The School of Physical Sciences is a dynamic multidisciplinary department, achieving national and international excellence in physics, chemistry, and forensic science. We offer a broad training in physics, and provide an ideal preparation for a wide range of careers in the manufacturing and service industries as well as education, the media and the financial sector.
In this MPhys programme, core knowledge and skills are enhanced with the further in-depth training required for a science-based career, including the practical aspects of research.
Our degree programme
Astronomy, space science and astrophysics allow us to see the Universe and our place in it. Through studying these subjects, mankind has continually enlarged its horizons and explored the cosmos. The subjects continually evolve and change every year based on discoveries by researchers around the world.
In your first year, you get to grips with the broad knowledge base on which physical science is built, studying astronomy and special relativity, computing skills, mathematics, mechanics, electricity, thermodynamics, laboratory and computational skills.
Your second and third years cover a broad range of subjects such as the multiwavelength universe and exoplanets, spacecraft design and operations, data analysis in astronomy and planetary science, atomic and nuclear physics, quantum physics, mathematical techniques, electromagnetism and optics, and analytical mechanics. You also learn a number of skills related to the investigation and planning of research.
In your final year, the combination of specialist modules and laboratory work on individual projects opens avenues for even deeper exploration: for example, advanced quantum mechanics, cosmology and Interstellar medium, rocketry and human spaceflight, and space astronomy and solar system science.
ASSA student Emma Spyrides explains what studying at the University of Kent is like.
This programme is also offered with a year abroad, where you spend the third year of your degree studying at one of our partner universities. For details, see Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics with a Year Abroad.
Year in industry
You can take this degree as a four-year programme and spend a year working on a placement. For more details, see Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics with a Year in Industry.
Alternatively, if you would prefer to study for a three-year BSc (Hons) programme, see Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics.
The Beacon Observatory provides a fully automised system with both optical telescope and radio telescope capability. It includes a 17" astrograph from Plane Wave Instruments with a 4k x 4k CCD and a BVRIHa filter set, as well as a 90-frames-per-second camera.
You have access to first-class research facilities in new laboratories. These are well equipped for synthetic and analytical techniques ranging from soft organic polymers to nanoparticles to highly sensitive organometallic species.
The University is a member of the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), which offers a competitive programme of summer internships to Stage 2 and 3 undergraduates.
The School of Physical Sciences is home to an international scientific community of physics and astronomy, chemistry and forensic science students. Numerous formal and informal opportunities for discussion make it easy to participate in the academic life of the School. All students have an academic adviser and we also run a peer mentoring scheme.
You are encouraged to participate in conferences and professional events to build up your knowledge of the science community and enhance your professional development. The School also works collaboratively with business partners, which allows you to see how our research influences current practice.
You can also take part in:
the School’s Physical Sciences Colloquia, a popular series of talks given by internal and external experts on relevant and current topicsthe student-run Physics and Space Societies, which organise talks with top industry professionals, practical demonstrations and social events
The School of Physical Sciences also has links with:
the Home Officeoptical laboratorieslocal health authoritiesaerospace/defence industriessoftware and engineering companies Interpol.
Teaching is by lecture, laboratory sessions, and project and console classes. You have approximately nine lectures a week, plus one day of practical work. In addition, you have reading and coursework and practical reports to prepare. In the MPhys final year, you work with a member of staff on an experimental or computing project.
Assessment is by written examination at the end of each year, plus continuous assessment of written coursework. Practical work is examined by continuous assessment.
Please note that there are degree thresholds at stages 2 and 3 that you will be required to pass in order to continue onto the next stages.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
- Physical laws and principles, and their application to diverse
areas of physics, including: electromagnetism, classical and quantum
mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, wave phenomena and
the properties of matter as fundamental aspects, with additional
material from nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics,
materials, plasmas and fluids.
- Aspects of theory and practice, and a knowledge of key physics, the use of electronic data processing and analysis, and modern day
mathematical and computational tools.
- The fundamental laws and principles of physics and of astronomy, astrophysics and space science and their application.
You gain the following intellectual abilities:
- Identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
- Solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
- Execute and analyse critically the results of an experiment or
investigation and draw valid conclusions, evaluate the level of
uncertainty in these results and compare them with expected outcomes,
theoretical predictions or with published data to evaluate the
significance of the results in this context.
- Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.
- Comment critically on how spacecraft are designed, their principles of operation, and their use to access and explore space, and how telescopes are designed, their principles of operation, and their use in astronomy and astrophysics research.
- Solve advanced problems in physics using appropriate mathematical
tools, translate problems into mathematical statements and apply
knowledge to obtain order of magnitude or more precise solutions.
- Interpret mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena.
- Plan an experiment or investigation under supervision and understand the significance of error analysis.
- Have a working knowledge of a variety of experimental, mathematical and/or computational techniques applicable to current research within
- Enhanced knowledge of the science drivers that underpin
government-funded research and the commercial activity that provides
hardware or software solutions to challenging scientific problems in the fields of astronomy, space science and astrophysics.
You gain subject-specific skills in the following:
- Competent use of appropriate C&IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and information retrieval.
- The ability to present and interpret information graphically.
- Communicating scientific information and producing clear and accurate scientific reports.
- Familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
- The systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
- The ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources.
- Fluency in C&IT at the level and range needed for project work
such as familiarity with a programming language, simulation software or
the use of mathematical packages for manipulation and numerical solution of equations.
- The ability to communicate complex scientific ideas, the conclusion of an experiment, investigation or project concisely, accurately and
- Experimental methodology showing the competent use of specialised
equipment, the ability to identify appropriate pieces of equipment and
to master new techniques and equipment.
- The ability to make use of research articles and other primary sources.
You gain transferable skills in the following:
- Problem-solving, an ability to formulate problems in precise terms
and identify key issues, the confidence to try different approaches to
make progress on challenging problems, and numeracy.
- Investigative skills in the context of independent investigation
including the use of textbooks and other literature, databases, and
interaction with colleagues to extract important information.
- Communication: dealing with surprising ideas and difficult
concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and
presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner.
- Analytical skills associated with the need to pay attention to
detail, the ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to
construct logical arguments and use technical language correctly.
- The ability to work independently, to use initiative, meet deadlines and to interact constructively with other people.
The programme aims to:
- Instil and/or enhance a sense of enthusiasm for physics by
understanding the role of the discipline at the core of our intellectual knowledge of all aspects of nature, and as the foundation of many of
the pure and applied sciences.
- Instil an appreciation of the subject's application in different
contexts, in an intellectually stimulating research-led environment.
- Motivate and support students to realise their academic potential.
- Provide a balanced foundation of physics knowledge and practical skills, and an understanding of scientific methodology.
- Enable students to undertake and report on an experimental and/or
theoretical investigation; in the case of the MPhys to base this in part on an extended research project.
- Develop the ability to apply skills, knowledge and understanding in physics to the solution of theoretical and practical problems in the
- Provide knowledge and a skills base from which students can proceed to further studies in specialised areas of physics or multidisciplinary areas involving physical principles; the MPhys is particularly geared
for those wishing to undertake physics research.
- Generate an appreciation of the importance of physics in the industrial, economic, environmental and social contexts.
- Instil an appreciation of the subject through its application in current research.
- Generate an appreciation of the importance of astronomy,
astrophysics and space science and its role in understanding how the
universe in which we live came about and how it continues to exist and
- Provide a grounding in space systems and technology, and the
overlap between the science and commercial drivers in the aerospace