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Key information

UCAS code
Delivery type
Full Time
Degree qualification
BSc (Hons)
Mode of delivery
4 years
Start date

The BSc (Hons) Physics programme encourages you to investigate the world and universe around us. You’ll gain the skills to accurately measure the things we are surrounded by, develop models to explain what is going on, and use those models to predict what is otherwise unknown.  

Physicists come from a range of backgrounds, with different strengths and interests, but the common thread between them is their passion for understanding and their constant wondering of ‘why?’ and more importantly ‘how?’.  

During your studies, you will develop a flexible and versatile skillset which will set you up for life after graduation. From studying particles so small their existence can only be inferred, to researching the largest and most massive black holes we have found in the universe, this subject trains you to rapidly adapt and use your skills to tackle the next emerging challenge, whatever that may be.   

You’ll cover topics in fields and forces, photonics and optics, and thermal physics and explore the quantum world of subatomic particles, the unique nature of laser light, and the philosophically challenging ideas of quantum physics and astrophysics. You’ll build upon your mathematics foundations to help understand physical concepts in more depth. In later years, you’ll study Electromagnetism and Laser Physics, Quantum Theory and Solid State, and Statistical, Nuclear and Particle Physics to delve deep into, and discuss, current research areas with leading experts.

Heriot-Watt has been ranked second in Scotland for Physics based on staff to student ratio by the Guardian (2024). This means you’ll have a personal learning environment, in which you can speak directly to your academic tutors about the programme, what’s happening in the wider physics industry, get extra support when necessary, and build relationships with your teaching staff. This is exemplified by our recent ranking for student experience, in which Physics at Heriot-Watt was ranked second in Scotland (Guardian, 2024).

Your student experience

Heriot-Watt University is top in Scotland for its world-leading (4*) Physics research, in the REF 2021 results. Physics at Heriot-Watt also came top in the UK for its world-leading research outputs and saw 97% of its research classed as world-leading and internationally excellent

The university also received the Queens Anniversary Prize in 2021, the highest honour for universities in the UK, in recognition of our research in Photonics.  

Your learning will be informed by the expertise of our research-active physicists, scientists, and academics. You’ll be taught by passionate and engaging experts who will provide you with cutting-edge insight into key areas of physics, by relating taught material to their own research. 

Our BSc Physics is directly informed by the world class research carried out by Heriot-Watt’s Research Institute for Photonic and Quantum Science and the Research Institute for Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering. These research Institutes focus on promoting excellence across four main research themes: 

Research Institute for Photonic and Quantum Science focuses on promoting excellence across three main research themes: 

Research Institute for Biological, Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering focuses on four main themes: 

  • Biological Chemistry 

  • Bioengineering 

  • Brewing and Distilling 

  • Health Research 

The research relevance of this undergraduate programme ensures your studies remain cutting-edge and industry focused. 

Go Global

With Go Global, Heriot-Watt's global student programme, you can carry your studies to new places and experience new cultures, expanding your horizons on the way. You'll discover what it means to be a true global citizen and emerge prepared for wherever your career journey will take you.

European Exchange

This Exchange Programme enables you to study or work in Europe as part of your degree programme, usually for a full academic year.

Course content

September Intake - Edinburgh

Provides foundations of physics and mathematics and gives the opportunity to look at wider aspects of physics through experimental study in investigative techniques. Also covered are fundamental engineering skills in electronics and mechanics.

Mandatory September

  • Mechanics, Fields and Forces
  • Investigative Techniques 1
  • Mathematics for Engineers and Scientists 1

Optional September

  • Introductory Biology 1
  • Principles of Chemistry
  • Introduction to Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Logic and Proof
  • Topics in Statistical Practice

Mandatory January

  • Waves and Matter
  • Investigative Techniques 2
  • Mathematics for Engineers and Scientists 2

Optional January

  • Introductory Biology 2
  • Chemical Reactivity
  • Introduction to Mechanical Engineering
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Elements of Probability

Programme Video

Why does the world need physics?

Fees and funding

ScotlandPaid by SAAS
England / Wales / N Ireland / Rep of Ireland£9,250
  • Status: Your residency status is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the three years before the start of your course.
  • International: 'International' includes applicants from European Union countries who do not hold Pre-Settled or Settled status in UK. (This does not include students from the Republic of Ireland - see above).

Scholarships and bursaries

Bursaries for students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales

In addition to government loans and grants towards the costs of fees and living costs, we are offering generous financial support to attract and support eligible undergraduate students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales:

  • Heriot-Watt University Bursary (up to £3,100 per year)
View details

Entry requirements

We have standard entry requirements for all of our courses that you will have to meet.

Standard entry requirements

  • Highers ABBB (including Physics or Mathematics both at B)
  • A-Levels BCC - BBB (including Physics and Mathematics with one at B)
  • Int. Baccalaureate 29 points (with Higher Level 5 Physics and Mathematics)
  • BTEC DMM (in relevant subject)
  • HNC B in graded unit (in relevant HNC)

Minimum entry requirements*

  • Highers BBBC (including Physics and Mathematics BB)
  • A-Levels CCC (including Physics and Mathematics)
  • IB 28 points (HL 5 Physics and Maths)

* Minimum: under our Fair Access Policy, we will relax our standard entry requirements for some Scottish students depending on their circumstances. Our minimum requirements will apply if you:

  • live in an area within the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation lowest 20% (SIMD20), or
  • are care experienced.

We can also make exceptions for some Scottish students with grades above minimum but below standard. Read more about our Minimum and standard entry requirements

Why Heriot-Watt

We're the top university in Scotland for graduate outcomes which means that more of our graduates are employed or in postgraduate education than any other institution in the country and we ranked 5th in the UK.

We're also rated number one in the UK for CEO or MD roles, meaning more of our graduates go on to become CEOs or MDs than any other university in the whole of the UK. On top of that, we have beautiful campuses, across the globe, so you'll get a truly international education. Our Edinburgh Campus is home to Oriam, Scotland's National Sports Performance Centre combined with plenty of wellbeing resources, prioritising fitness and mental health for all students. Our Global Research Institutes look at solving real world issues such as climate change and saving our oceans as well as working on the next medical technological breakthrough and the future of AI and robots.


Work and study

This is what our BSc (Hons) Physics students are doing 15 months after graduating:
are working
are studying
are studying and working


The average salary of students 15 months after graduating
The average UK salary of students 15 months after graduating from a similar course

Potential career paths

  • Information Technology Professionals
  • Science, engineering and technology associate professionals
  • Natural and social science professionals
  • Teaching Professionals

Student life

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