Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - MPhys
with a Year Abroad
- Standard option
with a Year Abroad
- Physics with a Foundation Year
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Are you inspired by the wonders and vastness of the Universe? Do you want to investigate the possibilities of life elsewhere within it? Get involved with real space missions from ESA and NASA, and work on Hubble Telescope data and images from giant telescopes, or work with our own Beacon Observatory. This four-year Integrated Master's course will help you stand out and give you the edge in the job market.
Our four-year MPhys with a Year Abroad course gives you the opportunity to work with an academic in one of our research groups and carry out an in-depth project connected with our research. Develop the transferable skills to open up a world of job opportunities, leading to careers in research, engineering, aerospace/defence, medical physics, teaching, finance and data analytics.
Studying for a Year Abroad provides a wealth of personal and professional benefits, including establishing international contacts and enhancing your employability. You will study at one of our partner universities around the world, experience a different culture, enhance your employability and grow in self-confidence.
This course is fully accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP).
Reasons to study Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics at Kent
- Excellent teaching and research facilities including state-of-the-art laboratories, photonics centre and Beacon Observatory, which provides a fully automised system with both optical and radio telescope capability.
- Our expert lecturers are both innovative teachers and active researchers working at the cutting-edge of research across a range of fields, from quantum materials to medical imaging.
- Students meet regularly with their academic adviser to support their academic and career development.
- Learn in a variety of settings, from lectures and interactive workshops to laboratory classes, computing sessions and team projects.
- Flexible curriculum allows you to move between our courses in the earlier years, ensuring you are studying the best course for you.
- Join our student-run societies: PhySoc, SpaceSoc and Amateur Rocketry Society, who organise talks, practical demonstrations and social events.
- Build the connections that matter thanks to our links with optical laboratories, local health authorities, aerospace/defence industries and software and engineering companies.
- A dedicated foundation year makes our course accessible to those without a science background.
What you'll learn
In your first year, the focus is on the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and astronomy.
Your second year covers a broad range of subjects such as the multiwavelength universe and exoplanets, spacecraft design and operations, atomic and nuclear physics and quantum physics.
Our international exchange programme allows you to spend the third year of your degree studying abroad at one of our partner universities, which include institutions in the US, Canada and Hong Kong.
The third year completes your study of the core of physics with more advanced modules including nuclear and particle physics, thermodynamics, and the physics of stars, galaxies and cosmology. You will also conduct open-ended laboratory investigations.
In your final year you can study advanced, specialist modules on topics such as advanced quantum mechanics, cosmology and Interstellar medium, rocketry and human spaceflight, and space astronomy and solar system science, as well as working within one of our research groups to complete an in-depth research project under the guidance of an academic supervisor
If you do not have the grades or scientific background for direct entry to the degree, you have the option of the Physics Foundation Year. Upon successful completion of this year, you are able to progress to any of our Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, or Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics degrees.
School of Physics and Astronomy
The School of Physics and Astronomy is a welcoming and supportive environment with a lively student community. Our physics teaching is underpinned by our research strengths in quantum materials, applied optics and imaging, and astrophysics and planetary science, giving you the chance to learn from experts and providing opportunities to become involved in our research.
The flexible curriculum at Kent allows you to move between our range of physics-based courses in the early years, helping you find the right course for you. The student-run Physics, Space and Amateur Rocketry societies organise talks, practical demonstrations, trips and social events, and the School offers a programme of talks and careers events, including the annual Stephen Gray lecture.
The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. All applications are assessed on an individual basis but some of our typical requirements are listed below. Students offering qualifications not listed are welcome to contact our Admissions Team for further advice. Please also see our general entry requirements.
BBB including A level Mathematics or Physics (not Use of Mathematics)
Access to HE Diploma
The University welcomes applications from Access to Higher Education Diploma candidates for consideration. A typical offer may require you to obtain a proportion of Level 3 credits in relevant subjects at merit grade or above.
The University will consider applicants holding/studying BTEC Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF; OCR) in a relevant science or engineering subject at 180 credits or more, on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us via the enquiries tab for further advice on your individual circumstances.
30 points overall or 14 points at Higher Level including HL Physics at 5 or SL Physics at 6 and either HL Maths/Maths Methods/Maths: Analysis and Approaches at 5 or SL Maths/Maths Methods at 6 (Note Maths Studies/SL Maths: Applications & Interpretations is not acceptable).
