Open days are the perfect opportunity for you to explore our vibrant campuses, get a taste of your course(s) of interest and hear first hand from our staff and current students about life as a student at Herts.
Our next open day is Saturday 27 April 2024 from 09:30 - 15:00.
You will receive complimentary travel across the UNO bus network on the open day dates (whether you undertake your whole journey via the Uno network or just use it to access our campuses from Hatfield or St Albans train stations). Once you've registered, keep an eye on your emails for your free pass!
This course is due to be renewed at a Periodic Review event which will be held on December 2024.
We anticipate that there will be further enhancements made to the course as a result of the Review.
Our website and printed literature will be updated following completion of the Periodic Review in order to provide applicants with further confirmed details on the following:
whether the modules are core or optional
the expected contact hours
how the course will be assessed
staff teaching on the course
The University of Hertfordshire is committed to welcoming students with a wide range of qualifications and levels of experience. The entry requirements listed on the course pages provide a guide to the minimum level of qualifications needed to study each course. However, we have a flexible approach to admissions and each application will be considered on an individual basis.
Access Course Tariff
ABB-AAB - B in Maths, B in Physics
DDM-DDD - Applied Science AND A level Maths grade B
Diploma with 45 Level 3 credits of which 15 must be in maths at a minimum of Merit
120-128 points must include maths and physics at HL grade 4 or above
GCSE: Grade 4/C in English Language and Mathematics
All students from non-majority English speaking countries require proof of English language proficiency, equivalent to an overall IELTS score of 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each band.
The Department of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics is in the process of seeking accreditation of this course by the Institute of Physics.
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Why choose this course?
2nd in the East of England (after Cambridge) for Physics & Astronomy(2023 Complete University Guide)
Use one of the best equipped teaching observatories in the UK
Hands-on field trip to Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall
Combine your interests in astrophysics and spaceflight
You are fascinated by the science that underlies our current understanding of the universe, and you are excited by the exploration of space within our solar system using spacecraft. You want to develop your skills in physics, maths, computing and practical work and understand how modern technology is enabling us to probe further into the universe - using telescopes based on the Earth and in space - and travel to more distant worlds using robotic spacecraft. You are interested in the role that the space industry can play in saving and protecting our planet.
We offer a broad and exciting curriculum which covers topics from planetary science to space systems, cosmology to rocket science. Our hands-on approach to the application of the physical and space sciences will spark your imagination. You’ll become creative and be able to solve real-world problems based on research-informed knowledge.
You don’t want to choose between your two favourite subjects. By studying astrophysics with space science at Herts, you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Benefit from our links to the space industry
At the University of Hertfordshire, you’ll benefit from national and international links to the space industry. We have strong links to leading space industry experts, including: Goonhilly Earth Station (GES) in Cornwall, Airbus Defence and Space (in nearby Stevenage), the UK Space Agency and NASA, together with the rapidly growing number of Earth observation and satellite companies. You’ll even have the opportunity to undertake a week-long field trip to GES to gain hands-on experience with its deep space communication facilities, and training mission operations.
Herts and Hatfield have a proud history in space science and innovation. The pioneering Blue Streak rocket was built in Hatfield and the mathematics department has been involved in ground-breaking work on the optimisation of spacecraft trajectories. The University continues to build excellent industry links and forge progress in international space exploration and research.
You’ll benefit from access to one of the best astronomical teaching observatories in the UK – Bayfordbury Observatory. The Observatory, which hosts a suite of space science instrumentation, will enable you to observe and measure stars and planets, and track satellites as part of your own research and project work. Our team of expert researchers and academics will be with you every step of the way. With lots of opportunities to master practical skills and theory, you’ll step into your future career with confidence.
What's the course about?
Astrophysics is the study of the physical processes that shape the structure and evolution of our universe. This study takes place on many scales, from extrasolar planets to supermassive black holes – both areas currently under research at the University of Hertfordshire. Space Science is the application of physics and engineering to the space environment of the Earth, and to spacecraft systems and dynamics. The development of ingenious instrumentation which is able to push measurements to their physical limits is important to both astrophysics and space science.
