Theoretical Physics BSc

Year of entry

2024 course information

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UCAS code
Start date
September 2023
Delivery type
On campus
3 years full time
Work placement
Study abroad
Typical A-level offer
AAB (specific subject requirements)
Typical Access to Leeds offer
Full entry requirements

Course overview

A student and an academic in a physics lab at the University of Leeds.

Theoretical physics uses mathematical methods to delve into the way the world around us works. It is because of the groundbreaking research and discoveries theoretical physicists have made over centuries that we now have the technological advances needed to be able to solve some of the most complex problems on our planet.

From developing cancer treatments and artificial intelligence to answering the fundamental questions of the universe, physics and physicists have had a monumental impact across a variety of different industries – which is why it is still such a sought after and relevant discipline today.

Studying theoretical physics at Leeds will help you develop a solid grounding in how mathematical methods are applied to physics topics, whilst getting involved in real ongoing research alongside expert academics and researchers at the forefront of the industry.

You’ll also have access to world-leading research and specialist facilities right here on campus. As a physics student, you’ll be taught in our brand-new, purpose-built engineering and physical sciences hub – the Sir William Henry Bragg Building. It’s home to first-class laboratories and specialised teaching spaces, along with the Bragg Centre where scientists and engineers work collaboratively to develop solutions for economical, societal and technical challenges in the UK.

Here at Leeds, we understand the importance this industry has in everyday life, which is why our courses are professionally accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP), meaning the topics you’ll study reflect the latest developments in physics. This will equip you with the key knowledge, skills and experience you need to begin your career in this highly valued profession.

Why study at Leeds:

  • Take advantage of the School’s world-leading research, which shapes our courses across a wide range of areas and delivers impactful and innovative R&D projects.
  • Experience expertise teaching delivered by a programme team made up of academics and researchers at the forefront of the industry who specialise in a variety of physics disciplines.
  • Study in the Sir William Henry Bragg building – a brand-new development with excellent facilities and teaching spaces for an outstanding student experience.
  • Put theory into practice, with access to our specialist facilities and laboratories used by our academics and leading researchers that are fully equipped with the latest technology and research-grade equipment to support your learning.
  • Broaden your experience before you graduate and enhance your career prospects with our study abroad programmes and paid industrial work placement opportunities.
  • Make the most of your time at Leeds by joining our student society Physics Society (Physoc), a student-run society for physics students. It will give you the chance to meet like-minded students who share your passion for physics. Enjoy exploring on trips, attending guest lectures and frequent socials.


Institute of Physics (IOP)

Accreditation is the assurance that a university course meets the quality standards established by the profession for which it prepares its students. This course is professionally accredited by the Institute of Physics, meaning you’ll have the qualifications and skills you’ll need to succeed in industry upon graduation.

Your accredited degree guarantees you eligibility for IOP membership, whilst satisfying the academic requirements needed to follow the route to professional registration as a registered scientist (RSci) or chartered physicist (CPhys).

If you choose to study the three-year Bachelor's (BSc) course, you will have partially fulfilled the requirements for CPhys status.

However, if you graduate with our accredited integrated four-year Masters (MPhys, BSc) degree from Leeds, you will have fulfilled all the educational requirements to achieve CPhys status.

Course details

On this course, you’ll develop thorough knowledge and understanding of the theoretical basis of modern physics, with a particular focus on the mathematical aspects. You can explore advanced topics in physics that relate to our research strengths – from cosmology to quantum information.

Discovery modules are available in all years of your degree, as long as you are taking enough credits of your own subject for that year.

It’s also possible to transfer to the four-year integrated Masters (MPhys, BSc) course from this three-year Bachelor’s (BSc) degree up until the end of your second year, subject to suitable academic performance at that stage.

Years 1 and 2

Throughout the first two years of your degree, you’ll study core physics topics, including quantum physics, relativity, and solid state physics. Alongside this, you will explore mathematics topics such as differentiation and integration, vector calculus, and matrices.

You’ll also have the option to take modules offered by our research groups, such as astrophysics or nanophysics, or even electives from other departments via discovery modules. We expect you to gain an understanding of basic laboratory skills in year one so that you can gain a better sense of how experimentation and theory work together in physics.

Year 3

In your final year, you can choose advanced options from a wide range of modules in both physics and mathematics. In addition, you will choose either to extend your understanding of current theoretical physics by carrying out a critical literature review or to gain experience of actual research by undertaking a project. The literature review can deal with cutting-edge topics such as string theory or quantum computing.

