Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the more common enquiries we receive along with their answers. If you have a question which isn't answered here, please contact us to make an enquiry.

Click a question to reveal the answer.


Do you have information on accommodation?

Our accommodation webpages have lots of useful information including rooms and prices.  Visit them to find out more.

Do I choose which college to be in?

After your place has been confirmed, normally following A-level results in August, you will be sent an email giving telling you how to request your desired college, room type and let duration using the on line accommodation application system. Things happen quite quickly, so it is a good idea to look at the college accommodation web sites beforehand so you know what you would like to apply for when the time comes.

What is the cost of living in University accommodation?

There are various kinds of fully furnished and centrally heated accommodation available from the University. Most university accommodation is situated on or within a mile of campus and is conveniently located for the centre of York. More details can be found from the Accommodation Office.

Applications and offers information

What is your typical conditional offer?

Our typical offer is AAA with an A in Physics, A in Mathematics plus a suitable third subject - all at A-level.

A breakdown of other typical offers for different qualifications can be found here.

If I decide to defer for a year now that I've received an offer from the University of York, will it be possible to hold my offer for entry the following year, or will I have to reapply?

You will not have to reapply. Simply let us know in writing that you would like to defer, and we will inform UCAS to change your application to a deferred application. There is no problem as far as the Department is concerned with you deferring. We hope that in your year out you are able to maintain a reasonable knowledge in Maths and Physics so that you can pick up to full speed quickly when you join us a year later.

What if I exceed the BSc offer?

If you have accepted our conditional offer of a place on the BSc programme and find that you have done better than expected and actually met the offer requirement for the MPhys programme, then we will automatically offer you a course transfer. This means that, should you accept the offer, you can start on the MPhys programme at the start of your first term, or if you wish, you can choose to stay with the BSc programme. It is also possible to transfer between BSc and MPhys courses at the end of the first and second year, subject to satisfactory performance.

What if something goes wrong?

We hope you have a smooth and trouble-free time whilst preparing for and taking your exams, but this is not always the case. There are a number of things that can go wrong, such as long-term illness of one of your teachers, or some medical condition that affects you or a close family member, or some other personal situation, etc. This is generally known as "mitigating circumstances" as it can affect your exam performance and result in you getting a lower grade than would otherwise be the case. If this happens, then you should let us know! You can upload appropriate documentation via your personal account on the Applicant Portal, or you can email the Admissions Tutor directly.

This information will then be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to accept you onto the degree at results time.

Computer information

Is there an Internet connection available in study bedrooms?

The Wired network: students (NAS) now provides network access for your own computer to most study bedrooms on campus which is included in the rent. Wired and wireless network access points are also available at various locations across campus.

What if I don't own a computer?

All students are given a computer user name. This allows you free access to UNIX machines and PCs with a range of centrally provided software applications. PC classrooms are around campus in colleges and the majority of them are open to student use 24 hours a day. In addition, there are PCs available for use in the Department of Physics Teaching Laboratories. So if you don't own a computer it is not a major problem.

What if I've not used a computer for word-processing etc. before?

The Department provides all 1st year students with a basic introduction to word processing, spreadsheets and e-mail.

There is also an extra-curricular learning programme called The Student IT Training programme which is designed to help you acquire computer skills in, for example, wordprocessing, electronic mail, using the Internet, and electronic information retrieval. The Student IT Training programme can be included as part of the York Award which is a structured programme for skills and personal development. Languages for All (LFA) can also be included within the York Award.

More information concerning computing and IT services can be found at the IT Services page.

Course information

When does term start? When are the holidays?

The exact dates change from year to year - see here for the current schedule. The University runs a 3-term system with a 10 week Autumn, Spring and Summer term, with exams in January and May. It is currently considering the possibility of moving to a 2-term semester system as found in some other UK universities and in many international universities.

When will I find out my timetable?

The University offers every student their own personalized on-line timetable, which you can either view in a web browser or link to an on-line calendar service on a smart phone, etc. This will be automatically updated whenever there are any changes. It usually goes live during Fresher's Week before the start of teaching. More information is on the student timetable page.

How late can I change from one course to another?

You can change between the different single honours degrees, e.g. from Theoretical Physics to Physics, typically within the first year.

