Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

MPhys Physics with a Year Abroad

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: n/a
Final award: MPhys (Honours)
Programme title: Physics with a Year Abroad MPhys
UCAS code: W2S4
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr Victoria Martin
Date of production/revision: 1 April 2015

External summary

Physics is the fundamental human endeavour to understand the structure and evolution of the universe. Its scope runs from quarks and leptons, the smallest fragments of the universe, through the material world we perceive directly with our senses, and on to stars and galaxies, and the origins and fate of the universe itself. Our aim is to guide you through this territory; to share with you our enthusiasm for it; and to equip you with a range of thinking and practical skills which you will need if your subsequent career is in Physics, and which you will value even if it is not.

  • Studying Physics at Edinburgh allows students to develop:
  • Knowledge and understanding of the physical world and the underlying mathematical methodologies used to describe itKnowledge of frontier activities capitalising on the strengths of a thriving and diverse research environment;
  • The skills required for a research career in physics;
  • The attitude of mind conducive to critical questioning and creative thinking and the capacity to formulate ideas mathematically and explore them algebraically, graphically, and numerically;
  • To develop an understanding of laboratory experimentation and critical evaluation of experimental data;
  • To develop the skills required for employment in science-based industry, education and the wide spectrum of professions calling for numerate problem-solvers.

Educational aims of programme

The educational aims of the programme are:

  • To provide a degree programme with flexibility and choice, accommodating a range of entrance qualifications and experience;
  • To provide a thorough grounding in the fundamental principles of physics;
  • To provide a thorough grounding in experimental techniques and the critical analysis of experimental data;
  • To provide exposure to frontier activities, capitalising on the strengths of a thriving and diverse research environment in Edinburgh;
  • To provide a balanced training in the methodologies of modern theoretical and computational physics with opportunities for specialisation;
  • To provide a preparation for a research career in physics;
  • To develop general transferable skills related to IT & computing, problem-solving and communication;
  • To provide a platform for employment in science-based industry, education, research and the wide spectrum of professions calling for numerate problem-solvers.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

By engaging with and completing the MPhys degree in Physics with a Year Abroad, graduates will acquire knowledge and understanding of:

  • The core knowledge base of physics comprising: Newtonian Dynamics; Quantum Mechanics; Special Relativity; Electromagnetism & Optics; Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics; Atomic, Nuclear & Particle Physics; Condensed Matter Physics;
  • The opportunity for deep study of selected topics, up to the level of current research;
  • A balanced training in the methodologies and research skill of modern theoretical and experimental physics.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

By engaging with and completing the MPhys degree in Physics with a Year Abroad, including an extended research project at an overseas university or industrial research laboratory, graduates will develop:

  • An attitude of mind conducive to critical questioning and creative thinking;
  • The capacity to formulate ideas mathematically and explore them algebraically, graphically, and numerically;
  • The ability to harness these skills in tandem with the core knowledge base to solve problems;
  • The ability to assimilate and evaluate advanced literature from a range of diverse sources;
  • The ability to critically analyse experimental data and compare mathematical or computational predictions;
  • The skills required for research by undertaking an extended final year research project.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

The degree programme, along with the emphasis on an extended research project, aims to develop:

  • A disposition to approach unfamiliar situations with a spirit of critical enquiry;
  • The ability to formulate a physical problem using the appropriate mathematical and experimental methodologies;
  • The confidence to work autonomously and take responsibility for self-learning.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

By engaging with and completing the MPhys degree in Physics with a Year Abroad and undertaking an extended research project at an overseas university or industrial research laboratory, graduates will be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Formulate a coherent written and oral presentation based on material gathered and organised independently on a given physics topic;
  • Present the outcomes of an extended research project in a dissertation report and public oral presentation;
  • Formulate a mathematical argument or analysis of experimental data and communicate this effectively to peers and educators;
  • Capacity to function effectively as a member or leader of a team working towards joint a joint report and presentation.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

The degree programme aims to develop graduates who can:

  • Collaborate effectively and productively with others in the process of inquiry and learning including those with a range of backgrounds and knowledge;
  • Organise their own independent learning to an effective schedule;
  • Commitment to manage time effectively, utilise resources and meet deadlines.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

The degree programme aims to develop:

  • Confident familiarity with general IT resources (WWW for learning and information retrieval; e-mail and bulletin boards for communication; word-processing for document preparation);
  • Confident familiarity with the Unix operating system and its use in a scientific environment;
  • Advanced skills in scientific programming;
  • Numerical programming and computer simulation techniques;
  • Confident skills is computer algebra and symbolic manipulation;
  • The ability to analyse data and assess what can be inferred from it in the light of theoretical expectations and experimental uncertainties.

