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MPhys (Hons) Physics with Philosophy

Follow in the footsteps of philosopher-scientists from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell and tackle some of the fundamental questions of life, the universe and everything.

2018/19 entry

Show 2017/18 entry

UCAS code

F3VM

Institution code

Y50

Length

4 years full-time (plus optional placement year)

Typical offer

AAA (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

UK/EU fees

Fees for 2018/19 to be confirmed. See fees and funding.

International fees

£20,910 per year (2018/19)

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Get an insight into the minds of the great thinkers, where the works of Newton and Einstein stand alongside those of Plato and Kant.

Critically evaluate scientific methods and see physics laid bare. Study topics from plasma to paradox and discover fundamental truths about the nature of the Universe.

You'll gain the same broad background in advanced physics as your single-subject peers, enhanced by the study of the grand theories of metaphysics, ethics and logic. You'll learn key skills for analysing real-life problems and communicating complex ideas and arguments - great preparation for work or further study.

You'll work with world-renowned physicists and philosophers, probing the nature of existence and pushing the boundaries of research.

Accreditation

Our courses are accredited by the Institute of Physics (iop.org), guaranteeing the standard of our teaching and learning. Completing this degree will put you on track to becoming a Chartered Physicist.

IOP Institute of Physics

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Physics with Philosophy is a degree programme that relentlessly nurtures your talents. You are lent the resources and equipped with the skills required to tackle newfound problems with a prowess you may never have dreamed you possessed.
Joe, MPhys Physics with Philosophy

Tackle big ideas, down to the smallest particle

Work with academics conducting world-leading research in areas from fusion energy to quantum computing.

Course content

This course offers a good all-round study of physics set in the context of wider human knowledge. You'll gain a complete and thorough grounding in physics, from scientific principles to applied experimentation.

In your philosophy modules you'll go beyond the philosophy of science and study the entire history of thought. You'll develop knowledge of the great thinkers of antiquity, different strands of world philosophy and modern perspectives.

In your final year you'll design and carry out an original research project. You'll work under guidance from an academic supervisor to bring new knowledge and deeper understanding to a topic like quantum mechanics or nuclear physics, or a concept such as truth or time. You can choose to take an interdisciplinary approach, deconstructing scientific and philosophical theories. Alternatively join one of our internationally-renowned research groups and investigate a problem in physics.

Study abroad

Summer abroad

Spend a few weeks or a whole summer on a short course, volunteering programme, or career-related summer school with one of our international partners.

Year 1

Year 1 emphasises core material to consolidate your existing knowledge and prepare you for more advanced study. You'll cover key concepts in physics and gain essential mathematical skills. In philosophy you'll develop your powers of reasoning and argument, challenging your opinions and forming your approach to the bigger philosophical questions.

Core modules

Beginning Philosophy will introduce you to the methods of thinking and writing typical of Philosophy, and to some key philosophical topics. (10 credits)

Classical Mechanics and Relativity with Professional Skills covers foundational concepts in physics. You'll learn methods for calculating position, velocity, acceleration and other properties of motion. Then you'll expand on classical mechanics with an introduction to the ideas and concepts of Einstein's special theory of relativity. In Professional Skills modules, you'll study with an eye to developing a range of abilities essential for high-level physics. (20 credits)

Electromagnetism, Waves and Optics will ensure you have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic phenomena. You'll build on your existing knowledge and learn to describe and apply a range of foundational theories, concepts and laws. (20 credits)

Introduction to Thermal and Quantum Physics begins in Term 1, examining heat and kinetic theory, fluids and the solid state. In Term 2, you'll move on to quantum physics, discussing key experiments performed at the beginning of the 20th century. (20 credits)

Mathematics I introduces some of the fundamental maths you'll need for studying physics. You'll cover calculus, complex numbers, vectors, linear algebra and matrices. (20 credits)

Reason and Argument introduces formal philosophical logic and its application in understanding claims and arguments expressed in everyday language. You'll develop your understanding of logic, exploring propositional and first order logic, logical notation and complex propositional formulae. (20 credits)

Optional modules

Choose one of the following modules:

Ancient Philosophy focuses on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, a work which has had a huge influence on modern philosophy. You'll evaluate and criticise Aristotle's arguments, and consider what it means to be virtuous.​ (10 credits)

Metaphysics contemplates some of the big questions of the fundamental nature of existence. You'll explore a range of perspectives addressing the central issues in contemporary metaphysics. (10 credits)

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module.