The research project is related to the School’s research interests in theoretical physics, such as liquid state physics, gauge fields, knots and polymers, biological membranes and quantum information.

You will develop a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the core observations, concepts and quantitative theoretical structures that constitute our contemporary understanding of the physical world, as well as an enhanced interpersonal skill set of problem solving, independent learning, and verbal and written communication and presentation skills, all of which will help you to progress into your desired career path.

One-year optional work placement or study abroad

During your degree, you’ll be given the opportunity to advance your skill set and experience further. You can apply to either work in a paid industrial placement or join one of our study abroad programmes, spanning across many universities we’re in partnership with worldwide. This will extend your degree by 12 months.

Project work

Throughout your degree, you’ll get hands-on experience through project work. This gives you the opportunity to explore your subject further as well as developing valuable skills in problem solving, communication and teamwork.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

For more information and a full list of typical modules available on this course, please read Theoretical Physics BSc in the course catalogue

Year 1 compulsory modules

Module Name Credits
Introductory Linear Algebra 10
Year One Physics Tutorials 5
Introduction to Experimental Physics 20
Physics 1 - Fundamental Forces 25
Physics 2 - Properties of Matter 25
Computing 1 - Fundamentals of Programming 10
Maths 1 - Scalars and Vectors 10
Maths 2 - Multivariable Calculus 10

Year 1 optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

Module Name Credits
Stars and Galaxies 10
Planets and the Search for Life 10
Introduction to Nanotechnology 10
Atmosphere 10
Weather 10
Water 10

Year 2 compulsory modules

Module Name Credits
Communicating Physics 5
Physics 3- Fields and Energy 25
Physics 4- Quantum Phenomena 25
Computing 2- Computational Physics 10
Maths 3- Matrices and Operators 10
Maths 4- Transforms and Partial Differential Equations 10

Year 2 optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

Module Name Credits
Science Education: Issues and Challenges 10
Groups and Vector Spaces 15
Rings and Polynomials 10
Logic 10
Geometry of Curves and Surfaces 10
Further Linear Algebra 10
Nonlinear Differential Equations 10
Fluid Dynamics 15
Calculus of Variations 10
Introduction to Medical Physics 10
High Energy Astrophysics 10
Stellar Structure and Evolution 10
Nanophysics and Small Systems 10
Meteorology 10
Atmosphere and Ocean Dynamics 10

Year 3 compulsory modules

Module Name Credits
Project 40
Advanced Quantum Physics 15
Professional Skills in Physics 5

Year 3 optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

Module Name Credits
Nuclear Operations 20
Groups and Symmetry 15
Differential Geometry 15
Topology 15
Hamiltonian Systems 15
Mathematical Methods 15
Quantum Mechanics 15
Nonlinear Dynamics 15
Analytic Solutions of Partial Differential Equations 15
Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics 15
Evolutionary Modelling 15
Fluid Dynamics 2 15
Magnetic Resonance Imaging 10
Medical X-ray imaging 10
X-ray Computed Tomography 10
Machine Learning Approaches to Scientific Data Analysis 10
Introduction to Philosophy of Modern Physics 10
Philosophy of Modern Physics 20
Cosmology 15
Photonics 15
Molecular Simulation: Theory and Practice 15
Star and Planet Formation 15
Quantum Photonics 15
Quantum Matter 15
Magnetism in Condensed Matter 15
Advanced Mechanics 15
Bionanophysics 15
Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics 15
Physics in Schools 15
Group Innovation Project 20
Physics into Work 15
Dynamics of Weather Systems 10
Earth Observations from Space 10
Atmosphere and Ocean Climate Change Processes 10
Atmospheric Physics 10
Oceanography in the Earth System 10

Discovery modules

Throughout your degree you will benefit from a range of opportunities to expand your intellectual horizons outside or within your subject area.

This course gives you the opportunity to choose from a range of discovery modules. They’re a great way to tailor your study around your interests or career aspirations and help you stand out from the crowd when you graduate. Find out more about discovery modules on our Broadening webpages.

Learning and teaching

You will be taught through several different teaching methods, including lectures, workshops, small-group tutorials, laboratory work, project work and computer-aided learning.

In the first two years, the material you learn in lectures is supported by a mixture of small group tutorials and larger weekly workshops, where lecturers work with a team to improve your practical problem-solving skills. In later years, the lecturer will usually support their own specialist material through bi-weekly workshops.

Laboratory classes are an integral part of our teaching throughout your time at Leeds. They provide you with the opportunity to develop your verbal and written communication skills through performing experiments individually, or as part of a group. You may also have the opportunity to undertake a short course on data analysis and statistics and learn how to conduct practical experiments in preparation for your final year research project.

