Undergraduate Degree Programmes
The Department offers eight undergraduate degree programmes, three leading to the MSci degree and four leading to the BSc degree. All undergraduate degrees are accredited by the Institute of Physics (IoP). There are also several taught MSc and MRes programmes, and training in nine different research groups towards the PhD degree. Here we will focus on the undergraduate programmes.
Degree Programmes tabs
When you arrive in the Physics Department you will have been accepted onto one of the following:-
(i) MSci in Physics (F303), a four-year programme of practical and theoretical courses
(ii) MSci in Physics with Theoretical Physics (F390, abbreviated as MSci+Th), a four-year programme with more theoretical and mathematical content and less experimental work
(iii) MSci in Physics with a Year Abroad (F309, MSci+YA), a four-year programme, the third year of which is spent at a university in continental Europe or America doing both lecture course work and a research project.
(iv) BSc in Physics (F300), a three-year programme of practical and theoretical courses
(v) BSc in Physics with Theoretical Physics (F325, BSc+Th), a three-year programme with more theoretical and mathematical content but less experimental work
(vi) BSc in Physics and Music Performance (F3W3, BSc+M), a four-year programme, taught jointly with the Royal College of Music, for students who wish to graduate with the option of becoming either professional musicians or professional physicists
MSci or BSc?
MSci or BSc?
MSci degrees are four years long, and are the standard route to a professional career in Physics. Students must maintain a first class or upper second class level (over 60%) to continue on these programmes. The fourth year of the MSci includes FHEQ Level 7 options and a course preparing students for the research environment.
BSc programmes last three years, and graduates are well prepared for research and development in industry and for careers requiring the intellectual and other attributes gained from a rigorous training in Physics. BSc students wishing to progress to a research degree usually study for an MSc before beginning a PhD.
As an alternative to an MSci, some students may choose to do a BSc followed by an MSc [see After graduation].
All degrees include a final year project and some professional skills training in each year. All physics degree programmes also train students in laboratory work and problem solving.
All programmes start with a foundation in core physics and mathematics followed by a broad and flexible range of options in the later years. The nine internationally recognised research groups provide specialist option courses. They also offer research projects, which allow students to work alongside academic staff, research associates and postgraduate research students. Further options are provided by the Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication, Business School and other departments. All students take laboratory and computing courses in Years 1 & 2. Laboratory work continues into Year 3 except for students on the Theory programmes.
Core & option courses - In the first two years the courses are almost all fixed and common to all the degree programmes. After that each year has a dwindling number of core courses and a larger choice of options. For example, MSci students select one of five options (including a language) in Year 2, whilst in Year 4 they choose five from a list of 13 courses or more. Option courses are at FHEQ Levels 5, 6 or 7 corresponding to the years in which they are normally taken. A list of all courses (modules), with aims & objectives, are available online.
European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) - All physics degree programmes are divided into ECTS elements, each of which carries a number of ECTS credits. For example the combined first year maths courses carry 15 ECTS, whilst most of the Level 3 and 4 option courses have 6 ECTS. Each year of each programme contains (at least) 60 ECTS.
ECTS required - Students are required to pass all ECTS elements in a year in the summer examinations to progress into the following year or to graduate. The great majority of students do achieve these targets, but students who don’t are able to resit their failed exams the following September. Note, however, that the Laboratory and Computing and the Professional Skills elements, as well as Projects, must be passed first time to progress. There is no possibility to resit these elements.
ECTS Elements and Components - Some ECTS elements, especially in the 3rd and 4th years, are divided into several Components. While you have to achieve a pass mark of 40% overall for the element, you do not have to reach 40% for individual components. Note that from 2014-15 the pass mark for all master’s level, i.e. 4th year, courses will be 50%.
ECTS weighting - ECTS credits are not of equal worth. Those taken in the third and fourth years have a much higher weighting than those taken in the first and second years, when summing the marks that contribute to your final degree. The ECTS values and the corresponding weightings of the degree programmes are set out in Appendix 3.
Minimum standard - If you are on an MSci programme, there are minimum standards above the pass mark to be met, in order to proceed with your chosen degree or, sometimes, to change to another programme. Normally you are expected to be achieving at least upper second class level [see next paragraph] at the end of Year 2 in order to continue.
Degree classes - At the end of all programmes the same rules apply. If you have obtained all the ECTS credits, you will be awarded a degree. A weighted average of all your marks is then used to decide the class of your degree: a first, upper second, lower second or third class honours degree.
Transfer to other degree programmes
Since most of the first two years’ teaching is common to all the Physics degree programmes, it is usually possible to change to another degree. There are a number of transfer windows during the academic year, the first is in October.
Reasons for change - As you learn more about the subject you may realise that your indi vidual talents, your ambitions or your personal circumstances fit another degree better than the one for which you registered. In some cases, change may be obligatory. If you are not achieving the minimal levels required for MSci and Theory programmes, you may be required to change to a more appropriate programme.
Student initiated changes - Any change has to be discussed and agreed with your Personal Tutor and the Senior Tutor, and should be guided by common sense. Your case for a transfer to the MSci in Theoretical Physics isn’t going to look too convincing if you have done badly in the first year’s assessed problems, and particularly badly in the Maths! Some student-initiated changes can be arranged soon after arriving in the Department, some at the end of the first term, but most take place before the end of the first year. A switch onto the “Year in Europe” programme can normally only be made immediately after your arrival, as it is necessary to gain the appropriate language qualification (unless you are already highly competent in the relevant language). It is usually easier to persuade a funding agency (eg. Student Finance England) to agree a change from four years to three rather than the reverse, so it is prudent to register initially for the longer course and later to accept or request a change to three years if talent, funds or stamina prove insufficient, or if there are other over-riding constraints.
Required changes come in two forms: it is not sensible to pursue a year in Europe if you have failed the essential language exams, and it is not possible to proceed to the third year of a four year course unless you are achieving a basic standard, at present equivalent to at least an upper second class (2i) degree at the end of your second year.
A move to degree programmes in other Imperial College departments may be possible soon after arrival. Such changes, which cannot be guaranteed, should be discussed with your Personal Tutor and the Senior Tutor.
Moves to Physics programmes at other Universities are usually possible as entry qualifications to Imperial’s degree programmes are tougher than at most other institutions, so transfer may be negotiated, usually at the beginning or end of the first year.
Don’t over-react! Most people find the transition to the university teaching style hard initially, but find their feet later in the year. Do talk to your Personal Tutor or the Senior Tutor if necessary, but don’t be tempted to make any hasty decisions.