Physics reaches from the quark out to the largest of galaxies, and encompasses all the matter and timescales within these extremes. 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 students who have studied science subjects but who do not have the grades they need for direct entry on to our Physics BSc. It is also suitable for those who are returning to study following a period in work where they may have gained relevant experience but do not have traditional academic qualifications.
In your foundation year, you study mathematics, physics, electronics and computing, and take part in practical classes. On successful completion of your foundation year, you will have reached a standard above A level and so be fully equipped to tackle the BSc degree course.
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.
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.
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.
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
The School of Physical Sciences also has links with:
- the Home Office
- optical laboratories
- local health authorities
- aerospace/defence industries
- software and engineering companies
Of Physics and Astronomy students who graduated from Kent in 2016, over 90% of those who responded to a national survey were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).
Teaching Excellence Framework
Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.
Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.
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.
At all stages in this programme, the modules listed are compulsory.
This programme is for students who have previously studied science subjects but who lack the qualifications needed for direct entry into Stage 1 of the BSc. The foundation year is taught entirely on the Canterbury campus. Successful completion of the foundation year guarantees entry onto any of the School’s physics or astronomy degree courses.
|Modules may include||Credits|
PH020 - Algebra and Arithmetic
Simplification of fractions
Percentages and fractional changes
Logarithmic and exponential functions
Basic rules (operations and indices).
Solving equations (substitution and order of operation).
Changing subject of a formula
Rules of indices
Expansion and Factorisation
Solving linear and simultaneous equations
Binomial TheoremRead more
PH022 - Graphical Methods for Physical Scientists
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.Read more
PH025 - Waves and Vibrations
(i) Types of waves. Characteristics of a wave:- frequency, period, amplitude, wavelength and velocity. Introduction to transverse and longitudinal waves and polarisation. c = f?
(ii) Properties of Waves. Qualitative description of the properties of waves; motion, reflection, refraction (Snell's law), dispersion, diffraction, interference, standing waves.
(iii) 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, resonance in a vibrating wire, including overtones/harmonics. Qualitative treatment of Doppler effect.
(iv) 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.
(v) Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM). Displacement, velocity and acceleration of a body undergoing S.H.M. 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.
(vi) 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.Read more
PH026 - Properties of Matter
(i) 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.
(ii) 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.
(iii) Gases, liquids and solids. Pressure. Archimedes principle. Hydrostatics. Heat and temperature scales. Thermometers. Latent heat. Thermal expansion. Perfect gas laws.
(iv) Thermal equilibrium and temperature. Thermal conduction. Radiation laws. Kinetic theory of gases.
(v) Introduction to radioactivity.Read more
PH027 - Introductory Physics Laboratory and Communication Skills
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:
EL021 - Calculus
This module introduces students to the mathematics of calculus and its applications in engineering. Examples classes are provided to support the student learning.Read more
EL024 - Electromagnetics for Engineers
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.Read more
|Modules may include||Credits|
PH304 - Introduction to Astronomy and Special Relativity
Introduction to Special Relativity:
Inadequacy of Galilean Transformation; Postulates of Relativity; Lorentz transformation; Time dilation, length contraction and simultaneity; Special relativity paradoxes; Invariant intervals; Momentum and energy in special relativity; Equivalence of mass and energy.
Introduction to Astronomy:
Astronomical coordinate systems and conversions; Positions and motions of stars; Timekeeping systems; Introduction to the distance scale.
Introduction to Astrophysics and Cosmology:
Stellar luminosity and magnitudes; Magnitude systems; Colour of stars; Stellar spectral classification; Evolution of stars, Hertzsprung-Russell diagram; Cosmological principle; Redshift; Hubble constant; Space expansion.Read more
PH311 - Mathematics I
Derivatives and Integrals: Derivatives of elementary functions, chain rule, product rule, Integrals of elementary functions, Evaluation by substitution, Integration by parts, Area under the graph of a function.
Vectors: Basic properties, linear dependence, scalar and vector products, triple products, vector identities.
Matrices: Matrix representation, systems of equations, products, inverses, determinants, solution of linear systems, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, transformations.
Elementary Functions: Binomial coefficients, expansions and series, Maclaurin series, Taylor series, Exponential functions, Hyperbolic functions, Inverse functions.
Functions of a single variable: Linear and quadratic functions, polynomials, rational functions, limits, infinite series, approximation of functions.