International Foundation Programme
The University will consider applicants holding T level qualifications in subjects closely aligned to the course.
Please contact our Admissions Team for more information at email@example.com.
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 science/mathematics ready for undergraduate study, we offer a Foundation Year programme which can help boost your previous scientific experience.
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 do not meet our English language requirements, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.
Duration: 4 years full-time
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this course. 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 course, the modules listed are compulsory.
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 guides students through a series of experiments giving them experience in using laboratory apparatus and equipment. Students will also learn how to accurately record and analyse data in laboratory notebooks and write scientific laboratory reports. The experiments cover subjects found in the Physics degree program and are run parallel with Computing Skills workshops in which students are introduced to the concept of using programming/scripting languages to analyse and report data from their experiments.
This module provides an introduction to quantum mechanics, developing knowledge of wave-functions, the Schrodinger equation, solutions and quantum numbers for important physical properties. Topics include: 2-state systems. Bras and kets. Eigenstates and Eigenvalues; Superposition Principle; Probability Amplitudes; Change of Basis; Operators. The Schrodinger equation. Stationary states. Completeness. Expectation values. Collapse of the wave function. Probability density. Solutions of the Schrodinger equation for simple physical systems with constant potentials: Free particles. Particles in a box. Classically allowed and forbidden regions. Reflection and transmission of particles incident onto a potential barrier. Probability flux. Tunnelling of particles. The simple harmonic oscillator. Atomic vibrations.
This module will build on the general principles of quantum mechanics introduced earlier in the degree and applied them to the description of atoms, starting by the description of the hydrogen atom and covering other topics such as the effect of magnetic fields on an atom or X-ray spectra.
This module looks to introduce a range of important laws and principles relating to the physics of electromagnetism and optics. Students will also learn mathematical techniques to enable the modelling of physical behaviour and apply important theory to a range of electromagnetism and optics scenarios.
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.
This module aims to provide a basic understanding of the major subsystems of a spacecraft system and the frameworks for understanding spacecraft trajectory and orbits, including interplanetary orbits, launch phase and altitude control. Students will also gain an awareness of ideas on how space is a business/commercial opportunity and some of the management tools required in business.
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.
The module will provide a firm grounding in mathematical methods: both for solving differential equations and, through the study of special functions and asymptotic analysis, to determine the properties of solutions.
Students on a four-year degree programme spend a year between Stages 2 and 4 at one of our partner universities in Canada, Hong Kong or the USA. For a full list, please see Go Abroad. Places are subject to availability.
You are expected to adhere to any academic progression requirements in Stages 1 and 2 to proceed to the Year Abroad. If the requirement is not met, you will revert to the equivalent three-year programme.
Going abroad as part of your degree is an amazing experience and a chance to develop personally, academically and professionally. You experience a different culture, gain a new academic perspective, establish international contacts and enhance your employability.
PH790 needs to cover a majority of learning outcomes in Stage 3 of the parent MPhys programme. The modules in the university abroad should normally cover similar topics at a similar level. Note that a one-to-one correspondence is not feasible and would negate the purpose of the Year Abroad, which is to provide the student with the experience of the educational system abroad. In addition, the student has the opportunity to study some modules which are not available at University of Kent.
With regards to topics, the academic liaison (typically DoUGS Physics) will check and approve the students choice of modules at the time they are at the university abroad.
To provide an experience of open-ended research work.
To begin to prepare students for postgraduate work towards degrees by research or for careers in R&D in industrial or government/national laboratories.
To deepen knowledge in a specialised field and be able to communicate that knowledge orally and in writing.
All MPhys students undertake a laboratory, theoretical or computationally-based project related to their degree specialism. These projects may also be undertaken by Diploma students. A list of available project areas is made available during Stage 3, but may be augmented/revised at any time up to and including Week 1 of Stage 4. As far as possible, projects will be assigned on the basis of students' preferences – but this is not always possible: however, the project abstracts are regarded as 'flexible' in the sense that significant modification is possible (subject only to mutual consent between student and supervisor). The projects involve a combination of some or all of: literature search and critique, laboratory work, theoretical work, computational physics and data reduction/analysis. The majority of the projects are directly related to the research conducted in the department and are undertaken within the various SPS research teams.