Programme structure and features

The programme structure is a full time, five year, 600pt Scottish Integrated Masters programme with entry at first or second year level and is fully compliant with the University’s Curriculum Framework and Scottish Qualification Framework.

Details of the programme requirements and features for each year of the degree are given in the Degree Programme Table, available in the University's Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk/

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

The bulk of the teaching programme is conducted through lectures; the class sizes vary from about 250 in pre-honours courses to about 5 in Integrated Masters optional courses. This teaching is supported through tutorial sessions and supervised workshops in which students work in groups of about 5; and through study resources generally delivered through WWW. These resources vary in extent and character; they invariably include a detailed syllabus, reading list and problem-set; in some instances they incorporate substantial multimedia material including self-tests and illustrative simulations. First years and Fast Track specific courses offer extensive student support to assist the transition into higher education and develop independent learning skills. These include the use of an in-lecture feedback system, peer assisted learning, tailored problem sheets and extensive student – tutor feedback in extended workshops classes. Computing/IT courses are conducted through supervised sessions in dedicated teaching laboratories in groups of 10-50, in final year Integrated Masters Projects students work individually in research groups, with supervision by research staff.  Group Projects typically involve teams of about 5 students working largely autonomously.

Equality and Diversity The School is an active participant in the Institute of Physics JUNO project with “practitioner” status where we monitor and report on the equality and diversity across the whole School including activities of academic staff, research staff, post and undergraduate students.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 146540
Year 235650
Year 341590
Year 400100
Year 544560

Assessment methods and strategies

Each course has its own assessment criteria appropriate to the specified Learning Objects of the course as detailed in the on-line course specification. All courses are assessed using the University Common Marking Scheme. Typical modes of assessment through the programme are detailed below:

Pre-Honours: (first and second year) Lecture based physics and mathematics courses are assessed by end of course written unseen examinations with typical weight of 80% being augmented by weekly hand-in assignments typically weighted at 20%. These are marked throughout the semester and returned with feedback comments typically within 10 days of submission. All semester 1 pre-honours lecture based courses offered examination feedback workshops as the start of semester 2 where student can view their marked scripts and receive personal feedback from the course staff. Class performance and common error feedback on semester 2 examinations are supplied via the School intranet.

Practical and computing classes are assigned by continuous assessment either via written submitted reports, laboratory notebooks or, for computing classes, specified checkpoints assessed by during the assigned workshop classes. All submitted reports and notebooks are returned with written feedback, and students receive verbal feedback and advice on computer checkpoints from the assessors.

Honours: Lecture based physics and mathematics courses are mainly assessed by either end of course, or end of year written unseen examinations. Core courses at Junior Honours are augmented by periodic hand-ins with a typical weight of 10% which are marked throughout the course are returned as with written feedback. The reduction in frequency and weight of these hand-ins compared to pre-honours encouraged students to take responsibility for their own learning and time management. In courses with no course work students are encouraged to attempt course questions in advance and seek feedback on their work at the course workshops/tutorials. All students have access to their marked examination scripts via the School Teaching Office.

Practical and computing courses at Junior Honours are assessed as at pre-honours with for experimental laboratory an additional short oral presentation on which feedback is given. The extended research project in Senior Honours is assessed via laboratory performance, oral presentation and written report; written feedback is given on all aspects. The MPhys project in the Integrated Masters year is assessed via laboratory performance and written report. During their Senior Honours and MPhys projects, students are supervised by academic or research staff who supply feedback regarding on-courses performance and development. Further written feedback is also supplied on all the assessed aspects of these courses.

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 177320
Year 264036
Year 353443
Year 400100
Year 548052

Career opportunities

The MPhys programme offers the preparation for a research career in physics either via further academic study, typically towards a PhD or via industrial research. In addition a wide range of employers recognise that Physics graduates have advanced problem-solving skills and the ability to think logically and critically about complex situations. Add this to a high level of mathematical ability, computing and IT proficiency, and communication skills in written, oral and online media, and Physics graduates have opportunities in a diverse range of careers. Some of our recent graduates have gone on to jobs with Google, the European Space Agency, the BBC, IBM and a variety of other organisations.

Other items

Personal Tutors Each student is assigned a Personal Tutor who provides both academic and pastoral guidance. Throughout a student's time at the university the Personal Tutor guides the student in choice of courses and provides general support. Courses are administered and run through the Teaching Organisation in the School. These produce detailed online course guides for new students and for continuing students. These guides provide details of courses and also advise students on assessment and general university policy and regulations.