Department of Physics and Astronomy

Studying Physics

Information on studying for your Physics and Astronomy degree

Academic Information

Department Handbook for Physics and Astronomy First Year Students

The Department Handbook is a document that contains the useful information on the web pages here.

Module Content

Each degree course has a syllabus of core and optional modules and you can see the structure of the course here.

Details of the modules content for each course can be found on the Physics and Astronomy Course Directory

Full details for each module, including learning outcomes and assessment details, can be found on the Physics and Astronomy Module Directory.



As a student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, you will meet a variety of staff working to assist you through your studies:

Your lecturers and academic tutors:

These are the best people to approach in the first place if you have difficulty with understanding a particular lecture module, obtaining books, accessing information and so on.

Your laboratory demonstrators:

Their job is mainly to help you with the laboratory experiments, but you can also approach them informally about other academic or organisational questions.

Your teaching technicians:

Their job is mainly to ensure the teaching laboratories and set up and working for you.

Your administrative support staff:

Based in the School Office, their job is to ensure you are on the correct course and modules, and to take in your coursework, and to make sure the processes for your assessment and examinations are in place.

Reading Lists

To find out the reading list for your modules, please use the Library Reading List search facility.

Learning Outcomes

The award of a qualification in a given degree course recognizes that you have been judged to have achieved a set of specific learning outcomes. The learning outcomes for your course, as defined for your entry cohort, are published under course specifications on the departmental teaching pages.

As you progress through your course, you are provided with opportunities to be assessed, and so demonstrate, that you have achieved the learning outcomes. You should read them at the start of your studies and reflect during the course on how you are gradually acquiring them.

The modules which make up your course are also listed in the specifications. Details of the individual modules are accessible through the links on each of the course specifications on the departmental teaching pages: Physics - Module Directory

The descriptions detail the module outline, the learning outcomes and the module assessments, which are designed to demonstrate that the outcomes have been achieved.


University Examination and Assessment Regulations

Information on assessment can be found at the following links:

Progression Criteria:

See section 1.4 and Appendix G of The Examinations and Assessment Regulations Handbook pages.

Late work and Exceptional Circumstances:

See sections 1.6 and 1.7 of The Examinations and Assessment Regulations Handbook pages.

Physics and Astronomy Exam Rubrics:

See P & A - Examinations rubrics [PDF 76.59KB]

Student Progress and Assessment Office

You can also find information on assessment on the Student Systems and Records Office web page.

External Examiners

The role of the External Examiner is to uphold our academic standards at the University of Sussex. The Department of Physics and Astronomy currently has the following external examiners:

  • Professor Arttu Rajantie, Imperial College London
  • Professor Paul Soler, University of Glasgow

Please refer to your Study pages on Sussex Direct to see the deadlines and submission point for your coursework.

Apart from the formal examinations and assessments which contribute to your final degree results, there are less formal ways in which your progress is monitored.

Most important are the exercise and problem sheets marked and checked in tutorials, exercise classes and workshops. In many cases, the only check on whether a you have understood a particular point is your ability to solve a problem based on that point. Usually, answers to problem sheets are the only way for a tutor to tell whether you are coping with the module.

This makes the handing in of problems and discussion of solutions a very important part of the learning process, even for the modules for which the exercise sheets are not part of the formal assessed work. Both formal and informal assessed work is recorded. Attendance at lectures, exercise classes, and labs is recorded.

In laboratory modules, an equivalent role is played by the laboratory reports which students are required to hand in.

Each student’s progress is monitored each term by the grades achieved and recorded on Sussex Direct (and from attendance data). It's important for you to complete the work for the module, not just to obtain the marks, but also because there is a strong correlation between achievement on work and achievement on exams!

End-of-year marks also correlate strongly with attendance: the more classes you miss, the worse your marks will be.


The exams for Autumn term modules will take place in January (Mid-year assessment period), the exams for Spring term modules will take place in May/June (Year-end assessment period).


Assessment modes

A variety of assessment modes are used to develop and test different types of knowledge, skills and aptitudes. The assessment modes have been approved to test the course and module learning outcomes.  Written submissions usually form an integral part of assessment at all levels. Written submissions include problem sets, dissertations etc as appropriate to the module and the skills that you are being expected to develop. Examinations usually focus more on your ability to use your knowledge of the subject, rather than simply testing your memory for facts. Feedback is provided to support you in future assessments.