Why use space telescopes; other platforms for non-ground-based astronomical observatories (sounding rockets, balloons, satellites); mission case study; what wavelengths benefit by being in space; measurements astronomers make in space using UV, x-ray and infra-red, and examples of some recent scientific missions.
Exploration of the Solar System:
Mission types from flybys to sample returns: scientific aims and instrumentation: design requirements for a spacecraft-exploration mission; how to study planetary atmospheres and surfaces: properties of and how to explore minor bodies (e.g. asteroids and comets): current and future missions: mission case study; how space agencies liaise with the scientific community; how to perform calculations related to the orbital transfer of spacecraft.
Solar System Formation and Evolution:
The composition of the Sun and planets will be placed in the context of the current understanding of the evolution of the Solar System. Topics include: Solar system formation and evolution; structure of the solar system; physical and orbital evolution of asteroids.
Extra Solar Planets:
The evidence for extra Solar planets will be presented and reviewed. The implications for the development and evolution of Solar Systems will be discussed.
Life in Space:
Introduction to the issue of what life is, where it may exist in the Solar System and how to look for it.
Flight Operations: Control of spacecraft from the ground, including aspects of telecommunications theory.
Propulsion and attitude control: Physics of combustion in rockets, review of classical mechanics of rotation and its application to spacecraft attitude determination and control.
Impact Damage: The mechanisms by which space vehicles are damaged by high speed impact will be discussed along with protection strategies.
Human spaceflight: A review of human spaceflight programs (past and present). Life-support systems. An introduction to some major topics in space medicine; acceleration, pressurisation, radiation, etc.
International Space Station: Status of this project/mission will be covered.
The major properties of the Interstellar Medium (ISM) are described. The course will discuss the characteristics of the gaseous and dust components of the ISM, including their distributions throughout the Galaxy, physical and chemical properties, and their influence the star formation process. The excitation of this interstellar material will be examined for the various physical processes which occur in the ISM, including radiative, collisional and shock excitation. The way in which the interstellar material can collapse under the effects of self-gravity to form stars, and their subsequent interaction with the remaining material will be examined. Finally the end stages of stellar evolution will be studied to understand how planetary nebulae and supernova remnants interact with the surrounding ISM.
Review of FRW metric; source counts; cosmological distance ladder; standard candles/rods.
High-z galaxies: fundamental plane; Tully-Fisher; low surface brightness galaxies; luminosity functions and high-z evolution; the Cosmic Star Formation History
Galaxy clusters: the Butcher-Oemler effect; the morphology-density relation; the SZ effect
AGN and black holes: Beaming and superluminal motion; Unified schemes; Black hole demographics; high-z galaxy and quasar absorption and emission lines.
Quantum mechanics is the theoretical basis of much of modern physics. Building on the introductory quantum theory studied in earlier stages, this module will review some key foundational ideas before developing more advanced topics of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory.
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
- Home full-time £9,250
- EU full-time £16,400
- International full-time £21,900
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.
Fees for year in industry
Fees for undergraduate students are £1,385.
Fees for year abroad
Fees for undergraduate students are £1,385.
Students studying abroad for less than one academic year will pay full fees according to their fee status.
Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.
We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.Search scholarships
Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details.
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.
Teaching and assessment
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. The year abroad counts towards your final degree assessment.
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.
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 subject.
- 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 develop.
- Provide a grounding in space systems and technology, and the overlap between the science and commercial drivers in the aerospace industry.
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 to 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 to 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 physics.
- 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.
- Communicate scientific information and produce clear and accurate scientific reports.
- Familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
- 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 informatively.
- 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.
Over 86% of final-year Physics students were satisfied with the quality of the teaching on their course in The Guardian University Guide 2023.
Kent Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics graduates have an excellent employment record with recent graduates going on to work for employers:
- The Met Office
- Defence Engineering and Science Group (MoD)
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.
Apply for Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics with a Year Abroad - MPhys
If you are from the UK or Ireland, you must apply for this course through UCAS. If you are not from the UK or Ireland, you can apply through UCAS or directly on our website if you have never used UCAS and you do not intend to use UCAS in the future.
Find out more about how to apply
United Kingdom/EU enquiries
Enquire online for full-time study
International student enquiries
T: +44 (0)1227 823254
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