Your main campus is College Lane
This is where the creative arts, science and health-related subjects are based. This means you’ll share the campus with future nurses, scientists, artists and more. You can use the common rooms to relax with friends, work out in the 24-hour gym or have a drink in our on-campus pub or cafes. We also have restaurants for you to eat in or grab something on the go. Our Learning Resources Centres are open 24/7, which means you can study whenever suits you best. Want to pop over to the other campus? You can take the free shuttle bus or walk there in just 15 minutes.
New School of Physics, Engineering and Computer Science building opening in 2024
Learn in our brand-new building, where you’ll experience a range of experiential learning zones. You will benefit from two new dedicated physics teaching labs.
The new building will also be home to the Centre for Climate Change Research and the Wolfson Centre for Biodetection and Instrumentation Research, which have both been created in response to the most pressing global challenges. You will also benefit from a Success and Skills Support Unit, which is aimed at helping you build your employability and academic skills. Plus, have access to industry mentors who will provide you with pastoral support, vocational guidance, and career progression opportunities.
The new building will also provide space to collaborate, with plenty of workshops, social and meeting spaces available. Even better, the building has been designed with the University’s net zero carbon target in mind, and forms part of our plan to replace or upgrade older sites that are energy inefficient.
What will I study?
Our course offers a unique blend of core physics and astrophysics alongside the specialised area of space science. While based in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics, you’ll also benefit from opportunities to take modules from the Department of Engineering, including Space Systems and Rocket Propulsion and Performance, and Satellite Communications.
At Herts, we offer a range of teaching methods so you can reach your full potential. From small-group tutorials, to lectures, practical classes and guest speakers from industry, you’ll be inspired and supported every step of the way. You’ll also have access to Bayfordbury Observatory where you’ll carry out astronomical observations in a professional setting.
We offer a problem-based learning approach. Be inspired by our hands-on/practical approach to teaching. You’ll have the chance to work in teams to design a space science mission. You’ll then deliver your findings in a competitive tender presentation to justify your proposal.
Not only will you showcase your theoretical knowledge, but you’ll gain confidence as an expert problem-solver through creativity and logic. For example, a workbook that you create in the module Space Dynamics is a detailed record of your investigation of the orbital and spin dynamics of spacecraft. Although a form of assessment, many graduates have used the workbook during job interviews to highlight their skills and capabilities.
In your first year, you’ll develop a solid broad foundation in physics, astrophysics and scientific mathematics, alongside training in laboratory and observatory techniques. The emphasis is on closely supporting your studies through regular academic meetings with a personal tutor in small groups. The class sizes mean that you will quickly get to know your peers and work together, sometimes in study groups that you form yourselves. A valued feature of the course is the easy and informal access you have to staff teaching on the modules.
In your second year, you’ll begin start to specialise in more advanced areas of astrophysics and space science, including modules in Space Science and Systems and advanced core curriculum in electromagnetism and optical physics. Astrophysics modules focus on the planetary scale of real interest to space scientists - Physics of the Solar System and Extra-Solar Planets.
In your third year, you will study topics such as nuclear and particle physics and star formation. You’ll also undertake an in-depth investigative project. Throughout the project, you’ll be closely supervised and guided by one of our experienced researchers in the Centre for Astrophysics. Previous projects have included mapping the Orion Nebula with our telescopes at Bayfordbury Observatory, studying planetary systems with the Herschel Space Observatory, and modelling high energy jets from galactic nuclei. You'll study the performance and propulsion of rockets and study spacecraft dynamics in an innovative computer-based environment.
In your final year on the MPhys course, you’ll progress on to study more advanced areas in a range of astrophysics specialisms. You'll also meet current postgraduate students in the department in these classes and undertak an advanced module within the Department of Engineering and Computer Science on the space systems approach to mission planning. This year is good preparation for your next steps into postgraduate research.
