Undergraduate prospectus

  • Start date: September 2016

Theoretical Physics BSc

This three-year programme offers a variant of the advanced study offered in the Physics BSc. You will develop specialised knowledge of the theoretical structure of the core topics in physics, and the programme is likely to appeal to you if you have a strong interest and ability in mathematics.

Key Information

Degree Programme
Theoretical Physics BSc
UCAS code
3 years
Application deadline
15 January 2016
Subject area
Physics and Astrophysics
Total intake (by subject area)
142 (2016 entry)
Applications per place (by subject area)
11 (2014 entry)
Research Excellence Framework
90% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Entry requirements

A Levels

Mathematics, Physics and Further Mathematics required.
AS Levels
For UK-based students a pass in a further subject at AS level or equivalent is required.
English Language and Mathematics at grade C. For UK-based students, a grade C or equivalent in a foreign language (other than Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew or Latin) is required. UCL provides opportunities to meet the foreign language requirement following enrolment, further details at: www.ucl.ac.uk/ug-reqs

IB Diploma

A total of 18 points in three higher level subjects including Mathematics and Physics at grade 6, with no score below 5.

UK applicants qualifications

For entry requirements with other UK qualifications accepted by UCL, choose your qualification from the list below:

Equivalent qualification

Edexcel Level 3 Extended Diploma (QCF), or Edexcel Level 3 BTEC National Diploma (NQF) with Distinction, Distinction, Distinction.

Pass in Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 23 credits awarded with Distinction in the Level 3 units, the remainder of the credits in the Level 3 units awarded with Merit.

D3,D3,D3 in three Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects, including Mathematics, Physics and Further Mathematics.

AAA at Advanced Highers (or AA at Advanced Higher and AAA at Higher), including Mathematics and Physics at Advanced Higher.

Not acceptable.

International applications

In addition to A level and International Baccalaureate, UCL considers a wide range of international qualifications for entry to its undergraduate degree programmes.

Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates

UCL offers intensive one-year foundation courses to prepare international students for a variety of degree programmes at UCL.

The Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates (UPCs) are for international students of high academic potential who are aiming to gain access to undergraduate degree programmes at UCL and other top UK universities.

For more information see our website: UCL Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency. Information about the evidence required, acceptable qualifications and test providers can be found on our English language requirements page.

The English language level for this programme is: Standard

A variety of English language programmes are offered at the UCL Centre for Languages & International Education.

Degree benefits

  • A science degree from UCL is a strong asset across the whole range of careers where basic scientific skills are required, from accountancy to astrophysics, and computing to cryogenics.
  • The programme is accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP) and includes the very latest developments and discoveries in the field, based on our highly rated research.
  • Collaborative links with both industry and international research laboratories provide insight into the practical application of your studies.
  • A wide range of optional courses are available, including courses from other University of London colleges, which allows for individual preferences and specialisations within your degree.

Degree structure

In each year of your degree you will take a number of individual courses, normally valued at 0.5 or 1.0 credits, adding up to a total of 4.0 credits for the year. Courses are assessed in the academic year in which they are taken. The balance of compulsory and optional courses varies from programme to programme and year to year. A 1.0 credit is considered equivalent to 15 credits in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

Core courses in the first year provide a firm foundation in quantum and classical physics, underpinned by mathematics and a practical skills course which includes computing skills training. You will also take a course in practical mathematics.

The second year includes core courses in quantum physics and its application to atoms and molecules, in statistical thermodynamics and in electromagnetic theory, along with further mathematics. The quantum and condensed matter elements of the core are completed in the third year. Students reading for the Theoretical Physics degree replace second and third-year experimental work with theory courses.

The third year also includes optional courses to develop further and enhance knowledge of a range of physics topics.

This programme is offered both as a three-year BSc and a four-year MSci, with common structures and subjects for the first two years. However, the additional fourth year of the MSci programme allows for a greater depth of study and we recommend you apply for an MSci initially, as this keeps more options open.

Year One

Compulsory courses

Classical Mechanics
Mathematical Methods I
Mathematical Methods II
Physics of the Universe
Practical Mathematics I
Practical Skills 1C
Thermal Physics
Waves, Optics and Acoustics

Optional courses

All first year courses are compulsory.