You are generally allowed to change between a joint honours and a single honours degree within the first few weeks of the first term, e.g. Physics with Philosophy to Physics, or Theoretical Physics to Mathematics and Physics.

Any changes after this time are considered on an indivdual basis and would be at the discretion of the relevant board of studies.

You can also change between the 3-year BSc and the 4-year MPhys variants of each degree. This is subject to suitable academic performance and can be done at the end of year 1 and/or year 2. No changes are allowed after the end of year 2.

How many hours per week of contact time are there in the first year?

The approximate number of contact hours is 20 hours. This comprises 10-12 hours of lectures, up to 4½ hours of laboratory work, and 4-6 hours of tutorials, workshops, problem classes, supervision, and skills activities.

How much work do we need to hand in each week?

Each week you will be asked to attempt seven or eight problems; these are based on work that has been covered in the lecture courses that you will be attending. The aim of the problems is to ensure you use and think about the material you have learned. In some weeks you will have to submit a Laboratory Report or a course assignment; the deadlines for these are staggered to ensure that you do not become overloaded and you will always have sufficient time in which to complete the work.

What feedback do we get about our answers to problem sheets?

Most first year and many second year modules are supported by tutorials. In tutorials a small group of students (typically five or six) meet with one tutor. The format of tutorials is flexible, but tutors may use them to go over problems that have been set in the previous week, particularly if they have caused difficulty. Your marked answers are usually returned at tutorials. Model answers, written by the module lecturer, are posted each week onto the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment).

Are there any other types of support offered?

Yes. Some courses are supported by problem classes in which the whole class meets with a member of staff to look in detail at solutions to problems. In the first year we run a series of Maths Workshops that provide additional support for the first year Mathematics courses.

There is also a student-run support activity ' Physics Undergraduate Consultancy Service' or PUCS for short, which meets once a week and where 3rd and 4th year students assist 1st and 2nd year students.

Also, our academic staff are always happy to help with any problems you may be having with the course material.

Who monitors my progress during my degree? Do I get regular feedback about my performance?

Ultimately the Board of Studies in Physics is responsible for monitoring the progress of all students. However, at the beginning of your degree, you will be assigned a supervisor who will be a member of staff within the Department of Physics. Your supervisor will monitor your progress and discuss this with you at the beginning and end of each term or immediately after exam results come out. Each week problems are marked and returned giving the student very prompt feedback on perfomance and understanding.

We hope that you will develop a friendly relationship with your supervisor so that you feel free to confide any illnesses or problems that are affecting your academic performance.

The Board of Studies provides you with a transcript of your results at the beginning of each academic year.

Can I take modules from other departments?

Yes. There is a compendium of modules available from other departments, and up to 20 credits (out of 120 per year) are allowed for you to take advantage of this. The opportunities for particular modules to be taken may be limited by timetable clashes with physics courses.

Do you listen to students' views about teaching? How do we let you know what our views are?

We take students' views on the quality of our teaching and the content of our courses very seriously. At the end of each lecture course you are provided with a questionnaire that asks questions about both quality and content. The course lecturer and the Head of Department review these. Lecturers will often modify courses in the light of your comments and the effects of these measures are reviewed in the following year. Of course if you have a specific point that you wish to make then you are also free to mention it to the lecturer in person before the end of the course.

Alternatively you can ask one of the student representatives, elected by your year, to raise points in their meetings with staff. There are student representatives on the Board of Studies, the Staff-Student Committee and the Departmental Teaching Committee. In addition the student representatives meet the Year Tutors at least once a term.

Do you offer a Year in Industry?

Yes we do. 

Our industrial placements can be accessed through a variety of routes including final year projects, summer placements and a year in industry. Please visit our Year In Industry pages for more information.

Can I do research during the summer in the Department?

Each year we offer a number of undergraduates the chance to do full-time research for 6 - 10 weeks during the summer vacation. Some of these are funded directly by the Department, others by the Nuffield Foundation and EPSRC . In recent years we have had at least 15 students doing summer projects with us. In addition to the experience, you will gain a useful item to add to your CV whilst the Department will benefit from your contribution.

Are there any recommended books / reading list?