Unseen examinations are typically used to assess your level of knowledge and/or understanding of the discipline without the support of textbooks, notes or internet resources, unless these have been specifically permitted by the examination rubric. When, in accordance with the academic judgement of the School, an unseen exam has been approved for a module to assess competence standards, learning outcomes and any accreditation requirements, an alternative mode may not be approved as a Reasonable Adjustment for a student registered with the Student Support Unit.

Results from the exams are conflated with the module coursework marks to give a module result.

Physical Constants Table and Exam Rubrics


The University rule concerning the use of calculators in examinations is as follows:

  1. The only calculators authorised for use in examinations are the Casio fx-82, fx-83, fx-85, fx-115, fx-570 or fx-991 (all with any suffix).
  2. Visiting & Exchange students may be able to use existing calculators if they are non-graphical and non-programmable. In order to have the calculator approved for examination use you must present it to the Calculator Officer for inspection.

If you take an unauthorised calculator into an examination you will be guilty of misconduct. This may result in a complete loss of marks for that examination, or even disqualification.

Plagiarism and Misconduct

Writing well and avoiding academic misconduct

Plagiarism is a very serious issue.

Plagiarism, collusion, and cheating in exams are all forms of academic misconduct which the University takes very seriously. Every year, some students commit academic misconduct unintentionally because they did not know what was expected of them. The consequences for committing academic misconduct can be severe, so it is important that you familiarise yourself with what it is and how to avoid it.

The S3 guide to study skills gives advice on writing well, including hints and tips on how to avoid making serious mistakes. Visit the S3 pages and make use of the resources there. You will also find helpful guides to referencing properly and improving your critical writing skills.

If you are dealing with difficult circumstances, such as illness or bereavement, do not try to rush your work or hand in something which may be in breach of the rules. Instead you should seek confidential advice from the Student Life Centre.

Guidance and advice on plagiarism can be found on the Academic Office pages, the Student Life Centre pages.

Feedback for Students and Staff

Feedback for students

There are a number of ways in which you will receive feedback regarding your progress:

Marked Coursework

You will get feedback each time you have a piece of coursework marked, which can be picked up in lectures or during a staff member's feedback hour.

Lecturers’ feedback hours

For details, please search Sussex web pages for the relevant staff member and their feedback hours for the week will be displayed.

Meetings with your Academic Advisor

You should regularly meet with your Academic Advisor, who can offer feedback on your overall progress.

Verbal feedback from your workshop tutor

You should receive some feedback from Associate Tutors during workshops.

Access to marked exam scripts


Feedback to staff

There are a number of ways in which you can feedback to staff:

Module Evaluation Questionnaires

Towards the end of each module you will be asked to fill in an online module evaluation questionnaire. The link allowing you to do this will appear on your Sussex Direct page. We have used module questionnaires for many years to obtain feedback on our teaching. Student responses have led to changes in method, content and organisation. The results are discussed in the DJC and Boards of Study meetings.

Direct Feedback

If you want to give feedback or have concerns about a module, you can talk to your student rep, the lecturer, or the Head of Department by appointment.

We take our students’ views very seriously.

Student Progress

Academic Advisors

If you are worried about your progress on your course, the first person to contact is your Academic Advisor.

Your Academic Advisor, whom you will meet in your first day or two at University, is one of the lecturing staff and your main source of academic and personal advice and you will normally keep the same academic advisor throughout your time at Sussex.

He or she will oversee your degree course, providing feedback each term from academic tutors, informal tests and university examinations about your academic progress, and may advise you on how to choose a career.

It should always be possible to contact them with the minimum of delay (e-mail is often the quickest way to get a response), and they can often provide access to other experts if unable to deal with your query or problem.

Keep your academic advisor fully informed about your extracurricular activities, so that (s)he can write a rounded reference for you for employment or admission to postgraduate modules.

During the first year you will be expected to see your Academic Advisor on a regular basis. This should be arranged with your academic advisor when you first meet together in Freshers' Week. From the second year onwards you should arrange to see him/her at least once a term, and preferably at the beginning and end of every term.

