Physics

Physics - BSc (Hons)
with a Foundation Year

Physics reaches from the quark out to the largest of galaxies, and encompasses all the matter and timescales within these extremes. Our foundation year gives those without the relevant scientific background, or who don't meet the entry requirements, the knowledge and skills needed to take on any of our Physics degrees. These in turn open up a wide range of excellent career opportunities.

Overview

At the heart of a professional physicist is a fascination with the ‘how and why’ of the material world around us. We aim to equip you with the skills to understand these phenomena and to qualify you for a range of career pathways.

The School of Physical Sciences is a dynamic multidisciplinary department, achieving national and international excellence in chemistry, forensic science and physics. 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.

As a foundation year student, you are a full member of the University and can take part in all student activities.

Our degree programme

This programme is for science students who do not meet the requirements for direct entry to Stage 1 of our degree programmes. It is also an excellent conversion course for applicants who have shown academic ability in non-science subjects. We also consider applicants without traditional academic qualifications who have relevant professional experience.

In your foundation year, you study mathematics, physics, electronics and computing, and take part in practical classes. Successful completion of the foundation year guarantees entry onto any of the School’s Physics or Astronomy degree courses.

In the first year of the BSc, you get to grips with the broad knowledge base on which physical science is built, including electricity and light, mathematics, mechanics, thermodynamics and matter. You also develop your experimental, statistical and analytical skills.

Your second year covers a broad range of subjects including medical physics, quantum physics, atomic and nuclear physics, electromagnetism and optics, and mathematical techniques.

In your final year, the combination of specialist modules and an attachment to one of our research teams opens avenues for even deeper exploration: for example, in space probe instrumentation, fibre optics, the atomic-scale structure of a new engineering material, or neutron scattering work.

Year in industry

It is possible to add a placement year to the degree programme and gain valuable work experience. For more details, see Physics with a Year in Industry.

Year abroad

In your third year of the BSc you could also opt to study abroad at one of our partner universities. For more details, see Physics with a Year Abroad.

Study resources

You have access to first-class research facilities in new laboratories. These are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a full characterisation suite for materials, including:

  • three powder diffractometers
  • a single crystal diffractometer
  • x-ray fluorescence
  • instruments to measure magnetic and transport properties
  • a Raman spectrometer
  • scanning electron microscopes
  • optical coherence tomography imaging equipment
  • optical spectrum analysers
  • two-stage light gas gun for impact studies
  • on-campus Beacon Observatory.

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.

Extra activities

The School of Physical Sciences is home to an international scientific community of forensic science, chemistry, physics and astronomy 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 topics
  • the student-run Physics and Space Societies, which organise talks with top industry professionals, practical demonstrations and social events

Professional networks

The School of Physical Sciences also has links with:

  • the Home Office
  • optical laboratories
  • local health authorities
  • aerospace/defence industries
  • software and engineering companies
  • Interpol.

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Flexible tariff

You are more than your grades

At Kent we look at your circumstances as a whole before deciding whether to make you an offer to study here. Find out more about how we offer flexibility and support before and during your degree.

Entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

  • medal-empty

    A level

    For those with a relevant science qualification our standard offer is CD/ DD with one of these to be Maths. For those without a relevant science qualification, our standard offer is BB. 

  • medal-empty Access to HE Diploma

    The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

    If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

  • medal-empty BTEC Level 5 HND

    34 points overall, or 11 at HL including HL Maths/Maths Method or HL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches at 4 or HL Maths Studies at 5.

  • medal-empty BTEC Nationals

    The University will consider applicants holding/studying BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF;OCR) in a relevant Science or Engineering subject at 120 credits or more, on a case by case basis. Please contact us via the enquiries tab for further advice on your individual circumstances.

  • medal-empty International Foundation Programme

    N/A

Please contact the School for more information at study-physics@kent.ac.uk.  

International students should visit our International Student website for further specific information. International fee-paying students who require a Student visa cannot study part-time due to visa restrictions.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

If you need to improve your English language standard as a condition of your offer, you can attend one of our pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes before starting your degree programme. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.

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Course structure

Duration: 4 years full-time

The course structure below gives a flavour of the modules and provides details of the content of this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

In the foundation year and at Stage 1 of this programme, the modules listed are compulsory.

After successfully completing the foundation year you can transfer on to any three or four year Physics or Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics courses. For more information about specific modules for stages 1-4, please refer to:

Foundation year

Compulsory modules currently include

This module introduces students to the mathematics of calculus and its applications in engineering. Examples classes are provided to support the student learning.

Find out more about EENG0021

This module introduces students to the basic principles of electro-magnetism and electrostatics that are necessary in order to understand modern electronic and communications systems. Practical work and examples classes are included to assist the student learning.