Background reading is always useful, so here are some recommended general physics books:

"The New World of Mr Tompkins" by George Gamow and Russell Stannard (Cambridge University Press)

"How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life" by Louis A Bloomfield (Wiley)

and of course, magazines such as New Scientist, Physics Review and Physics World.

As a general 'preparing to study' guide we recommend:

"Studying Physics" by David Sands (Palgrave Study Guide)

and finally, the two recommended core texts for 1st year Physics are:

"Engineering Mathematics" by K A Stroud (Palgrave), and

"University Physics with Modern Physics" by H D Young and R A Freedman (Pearson)

NB Copies of all core texts are in the University Library and also for sale in the Blackwells Bookshop on campus.

Disability and Equal Opportunities information

What support can the University provide? Who in the Department will know?

We are committed to providing equal opportunites and welcome applications from everyone without regard to any disability - it is your academic ability that is key. Once you are here, the University provides a specialist disability support unit, which you can go to for an individual assessment and they will ensure that appropriate support is put in place for you according to your needs. This will be confidential to you, the Departmental Disability Advisor, your personal supervisor and selected other staff on a strict "need to know" basis only.

Examinations information

Are all the marks based on examinations?

No. There are examinations at the end of each year which contribute to the overall mark. However, you can also gain marks by answering the problems which are given out weekly. In addition, the work you do in laboratories and for projects makes a significant contribution to your annual mark. Some courses are assessed by an assignment rather than by an examination.

How are the marks, which contribute to my degree, spread over the 3 or 4 years?

The yearly weightings for the three year BSc programmes are: 0%, 40%, 60%; and for the four year MPhys programmes: 0%, 25%, 37.5% and 37.5%.

Finance information

What are the bursary schemes for students at the University of York

There are two main schemes, the first of which is available to all students at the University, while the second in available to Physics students only:

  • The University of York's Bursary Scheme - more information about this scheme can be found here.
  • The Department of Physics International Students Bursary - more information about this scheme can be found here.

Are there any opportunities for sponsorship?

The Department does not have any formal sponsorship arrangements with industry. But if you wish to pursue this yourself the Institute of Physics provides a very useful book which contains the names of companies that have expressed an interest in sponsoring physics students. (“Sponsorship and Work Placements for Physics Students”, published by and available from: The Institute of Physics, Education Department, 76 Portland Place, London, W1N 4AA.)

Are vacation jobs at the University available to students?

Yes. During the vacation, portering, catering, security, audio visual jobs, for example, are available to students to support the University's conference trade. In addition, Careers Service provide some opportunities for students who are looking for part-time, temporary and seasonal work in the local area.
Temporary and part-time work - Student home, The University of York
Look for work - Student home, The University of York


What service does the University provide for graduates looking for employment?

The University Careers Service exists to assist you at any time during your 3 or 4 years at York, and after graduation if help is still required. Apart from extensive information about jobs, employers, postgraduate opportunities, etc., there is a regular programme of fairs, forums and presentations. The Careers Service also provides help with the process of identifying what it is you want to do after graduation. The Department of Physics also provides guidance through your Departmental Supervisor, the Departmental Careers Liaison Officer, and, the incorporation of a Careers Service presentation as part of the Physics Communication Skills Programme.

Language learning information

What opportunity is there for me to learn a foreign language?

The University-wide Languages for All (LFA) programme offers a range of foreign language courses to students in all departments. They are offered at five different levels (subject to demand) ranging from 'no previous knowledge' to 'Year 3 University level' and can be taken as part of the York Award scheme. Languages currently available include French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Arabic, Modern Greek, Classical Latin and Medieval Latin.

Sports and social life

What opportunities for sports and joining societies are available?

There are approximately 100 Student Union societies available for you to join at very modest cost. Each one has been set up and is run by students with help from the Student Union. The Athletic Union (AU) is the student body that organises sport at the University for you. The AU has something to offer everyone from the highly competitive inter-university sport to the more casual inter-college sport. There are 50 sports and these range from cricket, rugby and football to pot-holing, snowboarding and paint-balling and costs are very low. More information can be found at the Student Union website.

What sport facilities are on campus?