Complex numbers: Quadratic equations, Argand diagram, modulus, Argument, complex exponential, de Moivre's theorem, roots of polynomials.Read more
PH312 - Mathematics II
Differential Equations: Solving differential equations, separable equations, linearity, homogeneity, first and second order equations, particular integrals. Boundary and initial values, auxiliary equations with complex roots, coefficients and terms, examples from physics.
Partial Derivatives: functions of two variables , partial derivatives, directional derivatives, functions many variables, higher derivatives, function of a function, implicit differentiation, differentiation of an integral w.r.t a parameter, Taylor expansions, stationary points.
Elementary multivariate Calculus: the chain rule, Multiple integrals, integrals over rectangles/irregular areas in the plane, change of order of integration.
Polar Coordinates: Cylindrical polar coordinates in two and three dimensions, integrals, spherical coordinates, solid angle.
Introduction to Vector Calculus : Gradients, Divergence, Gauss's theorem, Curl, Stokes' theorem.Read more
PH321 - Mechanics
Measurement and motion; Dimensional analysis, Motion in one dimension: velocity, acceleration, motion with constant acceleration, Motion in a plane with constant acceleration, projectile motion, uniform circular motion, and Newton's laws of motion.
Work, Energy and Momentum; Work, kinetic energy, power, potential energy, relation between force and potential energy, conservation of energy, application to gravitation and simple pendulum, momentum, conservation of linear momentum, elastic and inelastic collisions.
Rotational Motion; Rotational motion: angular velocity, angular acceleration, rotation with constant angular acceleration, rotational kinetic energy, moment of inertia, calculation of moment of inertia of a rod, disc or plate, torque, angular momentum, relation between torque and angular momentum, conservation of angular momentum.
Concept of field; 1/r2 fields; Gravitational Field; Kepler's Laws, Newton's law of gravitation, Gravitational potential, the gravitational field of a spherical shell by integration.
Oscillations and Mechanical Waves; Vibrations of an elastic spring, simple harmonic motion, energy in SHM, simple pendulum, physical pendulum, damped and driven oscillations, resonance, mechanical waves, periodic waves, their mathematical representation using wave vectors and wave functions, derivation of a wave equation, transverse and longitudinal waves, elastic waves on a string, principle of superposition, interference and formation of standing waves, normal modes and harmonics, sound waves with examples of interference to form beats, and the Doppler Effect. Phase velocity and group velocity.Read more
PH322 - Electricity and Light
Properties of Light and Optical Images; Wave nature of light. Reflection, refraction, Snell’s law, total internal reflection, refractive index and dispersion, polarisation. Huygens' principle, geometrical optics including reflection at plane and spherical surfaces, refraction at thin lenses, image formation, ray diagrams, calculation of linear and angular magnification, magnifying glass, telescopes and the microscope.
Electric Field; Discrete charge distributions, charge, conductors, insulators, Coulomb’s law, electric field, electric fields lines, action of electric field on charges, electric field due to a continuous charge distribution, electric potential, computing the electric field from the potential, calculation of potential for continuous charge distribution.
Magnetic Field; Force on a point charge in a magnetic field, motion of a point charge in a magnetic field, mass spectrometer and cyclotron.
Electric current and Direct current circuits, electric current, resistivity, resistance and Ohm’s Law, electromotive force, ideal voltage and current sources, energy and power in electric circuits, theory of metallic conduction, resistors in series and in parallel, Kirchhoff’s rules and their application to mesh analysis, electrical measuring instruments for potential difference and current, potential divider and Wheatstone’s bridge circuits, power transfer theorem, transient current analysis in RC, RL, LC and LRC circuits using differential equations.
Alternating Current Circuits; Phasor and complex number notation introduced for alternating current circuit analysis, reactance and complex impedance for Capacitance and Inductance, application to LRC series and parallel circuits. Series and parallel resonance, AC potential dividers and filter circuits, Thevenin's theorem, AC bridge circuits to measure inductance and capacitance, mutual inductance, the transformer and its simple applications.Read more
PH323 - Thermodynamics and Matter
Static Equilibrium, Elasticity and fluids; Elasticity: stress, strain, Hooke's law, Young's modulus, shear modulus, forces between atoms or molecules, intermolecular potential energy curve, equilibrium separation, Morse and 6-12 potentials, microscopic interpretation of elasticity, relation between Young's modulus and parameters of the interatomic potential energy curve, the nature of interatomic forces, the ionic bond, calculation of the energy to separate the ions in an ionic crystal, viscosity of fluids, Poiseuille's law, Stokes' law.