Year Two

Compulsory courses

Atomic and Molecular Physics
Electricity and Magnetism
Mathematics for Physics and Astronomy
Mathematical Methods for Theoretical Physics
Mathematical Methods III
Practical Mathematics 2
Quantum Physics
Statistical Thermodynamics

Optional courses

All second year courses are compulsory.

Final Year

Compulsory courses

Electromagnetic Theory
Group Project
Nuclear and Particle Physics
Quantum Mechanics
Solid State Physics

Optional courses

You will select your remaining 1.5 credits from a wide range of optional courses. Options may include:

Energy and Climate
Fluid Mechanics
Lasers and Modern Optics
Mathematics for General Relativity
Physical Cosmology
Physics of Oceans, Ice Sheets and Climate (1.0 credits)
Scientific Computing Using Object Oriented Languages
Theory of Dynamical Systems

Your learning

Teaching is undertaken through lectures, laboratory (and as appropriate, observatory) practical sessions, and supervised problem-solving tutorials. These tutorials are designed to deal with lecture-based questions, enlarge on topics addressed in lectures, and allow clarification and in-depth discussion of new concepts.


Assessment will normally involve end-of-year examinations, and an element of assessed coursework. For practical work you will be continuously assessed.

Further Information

Detailed course descriptions are available on the department website: Theoretical Physics BSc.


Your scientific training will equip you with an understanding of mathematics, and of physical principles and techniques, as well as transferable skills in analysis, rational argument and innovative problem solving. Surveys by the IOP indicate that physicists' versatility is welcomed by a wider range of professions than any other subject.

Around half our graduates choose to pursue further study for an MSc or PhD. A PhD opens up the possibility of an academic or research career in a university or research institute. Alternatively, like many of our graduates, you may consider employment in research, design, development, computing, finance, marketing and teaching, among others.


First career destinations of recent graduates (2010-2013) of Theoretical Physics programmes at UCL include:

  • Portfolio Manager/Partner, Niveda Wealth LLP (2013)
  • Sofltware Developer, Fulcrum Asset Management (2012)
  • Full-time student, PhD in Molecular Modelling at UCL (2012)
  • Full-time student, PhD in Particle Physics at Queen Mary University, London (2010)
  • Software Development, Autonomy (2010)

*Data taken from the 'Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education' survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2010-2013 graduating cohorts six months after graduation and, where necessary, department records.

UCL is commited to helping you get the best start after graduation. Read more about how UCL Careers, UCL Advances and other entrepreneur societies here: Careers and skills.

Fees and funding


UK & EU fee
£9,000 (2016/17)
Overseas fee
£22,380 (2016/17)


Details about financial support are available at: www.ucl.ac.uk/study/ug-finance


Scholarships listed below are relevant to the department. Please read the details carefully to check they are relevant to the degree and your own circumstances.

Dean's Summer Student Scholarships

Based on academic merit

Kaziewicz Bursary

Based on financial need

The Scholarships and Funding website has a comprehensive list of scholarships and funding schemes available for UCL students. These can be available for specific nationalities, regions, departments or open to all students.

Application and next steps

Your application

In addition to the subjects and grades specified in the qualifying examinations, we are also looking for evidence of self-motivation and an enthusiastic interest in the subject. This may be demonstrated through paid or voluntary work experience, academic project work, or your interests and hobbies beyond the school curriculum.

How to apply

Application for admission should be made through UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Applicants currently at school or college will be provided with advice on the process; however, applicants who have left school or who are based outside the United Kingdom may obtain information directly from UCAS.

Application deadline: 15 January 2016


If you are based in the UK within a reasonable travelling distance of UCL, and your application demonstrates your suitability for the programme, you will be invited to a compulsory applicant open day. This will include presentations, a tour of facilities and an opportunity to meet current students and staff members.

If you are based outside the UK, or not within reasonable travelling distance of UCL, we will decide whether to make you an offer on the basis of your UCAS application and reference; a telephone interview may be offered.

For further information on UCL's selection process see: Selection of students