A large number of options will be available to you, especially in the third and fourth years of your degree, including laboratory, several languages and other Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication and Business School courses. There are over 25 Physics option courses, which are classified as FHEQ Levels 5, 6 and 7. FHEQ 7 maps to a masters level course. Option courses often carry 6 or 3 ECTS credits.
As there are so many options (and the range changes from year to year) it is not practicable to describe each of them in detail in this handbook. The course titles for the coming year are set out in the College Undergraduate Syllabus and on the Undergraduate Options pages.
First year options are very limited. Year Aborad Students must take a language in their first (and second) year unless they are already fluent, and those on the theory programmes are encouraged to take the Mathematical Analysis course in Terms 2 and 3. Non-theory students are encouraged to take an experimental course called Advanced Electronics.
Second, third & fourth year options - Most students in the second year can choose from a limited number of option courses (including Horizons), and have a choice of experiments in the laboratory. Third year option courses will total no more than 27 ECTS, depending on the degree programme, whilst in Year 4 of the MSci there is a similar number – most of these being at (the highest) FHEQ 7.
UG Options tabs
Which to choose? The first piece of advice is to pick the options you will enjoy and where previous performance suggests you will do well. You have a right to choose virtually any set of options you wish subject only to timetable restrictions, but it is wise to relate that choice to previous performance and tutor’s advice.
Remember that if you choose an unsuitable option and then fail the examination you may not be able to progress to the next year or to graduate.
It is not a good idea to pick an option because you think you ought to do it; after graduation you can pick up a textbook and learn about any such topic without any adverse effect on your degree.
Theoretical option courses - Courses with a high mathematical content are marked with a (T) indicating their theoretical nature. Students on the MSci or BSc with Theoretical Physics programmes must take a minimum of 36 or 12 ECTS of these courses respectively during their degree. The Department requires that students on other programmes who wish to do two or more theory options in a year discuss this with the Senior Tutor.
Balancing the load - It is a sensible strategy in the third and fourth years to choose options that divide the 60 ECTS evenly between autumn and spring terms. If you split the load to have 40 ECTS after Christmas, it makes exam revision considerably more demanding.
Prerequisites - Some FHEQ 7 options have FHEQ 6 courses as prerequisites, so in Year 2 you are advised to consider your options for Years 3 and 4 together. However, there is flexibility in the system, and you will have several opportunities to revise your choices. Also, under most circumstances you may be allowed to take a Level 4 course without having done the prerequisite, but you must take the time to absorb the relevant components in private study.
Themed options - Your choice of options can be planned as a single strategy. You can build a course that is mainly theoretical, mainstream or applied physics, and can specialise in a particular area, if you wish. You could, for instance, select astrophysics options in each of FHEQ Levels 5, 6 and 7. A scattergun approach to selection does not help efficient learning or easy revision, and is not recommended.
Communicating Physics - The Department is keen to do what it can to improve the quality of Physics teaching in schools. This optional course, introduced in 2009-10, is designed to give second or third year students a taste of teaching. A training day is followed by about 10 half days in schools. Students gain experience and confidence in preparing physics topics (including a project) and delivering them in the classroom. Assessment is via a teaching journal, an end of course report, a short presentation and an assessment by the host teacher. This course forms a preliminary part of the Physics with Science Education degree programme.
Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication and Business School options offer an entry to a different departmental culture, add diversity to a CV, and may be well regarded by potential employers. Students on most degree programmes can take a language in Year 2 and another Humanity or Business School course in Year 3 (or sometimes Year 4). Some Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication courses can be taken in the evenings for non-credit.
Timetable clashes - The large number of options and other timetable constraints mean that most third and fourth year option courses are paired. Pairs of options have the same timetable, and are fundamentally exclusive - if the lectures clash, so will the examinations. Outside these constraints, changes from your initial choice are usually possible - indeed some changes may be advisable in the light of your summer examination results.
You may find it helpful to talk to students who have done the options in the previous year, but bear in mind that a change of lecturer can sometimes entail a major change to the content or style of delivery of a course. Your personal tutor is there to advise you about just such matters as option choices. If you want to change your options, or to obtain clarification of the rules, or have authoritative advice about the implications of your choices, you should approach the Senior Tutor or the UEM, who will be happy to talk to you.
Second year options
The Senior Tutor usually talks to the first year about their option choices for Year 2 in the third week of the summer term - this includes bids for experiments in the second year laboratory. It is not possible to guarantee you will get to do all your chosen experiments. Some choices can be modified during the first term of the second year, but it is not possible to change onto a language course after the start of the year.
Third/fourth year options
Third and fourth year options are set out in an “option fair” held early in the summer term. All physics option lecturers and representatives for Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication and Business School options are available to discuss details of their topics, background reading, timet abling etc. “Working” decisions made after the fair can influence the viability of unpopular options, which might possibly be withdrawn. Your choices can be amended over the summer in the light of exam results or other factors. Students are assigned to compatible tutorial groups for the start of the new academic year, although some minor changes may be possible thereafter.