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Course Overview

This course leads to a MSci. degree and is mainly intended as preparation for graduate studies in astrophysics, although the high level of mathematical rigour means that graduates are also highly attractive to employers in other sectors. Lecture courses are taken mainly from the wide selection of astrophysics courses taught, often by Institute of Astronomy staff, as part of the Part III Mathematics and from two courses offered in Part III Physics. Students normally take four lecture courses for examination although they often attend a wider range of lectures for interest.

Although most of those taking Part III Astrophysics will have taken Part II Astrophysics, the fact that most Part III Astrophysics and Part III Mathematics lectures (and examinations) are the same, means that for interested Part II Mathematics students, of sufficient standard, Part III Astrophysics is an alternative to Part III Mathematics. The main difference is that Part III Astrophysics students take one less lecture course (and examination), but undertake a more substantial project, instead of the Essay. It is also possible in principle, for mathematically able students who have taken Part II Physics to take Part III Astrophysics (at the discretion of their Director of Studies and of the IoA), provided they have taken the Lent Term option in Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics. Students contemplating the route from either Part II Maths or Part II Physics into Part III Astrophysics should be aware that, in the case of over-subscription, priority will be given to suitably qualified students who have done Part II Astrophysics.

Lecture Courses

All Part III Astrophysics lecture courses and examinations are offered by either Part III Mathematics and Part III Physics. The majority of courses you choose for examination must be drawn from our Recommended Course List. However, you may also choose to be examined in one additional course (maximum 3 units) from either the full suite of Part III Mathematics courses or the Part III Physics courses.

The Research Project

A major component of the Part III Astrophysics course is the research project, which accounts for one third of the marks and is supervised by staff at the IoA over the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. The Project provides undergraduates with a unique opportunity to get to the cutting edge of astronomical research and the resulting dissertation often contains work of publishable quality. In addition, students develop their communication skills through giving an oral presentation on their project. Projects often either involve the analysis of astronomical data or the running of computer simulations.

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Students enter from Part II Astrophysics, Part II Mathematics, Part II Physics or externally as MASt students.

Part III Astrophysics takes most of its courses from part III Mathematics. Students can expect that a good understanding of any material from both IA and IB Mathematics for Natural Sciences to be assumed. Equivalently, any material from the IA Mathematics courses (except Numbers and Sets) and the applied IB courses may be assumed.

Part II Astrophysics

A student with a II.1 at part II may proceed automatically to part III. A student who fails to get a II.1 may request consideration as a special case.

Students who completed the Extended Essay in Part II Astrophysics will be required to complete a CATAM project in the long vacation prior to the Michaelmas term of Part III.

Part II Mathematics

Each application will be considered individually following the release of the part II Mathematics results.

The general expectation is that students entering part III Astrophysics will have a first or good upper second result with alphas scored in at least three different theoretical physics courses. Candidates may also be asked to attend an interview.

Our list of recognised theoretical physics courses in Part II Mathematics is:

  • Mathematical Biology
  • Classical Dynamics
  • Cosmology
  • Principles of Quantum Mechanics
  • Applications of Quantum Mechanics
  • Statistical Physics
  • Electrodynamics
  • General Relativity
  • Fluid Dynamics
  • Waves

Part II Physics

Each case is considered individually but evidence of at least a II.1 level of ability is expected. Candidates may also be asked to attend an interview.

Students entering from Part II Physics will be required to complete a CATAM project in the long vacation prior to the Michaelmas term of Part III.

How to Apply

Those taking Part II Astrophysics will be asked to confirm whether they intend on taking Part III Astrophysics in Lent Term. 

Those taking Part II Mathematics or Part II Physics who are interested in taking Part III Astrophysics in their 4th year should register their interest by completing this form as early as possible (preferably no later than the end of the previous Easter term).

This is subject to obtaining a II.1 in Part II.

Special Cases

A student who has not met the required standard, has not offered the required subjects as specified above, or who has not complied with the published deadline for receipt of applications, may request consideration as a special case.

External Candidates

If you are interested in Part III Astrophysics but are not a University of Cambridge student, you will need to apply to the one year MASt in Astrophysics course, for further information, please click here.