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PGDip Astronomy (online)

Explore space and uncover the mysteries of the universe.

Year of entry: 2021 (September)


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

Virtual Open Day

Meet us online on Wednesday 9 June to discover postgraduate study at York.

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Explore planets, stars and galaxies, and discuss black holes, dark matter and the Big Bang. 

Taught exclusively online, this course delivers flexible and fully supported modules allowing you to study for a formal postgraduate qualification in astronomy over the course of two years. 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

The core programme

This part-time two-year programme is made up of six 20-credit modules and comprises two stages: Certificate and Diploma. The programme is designed to give you a comprehensive knowledge of contemporary astronomy, whether or not your background is in physics. Should your circumstances change, you can end your studies after one year and graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate.


Previous experience in mathematics, to A level standard or equivalent, is essential. The areas of mathematics that feature prominently in the programme are geometry, trigonometry, algebra (including exponential and logarithmic functions), calculus, and vectors. Our Maths Skills Centre has links to many online resources which you may find useful as revision aids of key areas. The HELM workbooks are particularly helpful, with chapters 1 - 6 and 9 - 19 covering the mathematics used in the postgraduate diploma.

Residential weekend

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 you are expected to meet the costs of your 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.


Year 1

Year 2

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

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

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Demonstrate higher-level knowledge of the physics and technology underlying observational astronomy across the electromagnetic spectrum and using cosmic rays, neutrinos and gravitational waves
  • Solve advanced physics problems mathematically by identifying the relevant physical principles and translating problems into mathematical statements
  • Plan and execute an experiment or investigation using modern computational techniques, and work independently to critically analyse the results of investigations and draw valid conclusions
  • Evaluate the relationship between theoretical results and results obtained from experimental observation
  • Communicate complex scientific ideas and the conclusions of an experiment, investigation or project concisely, accurately and informatively to a diverse audience ranging from specialist to non-specialist
  • Evidence postgraduate understanding of mathematical models used in advanced astronomy topics, such as high-energy astronomy, particle astrophysics and cosmology, to describe astronomical phenomena

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2021/22

Study modeUK (home) / International and EU
Part-time, distance learning (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Additional costs

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

UK-based students are encouraged to make use of 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.

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. Our 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. The programme is interactive and incorporates numerous tasks and exercises which are carefully structured – you will be asked to participate in tasks and activities every 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

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree You will normally be expected to hold an undergraduate with Honours in a related subject area. Previous maths skills, to A level or equivalent standard, are essential.
Other qualifications and experience 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. In such instances, you may be asked to demonstrate the required skills, which could include a maths test, for consideration of the admissions panel. Applicants are assessed on a case-by-case basis following the University's Equal Opportunities policy.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

Any student may be called to interview and the University of York reserves the right to ask students for academic work to support their application.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 7.0, minimum 6.5 in each component
PTE Academic 67, minimum 61 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 185, minimum 176 in each component
TOEFL 96, minimum 23 in each component
Trinity ISE III Distinction in all components
Duolingo 120, minimum 110 in all other components

For more information see our English language requirements.


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.

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Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Ben Johnstone-Bray, Associate Lecturer (Course details, assessments, entry requirements)
Amanda Pauw, Postgraduate Administrator (application process, fees, English language requirements)

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Centre for Lifelong Learning