Senior Tutors

Physics & Astronomy Senior Tutors:

Foundation Year and BSc/MPhys year 1 - Professor Fabrizio Salvatore E T 01273678749 (Pevensey 2 4A4)

BSc/MPhys year 2-4 - Dr Iacopo Vivarelli E T 01273678114 (Pevensey 2 4A7)

Course Transfers

Transferring to an MPS degree

Guidance on Course Transfers for Taught Students (Foundation, UG and PGT)

This page provides guidance on the course transfer process and a link to the course transfer application form for students wishing to transfer to a course owned by the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences only.

The guidance contains important information about the criteria for considering applications and the implications of transferring, so please read this page fully before proceeding to the application form.

Please note that the application to transfer form is only for students who wish to change their whole degree course effective in the current academic year.  If you wish to remain on your existing course but add or remove a placement or study abroad year, please contact your School Office ( If you wish to change a module within your course, please contact your School Office. If you wish to temporarily withdraw from your current course and return to a different course next academic year, please contact instead of completing the online form below.

How can I apply to transfer?

Please complete the transfer application form via the link below.  Please note that you must apply via the webpages of the school that owns the course to which you wish to transfer.  If you are not sure which school owns the course you wish to apply to, please ask your current School Office.

In the section ‘reason for transfer’, write a personal statement regarding why you want to transfer to your chosen degree course and explain why it may suit you better than your current course. This will be shared with members of staff who process transfer applications. Please note that you have not transferred until the school confirms that your transfer is complete – in the meantime you must continue attending classes on your current course in case your transfer request is declined.

The transfer form can be filled out here

When can I request a transfer?

Course transfers are usually effective from the beginning of Semester 1, or more exceptionally from the beginning of Semester 2 (please note it is not possible for Foundation students to transfer to a different Foundation course or into stage 1 of a degree course effective from Semester 2).  Transfers for Semester 1 can be applied for from 1st August in that year, although may not be implemented until September.  Transfers for Semester 2 can be requested from the last day of the Semester 1 teaching period. 

The deadline to apply for a course transfer is the Friday of the second week of teaching in each semester. The current deadline is 11th October 2019.

Please note that it will not be possible to transfer within the same semester after these deadlines. If you do not wish to continue on your current course and have either missed the transfer window or know you want to restart the stage/start from an earlier stage on a different course, you may be able to temporarily withdraw and return the following academic year to restart the stage/semester on a new course.  If you are considering doing this, please seek advice from your Academic Advisor and the Student Life Centre.  If you decide that this is what you want to do, please contact to apply for a transfer.

How will my transfer application be considered?

The Senior Tutor(s) for your requested course will review your entry qualifications and your academic record so far at Sussex.  They may approve your application based on this information and your form alone, or they may ask to meet with you to discuss the transfer. 

You must meet the entry requirements of the new course and your transfer application may be declined on academic grounds.  Your transfer may also be declined if the course you have requested is full. Transfers requested for Semester 2 may be declined where the structure of either your current or the new course would not enable you to complete 120 credits in the stage (i.e. where the course structure includes year-long modules).

If the course you have applied to transfer to has any additional entry requirements (e.g. a criminal convictions disclosure or health check), you will be contacted with further information on what is required.

What happens next?

You will receive an email to let you know whether your transfer application has been accepted or declined. 

If your transfer has been accepted, you may then be asked to choose options.  Please note that spaces on option/elective modules may be limited and some modules may not be available.  If appropriate, you will be assigned a new Academic Advisor within your new subject area and your course title and teaching and assessment timetables will be updated.  Once you have received your new timetable, you should start attending modules for your new course.  If you are in receipt of funding from Student Finance we will inform them that you have transferred course. You should ensure you can receive funding for the duration of the new course before requesting a transfer. 

If your transfer request is declined and you require further advice about your studies, you should speak to either your Academic Advisor or the Director of Student Experience in your school. You cannot appeal against a decision to decline an application to transfer course, as decisions are based on academic judgement.

Important information for ALL students considering a transfer:

• Students on an undergraduate degree may apply to transfer into the same stage of a different degree, or to transfer back to an earlier stage. 

• You will need to gain 120 credits for each stage of your course to be awarded a degree. If you wish to transfer without restarting your current stage/semester on your new course, you will need to complete all assessments for your current stage/semester to gain the credits required.  If you were due to take any trailed assessments from a previous stage, you will still need to take these unless you are restarting the stage to which they originally belonged. 

