A Guide to the Best Universities for Astrophysics Degree in the UK

A Guide to the Best Universities for Astrophysics Degree in the UK

Astrophysics is a fascinating field that explores the mysteries of the universe, from the smallest particles to the vast expanse of space. If you have a passion for the stars and want to pursue a career in astrophysics, the United Kingdom offers some of the best universities for astrophysics in the world. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will take a closer look at the best universities in the UK for astrophysics degrees, helping you make an informed decision about where to pursue your education.

Factors to consider when choosing the best university for astrophysics UK

When choosing a university for astrophysics studies, several factors should be taken into consideration. First and foremost, the reputation and ranking of the university’s astrophysics programme are crucial. If you want to choose the best university for astrophysics in the UK.

Look for universities that are renowned for their research and teaching in astrophysics.

Additionally, consider the faculty members and their expertise in physics and mathematics. Strong university tutors can provide valuable mentorship and guidance throughout your academic journey.

Another important factor to consider is the resources and facilities available at the university. Look for universities that have well-equipped observatories, laboratories, and computational resources. 

These resources will play a significant role in your practical training and research opportunities. 

Furthermore, consider the university’s connections and collaborations with other research institutions and observatories. This is very Russell Group universities are brilliant. Being part of a broader astrophysics network can enhance your learning experience and open doors to exciting research opportunities.

Also, take into account the location and the overall environment of the university. You will have a different experience in Oxford, and Cambridge, compared to Durham and Imperial College London

Studying astrophysics requires dedication and long hours of work. Choosing a university located in a vibrant scientific community or close to research facilities can provide you with valuable networking opportunities and exposure to good research. 

Additionally, is very important for many students, to consider the cost of living, student accommodation, and the availability of scholarships or student financial help for their studies. Here are some guides that can help:

Top universities for astrophysics in the UK

The United Kingdom is home to several top universities renowned for their astrophysics programmes. Below, we will explore some of the best universities for Astrophysics in the UK.

University rankings for astrophysics programmes in the UK 2024

Before delving into specific universities, let’s take a look at the overall rankings for university astrophysics programmes in the UK. These rankings are based on factors such as research output, entry standards, faculty expertise, career opportunities and student satisfaction that are collected from The Guardian tables and The Complete University Guide tables. 

According to the latest rankings, the 10 best universities for astrophysics in the UK are:

  1. University of Cambridge
  2. University of Oxford
  3. Imperial College London
  4. University College London
  5. University of Manchester
  6. University of Edinburgh
  7. University of Glasgow
  8. University of Durham
  9. University of St Andrews
  10. Lancaster University

Now, let’s explore each of these universities in more detail.

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is globally recognised for its excellence in astrophysics studies. It’s definitely “creme de la creme” for science and one of the best universities for astrophysics in the UK.  The Cavendish Laboratory, which houses the Department of Physics, is at the forefront of research and has produced numerous groundbreaking discoveries. 

The astrophysics courses at Cambridge offer a comprehensive curriculum that covers theoretical and observational astrophysics, cosmology, and astrophysical fluid dynamics. 

Students benefit from access to state-of-the-art facilities, including the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Institute of Astronomy.

More guides:

How To Get Into Cambridge University

Cambridge University Acceptance Rate

How to Apply to Cambridge University

The Best Cambridge Colleges

University of Oxford

Unique teaching and tutoring methods put Oxford at the top of the world university tables. One of the two best universities for astrophysics in the UK

The University of Oxford has a long-standing reputation for its astrophysics degrees. The Department of Physics offers a wide range of astrophysics courses, allowing students to specialise in areas such as stellar astrophysics, galaxy formation, and high-energy astrophysics. 

Oxford’s astrophysics programme is known for its rigorous academic standards and its emphasis on research-led teaching. To get an offer you will typically need A-Levels and A*A*A* in physics, mathematics and chemistry. 

Students have the opportunity to work alongside world-renowned researchers and gain practical experience using cutting-edge equipment and telescopes.

