Philosophy and Physics at Aberdeen is a great subject combination, taking you on a fascinating exploration of the ‘life, the Universe, and everything…’ , seeking to understand the world around us and how we might answer the Big Questions that humans have wrestled with throughout the ages. You will gain the strong intellectual skills sought by employers in many fields and transferable to a wide range of careers.

This programme is studied on campus.

Philosophy attempts to answer questions such as: What is knowledge? What is the nature of truth? Why should we act morally? Philosophy is just as much the study of reasoning and argument as it is the application of thought to specific problems.

What makes Philosophy at Aberdeen especially attractive is the breadth of courses, the user-friendly materials you will use and the experts who will teach you. In your first year alone, you can study topics such as How Should One Live? Controversial Questions, and Experience, Knowledge and Reality.

In Physics, you will look at the most fundamental of the sciences and how it explains the world around us and the Universe beyond, challenging our imaginations with concepts like relativity and string theory. You will explore its relevance to our lives championed and explained by leading scientists including Professor Stephen Hawking and broadcaster and author Professor Brian Cox.

Discoveries in physics make possible technological innovations like the transistors and the microchip, computers and lasers, which have changed our lives. You will study the universe, the history and philosophy of science and gain useful skills in mathematics to add value to any career.

As a graduate, you will have great skills in thinking logically, critically analysing and solving problems – all skills which are greatly valued by employers and open career options in business and all sectors.

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Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
48 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month

What You'll Study

Year 1

Year 1

Compulsory Courses

The Physical Universe A (PX1015) - 15 Credit Points

Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences, and if we wish to better understand the nature and behaviour of the Universe, it is perhaps the best place to start. This course introduces the basic topics of Physics, from the sub-microscopic scale of electrons and atoms, to the orbits of the planets and stars, to the celestial mechanics of galaxies. It encompasses the work of Physicists like Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Jocelyn Bell Burnell. If you’ve ever been curious about how the world works, you will hopefully find this course, typically well-regarded by students, interesting.

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The Physical Universe B (PX1513) - 15 Credit Points

Understanding electric and magnetic forces is of paramount importance for understanding the physical world. They are eventually responsible for the matter around us to self-organize (in solid, liquid and gas phases), with given structures, density, elastic properties, and so on. Furthermore, they are responsible for light emission and propagation across the space.

Already the first rudiments of electricity and magnetism will help to appreciate that they are two difference faces of the same coin: electromagnetism. This relationship is the first evidence of the possibility to build a unified description of the microscopic laws of the physical universe.

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Academic Writing for Divinity, History & Philosophy (AW1007)

This compulsory evaluation is designed to find out if your academic writing is of a sufficient standard to enable you to succeed at university and, if you need it, to provide support to improve. It is completed on-line via MyAberdeen with clear instructions to guide you through it. If you pass the evaluation at the first assessment it will not take much of your time. If you do not, you will be provided with resources to help you improve. This evaluation does not carry credits but if you do not complete it this will be recorded on your degree transcript.

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Professional Skills Part 1 (PD1001)

This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year.

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Experience, Knowledge and Reality (PH1023) - 15 Credit Points

How “real” is reality? Where does knowledge come from? How does mind relate to the world? This course introduces two approaches to answering these questions: rationalism and empiricism. Through reading Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, learn about Descartes’ rationalist approach to knowledge, reality, mind-body dualism, and God’s necessary existence. Through David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding see how Hume grounds knowledge in experience. Hume on impressions and ideas, induction, causality, and miracles. Critically compare and examine Descartes’ and Hume’s arguments by drawing on their readers and critics.

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Calculus i (MA1005) - 15 Credit Points

Calculus is the mathematical study of change, and is used in many areas of mathematics, science, and the commercial world. This course covers differentiation, limits, finding maximum and minimum values, and continuity. There may well be some overlap with school mathematics, but the course is brisk and will go a long way quickly.

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Algebra (MA1006) - 15 Credit Points

This course introduces the concepts of complex numbers, matrices and other basic notions of linear algebra over the real and complex numbers. This provides the necessary mathematical background for further study in mathematics, physics, computing science, chemistry and engineering.

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Calculus II (MA1508) - 15 Credit Points

The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to Integral Calculus and the theory of sequences and series, to discuss their applications to the theory of functions, and to give an introduction to the theory of functions of several variables.

This provides the necessary mathematical background for further study in mathematics, physics, computing science, chemistry and engineering.

