BA/BSc Mathematics and Physics

UCAS code Typical offer Length
GF13 AAB-AAA (See full entry requirements) 3 years full-time
Apply now

Received an offer?

Log in to You@York to track your application
First year maths tutorial

First year tutorial

Dr Alison Laird gives a lecture
 A mathematical physics discussion

Welcome to Physics at York

Now is an exciting time to join our Department, with excellent facilities and new developments in 2012. Our Department is driven by excellence in both teaching and research. We pride ourselves on being a friendly department, and are rated very highly for overall satisfaction (National Student Survey, 2011-12).

We will help you achieve your potential and develop your skills that are highly sought after by employers, through a variety of flexible degree programmes in Physics or with Maths or Philosophy.

Mathematics and Physics are natural subjects to combine in a degree programme. At York the Mathematics and Physics degree includes a good all-round knowledge of physics, but with an even greater emphasis on the study of pure mathematics than the Theoretical Physics degree programme. It emphasises the mathematical structure of physical theory. The Mathematics department at York has many theoretical physicists amongst its staff, and offers modules in, for example, quantum field theory and general relativity. The final year research project may be in either physics or mathematics.

What you'll study

Please see module details for further information on the modules listed below.

You can opt to do your final year project in either Physics or Mathematics. If you choose to do your project in Physics, the third year mathematics option 'Groups, Rings and Fields' is taken as a core module.

First year 

Core Physics modules
  • Physics of Matter and Introduction to Quantum Physics
  • Newtonian and Relativistic Mechanics
  • Physics of Fields and Waves
Core Mathematics modules
  • Calculus
  • Algebra
Other modules
  • Professional Skills

Second year 

Core Physics modules
  • Lagrangian Mechanics and Solid State Physics
  • Electromagnetism and Optics
  • Quantum Physics I: Quantum Mechanics, Atomic Physics and Lasers
Core Mathematics modules
  • Mathematics II
  • Mathematics III
  • Introduction to Mathematical Physics
  • Introduction to Group Theory
  • Linear Algebra

Third year 

Core Physics modules
  • Quantum Physics II: Quantum Mechanics, Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics
Optional modules
  • Atomic Physics I
  • Electrons in Solids
  • Introduction to Quantum Computing
  • Analysing the Nanoscale and Magnetism
  • Special and General Relativity
  • Introduction to Dynamical Systems
  • Introductory Fluid Dynamics
  • Formal Languages and Automata
  • Differential Geometry
  • Mathematical Finance I
  • Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing
  • Applications of Group Theory in Virology
  • Groups, Rings and Fields
Project modules
  • BSc Physics Project incorporating Professional Skills
  • Maths BSc Project and Integrated Skills

How you'll be taught

The knowledge and skills we aim to help you obtain and develop in our Department are geared towards those required of a professional physicist. It is important that the professional physicist is able to approach problems logically, make sound convictions on how to go about investigations, manage time effectively and think independently while keeping an open mind.

One area of great concern to students and staff alike is the quality of the teaching provided. Our Department was awarded the maximum mark of 24 our of 24 for the teaching quality in the most recent Subject Review of all its degree programmes, performed by the Quality Assurance Agency.

Another important area, often overlooked, is communication of any conclusions and ideas regarding a given physical problem to a wide scientific community. Our Skills activities, in many cases integrated into Maths and Physics modules will help you develop these communication skills through presentations, posters, extended writing and laboratory reports.

Knowledge and understanding are rarely transferred instantaneously. The ideas which we as teachers present to you now were absorbed and clarified by us only after much reading, thought and discussion. Tutorial-based discussion and practicals for solving problems are therefore an important element of our teaching.


Lectures are the principal method of knowledge transfer (i.e. this is typically how you will meet topics for the first time) which guide you through the development of the various branches of the subject. 


In the first and second years, core physics modules are supported by tutorials in which small groups of between four to six students meet at regular intervals to discuss the material from lecture courses and problems. Tutorials have no fixed format however and discussion frequently ranges, and indeed is encouraged to go, beyond the immediate subject matter to wider implications and issues.


In the first and second years there are maths practical workshops to support the mathematics and its application to concurrent physics lecture material. These practicals comprise medium sized groups with structured material to work through and staff providing interactive support. These provide you with a great opportunity to tackle some problems and raise any issues you have with staff.

Problem classes

A key skill is the application of mathematics to problem solving in physics, and in the first and second years, in addition to the maths practical above, the mathematics modules also have many problem classes associated with the material covered in the lectures.

In the third and fourth years, several physics modules have problem classes associated with them. These are encouraged to be student led with opportunities to raise specific problems you have concerning the material and question an academic about the material, in addition to getting on with exercises designed to prepare you for examinations.


In the third and fourth years some teaching is done by seminars, with a particular overall theme. A group, of perhaps twelve students, meets with a member of staff to hear short talks by one or two members of the group on a particular aspect of the subject, and this is followed by discussions. The subjects are chosen to reflect contemporary issues, and maybe associated with your final year project, so that there is scope for debate on values, as well as on purely scientific matters.

One of the main purposes of the seminar is to help you practise and develop your skill in communication, an important ability in all contexts but particularly so in science and industry. The member of staff in charge of the seminar group advises beforehand on the preparation of the seminar, and makes constructive comments afterwards.


How you'll be assessed

The major way that your achievements on our degree programmes are assessed and monitored is through formal assessments which take many forms, for example, closed examinations, continuous assessments, and extended assignments. By employing these different methods, we gain a much better understanding of your abilities as a physicist and you have greater opportunities to demonstrate them than if we used only a single method of assessment.