• Students on a Foundation course may apply to transfer onto a different Foundation course, or they may apply to transfer onto a degree course for which they meet the entry requirements.  If you transfer onto a degree course for which you have met the entry requirements, you do not need to complete your Foundation course, but may do so if you wish to. 

• If you transfer back to an earlier stage you will be asked to sign a Learning Agreement (please see for details).  University regulations normally allow a maximum of two years to complete a stage of study (for full-time students), including where you have transferred course.  The purpose of the Learning Agreement is to monitor and encourage engagement with your new course,.

• Transfers back to an earlier stage of study may have implications for fees and funding.  For further information, please contact  Please note that as a returning student you will not be entitled to university housing and will have to make your own arrangements for accommodation.

• If you transfer back to an earlier stage of study any marks and credits achieved will not be retained for progression and award purposes.

• Once you are on a degree-level course (i.e. not a Foundation Year) a maximum period of registration applies.  For an undergraduate course, this is usually the standard length of your course plus three years.

Important information for Tier 4 visa students only:

• If you are studying at the University on a Tier 4 student visa, any transfer will be reported to UK Visas and Immigration. You should seek advice from the International Student Support Team for information on how your 5-year cap will be affected by any course change. (

• If you are applying to transfer back to an earlier stage of study, or to restart your current stage on a new course, you will need to apply for a new visa before starting the new course. This is because you are changing course and you cannot complete your new course within the same time as your old one. You will need to apply from your home country, so please make sure you do this in plenty of time, so that you can arrive in time for teaching for the new academic year.  If you are adding a placement year or year abroad to your course, please speak with an advisor in International Student Support, for the different options on applying for a visa extension to cover your final year.

• If you are changing schools or if the new course is not connected to your previous course, both you and your school will need to provide us with a justification for the transfer for UKVI purposes.

• Once your transfer has been approved and providing that you have enough time to apply for your new visa, the University will issue you with a new CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies).

Important information for overseas (non-EU) students only:

You should note that if you transfer to a degree course in a higher fee band your fees will rise when you begin that course.  If your fees are paid by a sponsor, please check with them directly whether the transfer will affect your sponsorship.


Transfers to MPhys    

BSc students can only transfer to the MPhys level at the end of year 2 on recommendation of the Progression and Award Board (PAB) and subject to spaces on the course.  In order to transfer, students are required to achieve a Grand Mean ≥ 55%.


Transfers to MPhys with Research Placement (RP)   

MPhys students can only transfer to the MPhys with RP at the end of year 1 on recommendation of the Progression and Award Board (PAB) and subject to spaces on the course.  In order to transfer onto the RP, students are required to achieve a Grand Mean ≥ 70%.

Student Life Centre

The Student Life Centre Advisors can assist you with a variety of matters that might be affecting your ability to progress.

Exceptional Circumstances Claims

If you believe that your late or non-submission of assessed work, or absence from a test/examination, is due to medical or other acceptable mitigating circumstances, you can submit an Exceptional Circumstances claim (EC)

This should be done as early as possible as you must start the claim with 7 days of the assessment deadline. 

Start the claim from your Sussex Direct pages by going to the "Study" tab and then "Exceptional circumstances".

Medical certificates or other relevant evidence must be obtained. Such certificates must be signed by a doctor, nurse or other professional person (self-certification will not be accepted).

The following common problems will not be accepted as an exceptional circumstance:

  • Transport delays, either to public or private transport.
  • Postal delays.
  • Failure of a third party, such as a typist or messenger, to complete tasks
  • Failure of computers, floppy disks, printers, photocopiers or binders.

Further guidance on Exceptional circumstance claims can be found on the Student Life Centre pages.

The Wider Physics Experience

Foundation Year Physics
Information on Foundation Year courses can be found on our Physics Foundation Year webpages.
Research Placements
Information on Research Placements can be found on our Research Placements webpages.
Information on careers can be found on our Physics Careers pages.

The department has a dedicated employability officer, Emma Hallat, who sits in-house with contact office hours for students.

Emma looks after placements, site visits, employer talks, mock interviews as well as getting employers in the curriculum.


Department of Physics and Astronomy

School Office, 3A20 Pevensey 2 Building, University of Sussex, Falmer Campus, Brighton BN1 9QH

T: 01273678557
P&A Homepage