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Optional Courses

  • Select a further 15 credit points from level 1 courses in Philosophy
  • Select a further 15 credit points from courses of choice
Year 2

Year 2

Compulsory Courses

Dynamical Phenomena (PX2015) - 15 Credit Points

Understanding oscillatory and wavelike behaviour is of huge importance in comprehending how our natural world works. It seems that everything in nature has its own cycle, rhythm or oscillation. From planets revolving around the sun to waves on the sea, even fundamental particles are treated as waves in modern physics. Accessible to students with some knowledge of calculus, this course will explain the mathematics of this fascinating and important subject. Methods of solving the differential equations that describe waves and oscillatory phenomena will be explored, including numerical techniques.

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Relativity and Quantum Mechanics (PX2510) - 15 Credit Points

In the 20th Century, Physics got strange, and this course sets out to explore the foundations of this modern approach. In Special Relativity we will look at the idea that time is not an absolute – that events can happen in different times for different observers – and explore the effects of travelling at close to the speed of light. The quantum mechanics section introduces some of the most exciting and dramatically successful science of all time, and discuss the evolution of this idea from the days of Schrodinger’s cat to quantum tunnelling.

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What We are: Mind in A Physical World (PH201B) - 15 Credit Points

Watch the course video! In this course we explore a series of arguments which suggest that it is hard to fit the mind into the physical world. In particular, we focus on three topics: the Mind/Body Problem, Free Will and Determinism, and Personal Identity. Each topic starts with an argument which suggests that we are not merely physical entities like brains, the central nervous system or other biological entities. Taken together, these arguments offer a serious challenge to the view that we can explain human cognition in terms of the physical characteristics of human brains and bodies. Download course guide

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Gender Equality (PH2535) - 15 Credit Points

For a course description, watch this brief video!

In recent times equality among genders has attracted increasing attention. This is no longer a matter of concern to a fringe movement, but a central issue to contemporary society. In this course we will examine some of the crucial issues in the debate and assess the merits of key arguments. The topics we’ll discuss include the gender pay gap, the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and popular culture, pornography, abortion, the objectification of women, gender equality in sports, and epistemic injustice.

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Metaphysics, Epistemology and Language (PH2538) - 15 Credit Points

This course provides students with an introduction to central issues in metaphysics, epistemology, logic and philosophy of language. The emphasis is on introducing some of the central issues in these areas; issues that have shaped the contemporary debate. In addition to introducing a number of central issues in metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and philosophy of language, this course also teaches and further develops a number of essential skills including extracting and evaluating philosophical arguments, critical writing, and the application of logical concepts to philosophical problems.

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Optional Courses

  • Select a 15 credit level 2 course in Mathematics
  • Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice
Year 3

Year 3

Compulsory Courses

Energy and Matter (PX3014) - 15 Credit Points

Our world is made of three types of matter, Solids, Liquids and Gases. The first part of this course will explore the physical properties of these forms of matter and investigate important technological phenomena such as the flow of liquids and the causes of catastrophic failure in mechanical components. In the second half of the course, the nature of heat energy in matter will be explored. Thermodynamic behaviour will be understood in terms of Entropy and the operation of engines and their theoretical efficiency limitations will be explained.

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Quantum Mechanics (PX3511) - 15 Credit Points

The course aims to provide the students with the underpinning knowledge that will enable them to think constructively about phenomena that relate to the quantum structure of matter. It is intended that the students will gain a broad appreciation of the hierarchy of interactions that give rise to the energy levels of atoms and the consequent structure of the associated spectroscopic transitions. In comparison to the previous years more emphasis will be put on the general, mathematical structure of quantum theory, tackling topics such as Hilbert spaces and time independent perturbation theory.

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Optional Courses

  • Research and Computing Skills (PX3017) or Introduction to the Solid State (PX3016)
  • Advanced Practical Physics (PX3510) or Electricity and Magnetism (PX3512)
  • Select a further 60 credit points from level 3 courses in Philosophy
Introduction to the Solid State (PX3016) - 15 Credit Points

The course is based on modern views on the structure of solids, how that structure is determined by X-ray crystallography and the basics of structure-property relationships. This involves learning the language of the basic shapes and symmetry displayed by crystals, then using that within the interdisciplinary subject of X-ray crystallography, source of many Nobel prizes and great advance in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, Biology and Medicine. The course then briefly examines some key topics including semiconductors, defects and amorphous materials.