The Physical Universe ensures that students establish or refine their knowledge and skills in core areas of classical physics, while receiving an introduction to a range of topics in astrophysics. It will provide a broad survey of the universe and the structure of matter, and will show how physics and mathematics are used as theoretical tools to interpret data collected at telescopes.
In this module you will develop your skills in research enquiry and problem solving, analysis and evaluation, team and organisational working, interpersonal and communication skills, scientific writing and information searching.
The module provides an introduction to some of the most important and exciting concepts in 20th Century physics: it introduces the theories of special relativity and quantum mechanics, energy and radiation, wave particle duality, and applies these ideas to atomic, nuclear and molecular physics. It will provide a foundation for more advanced treatments of these subjects. The course content is delivered in the form of lectures, tutorial/problem sessions and laboratory classes. Students are expected to develop strong study skills such as note-taking and study planning, and work independently as well as in groups.
In this module you will develop your skills in problem solving and research enquiry, analysis and evaluation, team and organisational working, and interpersonal skills.
The module consists of experimental investigations into various physical phenomena such as classical mechanics, thermodynamics, waves and optics, fluids, electromagnetism and atomic spectra. It also introduces the basic techniques of laboratory practice, including data recording, uncertainty estimation, data and uncertainty analysis, maintaining a log book and writing reports.
The module develops skills in research enquiry and problem solving, analysis and evaluation, organisational working, interpersonal and communication skills, scientific writing and information searching.
This module is designed to give you academic support in small groups studying taught material from across your Level 4 modules. Your tutor group meets every two weeks during teaching periods. In meetings your tutor will lead/guide discussions relating to tutorial assignments set by other modules, as well as in additional areas of study that you may suggest. Some assignments will be assessed (contributing coursework credit back to the modules that set them), and some will be formative/instructive. Your tutor will mark the assessed assignments, with problem areas becoming a natural focus for tutorial discussion. Through guidance and advice your Small Group Tutorials will help you identify your academic strengths and weaknesses, and show you how to start to think like a professional physicist or mathematician. You can also seek pastoral support from your tutor on any matters affecting your studies.
The module develops skills in problem solving, interpersonal and communication skills, adaptation to context, and personal evaluation and development.
On entry to the degree students have a range of mathematical backgrounds and knowledge, and this module has been designed to standardise mathematical knowledge through the first semester of study. You will review core areas of A-level mathematics, which will be extended to enhance your knowledge. You will learn important and widely applicable mathematical techniques relating to hyperbolic functions, matrices, vectors, differential and integral calculus, and complex numbers. In this module you will develop your skills in mathematical problem solving, analysis and evaluation.
This module will extend the mathematical knowledge gained in the module 'Mathematical Methods'. It will explore a variety of mathematical methods that use calculus. You will learn important and widely applicable mathematical techniques relating to improper integrals, differential equations, partial differentiation, power series, and Fourier series. In this module you will develop your skills in mathematical problem solving, analysis and evaluation.
In this module you will learn how to use a programming language. You will solve exercises during practical classes and independent study time. You will see how to develop scientific and mathematical models and how they can be implemented in a computational environment. Towards the end of the module, you will carry out a mini-project on mathematical computing, and present the results.
The module develops skills in problem solving, computer programming, analysis and evaluation, and interpersonal and communication skills.
You will learn how to integrate functions of two and three variables along plane and space curves and how to evaluate multiple integrals of such functions. You will learn about gradient, divergence and curl. You will be able to obtain the Fourier transform of a function and perform calculations involving analytic functions of a complex variable.
In this module you will develop your skills in mathematical problem solving, and analysis and evaluation.
Programming is an important skill in the modern working world. This module will introduce you to programming in a modern high-level language. The module will cover control structures such as loops and logical statements. You will be shown how to build more complex programs by writing and linking separate functions and procedures. You will learn how to debug programs and produce program documentation. And you will apply your skills to a mathematical or physical problem and computationally analyse the results.
The module develops skills in computer programming, interpersonal and communication skills, and conceptualisation and critical thinking.