A large proportion (roughly 70%) of your overall assessment will come from formal examinations. Examinations that contribute to the final assessment of BSc students take place in the second and third term of Years 2 and 3. Additionally, MPhys students take examinations in the second and third terms of Year 4.

Continuous assessment

It is usually the case that weekly exercises accompany each lecture course. This engages you in the material and often requires application of both the knowledge you have gained from the course as well as researched material to completely solve the problems, encouraging you to read around a subject.

The majority of modules in years 1-3 are assessed in this way alongside the examination, with the weekly problems counting 15% of the module mark and the examination 85% towards each module.

Laboratory work

All physics students will partake in experimental laboratory work, with Theoretical Physics students moving onto computational work as the programme progresses. The laboratory work is assessed through the regular marking of your laboratory notebook and the assessment of formal reports on one or two of the lab. activities within each lab. module.


Skills are integrated throughout the programme and are a natural part of your development as a physicist and are therefore in many case are part of all our assessments. However, there are some specific skills modules and activities which develop additional skill and these are assessed using a multitude of methods, ranging from presentations and essays to mathematical computer programs produced by you.

Yearly weightings

The following weights are assigned to the work of each year when arriving at the final Degree assessment.

Yearly Weightings (%)

Careers and employability

Physics graduates from York are particularly successful at achieving successful careers after 6 months of graduating (80% and 3rd highest in the UK - the Guardian University Guide 2012).

Physics graduates are highly sought after by employers across a range of disciplines. While many graduates go on to careers that use their knowledge and expertise in Physics, others are readily employed in other areas such as computing or electronics.

Particular skills gained through studying Physics, such as problem solving and numeracy, lend themselves well to other, often lucrative, graduate-level careers, and our students have gone onto a range of careers including:

  • Management
  • Accountancy
  • Law
  • Broadcasting
  • Engineering
  • Computing/IT

Of our recent graduates, 36% have gone on to further academic study.

Find out more about how we can help make you more employable   

Phil Lightfoot 

" A Physics degree is greatly valued by employers because it contains IT and numerical skills, teaches a logical approach to problem solving, and many other valuable skills. Many graduates use their degrees in a Physics related area such as optics, solid state devices, lasers, the nuclear power industry, medical physics, etc. Others move into the IT or financial sector. Some students remain in the Department to specialise in a particular field via a postgraduate qualification such as the MSc in Fusion Energy or a PhD.

Physics has taken me around the world, 1 km under it in a mine in North Yorkshire searching for dark matter, and allowed me to look at stars thousands of light years away. I always knew that it was the right choice for me and I’m constantly grateful for the way that it has provided me with the skills and knowledge to interpret the world around me."

Dr Phil Lightfoot, teaching fellow

How to apply

All physics degree programmes at the University of York are at honours level and offers are made only to those that are thought to have a high probability of successfully completing the programme. For this reason good A level grades are required in both Mathematics and Physics.

Typical entry grades for A level candidates are shown in the table below. The third A level may be in a wide range of acceptable subjects or alternatively two AS subjects will be accepted in place of the third A level. In certain circumstances, AS Maths will be considered instead of A level Maths, if a grade A is attained and the student takes the Maths Plus option in the first year. Other combinations of at least 18 units (Curriculum 2000) may be considered on an individual basis.

Applicants who have obtained or are soon to obtain other qualifications such as Scottish Highers & Advanced Highers, Irish Leaving Certificate, International Baccalaureate, European Baccalaureate, OU, ACCESS, etc. are also welcomed. The table below shows some typical offers.

Applications for mature students are welcomed and will be considered individually.

Changing programmes

Students entering the BSc programme may change to the MPhys programme if they wish at the end of the first or the second year, subject to satisfactory performance at the MPhys standard.

Year in Europe

It is possible to spend your third year studying in one of our partner universities in France, Germany or Italy - this is known as the "Year in Europe" option. If you wish to apply for this, you should posses an aptitude for learning foreign languages, and you will be required to study your chosen language in your first two years at York.

Entry requirements

A levels

Typical Offer

AAA-AAB with at least grade A in Maths and Physics plus B in a third A level.

The third A level may be in a wide range of acceptable subjects or alternatively two AS subjects, may be accepted in place of the third A level. In certain circumstances, AS Maths will be considered instead of A level Maths for the BSc programme only, if a grade A is attained and the student takes the Maths Plus option in the first year.

International Baccalaureate

Diploma with score of 36 - 35 points with Maths and Physics at least grade 6 (HL)

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers

AAAAA-AAAAB (Highers) + AA (Advanced Highers) in Maths and Physics

Irish Leaving Certificate

AAAAAB-AAAABB with Physics and Maths at least grade A1

European Baccalaureate

85% - 80% overall with Physics and Maths at least 85%

Other qualifications

Cambridge Pre-U Diploma

D3/D3/D3 - D3/D3/M2 with Maths and Physics at least grade D3

English Language Requirements

All international students whose first language is not English must satisfy the University's English requirement. This can be covered by one of the following qualifications:


English Language Requirements



English Lang 

 6.0 overall and
in each section
 79 overall and min 21 in each component 55 overall and in each section  A  C  C

CAE = Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English
CPE = Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English
IGCSE = International GCSE in English as a 1st Language

All international students at the University of York are eligible for a certain amount of free tuition from the Centre for English Language Teaching; the amount of free support is managed by a points system.

Mature students

Applications from mature students are welcomed and will be considered individually.

Any questions?

If you have any enquiries concerning undergraduate admissions, please contact

Admissions Tutor,
Dr. Charles Barton:


More about York