Year 2

In Year 2 you'll deepen your understanding of fundamental physical laws and processes. You'll explore in-depth issues in central philosophy and learn to approach problems creatively.

Core modules

Electromagnetism and Optics will explain how Maxwell unified electricity, magnetism and optics into electromagnetic theory. You'll also study Fraunhofer and Fresnel diffraction, and be introduced to laser physics. (20 credits)

Mathematics II introduces vector calculus, essential for interpreting electric, magnetic and gravitational fields. You'll learn to mathematically express the laws of Gauss, Ampere and Faraday, and study the properties of real and complex matrices and tensors. (20 credits)

Quantum Physics II covers atomic and subatomic quantum physics. You'll explore concepts of quantization, quantum states, and quantum interactions, and discuss atomic structure. (20 credits)

Thermodynamics and Solid State II introduces highly generalisable concepts with a wide range of applications. You'll consider the consequences of the four laws of thermodynamics and apply them to some simple systems. You'll also study crystalline solids, their structure, properties and behaviour. (20 credits)

Philosophy of Science explores some key contemporary themes, developing your ability to apply philosophical methods to debates in other disciplines, and giving you a better understanding of the limits of scientific knowledge. (20 credits)

Optional modules

Choose one 20-credit module or two 10-credit modules:

20-credit modules:

10-credit modules:

Year 3

Year 3 introduces some advanced concepts, building on the expertise you've developed. You'll cover key areas of advanced physics, with optional modules giving you the chance to delve deeper into your favourite philosophical topic.

Core modules

Introduction to Plasma Science and Technology and Stellar Physics draws on ongoing research at York to illustrate and explain plasmas. You'll use the expertise you've been developing for the past two years to understand plasmas, and the cauldrons of our cosmos, stars.

Philosophy of Physics examines some of the conceptual questions presented by classical and contemporary physical theories. Does time pass, or is the flow of time an illusion? Is space a substance in its own right, or just a system of relations among physical bodies? Do observers discover a reality, or somehow create it through observation and measurement?

Quantum Physics III introduces advanced topics and techniques in quantum mechanics. You'll build on your earlier learning and make links with applications in nuclear physics and atomic structure.

Statistical Physics and Solid State II explores how statistical techniques can be applied to solve problems in thermodynamics and other branches of physics. The solid state element of this module expands on your second-year knowledge of crystalline solids.

Optional modules

You'll pick two or three additional modules in Philosophy, equivalent to 40 credits. These vary from year to year to reflect our research and expertise. Here's an idea of what might be on offer:

20-credit modules

10-credit modules

Please note that some combinations of modules are not permitted. For more information please contact our admissions tutor.

Year 4

The fourth year consists of a number of advanced option modules, providing you with the opportunity to specialise further. You'll apply the core knowledge you've developed over the previous years to topics aligned with our internationally-recognised research groups.

You'll undertake a major research project under the supervision of an academic member of staff with expertise in the area you choose to focus on. You'll conduct original research to reach new conclusions and, at the highest levels, contribute to our understanding of physics and philosophy.

Core modules

Topics in Theoretical Philosophy covers key issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Mind. You'll discuss and critique issues, developing your skills of argument and debate. (20 credits)

MPhys Project (60 credits)

Our students widely acknowledge the MPhys project as one of the most satisfying and rewarding parts of the course. You'll undertake independent research to investigate a current problem in the field, or bring new perspectives to a familiar topic. You may need to design, build and evaluate equipment for a specific experimental purpose.

Recent projects have included:

  • Knowledge in Context: Exploring the Concept of Truth in Physics and Philosophy
  • The Meaning of the Time Variable in Post-Relativity Physics
  • Shape coexistence in thallium and bismuth isotopes studied by laser spectroscopy
  • Exploring Exotic Nuclear Shapes and Structures
  • Construction of a polarised TIRF microscope to probe membrane diffusion
  • Exotic nuclei studied with knockout and fragmentation reactions

You'll be supported by a professional skills module to hone your research techniques. You'll undertake a literature survey, write a review essay, develop a project plan and give oral and poster presentations in an end-of-year conference.