The electromagnetic force is one of the four fundamental forces of nature, and manifests around charged particles and electric currents. In 1861 James Clerk Maxwell published his now famous unifying equations, revealing for the first time that light is an electromagnetic phenomenon (and that the EM force is carried by photons). Learn about electrostatics and magneto-statics, and the encompassing nature of Maxwell's equations. Appreciate the implications of self-sustaining EM waves in a vacuum, and connect the speed-of-light directly to electromagnetic constants. Study electromagnetic effects in the laboratory, demonstrating various behaviours of fields, forces, and electric circuits.
In this module you will develop your skills in research enquiry and problem solving, analysis and evaluation, team and organisational working, interpersonal and communication skills, conceptualisation, and data synthesis.
The study of light has a storied history in physics, leading to the discovery that it is an electromagnetic wave and then the development of special relativity and quantum electrodynamics. Students will learn the classical topics of light wave propagation, interference and diffraction, geometric optics, polarisation and Fourier optics. These are illustrated with applications such as the detection of gravitational waves and discovery of new extra-solar planets. Modern topics such as lasers and their applications, which have led to 5 Nobel prizes since 1955, will also be included.
Furthermore, the student will be able to choose a topic in modern optics for a more detailed investigation.
In this module you will develop your skills in autonomy and responsibility for actions, problem solving, information searching, analysis and evaluation and scientific writing.
Thermodynamics is one of the most fascinating areas of physics, bridging the divide between quantum and classical mechanics. In addition, because it deals with large numbers of particles, it reveals new collective types of behaviour such as changes of phase. Thermodynamics applies to large and small systems, from a bacteria and the household refrigerator to black holes and the universe in the large. As such it is an incredibly powerful tool and puts limits on the behaviour of systems, most famously in the law of entropy increase. These limitations have led to much philosophical debate and fascinating unanswered questions e.g. why does consciousness only seem to flow in one direction and how is this linked to other asymmetries in the universe such as the net increase in universal entropy. This module will allow you to confront these issues and solve foundational problems that help understand their complexity and subtlety.
The module develops skills in research enquiry and problem solving, analysis and evaluation, interpersonal and communication skills, scientific writing and information searching, and conceptualisation and critical thinking.
Quantum mechanics is the most fundamental and most successful theory of the physical world. It has been essential to the development of many modern technologies (lasers, solid state and tunnelling devices, entanglement and encryption). This module develops the basic formalism of quantum mechanics. The formalism is used to understand the properties of bound states, spin states, identical particles and multi-particle structures. Recent developments and conceptual problems are also discussed.
The module develops skills in research enquiry and problem solving, communication skills, conceptualisation and critical thinking.
This module is designed to give you academic support in small groups studying taught material from across your Level 5 modules. It also provides support and training for the Career Planning and Development module in the form of assistance with your personal skills audit, and help/guidance with putting together your CV. In addition it will develop your skills in interpreting/understanding scientific journal papers (through some "journal club" sessions), and your appreciation of good practice in scientific writing. Your tutor group meets every two weeks during teaching periods. In meetings your tutor will lead/guide discussions relating to tutorial assignments/activities, as well as in additional areas of study that you may suggest. Some assignments will be assessed (contributing coursework credit back to the modules that set them), and some will be formative/instructive. Your tutor will mark the assessed assignments, with problem areas becoming a natural focus for tutorial discussion. You can also seek pastoral support from your tutor on any matters affecting your studies.
The module develops skills in problem solving, interpersonal and communication skills, scientific writing and information searching, adaptation to context, and personal evaluation and development.
The module aims to develop the practical skills and understand the role of a graduate in the sphere of work. By the end of the module students should appreciate the challenges, rewards and diversity of career planning and development.
In this module you will develop your skills in team and organisational working, interpersonal and communication skills, information searching, adaptation to context, personal evaluation and development.
The use of dimensional analysis in systems (a theme of the module, to include an introduction to various non-dimensional measures of mechanical and thermal properties)
Typical topics in this module cannot be exhaustive but should give a sound grounding in the physical principles underlying engineering design. Notional topics to include:
• Heat transfer and exchange
• Introduction to flows and types of flow (pipes, nozzles, Knudsen, hypersonic etc.)
