your place

    Apply

    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:
    www.ucas.com

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer

    2024-2025

    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:
    www.ucas.com

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    Develop the skills for a career in research, whether you want to help map the universe as an astrophysicist or apply your scientific knowledge to solve problems in industry. Our physics and astrophysics degree has more astrophysics content than most others in the UK.

    No No