Optional modules

You'll pick one optional module in Physics and one in Philosophy. These vary from year to year to reflect our research and expertise. Here's an idea of what might be on offer:

Philosophy

Physics

Please note that some combinations of modules are not permitted. For more information please contact our admissions tutor.

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

Learning by design

Every course at York has been designed to provide clear and ambitious learning outcomes. These learning outcomes give you an understanding of what you will be able to do at the end of the course. We develop each course by designing modules that grow your abilities towards the learning outcomes and help you to explain what you can offer to employers. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

Apply independent learning strategies that incorporate core and advanced physics, mathematics and/or computational knowledge, techniques and understanding to synthesise and evaluate physical world problems.

Plan and execute extended or complex scientific investigation using the principles of physics in investigating a hypothesis, and interpret outcomes.

Recognise and define key problems, issues, and debates across a range of areas of philosophy—including some at the forefront of contemporary work—and apply a developed  understanding of core philosophical issues in approaching new problems.

Develop and articulate solutions to problems and puzzles in philosophy, lay out what can be said for and against these solutions, and make a measured judgement about what is the best solution in each case, working in a critically reflective and autonomous way and supporting their judgement with a sustained line of argument based on a sophisticated appreciation of the considerations raised.

Communicate complex and difficult ideas in clear, precise, and accessible terms to the  general public and professional scientists and philosophers in a variety of formats—in particular, articulating the interrelations between core areas and defending outcomes in physics, and explaining key problems, issues, and debates in philosophy.

Collaborate effectively with others, and work with a group to apply physics themes and concepts to open-ended problems.

Critically evaluate the merits and demerits of competing scientific and philosophical theories, and hence plan and execute an in-depth investigation of a particular area of physics.

Engage with a range of physical and philosophical theories, and the connections between them, in order to appreciate the intellectual beauty and societal applications of physics and philosophy, and be inspired to lifelong learning.

I love labs - I really enjoy using all the equipment, having a go at what we've been learning and doing something hands on. We got to have a go at cooling superconductors and using them to levitate magnets which was pretty cool! For me it's a far cry from anything I did at school or college!
Emma, MPhys Physics

Read more on Emma's blog.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees

UK/EU International
£9,250 (2017/18)

Fees for 2018/19 are subject to increase in line with government policy. Updated fees information will be published as soon as possible after the government announcement.
£20,910

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.

Fees for subsequent years

  • UK/EU: further increases within the government fee cap will apply in subsequent academic years. We will notify you of any increase as soon as we can.
  • International: fees for international students are subject to annual increases. Increases are currently capped at 2% per annum.

More information

For more information about tuition fees, any reduced fees for study abroad and work placement years, scholarships, tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and living costs see undergraduate fees and funding.

Funding

We offer a number of scholarships to help cover tuition fees and living costs.

Home/EU students

International students

Physics Academic Excellence Scholarships

We offer £1,000 in each year of your degree if you achieve an A* or equivalent in Mathematics or Physics and select York as your firm choice when applying. This scholarship is renewable each year, subject to attaining full credits and an overall mark of 70 per cent or higher at your first attempt.

Master Class Research Placements

If you achieved an A* or equivalent in A level Mathematics or Physics and maintain an overall mark of 70% or higher Year 1 you'll be guaranteed a paid summer placement with one our research groups.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers accommodation costs and estimated social costs.

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. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Teaching format

Much of your teaching will be in the form of lectures based on our cutting-edge research. These are supported by hands-on lab work and weekly mathematics problem classes in which you can apply and crystallise your learning. Twice a week you'll join four or five other students to discuss course material with a tutor. Discussions often range beyond the immediate subject matter to wider implications and issues.

In seminars in your final year you'll present topics to fellow students and discuss your ideas. The subjects are chosen to reflect contemporary issues so there is scope for debate on ethics and values, as well as scientific matters.

You'll have regular meetings with a personal academic supervisor, who will guide your studies and keep an eye on your academic progress and general welfare.

How you'll spend your time

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Lectures and seminars336 hours
(28%)
276 hours
(23%)
216 hours
(18%)
288 hours
(24%)
Independent study864 hours
(72%)
924 hours
(77%)
984 hours
(82%)
912 hours
(76%)

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17. Subsequent years' courses may differ.