All students are assigned a personal tutor. Your personal tutor is there to offer advice, monitor your progress, and be your first point of contact during your undergraduate years.

There are many facilities that will support your studies including extensive computer clusters. The School itself provides additional computing and study areas.

The Edward Boyle Science and Engineering Library is only a short walk from the School of Physics and Astronomy and has multiple copies of the recommended books. It also has a variety of different studying environments, such as personal and flexible group work areas.

Our Virtual Learning Environment will help to support your studies: it’s a central place where you can find all the information and resources for the School, your programme and modules.

You can also benefit from support to develop your academic skills, within the curriculum and through online resources, workshops, one-to-one appointments and drop-in sessions.

Watch our taster lectures to get a flavour of what it’s like to study at Leeds:

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


You are assessed primarily through formal exams. Other methods include practical work, oral presentations, written reports and tutorial work. The variety of assessment allows you to develop a broad range of skills and demonstrate a variety of talents.

Entry requirements

A-level: AAB including Physics and Mathematics.

Excludes A Level General Studies and Critical Thinking.

Where an A Level science subject is taken, we require a pass in the practical science element, alongside the achievement of the A Level at the stated grade.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), International Project Qualification (IPQ) and Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate (ASCC): We recognise the value of these qualifications and the effort and enthusiasm that applicants put into them, and where an applicant offers an A in the EPQ, IPQ or ASCC we may make an offer of ABB at A-Level.

GCSE: English Language at grade C (4) or above, or an appropriate English language qualification. We will accept Level 2 Functional Skills English in lieu of GCSE English.

Alternative qualification

Access to HE Diploma

Overall pass of the Access to HE, with 45 credits at level 3. Of these 45 credits, 30 level 3 credits must be in Physics and Mathematics and must be passed with Distinction.


BTEC qualifications in relevant disciplines are considered in combination with A Level Physics and Mathematics. Applicants should contact the School to discuss.

Cambridge Pre-U

D3, M1, M2 including Physics and Mathematics

International Baccalaureate

35 overall with 15 points at HL, which must include 5 in both Physics and Mathematics.

Irish Leaving Certificate (higher Level)

H2, H2, H2, H3, H3, H3 including H2 in both Physics and Mathematics

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers

AB at Advanced Higher in Physics and Mathematics with AABBB at Higher

Read more about UK and Republic of Ireland accepted qualifications or contact the School’s Undergraduate Admissions Team.

Alternative entry

We’re committed to identifying the best possible applicants, regardless of personal circumstances or background.

Access to Leeds is an alternative admissions scheme which accepts applications from individuals who might be from low income households, in the first generation of their immediate family to apply to higher education, or have had their studies disrupted.

Find out more about Access to Leeds and alternative admissions.

Typical Access to Leeds A Level offer: BBB including Physics and Mathematics. Excluding General Studies and Critical Thinking.

If you do not have the formal qualifications for immediate entry to one of our degrees, you may be able to progress through a foundation year. We offer a Studies in Science with Foundation Year BSc for students without a science background at A-level and an Interdisciplinary Science with Foundation Year BSc for applicants who meet specific widening participation criteria.

International Foundation Year

International students who do not meet the academic requirements for undergraduate study may be able to study the University of Leeds International Foundation Year. This gives you the opportunity to study on campus, be taught by University of Leeds academics and progress onto a wide range of Leeds undergraduate courses. Find out more about International Foundation Year programmes.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.0 overall, with no less than 5.5 in any one component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English
If you're an international student and you don't meet the English language requirements for this programme, you may be able to study our undergraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.


UK: £9,250 (per year)

International: £27,500 (per year)

Tuition fees for UK undergraduate students starting in 2023/24 and 2024/25
Tuition fees for UK full-time undergraduate students are set by the UK Government and will remain capped at £9,250 for 2023/24 and 2024/25. The fee may increase in future years of your course in line with inflation only as a consequence of future changes in Government legislation and as permitted by law.

Tuition fees for international undergraduate students starting in 2023/24 and 2024/25
Tuition fees for international students for 2023/24 and 2024/25 are available on individual course pages.

Tuition fees for a study abroad or work placement year
If you take a study abroad or work placement year, you’ll pay a reduced tuition fee during this period. For more information, see Study abroad and work placement tuition fees and loans.

Read more about paying fees and charges.

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more about additional costs.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There is help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government. Find out more in our Undergraduate funding overview.


Apply to this course through UCAS. Check the deadline for applications on the UCAS website.