Find out more about EENG0024

This module covers a range of arithmetic and algebraic aspects of maths, including: Lowest Common Multiples/Highest Common Factors, Significant Figures, Scientific/Engineering Notation, Fractions, Percentages, Indices, Functions, Logarithmic and Exponential Equations, Algebraic Long Division, Factorisation, Quadratic Equations, Linear and Simultaneous Equations, Partial Fractions and Binomial Theorem.

Find out more about PHYS0020

Graphical methods are powerful, visual tools to illustrate relationships in theories, and in experimental quantities, pertaining to physical phenomena. They involve knowledge of, and visual representation of mathematical functions frequently encountered in the physical sciences. The topics covered are expected to include:

• Graphs of functions including straight lines, quadratics, 1/x and 1/x2.

• Parametric equations for curves, including use in modelling phenomena in physical sciences.

• Coordinate geometry of lines and circles, including calculations with angles in radians.

• Trigonometric functions (sine, cosine, tangent), and reciprocal and inverse trigonometric functions.

• Formulae involving small angles, sums of angles, and products of trigonometric functions.

• Solving trigonometric equations in the context of modelling phenomena in physical sciences.

• Vectors in one, two and three dimensions, and notations for representing them.

• Algebraic operations of vector addition and multiplication by scalars.

• Use of vectors in modelling phenomena in physical sciences.

Find out more about PHYS0022

Mechanics is concerned with the behaviour of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements. The course will introduce terminology via the topics of units, dimensions, and dimensional analysis. The motion of objects will be studied in terms of distance, velocity, and acceleration time graphs. Then the role of forces in causing motion will be studied under the topics of Newton's Laws of Motion and Friction. The relationship between forces and energy will be introduced in terms of Work and Power, which will be connected to the topics of potential energy, kinetic energy, and Conservation of energy. The topic of Linear momentum will be introduced in order to study Conservation of linear momentum. The course will then study Circular motion and Rotational systems in relation to topics such as moment of inertia and torque. The case of gravitational force will be studied to illustrate topics of force fields and potential energy in force fields.

Find out more about PHYS0023

The module will cover the following:

• Types of waves. Characteristics of a wave: frequency, period, amplitude, wavelength and velocity. Introduction to transverse and longitudinal waves and polarisation.

• Properties of Waves: Qualitative description of the properties of waves; motion, reflection, refraction (Snell's law), dispersion, diffraction, interference, standing waves.

• Sound Waves: Description of sound - loudness, noise, note, pitch, intensity, intensity level. Properties of sound - reflection, refraction, interference (interference pattern produced by two speakers), beats, and resonance in a vibrating wire, including overtones/harmonics. Qualitative treatment of Doppler Effect.

• Electromagnetic (em) Waves: Electromagnetic spectrum. Qualitative treatment of em waves from different parts of the spectrum. Refraction of light - critical angle and optical fibres. Polarisation of light, microwaves and radio waves. Interference. Young's double slit experiment. The Michelson interferometer. Transmission diffraction grating - orders of diffraction, application in spectroscopy.

• Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM): Displacement, velocity and acceleration of a body undergoing SHM Link between SHM and circular motion. Force acting on a body undergoing SHM. Qualitative description of systems displaying SHM. Detailed description of pendulum and mass on a spring. Energy in SHM. General expression for SHM.

• Damping and Forced Oscillations: Qualitative treatment of light, heavy and critical damping. Qualitative discussion of the concepts of natural frequency, resonance and the behaviour of vibratory systems driven by a periodic force.

Find out more about PHYS0025

This module will cover the following topics:

• Simple model of nuclear atom. Atomic number and mass. The periodic table. The mole and Avogadro's number. Solids, liquids and gases. Interatomic forces. Excitation and ionization. The electron volt.

• Spectra and energy levels. E = hf. Relation of spectra to transitions between energy levels. Bohr atom quantitatively. Photoelectric effect. Crystalline lattices. Amorphous materials. X-ray diffraction. Polymers and plastics.

• Gases, liquids and solids. Pressure. Archimedes principle. Hydrostatics. Heat and temperature scales. Thermometers. Latent heat. Thermal expansion. Perfect gas laws.

• Thermal equilibrium and temperature. Thermal conduction. Radiation laws. Kinetic theory of gases.

• Introduction to radioactivity.

Find out more about PHYS0026

There will be laboratory sessions with eight experiments relating to both general skills and to the syllabus of the Physics lecture modules PH023, PH025 and PH026.

There will be lecture tutorials on:

Introduction to the module

Analysing experimental uncertainties

Writing reports on laboratory work

Find out more about PHYS0027

Stage 1

Compulsory modules currently include

This module provides an introduction to astronomy, beginning with our own solar system and extending to objects at the limits of the universe. Straightforward mathematics is used to develop a geometrical optics model for imaging with lenses and mirrors, and this is then used to explore the principles of astronomical telescopes.

