Skip to content
Home>Study at York>Undergraduate>Courses>Theoretical Physics with a Year Abroad (MPhys)

MPhys (Hons) Theoretical Physics with a Year Abroad

Explore phenomena which experimentation can't easily explain, with a year abroad

2018/19 entry

UCAS code


Institution code



5 years full-time (plus optional placement year)

Typical offer

AAA (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

UK/EU fees

£9,250 per year (2018/19)

International fees

£20,910 per year (2018/19)

Open Days

Explore what studying and living in York is really like at one of our Open Days.

Find out more

Theoretical physics provides the tools for constructing the mathematical framework of the physical world.

On a foundation of advanced physics, you'll build your understanding of theoretical techniques. You'll use mathematical analysis and an array of computational methods to address complex problems. You'll learn key skills of analysis and research, write scientific reports to industry standards, and simulate huge physical systems using our supercomputers.

Work with world-renowned physicists using sophisticated equipment to probe the nature of existence and push the boundaries of research. Facilities like our astrocampus and the York Plasma Institute give you unprecedented opportunities to supplement your theoretical work with observation and experimentation.

Gain unique global experiences spending a year at one of our partner universities - in France, Germany or Italy. Boost your confidence by immersing yourself in a different culture and gain valuable language skills for your CV.


Our courses are accredited by the Institute of Physics (, 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

The course is challenging and requires work. But rising to the challenge is the great thing about being at university.
Greg, MPhys Theoretical Physics

Course content

This course will build on your previous studies to prepare you for advanced research in industry or academia. Our core and optional modules will give you a broad base of knowledge, and opportunities to focus on the specialist subjects which excite your curiosity.

As you progress you'll hone your lab skills, designing experiments and solving problems. You'll gain experience working with sophisticated equipment and specialist software.

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 an area such as spin chains, nanoparticles or plasmas for fusion energy.

Study abroad

Summer abroad

Year in Europe not enough? 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 study a range of key modules, and develop your theoretical and computational skills in the lab throughout the year.

We'll help you prepare for your year abroad with a language module. You'll study a European language at an intermediate or advanced level, so you'll need at least a grade C in GCSE German, Italian or French.

Core modules

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)

Newtonian and Relativistic Mechanics 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. (20 credits)

Mathematical Modelling with Professional Skills illustrates the general principles in constructing mathematical models using simple examples. You'll use both familiar techniques and new skills to tackle real-world problems. In Professional Skills modules, you'll study with an eye to developing a range of abilities essential for high-level physics. (20 credits)

Laboratory for Theoretical Physics builds on your experience from school and college to develop the core experimental competencies required of a physicist and the scientific programming skills required of a theoretical physicist.​ You'll work with a group to investigate an open-ended problem - an opportunity to show initiative in your theoretical work.​ You'll also have a chance to learn Fortran 90, a high-level programming language. (20 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 laws, processes and techniques. Advanced laboratory work will enable you to plan and execute extended experiments. You'll learn to approach problems creatively and further develop your computational skills.

Core modules

Computational and Mathematical Techniques for Theoretical Physics introduces partial differential equations, and extends calculus to functions of a complex variable and the calculus of variations. You'll apply the skills you learn to experiments in the Computational Laboratory. (20 credits)

Computational Laboratory will help you develop key skills of model design, numerical analysis, computer programming and experimentation. You'll perform computer simulations based on theoretical models, and analyse these to predict the outcome of real-world experiments. (20 credits)

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 I 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)

Year 3

You'll spend your third year at one of our prestigious partner institutions in France, Germany or Italy:

You'll return to York with a fresh perspective, and new ideas and skills which will be invaluable for your future development.

Year 4

The penultimate year introduces some advanced concepts, building on the expertise you've developed. Optional modules give you the chance to delve deeper into your favourite topic, or discover a new area of advanced physics.

You'll complete advanced laboratory work which will include preparation for your research project in the final year.

Core modules

Advanced Computational Laboratory will run throughout your third year. You'll explore the Department's cutting edge research, focusing your studies on one area to develop your specialism. In the lab, you'll gain experience solving hot-topic research problems. Later in the year you'll work closely with a team using specialist sofware to solve a complex materials design challenge. (20 credits)

Computational and Mathematical Techniques II introduces a range of computational and analytic methods that can be used to model the properties and dynamics of physical systems. You'll study concepts and techniques in molecular simulation, computational quantum mechanics and mathematical physics. (20 credits)

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. (20 credits)

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. (20 credits)

Optional modules

Pick two of the following optional modules:

Atomic Physics, Lasers and Modern Optics explains basic quantum mechanical treatments of atomic and molecular structure. You'll also study the interaction of light with atoms, and develop your understanding of the physics of lasers. (20 credits)

Galaxies and the Interstellar Medium and Cosmology investigates the properties both of galaxies and the universe as a whole. You'll review a range of observational tools, and trace the origins of the universe back to the Big Bang. (20 credits)

