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.
Please be reassured that the vote to leave the European Union does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the UK university sector's participation in EU programmes such as Erasmus and study abroad programmes. Visit our EU Referendum information page for more information.
“I studied straight physics at Birmingham, although my module choices had a focus on theoretical, particle and nuclear physics. My final year project involved the computational analysis of data from ALICE, one of the experiments at the LHC, in relation to the quark-gluon plasma. At the time there was little information in textbooks which was challenging and equally rewarding. ”
This programme is designed for students who want to study physics with a mathematical emphasis. You benefit from the wide variety of modules available in the School. Its sister programme (Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics) also allows you to keep open the possibility of specialising in applied mathematics.
The Theoretical Physics programme is composed of a mixture of lectures, small tutorials, workshops with challenging open-ended problems, and project work. The Theoretical Physics course itself comes in two varieties – ‘Lab’ and ‘No Lab’ – and you are free to choose between them on arrival. Both cover the essential core of theoretical physics with the ‘Lab’ option allowing students to undertake experimental work too, while the ‘No Lab’ students take courses in data analysis and some additional mathematical physics courses instead. By the middle of the second year the ‘Lab’ and ‘No Lab’ options combine with neither at a disadvantage.
There are many optional modules, and we encourage theoretical students to take full advantage of these – progress (particularly in theoretical physics) often comes from analogy with another part of physics that is superficially unrelated. There are opportunities to develop your computing skills; for example, the optional computational physics course in Year 3 is very popular, where the complementary strengths and limitations of analytic and numerical work are laid bare in the context of real physics examples.
The MSci course culminates with a theory research project which covers topics at the forefront of current research. However, you don’t have to wait until the fourth year to see the latest developments in theoretical physics. For example, one of the most significant discoveries has been in chaos and dynamical systems. You will be introduced to this subject in the first year and study it more deeply in the last two years of the programme. We also teach the classical subjects of general relativity (Einstein’s theory of gravity), classical and quantum mechanics and quantum field theory (the language of elementary particle physics). All combine to give you the theoretical physicist’s insight into the workings of the Universe.
Hear from our students
Interested in Computer Science?
Year in Computer Science' offers students from non-computing disciplines the chance to gain in-depth knowledge of computing and enhance their work-based skills through the study of Computer Science.
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.
Our 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.
Annual tuition fees 2019/20
tuition fees page for more information.
At Birmingham we ensure that fears about finance do not constrain prospective students from considering university and that excellence is rewarded.
- Number of A levels required:
- Typical offer:
- Required subjects and grades:
- A level Mathematics A*, A level Physics A* and A in one further subject (which can include Further Mathematics) OR A level Mathematics A*, Further Mathematics A*, Physics A
- General Studies:
- not accepted
International Baccalaureate Diploma:
7,7,6 at Higher Level, including Mathematics and Physics, with a minimum of 32 points overall. 7 must be in Mathematics and Physics.
Only considered when combined with other qualifications.
Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.
Would you like to study for one of our degrees but lack the entry qualifications we require? Consider a Foundation Year programme which can lead to entry onto one of our courses.
Standard English language requirements apply, learn more about
international entry requirements.
International students applying for this programme will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office before the University can issue you with a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). We recommend that you apply for your ATAS certificate as soon as you receive an offer from us. More information can be found here: www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/what-we-do/services-we-deliver/atas/.
Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.
Apply through the UCAS website using code F343.
UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.
View advice on '
How to apply for undergraduate courses', including advice for UK, EU and overseas applicants.
You will be taught by a mixture of professors, doctors and postgraduates, thereby receiving a rich diversity of academic knowledge and experience.You can find out more about the members of staff in the School of Physics and Astronomy here where you can read about their qualifications, publication history and specific areas of interest.
What you can expect
Throughout your Physics programmes you can expect an average of about 20 hours of contact time per week comprising of lectures, laboratory based activity and tutorials. These figures may vary due to module choice and progression. Programmes including a Year in International Study or a Year in Computer Science may include a different amount of contact hours during that year. This figure may also vary on The Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics programmes due to the teaching of the School of Mathematics modules.
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. During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into University. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.
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.
The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2016/17 shows that 96% of our Physics and Astronomy graduates are in employment or further study 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
The graduate employment market is competitive, many employers require evidence of employability or being ready for the world of work.
Internships represent a great way for you to gain experience of the workplace. They also offer employers the opportunity of clarifying what they are looking for and perhaps even assessing interns for future employment.
We offer our students the opportunity of internship placements during their time at Birmingham.
The video below talks to students, staff and employers about their internship experience:
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.
Visit the careers section of the University website for further information.
Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.
Clubs and societies
The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.
Physical Society is the oldest student society at Birmingham.
Other societies which may be of interest include the Astronomical
Society , Theoretical
Physics Society and the Nuclear Society
Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.
The City of Birmingham
One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.
Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.
The University of Birmingham has been welcoming international students onto our campus since 1900.
We have one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK, with 5,000 international students from more than 150 different countries and 31% of our academic staff from overseas.
If you would like further information about entry requirements, how to apply and funding options, then you can visit our international students webpage. You may also wish to take a virtual tour of our campus and watch the video below to hear our international students say their favourite thing about the University of Birmingham.