Independent study may include preparation for lectures and seminars, follow up work, wider reading, practice completion of assessment tasks, or revision. Everyone learns at a different rate, so the number of hours will vary from person to person. In UK higher education the expectation is that full-time students will spend 1200 hours a year learning.

Teaching location

You'll be based in the Department of Physics on Campus West. Most of your teaching will take place in the Department, with some classes elsewhere on Campus West.

Course location

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

Most of your assessment will be by formal examination. You'll also be marked on regular problem exercises and laboratory work, coursework and formal report writing.

Your MPhys Project makes up a large proportion of mark for your final year. You'll be assessed on your lab work and dissertation, and face an oral examination: all great preparation for continuing your studies to PhD level.

We balance various types of assessment to develop and test your different strengths:

  • Examinations
  • Extended assignments
  • Weekly problems
  • Formal reports
  • Practical laboratory work
  • Presentations
  • Practical research methods

You'll get prompt, regular feedback to help you develop your skills. Our open door policy means you can always approach your tutors if you want to discuss your work.

Percentage of the course assessed by coursework and exams

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Written exams69%67%63%14%
Coursework25%33%37%68%
Practical exams6%0%0%18%

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17. Subsequent years' courses may differ.

Careers and skills

Our graduates are sought by employers in a huge range of disciplines. 96% of our graduates were employed or in further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2015/16).

Many of our graduates progress to postgraduate degrees at York and other leading universities. However, the skills you will learn - analysis, mathematics, problem-solving - are relevant in industries from finance to software development.

We're committed to supporting our students' career development and employability - it's embedded in our core teaching. We organise activities from careers fairs to leadership building exercises to ensure you're prepared to enter the jobs market with a competitive edge. 91% of our graduates in employment are in graduate or professional level jobs, putting us in 2nd place in the Times Graduate Destination Indicator (DLHE, 2015/16).

Career opportunities

Our graduates are working as:

  • Accelerator Physicist, Science and Technology Council
  • Engineer, BAE Systems
  • Scientist, The Home Office
  • Financial Coordinator, De Vere
  • IT Analyst and Consultant, Virgin money
  • Teacher
  • Electrical Engineer, Jaguar Land Rover
  • Environmental Modeller, E.ON
  • Accountant, John Lewis

Transferable skills

  • Self-management
  • Communication skills
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation
  • IT literacy
  • Mathematics

Entry requirements

Qualification Grade
A levels

AAA in three subjects including Physics and Maths.

This must include a pass in all practical components (where offered).

Your third A level can be in a wide range of acceptable subjects. We do not accept General Studies or Critical Thinking.

We may consider AS Maths at A grade instead of A level Maths. In this case you'll attend additional maths classes in your first year of study.

Cambridge Pre-U D3 D3 D3 in 3 principal subjects including Physics and Maths
European Baccalaureate 85% overall, with 85% in Physics and Maths
Other qualifications

All other qualifications, including Scottish Highers and Irish Leaving Certificates, will be considered individually.

If you don't have suitable qualifications in Maths and/or Physics, successfully completing a Foundation Year will guarantee a place on any of our undergraduate degrees:

We welcome applications from mature students and students without standard qualifications. Please contact our admissions team to discuss your specific circumstances.

You may also be interested in our part-time access course:

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:

  • IELTS: 6.0, with a minimum of 6.0 in each component
  • Pearson: 55, with a minimum of 55 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 169, with a minimum of 169 each component
  • TOEFL: 79 overall, with a minimum of 19 in Listening, 20 in Reading, 21 in Speaking, 19 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE III: Pass in all components

For more information see our undergraduate English language requirements.

Applying

To apply to York, you will need to complete an online application via UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

Interview days

If we're thinking about making you an offer, we'll invite you to an interview day. This gives us a chance to discuss your choice of course and get a better picture of you as an individual. You'll get a chance to look around the Department and University, attend a mini-lecture, take part in some hands-on activities, and talk to our academics and student ambassadors.

International applicants

If you're applying from outside the UK we can arrange telephone interviews. Part of the interview takes place online, so you'll need to be able to connect to the internet while you are on the phone.

Next steps

Contact us

Contact our admissions team if you have any questions

Learn more

Department of Philosophy, Department of Physics

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