This module builds on prior knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry. It will cover key areas of mathematics which are widely used throughout undergraduate university physics. In the first part it will look at functions, series, derivatives and integrals. In the second part it will look at vectors, matrices and complex numbers.

This module builds on the Mathematics I module to develop key mathematical techniques involving multiple independent variables. These include the topics of differential equations, multivariate calculus, non-Cartesian coordinates, and vector calculus that are needed for Physics modules in Stages 2 and 3.

In this module the mathematics of vectors and calculus are used to describe motion, the effects of forces in accordance with Newton's laws, and the relation to momentum and energy. This description is extended to rotational motion, and the force of gravity. In addition, the modern topic of special relativity is introduced.

This module examines key physical phenomena of waves and fields which extend over time and space. The first part presents a mathematical description of oscillations and develops this to a description of wave phenomena. The second part is an introduction to electromagnetism which includes electric and magnetic fields before providing an introduction to the topic of electrical circuits.

This module develops the principles of mechanics to describe mechanical properties of liquids and solids. It also introduces the principles of thermodynamics and uses them to describe properties of gases. The module also introduces the modern description of atoms and molecules based on quantum mechanics.

This module gives students experience in using laboratory apparatus and equipment to carry out physics experiments. They will also learn how to record and analyse data and write a report. The module also introduce students to using programming/scripting languages to analyse data, and the mathematics of probability and statistics.

Stage 2

You take all compulsory modules and then chose one optional one. 

Compulsory modules currently include

This module builds on the students' previous introduction to quantum phenomena taught in stage 1. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of quantum physics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles. This module covers for example the Schödinger equation, its meaning and how to solve it for simple models, the superposition principle and probability amplitudes.

This module applies some of the fundamental principles of physics to the study of atomic physics. Students build on their knowledge of quantum mechanics through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles in topics such as the hydrogen atom, the effect of a magnetic field on the atomic structure or the X-ray spectra of an atom.

This module builds on the brief introduction to electromagnetic fields previously taught in earlier stages. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of electromagnetism through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles. This module covers for example the principles of electrostatics, magnetostatics and Maxwell’s equations.

In this module students develop their experience of the practical nature of physics, including developing their ability to execute an experiment, and to use programming scripts to process data. Students also develop their skill in analysis of uncertainties, and comparison with theory. The module strengthens students’ communication skills and knowledge of, and ability to write, all components of laboratory reports.

This module gives students experience of group work in the context of a physics investigation in an unfamiliar area. The module includes workshops for advice about successful group project work, and culminates in each group producing a report and presentation.

This module introduces and develops a knowledge of numerical approximations to solve problems in physics, building on the programming skills gained in earlier stages. In addition, it complements the analytical methods students are trained to use and extends the range of tools that they can use in later stages of the degree. This module covers for example how to solve linear equations, how to find eigenvalues and numerical integration and differentiation.

This module builds on the mathematics taught in earlier stages. Students will develop and enhance their knowledge of mathematical methods used in the physical sciences. This module covers for example how to solve linear differential equations and Fourier transforms.

Optional modules may include

This module builds on the brief introduction to astronomy previously taught in earlier stages. Students enhance their knowledge of astrophysics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles developing a rigorous grounding in observational, computational and theoretical aspects of astrophysics. In particular they study topics such as properties of galaxies and stars and the detection of planets outside the solar system.

In this module you will gain a basic understanding of the major subsystems of a spacecraft system; knowledge of frameworks for understanding spacecraft trajectory and orbits, including interplanetary orbits, launch phase and attitude control; and awareness of the basic ideas of how space is a business/ commercial opportunity and some of the management tools required in business.

Stage 3

Compulsory modules currently include

Students develop and enhance their skills of solving and discussing general problems in Physics (and its related disciplines of mathematics and engineering). For this module, only physical and mathematical concepts with which the students at this level are already familiar are used and required. Problems are presented and solutions discussed spanning several topics in the undergraduate physics curriculum (mechanics and statics, thermodynamics, and optics, etc). Problems are also discussed that primarily involve the application of formal logic and reasoning, simple probability, statistics, estimation and linear mathematics.

This module gives the student a brief introduction to the key aspects of optics fields. Students develop an ability to accurately deploy techniques of analysis in optics and photonics through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles. This enables students to describe, and solve problems with light interference and diffraction, fundamentals of lasers and fibre optics.

This module gives the student a systematic understanding of the key aspects of thermal and statistical physics, building on their previous introduction to thermodynamics. Students develop an ability to accurately deploy techniques of analysis in thermal and statistical physics through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles. This enables students to describe and solve problems related to advanced statistical concepts in thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.