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. (20 credits)

Introduction to Quantum Computing and Advanced Theoretical Techniques applies your knowledge of quantum mechanics to improving computer performances to levels unreachable by traditional models. You'll look at some of the mathematical techniques underlying quantum computing, and discover a range of mathematical tools for analysing more advanced theoretical scenarios. (20 credits)

Nanoscale and Magnetism will give you a working understanding of the physics and terminology of magnetism and magnetic materials, and introduce you to some of the state-of-the art techniques used in creating and characterising nanoscale materials. (20 credits)

Particle Physics and Relativity introduces some the principles and concepts of particle physics through study of some aspects of relativistic quantum mechanics. You'll go on to consider General Relativity, Einstein's theory of gravitation, which explains gravity as curvature of spacetime. (20 credits)

Year 5

In your final year, you'll study 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.

Core module

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 and code computer simulations to evaluate complex physical systems.

Some of the recent final year projects addressed by our theory students include the modelling of the complex processes occurring in plasmas for fusion energy, the behaviour of cold atoms in Bose-Einstein condensates, the properties of spin chains, and modelling hyperthermia in a nanoparticle magnetic system.

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

Pick three of the following optional modules:

Advanced and Further Quantum Mechanics will develop your knowledge of key topics to bridge the gap between earlier modules and conducting research. You'll look at subjects from the time-dependence of wavefunction in quantum mechanics to theories of angular momentum. (20 credits)

Advanced Computational Physics explores the history and impact of high performace computing on physics research. You'll learn how to take a problem in physics and devise, implement and test a computational solution. (20 credits)

Advanced Nuclear Physics considers some advanced topics and how they are tackled in contemprorary research. You'll examine the models that underpin nuclear structure, the quantum mechanisms of nuclear decay, and the astrophysical processes by which elements are created. (20 credits)

Advanced Plasma Science and Applications provides a basis for understanding the physics of plasmas, including laboratory plasmas and the application of plasma physics to fusion. Later in the module you'll choose to focus your studies on astrophysical plasmas, low temperature plasmas (including biomedical applications), or laser-plasma interactions and high energy density physics. (20 credits)

Biophysics takes an interdisciplinary approach to physical and life sciences - a blossoming area in academia and industry. You'll apply your knowledge of physics to complex biological questions, looking at aspects of life from cell structure to bioengineering. (20 credits)

Nanomaterials: From Graphene to Spintronics introduces the fundamental physics important at the nanoscale, such as tunnelling, surface proximity effect, quantum size effect, and Coulomb blockade. You'll look at cutting edge nanomaterials and nanosystems, learn about fabrication and characterisation, and discover powerful electron microscopy techniques. (20 credits)

Light and Matter will improve your understanding of the physical properties of semiconducting materials, and explore the principles of interaction between light and matter. (20 credits)

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.

Work independently and within a research team and apply group-specific research methodologies, including objective analysis and constructive criticism of research level literature, to extended or complex open-ended problems.

Communicate succinctly to the general public and professional physicists through accurate and precise scientific record keeping, scientific report writing and presentations.

Select and apply sophisticated digital tools for in-depth scientific investigation and in wider societal applications.

Design and successfully code computer simulations based on advanced computational and theoretical models to evaluate complex physical systems, addressing the accuracy, correctness and limitations of the simulation model.

Be inspired by and articulate the advantages of successfully studying in a non-UK academic environment and how this broadens your perspective and develops adaptability, flexibility, resilience and drive.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees

UK/EU International
£9,250 £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.


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.

“Students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes”

The TEF Panel, Office for Students, June 2018

Our Gold Teaching Excellence Framework award demonstrates our commitment to the delivery of consistently outstanding teaching and learning for our students.

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.

Overall workload

As a guide, students on this course typically spend their time as follows:

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Lectures and seminars408 hours396 hours0 hours324 hours
Placement0 hours0 hours1200 hours0 hours

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17.

The rest of your time on the course will be spent on independent study. This 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 typically assessed by coursework and exams

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Written exams64%64%0%32%
Practical exams2%1%0%18%

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17.

For me one of the best things about York is its friendly and inclusive atmosphere. The Physics staff are really welcoming and supportive.
Emma, MPhys Physics

Read more on Emma's blog.

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 6 months after graduation (DLHE, 2015/16). Our commitment to employability places us in the top 5 physics departments for Graduate Prospects in the 2018 Times Good University Guide.

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
I chose York because the Department is one of the best in the country, and along with the whole University carries a strong reputation for teaching and research.
Tim, MPhys Physics

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.

GCSEs 4 (C) or above in French, German or Italian
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.


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

Get in touch if you have any questions

Learn more

Department of Physics

Discover York


We offer a range of campus accommodation to suit you and your budget, from economy to deluxe.

Student life

Explore campus and city life and hear what our current students have to say about living here.

The city

Lively, full of culture and beautiful, York is regularly voted one of the best places to live and visit in the UK.