Average student intake: 7 (including Joint Schools)
Course length: 4 years (integrated Master's)
As a Physics student at Hertford, you will be part of one of the largest communities of Physics students and researchers in the world. The Physics Department at Oxford is internationally renowned, with around 120 academic staff and nearly 350 post-doctoral researchers, technical and support staff. At Hertford, there are usually eight Physics and Physics and Philosophy students in each year. This is a relatively large group in comparison with other colleges – we believe that this provides you with an excellent basis to work effectively within a cohort or research team.
This exciting network will form your academic home, as you work alongside expert staff researching the substance, processes and laws which govern the universe – from the smallest sub-atomic to the largest cosmological scales. You can expect daily contact with the expert researchers who will be your tutors and lecturers, both at Hertford and across the Department. Throughout your degree you will learn a range of mathematical techniques which will help you to understand the laws of Physics, ranging from classical mechanics and the laws of motion to quantum mechanics and relativity.
We offer three Physics courses at Oxford to suit your interests and ambitions. For straight Physics, everyone applies to the 4-year integrated Master’s course (MPhys). Once you are at Oxford you can choose to study the 3-year BA – providing you with comprehensive coverage of the fundamental principles of Physics – or complete the full 4-year programme, specialising in two areas and undertaking a substantial research project. You can also study the 4-year MPhysPhil in Physics and Philosophy, where you will investigate the deep philosophical aspects of Physics – see the joint honours section below for further details. If you develop a particular interest in theoretical physics or maths, you will have the option to take the Mathematical Physics course in the final year of the 4-year course.
Teaching and learning
Most of your teaching will happen in the cutting-edge Physics Department, where you will participate in lectures and practical laboratory work alongside students from colleges across the University. On average, you will have around 12 hours of lectures and one day of practical work in the teaching laboratories every week. Your lectures will introduce you to the course syllabus, while your practical work will teach you experimental techniques and data analysis and illustrate physical phenomena.
At Hertford, we will organise small-group tutorials with our expert tutors. In the first years of your degree you will learn about and discuss physics and maths problems in your tutorials, working alongside a tutor and one or two other students. You will also be taught in larger classes by our college fellows and lecturers. As you specialise in your degree, we will arrange for you to be taught by research leaders in your subject at other colleges or the Physics Department.
Studying Physics at Hertford means that you can build excellent problem-solving, numerical analysis and reasoning skills, all of which are highly sought after in a wide range of careers. Many of our graduates go on to further study at Oxford or elsewhere, while many others pursue careers in areas as varied as technical consulting, financial services, IT, banking, management and teaching.
Making an application
As well as your UCAS form, you will need to take the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT) – we use both of these to shortlist candidates for interview. Because the number of Physics applicants is large, not everyone who applies will be interviewed. In order to give yourself the best chance of success, you should prepare for the test by practising with the past papers available online.
We work with Physics tutors from across the University to ensure that you have a fair chance of being offered a place. This might mean that your application is reallocated to a different college, a process which we use to promote fairness and which is not a reflection of the strength of your application.
If you are invited to interview, we will give you two interviews here at Hertford. One will concentrate more on Mathematics and the other will concentrate more on Physics. You may also receive an interview at another college to ensure that all candidates have a fair chance of success. We want to identify the best candidates who will get the most out of our tutorial teaching system and so we’ll ask you to work through some problems.
We won’t ask you any trick questions or try and catch you out – this would do nothing to help us identify students with excellent potential. While it’s true that you might be unfamiliar with some of the questions we ask, there’s no need to be worried. We want to see how you approach a problem and use your reasoning skills to find a solution.
Joint Schools: Physics and Philosophy
MPhysPhil Physics and Philosophy
The aim of this course is to investigate the long-standing connection between Physics and its foundations in metaphysics and the theory of knowledge, bridging the divide between arts and sciences. We will teach you both how to think like a scientist and to make cogent arguments, equipping you with a wide range of transferable skills for your future career.
Physics and Philosophy are given equal weight in this degree course – you will study the two subjects in parallel for three years before specialising in your final year. You will also undertake inter-disciplinary work throughout your degree in the Philosophy of Physics, which is an extremely active research area at Oxford.