This module builds on the students' previous introduction to the properties of matter, and electric and magnetic properties. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of condensed matter physics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles. The module provides foundations for the further study of materials and condensed matter, and detail of solid state electronic and opto-electronic devices. This module covers for example the structure of solids, free electron theory of metals and the study of semiconductors.

This module aims to develop the ability to undertake investigations where, as part of the exercise, the goals and methods have to be defined by the investigator. It will develop skills to perform literature searches, reviews and to plan, monitor and report on a project. These projects are open ended tasks, with an element of independent learning.

This module enhances student skills in planning, executing, and analysing a laboratory experiment. Experiments are performed to greater depths than ever before, with extensive use of laboratory notebooks, comprehensive data analysis, and a greater emphasis on understanding the relation to theory. In addition, the module enhances students’ ability to prepare the more detailed laboratory reports.

The aim of this module is to provide a primer into this important physics specialisation. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of medical imaging and radiology through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles. The range of subjects covered is intended to give a balanced introduction to Medical Physics, with emphasis on the core principles of medical imaging, radiation therapy and radiation safety. A small number of lectures is also allocated to the growing field of optical techniques.

The aim of this module is to provide a primer into this important physics specialisation. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of medical imaging and radiology through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles. The range of subjects covered is intended to give a balanced introduction to Medical Physics, with emphasis on the core principles of medical imaging, radiation therapy and radiation safety. A small number of lectures is also allocated to the growing field of optical techniques.

Fees

The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

  • Home full-time £9250
  • EU full-time £15400
  • International full-time £20500

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

Search scholarships

Teaching and assessment

Teaching is by lectures, practical classes, tutorials and workshops. You have an average of nine one-hour lectures, one or two days of practical or project work and a number of workshops each week. The practical modules include specific study skills in Physics and general communication skills.

Assessment is by written examinations at the end of each year and by continuous assessment of practical classes and other written assignments. Your final degree result is made up of a combined mark from the Stage 2 and 3 assessments with maximum weight applied to the final stage.

Please note that you must pass all modules of the foundation year in order to progress onto stage 1.

Contact hours

For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours.  The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • Foster an enthusiasm for physics by exploring the ways in which it is core to our understanding of nature and fundamental to many other scientific disciplines.
  • Enhance an appreciation of the application of physics in different contexts.
  • Involve students in a stimulating and satisfying experience of learning within a research-led environment.
  • Motivate and support a wide range of students in their endeavours to realise their academic potential.
  • Provide students with a balanced foundation of physics knowledge and practical skills and an understanding of scientific methodology.
  • Develop in students a range of transferable skills of general value.
  • Enable students to apply their skills and understanding to the solution of theoretical and practical problems.
  • Provide students with a knowledge and skills base from which they can proceed to Stage 1 of any of the Physics or Physics-based degrees at the University of Kent.
  • Generate in students an appreciation of the importance of physics in the industrial, economic, environmental and social contexts.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding in physical laws and principles and their applications. Areas covered include:

  • Laws of motion.
  • Electromagnetism.
  • Wave phenomena and the properties of matter.
  • Necessary aspects of mathematics.

Intellectual skills

You gain intellectual skills in how to:

  • 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 an experiment or investigation, analyse the results and draw valid conclusions.
  • Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical phenomena.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • How to to present and interpret information graphically.
  • Communicating scientific information, in particular producing clear and accurate scientific reports.
  • The use of laboratory apparatus and techniques, including aspects of health and safety.
  • The systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
  • Making use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing your own learning.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in:

  • Problem-solving including the ability to formulate problems in precise terms, identify key issues and have the confidence to try different approaches.
  • Independent investigative skills including the use of textbooks, other literature, databases and interaction with colleagues.
  • Communication skills when 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 including the ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas,  construct logical arguments, use technical language correctly and pay attention to detail.
  • Personal skills including the ability to work independently, use initiative, organise your time to meet deadlines and interact constructively with other people.

Independent rankings

Physics and Astronomy at Kent scored 89% overall in The Complete University Guide 2021.

Careers

Graduate destinations

Kent Physics graduates have an excellent employment record with recent graduates going on to work for employers:

  • Defence Science and Technology
  • Rolls Royce
  • Siemens
  • IBM

Career-enhancing skills

You graduate with an excellent grounding in scientific knowledge and extensive laboratory experience. In addition, you also develop the key transferable skills sought by employers, such as:

  • excellent communication skills
  • work independently or as part of a team
  • the ability to solve problems and think analytically
  • time management.

You can also enhance your degree studies by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.

Help finding a job

The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Professional recognition

Fully accredited by the Institute of Physics.

Applications

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2021/22 academic year. Please visit the 2022 entry course pages.

Contact us

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International student enquiries

Enquire online

T: +44 (0)1227 823254
E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk

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