Programme specification

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Programme title:

MSci Astrophysics

Final award (BSc, MA etc):

(where stopping off points exist they should be detailed here and defined later in the document)


UCAS code:
(where applicable)


Cohort(s) to which this programme specification is applicable:

(e.g. from 2015 intake onwards)

September 2003 onwards

Awarding institution/body:

University College London

Teaching institution:

University College London



Parent Department:
(the department responsible for the administration of the programme)

Physics and Astronomy

Departmental web page address:

(if applicable)

Method of study:


Full time

Criteria for admission to the programme:

AAA-AAB including A in Maths, A in Physics and A-B in Theoretical Physics

Length of the programme:

(please note any periods spent away from UCL, such as study abroad or placements in industry)

4 academic years

Level on Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ)
(see Guidance notes)

Masters Level (Level 7)

Relevant subject benchmark statement (SBS)
(see Guidance notes)

Brief outline of the structure of the programme and its assessment methods:

(see guidance notes)

8 1/2 units per year, made up of core courses, practicals and a choice of optional courses in years 2 & 3. Opportunity for Field trip to research observatory in Year 3. Year 4 has 5 optional half-units and a 1.5-unit project. Assessment by unseen examinations, coursework problems, lab and observatory reports, essays, reports and oral presentations.

Board of Examiners:

Name of Board of Examiners:

Boards of Examiners in Physics and Astronomy

Professional body accreditation

(if applicable):

Institute of Physics

Date of next scheduled accreditation visit: Nov. 2016


To encourage students to develop critical modes of thought and study, to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the subject and to develop a range of technical and inter-personal skills. They should be prepared for a wide variety of careers, both within professions connected directly with astrophysics or in a wide range of other activities.

The programme provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, qualities, skills and other attributes in the following areas:

A: Knowledge and understanding

Knowledge and understanding of:

1. Theoretical structure of the core topics in Physics, Astrophysics and Astronomy with a selection of advanced research topics, sufficient to allow informed choice of a field of postgraduate study.

2. The mathematical basis of Astrophysics.

3. The structure of compiled computer programmes.

Teaching/learning methods and strategies:

1 and 2. Lectures with associated problem sheets and tutorials. Access to recommended textbooks and web material.

3. Lectures and workstation-based courses in two years and (optionally) third year.


1 and 2. Unseen examinations. Continuous assessment marks from problem sheets.

3. Online testing of computing knowledge.

B: Skills and other attributes

Intellectual (thinking) skills:

1. Application of their knowledge to unseen problems.

2. Ability to combine mathematics and verbal explanation in a coherent rigorous argument.

Teaching/learning methods and strategies:

1 and 2. Fortnightly problem-sheets on all courses, supported by tutorial discussion. Special problem solving classes with staff and postgraduate supervision in first two years.


1 and 2. Unseen written examination. In-course assessment problem sheets used in coursework mark.

C: Skills and other attributes

Practical skills (able to):

1. Carry out laboratory and observatory

experiments to demonstrate physical

principles and measure constants of


2. Use spreadsheet package to present and calculate physics results.

3. Present results with appropriately calculated errors.

4. Report experimental results clearly and methodically.

5. Work in a team to tackle an open ended scientific problem and present joint conclusions.

6. Use computer packages for word-processing, webpage management and manipulation of mathematical functions.

7. Use compiled or interpreted computer languages to write original programs.

8. Design an experiment and/or computer-based investigation to study and solve an open-ended research problem.

Teaching/learning methods and strategies:

1. Set experiments, starting simply in first year; more open ended in later years. Close advice and supervision.

2, 6 and 7. Workstation-based hands-on courses;

first year and second year Python, third year object oriented programming option (Java).

3. Supplementary lectures linked to set experiments.

4. Preparation of workbooks and detailed reports.

5. Field trip, involving observations, data reduction and research analysis.

8. 1.5-unit final-year project.


1, 3 and 4. Grading of lab and observatory reports.

2, 6 and 7. Online testing and written exercises.

5. Oral presentation. Observation of group process.

Written report.

8. Observation of progress. Written and oral reports.

D: Skills and other attributes

Transferable skills (able to):

Write clear accounts of scientific subjects at a level appropriate to audiences ranging from complete lay-people to fully qualified colleagues.

Teaching/learning methods and strategies:

Communications Skills course, involving essays, reports and oral presentations running over the first two years.


Essays, reports and presentations marked and included

separately in the scheme for award of honours

The following reference points were used in designing the programme:

  • the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (;

  1. the relevant Subject Benchmark Statements (;

  2. the programme specifications for UCL degree programmes in relevant subjects (where applicable);

  3. UCL teaching and learning policies;

  4. staff research.

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if he/she takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information on the learning outcomes, content and teaching, learning and assessment methods of each course unit/module can be found in the departmental course handbook. The accuracy of the information contained in this document is reviewed annually by UCL and may be checked by the Quality Assurance Agency.

Programme Organiser(s) Name(s):

Dr Stan Zochowski

Programme Tutor, Physics and Astronomy

Date of Production:

August 2003

Date of Review:

November 2014

Date approved by Head of Department:

November 2014

Date approved by Chair of Departmental Teaching Committee:

November 2014

Date approved by Faculty Teaching Committee

February 2015

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