Thermodynamics; Thermal equilibrium, temperature scales, thermal expansion of solids, relation between thermal expansion and the interatomic potential energy curve, the transfer of thermal energy: conduction, convection, radiation, the ideal-gas law, Boltzmann's constant, Avogadro's number, the universal gas constant. The kinetic theory of gases, pressure of a gas, molecular interpretation of temperature, molecular speeds, mean free path, specific heat, molar specific heat. The equipartition theorem, degrees of freedom. Heat capacities of monatomic and diatomic gases and of solids. Internal energy of a thermodynamic system, the first law of thermodynamics, work and the PV diagram of a gas., work done in an isothermal expansion of an ideal gas. Molar heat capacities of gases at constant pressure and at constant volume and the relation between them. Adiabatic processes for an ideal gas. Heat engines and the Kelvin statement of the second law of thermodynamics, efficiency of a heat engine. Refrigerators and the Clausius statement of the second law of thermodynamics. Equivalence of the Kelvin and Clausius statements. The Carnot cycle, the Kelvin temperature scale.
Atoms; The nuclear atom, Rutherford scattering and the nucleus, Bohr model of the atom, energy level calculation and atom spectra, spectral series for H atom. Limitation of Bohr theory. Photoelectric Effect. Blackbody Radiation. Compton scattering. X-ray diffraction. De Broglie hypothesis. Electron diffraction. Introduction to wavefunctions, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.Read more
PH370 - Laboratory and Computing Skills for Physicists
How Physical Sciences are taught at Kent.
Library use. Bibliographic database searches.
Error analysis and data presentation. Types of errors; combining errors; Normal distribution; Poisson distribution; graphs – linear and logarithmic.
Probability and Statistics. Probability distributions, laws of probability, permutations and combinations, mean and variance.
Academic integrity and report writing skills.
A number of experiments in weekly sessions; some of the experiments require two consecutive weeks to complete.
Experiments introduce students to test equipment, data processing and interpretation and cover subjects found in the Physics degree program which include the following topics:
Mechanics, Astronomy/Astrophysics, statistical and probability analysis, numerical simulations, electric circuits and Thermodynamics.
Introduction to the concept of programming/scripting languages. Introduction to operating systems: including text editors, the directory system, basic utilities and the edit-compile-run cycle.
Introduction to the use of variables, constants, arrays and different data types; iteration and conditional branching.
Modular design: Use of programming subroutines and functions. Simple input/output, such as the use of format statements for reading and writing, File handling, including practical read/write of data files.
Producing graphical representation of data, including histograms. Interpolating data and fitting functions.
Programming to solve physical problems.
Introduction to typesetting formal scientific documents.Read more
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.
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.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding in physical laws and principles and their applications. Areas covered include:
- laws of motion
- wave phenomena and the properties of matter
- necessary aspects of mathematics.
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.
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.
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.
Our graduates have gone on to work in:
- research and development
- technical management
- the City and financial institutions
- software design
- the media
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.
In addition, you develop the key transferable skills that graduate employers look for, including:
- excellent communication skills
- work independently or as part of a team
- the ability to analyse problems
- time management.
You can also enhance your degree studies by signing up for one of our Kent Extraactivities, such as learning a language or volunteering.
Of Physics and Astronomy students who graduated from Kent in 2016, over 90% were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).
This programme is accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP). Graduates with accredited degrees can follow a route to Institute Membership and the CPhys professional qualification.
Fully accredited by the Institute of Physics.
All applications for the Foundation Year will be considered individually, however evidence of previous level 3 (i.e. A level, BTEC, etc.) relevant scientific study is required.
The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice.
It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.
New GCSE grades
If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.
|Qualification||Typical offer/minimum requirement|
|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.
|BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)||
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.
The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.
If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.
Meet our staff in your country
For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.
English Language Requirements
Please see our English language entry requirements web page.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.
General entry requirements
Please also see our general entry requirements.
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
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.
General additional costs
Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details.
You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.
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 AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.
The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either Mathematics or a Modern Foreign Language. Please review the eligibility criteria.