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Advanced Practical Physics (PX3510) - 15 Credit Points

Theories of the physical world around us must be consistent with nature. This can be checked by experiment and indeed unexpected experimental results can lead to the development of new theories. This course offers the opportunity to test theories in optics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics and materials science by experiment. You will learn how to carry out experiments, analyse your data and present your results both in writing and verbally. You will get the opportunity to work with Michelson interferometers, venturi meters, sensors, instrumentation and computers. This course supports your physics lectures and prepares you for an experimental scientists work after university.

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Electricity and Magnetism (PX3512) - 15 Credit Points

We are surrounded by electromagnetic phenomena; it is not possible to understand the physical world without them. In this course we will discuss the link between electricity and magnetism, noticing that changing electric magnetic fields generate electric fields and the other way around. This will lead to the introduction of Faraday’s law, hugely relevant to understand how we generate electricity, and to the introduction of Maxwell’s correction to Ampere’s law, which will lead to the astounding result that light is an electromagnetic wave! We will finish the course by exploring how electromagnetic waves propagate and how they are originated.

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Research and Computing Skills (PX3017) - 15 Credit Points

This course introduces mathematical and computational methods. The first part is an introduction to programming starting at basics such as variables, loops and conditional statements. This course is taught in Python, with an emphasis on modern programming concepts and data analysis skills. The second part teaches advanced mathematical methods using examples from Physics; for example multivariable calculus and Maxwell's equations, or ODE and partial differential equations in classical and quantum mechanics. There will be a one week career strategies module separating the two.

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Year 4

Year 4

Compulsory Courses

Project A (PX4011) - 30 Credit Points

This course provides the opportunity to carry out an independent, open-ended, piece of research work. This can be in an area of physics (e.g. astronomy, nuclear physics, superconductors, dynamical systems etc.) or in related subjects where physicists tools can be applied (e.g. generation of proteins, biomechanics, infectious diseases etc.). The project can be dissertation based, practical or computational. You will develop: presentation skills; experience of reading and thinking about a specialist topic in depth; critical analysis skills of your own and other people’s scientific work and project management skills. This will help prepare you for your future career beyond university.

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Optional Courses

  • Case Studies in Physics (PX4007) or Statistical Physics and Stochastic Systems (PX4012)
  • Structure of Matter and the Universe (PX4510) or Analytical Mechanics and Elements of General Relativity (PX4517)
  • Select a further 60 credit points from level 3 and 4 courses in Philosophy
Case Studies in the Physical Sciences (PX4007) - 15 Credit Points

Whatever career you end up in, group working skills will be critical, and this course is designed to develop them. It is 100% continuously assessed and consists of some initial teamwork training, followed by two very different projects. One explores PET scanning and is taught by Professor Andy Welch, who is in charge of the medical imaging unit at Foresterhill. The other is about fibre optics communications and is taught by Dr. Ross Macpherson. These open-ended projects will give you some less prescriptive assessment in your final year.

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Statistical Physics and Stochastic Systems (PX4012) - 15 Credit Points

Statistical physics derives the phenomenological laws of thermodynamics from the probabilistic treatment of the underlying microscopic system. Statistical physics, together with quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, is a cornerstone in our modern understanding of the physical world.

Through this course, you will gain a better understanding of fundamental physical concepts such as entropy and thermodynamic irreversibility, and you will learn how derive some simple thermodynamic properties of gases and solids.

The final part of the course is devoted to an introduction to stochastic systems, which are widely used in many different fields such as physics, biology and economics.

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Structure of Matter and the Universe (PX4510) - 15 Credit Points

The first half of this course provides a detailed understanding of the origin of our Universe and the equations that describe its evolution. The creation of galaxies, stars - their structure, fusion processes and life cycles will be explored along with the formation of the planets. In the second half, the fundamental nature of matter will be investigated and theoretical techniques such as Lagrangians used to understand fields. Gauge field theory as an explanation of the fundamental forces of nature and the standard model will be explained.

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Analytical Mechanics and Elements of General Relativity (PX4517) - 15 Credit Points

Analytical mechanics, with its Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations, plays a pivotal role in almost every aspect of theoretical physics. It highlights the role of conservation laws, the most fundamental laws of nature, in shaping the physical world in which we live.

Mastering Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics allows one to better appreciate and understand cornerstone physical theories such as Quantum Mechanics or Statistical Mechanics.