• Gyroscopic stability
• Essentials of radio and laser communication
• Imaging systems, image analysis, remote sensing
• Simple stress analysis
• Electrostatic charging and the physics of electrical discharge
With the advent of the space age "Planetary Science" (the physics of the solar system) is the only branch of astronomy in which up-close studies are possible, with lunar missions and interplanetary probes revolutionizing our understanding over the past 50 years. Learn about the diverse range of solar system bodies and their dynamics, how planets form, their interiors/surfaces and ring systems, planetary and inter-planetary magnetic effects, and the possibilities for life elsewhere in the solar system.
With the advent of the space age "Planetary Science" (the physics of the solar system) is the only branch of astronomy in which up-close studies are possible, with lunar missions and interplanetary probes revolutionising our understanding over the past 50 years. Learn about the diverse range of solar system bodies and their dynamics, how planets form, their interiors/surfaces and ring systems, planetary and inter-planetary magnetic effects, and the possibilities for life elsewhere in the solar system.
In this module you will develop your skills in research enquiry and problem solving, analysis and evaluation, team and organisational working, interpersonal and communication skills, scientific writing and information searching, critical thinking, and data synthesis.
In the past three decades extra-solar planets have moved from science fiction to science-fact, with ground- and space-based surveys revealing several thousand extra-solar worlds. Learn about the methods for extra-solar planet discovery, their interiors and atmospheres, the diversity of known systems and their formation. Study the physics of this hugely diverse population, and understand how astronomers assess extra-solar habitability. Learn about future missions aiming to reveal the conditions in extra-solar planet atmospheres, and study the criteria for extra-solar life and SETI initiatives.
In this module you will develop your skills in research enquiry and problem solving, analysis and evaluation, team and organisational working, interpersonal and communication skills, scientific writing and information searching, and data synthesis.
An opportunity for an amazing experience, which will help make you stand out from the crowd. With more and more companies working internationally, experience of living in another country can make a great impression on future employers.
This course offers you the opportunity to enhance your study and CV with a sandwich year abroad. The University has partnerships with over 150 universities around the world, including the USA, Canada, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and closer to home in Europe.
If you study abroad between your second and third year of study, you’ll pay no tuition fee to the partner university and no tuition fee to us either. We’ll ask you to make your decision in your second year, so there is plenty of time to think about it.
Please note Erasmus+ funding is only available until May 2023. For students starting their course in September 2022 and wishing to study abroad in 2023-24 or 2024-25, please refer to the Turing Scheme.
Graduate with invaluable work experience alongside your degree and stand out from the crowd.
This course offers you the opportunity to enhance your study and CV with a work placement sandwich year. It’s a chance to explore career possibilities, make valuable contacts and gain sought after professional skills.
Our dedicated Careers and Employment team are here to help guide you through the process.
Previous students have worked at:
the Rutherford Appleton Labs
the Met Office and
the National Physical Laboratory.
If you take up a work placement between your second and third year of study, at the University of Hertfordshire you’ll pay no tuition fee for this year. We’ll ask you to make your decision in your second year, so there is plenty of time to think about it.
Many of our graduates go on to work or postgraduate study at their placement hosts.
What if I need support?
With one of the best student-staff ratios in the country we are able to put our focus on you as an individual and give you the support that you need to reach your full potential.
You’ll benefit from the support of a personal throughout your studies who will support your personal and academic journey. Support is provided through regular one-to-ones and small group discussions.
You can also take advantage of the Departments’ Mathematics Support Service which is available to all staff and students across the University.
The course has been developed alongside student proctors ensuring staff are able to help you throughout your studies on the things that matter most to you. From managing workload to helping advise on the latest research to explore, our staff will ensure you succeed and perform well.
Dr Samuel Nathan Richards
Meet Dr Samuel Nathan Richards, who has taken his degree out of this world. Samuel currently works for NASA as the Mission Director & Instrument Scientist for NASA/DLR mission: SOFIA in California.
