Undergraduate degree course in Physics (International Study) BSc F301:
Physics addresses some of the deepest questions of how the universe works and explores nature beyond the bounds of human experience. Our staff conducts research from the longest length and time scales - e.g. the role of dark matter in the structure of the Universe and mimicking the Big Bang in heavy nuclear collisions - to the smallest length and time scales, e.g. the hunt for the Higgs boson and other aspects of elementary particle physics.
In between these extremes, understanding how the Sun and stars work, the physics and biophysics of nanoscale structures, quantum states of matter such as superconductivity and ultracold atom gases, and metamaterials (the physics of invisible cloaks) are all key to our research themes.
You can benefit directly from this research activity by joining us and being taught by internationally acknowledged experts at the frontiers of physics; and by taking part in the research itself in the final years of your degree.
MSci Physics with Particle Physics and Cosmology
“All the core modules introduce you to the staples of physics that give us our understanding of technology and the universe and all the amazing processes that we see around us. I like Practical Labs because you learn to: become scientifically rigorous, structure a scientific lab report, design your own experiments, cope when things go wrong and practically apply the physics you have learnt in lectures to experiment. It really distinguishes you from others who haven’t done it and gives you a competitive edge.”
This four-year, accredited, programme has a student satisfaction rating of 98%.
Studying Physics gives you an understanding of the fundamental rules that govern the nature of matter in the universe, and the techniques of scientific problem-solving that underpin this knowledge. You’ll gain a deep understanding of core physics within a strong mathematical framework and there are many opportunities to pursue specialist options, making the Physics degree very flexible. In your third year you’ll also have the chance to undertake a major piece of project work as part of a team of around 20 students.
Physics with International Study gives you the chance to study for a year abroad in Europe as part of the ERASMUS programme, or further afield through the International Exchange Programme at one of our partner universities outside the EU. Exchange students, who undertake Physics with International Study, discover a different way of living, gain an international perspective, improve their language skills, and return with more confidence and independence. More importantly exchange students stand out in the job market.
In Year 1 you will take 40 credits of core physics modules covering relativity and classical mechanics, optics and waves, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermal physics. As physics is an experimental science, you also take 20 credits of laboratory work. You will be taught the necessary mathematics for physicists in a 20 credit module. Transferable skills such as problem solving, oral and written presentation, and career development are covered in a 10 credit Communication Skills module. Finally you can take a 20 credit optional module outside physics, and a 10 credit optional module within physics.
Second year (contributes 1/6 to overall degree mark)
In Year 2 you will take 50 credits of core physics modules developing the ideas from year 1 in greater depth, and introducing new topics such as nuclear and condensed matter physics. This material is supported by 20 credits of laboratory work, including an open-ended project in semester 2. The relevant mathematics is developed in a 20 credit module, whilst transferable skills are further enhanced in a 10 credit Communication Skills module. Finally you choose two 10 credit physics options in theoretical physics, astrophysics, optics, or electronics.
Third year (contributes 1/12 to overall degree mark)
In Year 3 you undertake your exchange visit. Normally you will take a minimum of 40 credits in Physics related disciplines in your exchange institution.
Fourth year (contributes 3/4 to overall degree marks)
In Year 4, you will return from your year abroad and take the third year of the BSc Physics programme. There are a wide range of physics options for you to choose from, enabling you to tailor the degree to your interests, with only 50 credits being core. You will undertake a 20 credit group project working as a team with a group of staff to tackle topics such as designing a particle detector or medical imaging system, detecting extrasolar planets, or building a laser communication system. You also take 20 credits of advanced laboratory, of which 10 credits may be computational. Finally there is a 10 credit synoptic module to synthesise your knowledge across the whole discipline.
Our School of Physics and Astronomy is one of the largest in the country, where internationally recognised research groups work on everything from the smallest fundamental particles through nanoscale physics to cosmology. Our excellence in research and teaching means that we can offer you a strong understanding of core physics, combined with many opportunities to pursue your own interests.
The latest Research Assessment Exercise places us joint fifth in the country. This strength in research enables us to offer specialised modules and projects, delivered by research-active staff working at the cutting edge of physics. We're proud of our small-group teaching environment which includes skills-development sessions, problem-based learning classes and weekly tutorials in groups of no more than four students. The School has well-equipped, state-of-the-art laboratories and computing facilities, and the University has its own observatory on the outskirts of Birmingham.
All our Physics degree programmes are accredited by the Institute of Physics (IoP). This independent, rigorous assessment of our programmes has several advantages for our students. For example, holders of accredited degrees are eligible to follow a route to corporate membership of the Institute and to the CPhys professional qualification. You can find more information at www.iop.org.
Our undergraduate course brochure (pdf) has some grids at the back which show all of the modules that comprise our degree courses. There you can see which modules are compulsory and which are optional for each of the degrees in the School of Physics portfolio. It is possible to compare each degree alongside each other in one place.
The majority of modules are assessed with continuous assessment (20%) and a final exam in the summer (80%).
- Number of A levels required:
- Typical offer:
- A*AA (A* in Maths or Physics with an A in the other and another A in the third A-level ) or AAAA to include Maths and Physics.
- Required subjects and grades:
- A basic proficiency in your chosen language of at least GCSE grade B
- General Studies:
- Accepted as 4th A level in AAAA entry criteria.
Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.