We may consider applications submitted after the deadline. Availability of courses in UCAS Extra will be detailed on UCAS at the appropriate stage in the cycle.

Read our guidance about applying and writing your personal statement.

International students apply through UCAS in the same way as UK students. Our network of international representatives can help you with your application. If you’re unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Applicant days

If you receive an offer to study with us, we’ll invite you to attend one of our applicant days. You’ll have the opportunity to meet our academic staff and students, explore the School and University and find out more about your course and what it’s like to be a student at Leeds.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Taught Admissions Policy 2024

This course is taught by

School of Physics and Astronomy

Contact us

School of Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Admissions Enquiries


Career opportunities

The employment opportunities in the field of physics are extensive across numerous industries, which is why physics graduates are in demand for some of the highest paid and most satisfying roles in employment.

The physics programmes here at Leeds have also been professionally accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP) and University of Leeds students are among the top five most targeted by top employers according to The Graduate Market 2022, High Fliers Research, meaning our graduates are highly sought after by some of the most reputable companies in the field.

Qualifying with a degree in physics from Leeds will set you up with the numerical, analytical and problem-solving skills and specialist subject knowledge needed to pursue an exciting career across a wide range of sectors, including:

  • IT
  • Finance
  • Aerospace
  • Electronics
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Transport

Throughout your course, you’ll have the chance to advance your knowledge and experience, whilst developing widely transferable skills desirable to employers including teamwork, independent research and communication.

Here’s an insight into the job roles some of our most recent chemical engineering graduates have obtained:

  • Astrophysicist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Clinical Scientist, Christie Hospital NHS Trust
  • Electronic Engineer, NASA
  • IT Specialist, IBM
  • Nuclear Engineer, Rolls Royce Submarines
  • Nuclear Independent Oversight Inspector, Sellafield Limited
  • Physicist, AMEC
  • Radiographer, NHS
  • Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory
  • Robotics Systems Engineer, Dyson
  • Science Teacher
  • Scientific Officer, Met. Office
  • Systems Engineer, Boeing
  • Thermo Fluid Engineer, Rolls-Royce

Careers support

At Leeds we help you to prepare for your future from day one. Our Leeds for Life initiative is designed to help you develop and demonstrate the skills and experience you need for when you graduate. We will help you to access opportunities across the University and record your key achievements so you are able to articulate them clearly and confidently.

You will be supported throughout your studies by our dedicated Employability team, who will provide you with specialist support and advice to help you find relevant work experience, internships and industrial placements, as well as graduate positions. You’ll benefit from timetabled employability sessions, support during internships and placements, and presentations and workshops delivered by employers.

You will also have full access to the University’s Careers Centre, which is one of the largest in the country.

Study abroad and work placements

Study abroad

Studying abroad is a unique opportunity to explore the world, whilst gaining invaluable skills and experience that could enhance your future employability and career prospects too.

From Europe to Asia, the USA to Australasia, we have many University partners worldwide you can apply to, spanning across some of the most popular destinations for students.

Once you’ve successfully completed your year abroad, you will be awarded the ‘international’ variant in your degree title which demonstrates your added experience to future employers.

Find out more about study abroad.

Work placements

The graduate recruitment market is highly competitive so it’s important that you stand out. An industrial placement could be the opportunity you need to impress potential employers and improve your chances of securing the career you want.

Benefits of a work placement year:

  • 100+ organisations to choose from, both in the UK and overseas
  • All placements are salaried
  • Build industry contacts within your chosen field
  • Our close industry links mean you’ll be in direct contact with potential employers
  • Advance your experience and skills by putting the course teachings into practice
  • Gain invaluable insight into working as a professional in this industry
  • Improve your employability

If you decide to undertake a placement year, this will extend your period of study by 12 months and, on successful completion, you will be awarded the ‘industrial’ variant in your degree title to demonstrate your added experience to future employers.

With the help and support of our dedicated Employability team, you can find the right placement to suit you and your future career goals.

Here are some examples of placements our students have recently completed:

  • RF, IT, Secure Networks & Communications 2021 Year in Industry, QinetiQ
  • Industrial Placement - Technology Network Engineering, Vodafone Limited
  • Industrial Placement Student, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory
  • QA Engineer, Elder Studios Ltd
  • Security Risk Assurance Manager, Department of Work and Pensions

Find out more about work experience on the Careers website.

Student profile: Abbie Cannon

Theoretical physics is a beautiful subject. You get to marvel at the heights of human ingenuity and learn on a fundamental level how the universe we live in works.
Find out more about Abbie Cannon's time at Leeds