As an alternative to Hamiltonian mechanics, in the second half of the course students may follow a 5 weeks elementary introduction to Einstein’s General relativity, the geometrical theory of gravitation, which generalizes special relativity and Newton’s gravitation.

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Course Availability

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Individual Projects
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:

  • Coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course.
  • Practical assessments of the skills and competencies they learn on the course.
  • Written examinations at the end of each course.

The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, years of study and individual courses.

Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.

Why Study Philosophy and Physics?

Why Philosophy

  • Ranked top in Scotland for teaching and course content in the last National Student Survey.
  • Famous philosophers who worked at the University include Thomas Reid, founder of the 18th century Scottish School of Common Sense Philosophy, and Alexander Bain, who helped lay the foundations for modern scientific psychology.
  • The Aberdeen Philosophy in Education Group (APEG), which is unique in Scotland, trains students to discuss philosophical questions with local primary and secondary school pupils.
  • Café Philosophique brings philosophers and the local community together, using popular films and novels to explore philosophical puzzles in an informal atmosphere.
  • The Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine acts as the focus for research, teaching and engagement in the history, philosophy, ethics, literature and museology of science, technology and medicine.
  • The spectacular, award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library offers superb collections, including early printed works of natural philosophy and medicine, the archives of Thomas Reid, and records of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society.
  • We offer a packed programme of public events, lectures and debates, including the annual May Festival, which attracts high profile scientists, scholars, authors, actors and broadcasters discussing and debating the big issues of today.
  • The skills you learn in Philosophy—for example, to think and write clearly, to explain complex ideas, to challenge orthodoxy—lend themselves to many careers.
  • Studying Philosophy will change how you think about things and how you approach life’s challenges.
  • Philosophy is interesting! Students from all disciplines often report that studying Philosophy was the most rewarding experience of their studies.

Why Physics

  • The Department of Physics at the University of Aberdeen has a long and illustrious history, and former staff include great physicists such as James Clerk Maxwell and G.P. Thomson.
  • We offer a modern, modular degree structure with a broad syllabus and a wide range of degree choices.
  • Long tradition of teaching physical sciences combined with modern facilities.
  • Emphasis placed on teaching employability and development of generic skills, useful in a wide range of careers.
  • We also offer a broad-based, less mathematical degree in Physical Science that allows the combination of Physics courses with a wide choice of other subjects.
  • Learn from research active, academic staff.
  • We are engaged in a wide range of research areas ranging from the fundamental nature of the universe through to understanding the atomic structure of complex materials and semiconductor device physics.
  • Our graduates go in to a huge range of jobs including; Meteorology, Medical physics, Environmental monitoring, Astronomy, Particle physics, Geophysics, Materials science, Invention Design, Teaching,
    Financial Modelling.

Entry Requirements

You will find all the information you require about entry requirements on our dedicated 'Entry Requirements' page. You can also find out about the different types of degrees, offers, advanced entry, and changing your subject.


SQA Highers - AABB*
A Levels -BBB*
IB - 32 points, 5 at HL*
ILC - 5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 OR AAABB, obtained in a single sitting. (B must be at B2 or above)*
*Including good performance in both Mathematics and Physics.

Advanced Entry - Advanced Highers ABB, A Levels ABB or IB 34 points (6 at HL) with AB in Maths and Physics. MPhys Physics with Complex Systems Modelling has higher entry requirements.

Further detailed entry requirements for Arts and Social Sciences degrees.

English Language Requirements

To study for a degree at the University of Aberdeen, it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee Waiver

For international students (all non-EU students) entering in 2017/18, the 2017/18 tuition fee rate will apply to all years of study; however, most international students will be eligible for a fee waiver in their final year via the International Undergraduate Scholarship.

Most RUK students (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) on a four year honours degree will be eligible for a full-fees waiver in their final year. Scholarships and other sources of funding are also available.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU £1,820
All Students
RUK £9,250
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £15,000
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Undergraduate Open Day

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Find out More


There are many opportunities at the University of Aberdeen to develop your knowledge, gain experience and build a competitive set of skills to enhance your employability. This is essential for your future career success. The Careers Service can help you to plan your career and support your choices throughout your time with us, from first to final year – and beyond.

Our Experts

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Key Information Set (KIS)

Unistats draws together comparable information in areas students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study. The core information it contains is called the Key Information Set.

You can compare these and other data for different degree programmes in which you are interested.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX