BSc (Hons) Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology - University of Portsmouth
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BSc (Hons)

Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology

UCAS codeF301

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

Study the physical world

Course Overview

Why take this course?

Stunning advances are being made every day in Astrophysics and Cosmology. This course gives you a deep understanding of the fundamental laws of physics and shows how their application determines the structure and behaviour of the whole universe and its constituent astrophysical parts. Employability skills are embedded within the course ensuring an excellent preparation for your future career.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Interact with world-leading researchers from the University’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation working at the forefront of modern astrophysics
  • Undertake a funded year-long or summer placement in a physics-based or space related industry or research facility
  • Develop skills in the investigation and solution of astrophysical and cosmological problems using observational, theoretical and computational techniques

What opportunities might it lead to?

There are opportunities for employment as a scientific researcher in many areas of technical-based industry or commerce. The course will also equip you for further study at masters or PhD level in many areas of physics including astrophysics and cosmology.

Here are some routes our graduates may pursue:

  • Graduate employment in space-related industries for example in the development of space systems and communications in aerospace industries
  • PhD and Masters studies for example in cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy and theoretical physics
  • Development and applications of information technology particularly in the fields of big data analysis



Mathematics and Physics

Find out what our students say about studying at Portsmouth, including:

  • The practical problem-solving approach based on real-world issues
  • Approachable lecturers who are doing current research
  • Relevant work placements to help build employability skills

Browse all courses in Mathematics and Physics

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

The first year blends lectures, tutorials, industry visits, laboratory and coursework to develop your understanding of core physics so that you can study its applications in astrophysics and cosmology. Mathematical and computational skills are taught within the context of physics.

Core units include:

  • Introduction to Mathematical Physics
  • Space Science and Applications of Physics
  • An Introduction to Laboratory and Field Physics
  • An Introduction to Computational Physics
  • Electricity and Magnetism

Year two

You will further develop your knowledge of essential core physics as well as beginning to specialise in astrophysics and cosmology through a choice of options. There is also an opportunity for an eight week paid summer placement through the South East Physics Network.

Core units in this year include:

  • Mathematical Physics
  • Introduction to Modern Physics and Astrophysics
  • Waves and Optics
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Computational Physics
  • Universe, Planetary Systems, Stars and Galaxies
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Laboratory Physics

Year three*

Work begins to conform more fully to the professional standards expected of a practicing physicist. Teaching and learning will develop your higher-level skills of analysis and synthesis of knowledge required at this level. A major project gives you an opportunity to further specialise in an active area of astrophysical or cosmological research.

Core units in this year include:

  • Solid State Physics and Detectors
  • Modern Astrophysics 1
  • Physical Cosmology

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Mathematical Methods for Physics
  • Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information
  • Particle Physics
  • Radiofrequency and Microwave Systems
  • Undergraduate Ambassador (for those interested in teaching)

*This course is also available as a 4-year sandwich (work placement). We can help you to find a work placement in a space-related industry.

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.


Teaching and learning includes lectures and tutorials, laboratory activities, problem-based learning exercises, computational physics workshops, external site visits and project work. A variety of teaching and learning approaches is used to create an exciting blended learning experience.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 36% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 64% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 25% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 75% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 19% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 81% studying independently and 0% on work placement


Assessment opportunities are varied and balanced between coursework and different types of examination.

  • Laboratory reports
  • Individual or group presentations and posters
  • Coursework problem sheets
  • Computer modelling reports
  • Open and closed book examination

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 28% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 72% by coursework
  • Year two students: 47% by written exams, 4% by practical exams and 49% by coursework
  • Year three students: 43% by written exams, 7% by practical exams and 50% by coursework

Tutor's view


Dr Karen Masters
Reader in Astrophysics

Astronomers in Portsmouth are at the cutting edge of making bigger and better maps of our Universe. As modern astronomers, we work in large international collaborations and make use of the latest advances in technology to deal with astronomically big data. This course will help you learn more about the physical principles that underpin astronomical technology development in areas such as optics, digital cameras, wifi, GPS systems, database handling and more, as well as to understand how we use observations of the night skies to tackle some of the biggest questions in the Universe.

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Facilities & Features

Specialist Software and Scientific Equipment

Astronomical Observations and project work can be carried out at the Clanfield Observatory run by the Hampshire Astronomical Group where you may also carry out your extended projects using the various telescopes, including the latest 24in reflector.

Supercomputers such as SCIAMA at the University of Portsmouth help researchers model the Universe, allowing complex computational models to be evaluated in a few months, where a normal computer would take several hundred years and the galaxy itself would require several billion years. This computer has 960 computer cores yielding 8.3 Million CPU Hours within a year.


Access to the latest observation astronomical survey data from international collaborations such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The SDSS has gathered more than 100 Terabytes and contains measurements of the properties of nearly half a billion stars and galaxies, making it one of the largest and richest databases in the history of astronomy.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider

The cost of travel or accommodation associated with compulsory fieldwork is included in the course fee. You will be expected to pay for meals and other subsistence costs associated with compulsory fieldwork.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

The Physics courses at Portsmouth are specifically designed to produce graduates with the knowledge and skills identified by employers and researchers. You may reasonably expect to enter employment through graduate programmes in the space-related or other industry or to progress to further study.

Roles our graduates have taken on include:

  • PhD research in Astrophysics
  • Further study at MSc level in Cosmology
  • Graduate employment in both science-based and more general industries

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunites

Between the second and third year you can undertake a summer placement either independently or through the South East Physics Network (SEPnet) Bursary Scheme. The Times Higher Education award-nominated SEPnet scheme is eight weeks long and is currently supported with a £2000 bursary. Students have worked both in physics-related industry and in academic research environments. A dedicated SEPnet Employer Engagement Officer will support you in finding placements.

There is also the opportunity to work in space–related, or other types of, industry for one year. Many companies organise year-in-industry placements and you are supported in applying both by members of the department and by the University's employment professionals.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

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