The University has recently built a brand new "Sports Village" on Heslington East campus which has many state of the art features, including 8-lane 25 m swimming pool, fitness suite, spa, etc. On the Heslington West campus there is also the Sports Centre which as well as having gyms, squash courts and indoor pitches, also has a running track and floodlit all-weather pitches.

There are also many sporting events, at all levels, organized by the York Sport Union.

What musical activities are available for physics students?

Apart from attending frequent concerts in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall and Central Hall, students from any department can audition for the University Orchestra, the Jazz orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra (only by invitation after a University Orchestra audition), wind ensemble, and early music group.

For singers there is the Chamber Choir and University Choir, as well as Student Societies such as the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and the Glee Singers. Non-Music Department students who are members of the student Music Society can practise in the practice rooms in Langwith College. Several other student societies have a musical focus such as Band Society, Concert Band Society, Concert Orchestra Society, Lunatic Fringe (alternative music), Music Society, Revelation Rock Gospel Choir, Jazz and Blues Society and Dance Society.

Is there an International Students Association ?

The ISA - International Students' Association (YUSU) is a student body which represents the specific interests of the increasing number of international students at York. All overseas students, undergraduate and postgraduate (including students from the EU), are automatically members of the ISA, which is jointly financed by the Students' Union and the Graduate Students' Association.

The ISA's functions are threefold: firstly, it aims to address problems - personal, social or administrative - which might be faced by students in a foreign land. Secondly, and more positively, it opens up opportunities for international and cultural exchange by organising social events, especially during the annual 'International Week' which culminates in Fiesta, a cultural and culinary tour of the world. Thirdly ,the ISA arranges trips around Britain and Europe to enable international students to visit some of the major tourist attractions.

The ISA Executive Committee is responsible for running the Association, and the Association is represented on a number of University committees. The ISA holds open meetings which all international students are welcome to attend. You are encouraged to get involved with the running of the ISA, either as a member of the Executive or in a more informal way.

Other support for International students can be found here: International students - Student home, The University of York

Studying Abroad

If I am studying a Physics degree programme with a Year Abroad, do I have to take the first year language electives?

No, but we recommend it if you can, otherwise you will have to take the language courses as part of the LFA (Languages For All) programme as an extramural activity. In the particular case of Astrophysics students who wish to do a year in Europe, the language course will be taken in the LFA programme as you must take the Astrophysics electives as part of your course.

What happens in the second year concerning the language courses?

You simply take the next level of the language course.

Is there particular emphasis on the technical words in the language courses?

No, but the language centre can provide individual learning packages which cover more of the technical words in the language. In addition, the Department of Physics at York has a number of visiting students from France, Germany and Italy who can provide additional help and guidance on the technical language requirements.

Is there the possibility of going to the other European country early to study the language?

In most cases, yes. The University of Erlangen in Germany in particular, has a course which you can go to in September, one month before the semester starts. It may also be possible at the Universities of Lille and Bologna.

Are there any possibilities to study abroad apart from the Year Abroad programme?

Yes. The University runs a number of student exchange schemes with partner universities around the world, including North America, Asia, Australia and other European countries. However, there are only a small number of places available at each partner university and so there is stiff competition from across the different York departments to be selected. Hence we cannot guarantee you a place, unlike the named 'Year Abroad' degree option.

Volunteering as a Student

What opportunities are there for me to get involved with volunteering?

The University runs a number of different volunteering schemes - and one of the most popular is York Students in Schools (YSIS). See the website for details of this and other schemes.

The Student Union also runs various RAG events ("Raising and Giving") as do the different college JCRs, culminating in RAG Week in Spring Term each year.

York Award

What is the York Award?

The York Award is a certificated programme of transferable skills training and experiential learning, offered by the University of York in partnership with leading public, private and voluntary sector organisations.

Other questions?

Any other questions?

If you have any questions which are not answered here, please feel free to contact the Admissions Tutor:

Mail: Dr Charles Barton
Department of Physics
University of York
York, UK
YO10 5DD
Phone: +44 (0)1904 432241
Fax: +44 (0)1904 432214


View the University's prospectus online, or request a paper copy‌‌‌ 


Dr Andrew Higinbotham

Dr Vlado Lazarov

Department of Physics
University of York
York, UK
YO10 5DD

Phone: +441904 322241