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Home>Study at York>Postgraduate taught>Courses 2019/20>Astronomy (PGDip)

PGDip Astronomy (online)

Explore the solar system and uncover the mystery of space

Year of entry: 2019
Show year of entry: 2020


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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Find out what studying at York as a postgraduate is really like.  

Meet us

This online postgraduate diploma offers you the opportunity to explore planets, stars and galaxies, and discuss black holes, dark matter and the Big Bang. This course delivers flexible and fully supported modules and is taught exclusively online.

Over the course of two years, you will gain a formal postgraduate qualification in astronomy. It is designed to give you a robust and up-to-date background in areas such as planetary science, stellar physics and cosmology.

Guided by a supportive tutor, you will strengthen your scientific communication and essay writing skills and build your understanding of physics, chemistry and mathematics. You will also explore advanced topics, from exoplanets and the search for life to the theory of relativity and the standard model of particle physics.

Join a global community

Broaden your academic horizons alongside enthusiastic staff and students.

Learn online

The flexible modules can be accessed from anywhere, at any time; allowing you to shape your own learning experience.

Residential weekends

Meet tutors, network with fellow students, listen to expert talks and engage in study activities.

Course content

This part-time two-year programme is made up of six 20-credit modules and comprises of two stages, Certificate and Diploma. 

This programme will offer people with a passion for astronomy, who may have graduated in subjects other than physics, the opportunity to gain a formal postgraduate qualification in the subject area, and is designed to give students a comprehensive knowledge of contemporary astronomy.

We hold an optional two-day Residential Weekend at York each year. Each event is an opportunity to meet your fellow students and staff, engage in discussion and share your knowledge of astronomy. These events are free of charge, though students are expected to meet the costs of their travel, accommodation and sustenance. For students who are unable to attend these weekends, there is the option to watch recordings of the key sessions from each weekend.

Should your circumstances change, you can end your studies after one year and graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate.


Year One

Year Two

Students will be required to complete all these modules in the first instance, though additional modules may be added in the future to accommodate future programme growth and offer a broader learning experience.

Full details of programme structures and the modules which comprise individual awards can be found at Postgraduate Programme Specifications.

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EU/International
Part-time, distance learning (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee

Additional costs

We strive to make reading materials available digitally within licensing agreements. When this is not possible, students may have to obtain some key texts themselves. You'll be issued reading lists in advance of each term.

UK-based students are encouraged to utilise the SCONUL Access scheme which allows the borrowing of reading materials from other libraries belonging to the scheme.

The optional residential weekends at York are free of charge to attend but you should expect to pay for food, accommodation and travel, which will vary in price depending on your location and the standard of accommodation you choose to book.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

You will study online for an average of 20 hours per week. You can decide when you choose to work, as all activities can be completed around your schedule.

Although this programme is taught online, the supportive staff will guide you through a well-structured syllabus that encourages discussion and informed argument. 

The technology-based approach means that our programmes are highly flexible, and you can study from anywhere at a time convenient to you. They are however carefully structured and you will be asked to participate in tasks and activities every week.

The programme is interactive and incorporates numerous tasks and exercises. You can engage with the tasks at any time during the week.


Your learning will take place within a supportive Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Blackboard which will give you access to study resources, discussion forums, the University of York Online Library and your University email account.

Within the VLE you will have access to a personal journal, for talking to your tutor on a one-to-one basis, and an online social space, for conversing with other students about programme material and interests or to organise social events.

Assessment and feedback

You'll primarily be assessed through literature reviews, critical essays, laboratory reports and open book exams. In each module there is also a unique short assessment in a different format, including a magazine article and a video presentation.

Careers and skills

This Postgraduate Diploma in Astronomy is enriching to astronomers at various stages of their academic journeys. As a graduate, you will have a newfound confidence in your personal abilities as well as an established variety of transferable skills and a rich knowledge of a variety of astrophysical topics. 

Career opportunities

  • Teaching
  • Higher education
  • Science outreach
  • Science communication
  • Astronomy research
  • Further study

Transferable skills

  • Data analysis
  • Problem-solving
  • Mathematical techniques
  • Experimental techniques
  • Computational techniques
  • Critical writing
  • Science communication
  • Time-management

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer

Normally students will be expected to hold a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours in a related subject area. Previous maths skills, to A-Level or equivalent standard, are essential.

Other qualifications

We are committed to ensuring open access and will seek to ensure those without the qualifications highlighted above, but with evident ability to succeed, have the opportunity to engage. We will consider any student with a BA/BSc award in any subject and evidence of recent Higher Education level study in astronomy or astrophysics. You may be asked to demonstrate the required skills to study astronomy at postgraduate level, which could include sending samples of previous work, for consideration of the admissions panel.

Applicants are assessed on a case-by-case basis following the University's Equal Opportunities policy.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. You must have:

  • IELTS: 7.0, with a minimum of 6.5 in Writing and no less than 5.5 in all other components
  • PTE Academic: 67, with a minimum of 61 in Writing and no less than 51 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with a minimum of 176 in Writing and no less than 162 in all other components
  • TOEFL: 96, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking and 23 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all components

Full details of the requirements for distance learning students.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

Apply for this course

Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Ben Johnstone-Bray, Associate Lecturer
Amanda Pauw, Postgraduate Administrator

Learn more

Centre for Lifelong Learning