Samuel currently works as the Mission Director & Instrument Scientist for the SOFIA mission, based in Palmdale, California at the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. Nathan has worked toward this role since completing his degree and a PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Sydney, Australia.
He says, 'I would not be where I am without the opportunities that were available while studying at the University of Hertfordshire. From extracurricular projects, to connections with other world ranking universities. I'm thankful to the University for its guidance and support that kick-started my career.'
Samuel decided to study at the University after seeing a promo video in sixth-form that featured the Bayfordbury Observatory. He says, 'When I discovered how strong the University's Astronomy department was, I felt that this was an environment that I could thrive in.'
'The lecturers were world-class, active astronomers, so each class was dynamic to the ever-changing knowledge of their respective fields of research. Their willingness to accept keen students for extracurricular research projects gave me early first-hand experience of the career I was about to launch myself into. Their international connections opened a path for me to do a research year at the University of Sydney, where I would later return to complete a PhD!'
Just the beginning
Pursuing a career in astronomy is highly competitive but incredibly exciting. Opportunities in these industries are truly global and roles are very diverse. 'I didn't know I'd end up working at NASA, but I took all opportunities as they arose.' Samuel encourages new and current students to do the same. 'Find what you enjoy and do that, over money, status and fame. There are many routes to where I am now, my colleagues come from very different backgrounds: astronomy, electrical and mechanical engineering and computer science, and that is just within my role, let alone all the other roles under NASA's umbrella.'
'I'm still learning, developing and taking on new opportunities!'
Meet Thomas Owen who discovered his passion for analytics while at university. He is currently a Sales and Capacity Planner at Ocado.
Thomas initially decided to come to the University of Hertfordshire based on our excellent Physics facilities, including Bayfordbury Observatory. While visiting the campus at an Open Day he was impressed with the amount of support available and our ranking in league tables for Physics evidenced in the expertise of our lecturers.
Throughout his time at the University, Thomas felt fully supported. He says, ‘There was never a point where I felt I had to go it alone and help was always on hand if things got tough. Lecturers took the time to meet with me personally if I had questions and the 24/7 LRC had everything I'd need for self-study and exam practice.’
After graduating, he has realised that the challenges he faced throughout his degree have fully prepared him for his working life and future career.
‘My studies helped me prepare for working in busy, dynamic environments by challenging me all the time. Whether it was working on a big project, my dissertation, or preparing for my exams – my experiences encouraged me to take challenges head on.’
While he worked hard throughout his time at university, he is pleased that it paid off. He explains that handing in his final year dissertation and being awarded a first made it all worthwhile.
Thomas initially did not think that he would be working in online grocery and retail, however, he has found the industry to be challenging, rewarding and fast-growing. He explains that he likes the variety of roles and ‘different areas of aspire to work in.’
What's next for my career?
This course will prepare you for an exciting career in the space industry. Due to increasing investment and technological advances, the industry, both in the UK and abroad, is set to expand exponentially. There are therefore a growing number of job opportunities for technologically driven and trained graduates with the capabilities to work within, and manage, projects to aid the peaceful exploration of space.
Graduates within the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics have gone onto careers across the space industry, including roles as space engineers, research scientists and science communicators working for facilities such as the Royal Greenwich Observatory or the European Space Agency.
The course can also lead to many career pathways where analytical skills are highly desired, including: finance, accounting, commerce, teaching and telecommunications.
If you want to expand your knowledge and specialise further, this course will prepare you for postgraduate education in space science or space technology.
£1155 per 15 credits for the 2024/2025 academic year
£15500 for the 2024/2025 academic year
£1940 per 15 credits for the 2024/2025 academic year
£15500 for the 2024/2025 academic year
£1940 per 15 credits for the 2024/2025 academic year
*Tuition fees are charged annually. The fees quoted above are for the specified year(s) only. Fees may be higher in future years, for both new and continuing students. Please see the University’s
Fees and Finance Policy (and in particular the section headed “When tuition fees change”), for further information about when and by how much the University may increase its fees for future years.