International Baccalaureate Diploma: 7,6,6 at Higher Level, including Mathematics and Physics, with a minimum of 32 points overall. 7 must be in Mathematics or Physics.
Standard English language requirements apply.
Learn more about international entry requirements.
Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.
Key Information Set (KIS)
Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.
All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.
The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.
The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.
How will I be taught?
As a Birmingham student, you are joining the academic elite and have the privilege of learning from world-leading experts in the field of physics and astronomy. Throughout your studies, you'll be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner, thriving on challenge and opportunities to think for yourself.
Personal tutor: The School has a comprehensive welfare system based around academic and personal tutors, and led by the Senior Tutor, who will see students at any time. Our tutors support you throughout your studies to help you in three important areas: supporting your academic progress, developing transferable skills and dealing with any welfare issues. You can also raise any issues related to your studies at the Staff Student Committee or, for the fastest response, the weekly meeting of Student Representatives.
Contact hours: In your first year, the course is delivered as lectures, small group workshops, laboratories, computer-based activities, enquiry-based learning and tutorials. Much of your learning will be carried out in small groups, including laboratory work, examples classes, and tutorials. There's a strong emphasis on project work throughout your degree, especially in your final year.
Laboratory-based work is an integral part of our Physics degree programme, vital to develop your experimental practical skills, and to reinforce concepts introduced in lectures or to explore a particular phenomenon. You will benefit from our recent £1 million investment into additional first-class physics-teaching laboratory facilities.
Lectures form the major source of information for most modules and are delivered in a variety of styles by enthusiastic staff, in our state-of-the-art lecture theatres.
Small group tutorials support your lectures in years one and two, consisting of groups of no more than four meeting once a week with an academic or researcher. By year three you'll be choosing from a wide range of options and specialisms, beyond the scope of a single tutor. Instead you can sign up for 'supervisions' - specialist tutorials given by a senior academic carrying out research into each specific area.
Project work allows you to take part in our leadingresearch activity across the full breadth of the subject - from astrophysics to quantum matter and particle physics - in every year of your degree. It's an unprecedented chance to gain easy access to world experts and cutting-edge equipment in all the major branches of the subject.
Examples classes focus on working through problems issued by the lecturer and are usually run by a lecturer with the help of one or more graduate students. They're a chance to check your learning and reflect on particular examples.
Web-based learning is an essential part of the programme, with all our modules linked to iVLE - a virtual learning environment that gives you access to lecture notes, additional learning units, self-tests and supplementary interactive information to support your learning.
Each module is assessed independently with most containing some components of continuous assessment. Typically, year one and two lecture modules contain 20% continuous assessment in the form of weekly problem sheets. Some modules are completely assessed by coursework. Assessment methods include end-of-year examinations in May and June, written assignments, oral and poster presentations, computer-based tests, and laboratory and project reports.
During your first year you will undergo a formal 'transition' review to see how you are getting on and whether there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to your tutor who is based in Physics and can help with any academic issues you encounter.
Feedback is an essential part of learning and we use a wide range of methods, such as written feedback on your assessments, oral feedback during examples classes, workshop sessions, laboratories, and one-on-one discussions with your tutors. You'll receive prompt feedback on each assessment, highlighting the positives of your work as well as any areas that need more attention. You will also be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you need to resit an exam, we will ensure that you receive detailed feedback and support to enable you to learn for the future.
Feedback shows that 90%-95% of our students go on to work or study on graduation. Of those in employment, typically, around 90% gain graduate-level jobs and are earning salaries in the region of £18,000-£26,000 pa six months after graduation.
Preparing for your career is one of the first things you need to think about when you start university. As a Physics graduate, you have great potential to gain an intellectually stimulating, well-paid and high-powered job. You could pursue a career in research in an academic or industrial environment, or you could work in product development for a high-tech company. You could also apply your analytical and computational skills through scientific consultancy. This is just the beginning, with many other careers open to you, including teaching, patent law, and mathematical finance.
Studying physics at Birmingham is much more than attending lectures. As you progress through your degree, we place a great emphasis on teaching you transferable skills: mathematical, computational, problem solving, group working, management and presentational. They will all contribute to making you more attractive to potential employers.
Alumni Brigid Jones (MSci Physics) talks about her time at Birmingham
Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network and the School's own career tutor can help you to secure research or industry placements and, eventually, your graduate job.
Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CVs and job applications will help give you the edge. In addition, our employer-endorsed, award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.
Your Birmingham degree is evidence of your ability to succeed in a demanding academic environment. Employers target Birmingham students for their drive, diversity, communication and problem-solving skills, their team-working abilities and cultural awareness, and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.
Past Physics and Astronomy graduates have gone into a very wide range of challenging and rewarding careers in destinations which include:
NHS - Medical Physics
Accenture - Technology Services
University Careers Network
Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.
If you make the most of the wide range of services
you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.
Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) 2011/12
The DLHE survey is conducted 6 months after graduation.
Examples of occupations
Trainee Clinical Scientist
Secondary School Teacher - Physics
Nuclear Manufacturing Engineer Intern
Internet Application Engineer
Further study - examples of courses
MSc Computer Science
MSc Forensic Ballistics
MSc Medical Imagery
MSc Nuclear Physics
MSc Physics and Technology
MRes Chemical Engineering
PhD Electronic Engineering
PhD Physical Sciences
Visit the Careers section of the University website for further information.
Accredited by the Institute of Physics.