Specialised guides:

The Best Oxford Colleges for Physics

Pros and Cons of Oxford Colleges

How to Apply to Oxford University

A Guide to the Oxford Physics Admissions Test

How to Get into Oxford University: Top 12 Tips for 100% Success

Oxford University Acceptance Rate

Imperial College London

Imperial College London is renowned for its scientific excellence, and its astrophysics course is no exception. The Department of Physics at Imperial College offers a dynamic and interdisciplinary approach to astrophysics studies. The average Imperial College London acceptance rate for Astrophysics courses is around 12%, which is extremely competitive.

Students have the flexibility to tailor their degree to their specific interests, choosing from a wide range of modules, including general relativity, cosmology, and observational techniques.

Imperial College’s proximity to the Royal Observatory Greenwich and its strong collaborations with international space agencies provide students with unique research opportunities.

Read more:

University College London

University College London (UCL) is a leading institution for astrophysics studies in the UK. UCL’s Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a comprehensive astrophysics program that covers both theoretical and observational aspects of the field. 

Students benefit from world-class research facilities, including the UCL Observatory and the Mullard Space Science Laboratory. 

UCL’s strong links with NASA and the European Space Agency offer students the chance to participate in exciting space missions and gain hands-on experience in space instrumentation.

To get an offer at UCL for astrophysics you will typically need A*AA in A-Levels with Mathematics and Physics required. Third A can be in any of the subjects Biology, Chemistry or Further Mathematics. For the IB diploma, you need to get 39 points. 

University of Manchester

The University of Manchester is one of the best universities for the astrophysics programme in the UK, which combines theoretical and observational approaches to the study of the universe. 

The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, located near Manchester, is one of the world’s leading radio astronomy centres and offers unparalleled research opportunities for students. 

Manchester’s astrophysics program focuses on areas such as pulsar astrophysics, galaxy evolution, and astroparticle physics. Students have access to cutting-edge facilities, including the Lovell Telescope and the e-MERLIN radio interferometer. 

Typical entry requirements are A*A*A, including A* in both Physics and Mathematics. 

University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh boasts a vibrant astrophysics community and offers an excellent programme for students interested in studying the cosmos. 

The Institute for Astronomy at Edinburgh provides a supportive and collaborative environment for astrophysics studies. The program covers a wide range of topics, including stellar evolution, planetary science, and the physics of galaxies. 

Edinburgh’s proximity to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and its involvement in international research projects make it an ideal choice for aspiring astrophysicists.

University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow offers a comprehensive astrophysics program that combines theoretical research with practical training. The Institute for Gravitational Research at Glasgow is a world-leading centre for the study of gravitational waves, opening up exciting research opportunities for students interested in this field. 

Glasgow’s astrophysics program covers a broad range of topics, including high-energy astrophysics, planetary science, and astrobiology. 

Students benefit from access to state-of-the-art laboratories and observatories, including the UK Astronomy Technology Centre.

University of Durham

The University of Durham is renowned for its astrophysics programme, known for its strong emphasis on research-led teaching. Similar collegiate system to Oxford and Cambridge. 

Durham University has a high acceptance rate in physics with around 83%. 

The Department of Physics at Durham offers a wide range of astrophysics modules, allowing students to explore various aspects of the field. 

Durham’s astrophysics program focuses on areas such as galaxy formation, cosmic microwave background radiation, and gravitational lensing. 

Students have access to world-class facilities, including the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics and the Institute for Computational Cosmology.

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University of St Andrews

The University of St Andrews offers a well-established and one of the best astrophysics programme in the UK, that combines theoretical and observational approaches to the study of the universe. 

The School of Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews is known for its supportive and inclusive learning environment. The astrophysics program covers topics such as stellar structure and evolution, extragalactic astronomy, and cosmology. 

Students have access to the University Observatory and the Scottish Centre for Excellence in Satellite Applications, providing valuable practical training opportunities.

Lancaster University

Lancaster University offers a renowned and one of the best undergraduate programmes in astrophysics, allowing students to attain a BSc degree in 3 years or an integrated MPhys degree in 4 years in the UK. 

UK/EU students will pay £9,250 per year in tuition under the Bachelor’s program, while international students face fees ranging from £17,000-£22,000 annually. 

Both UK and international students have access to merit-based Lancaster scholarships, in addition to external student loans and awards like the Lancaster University Alumni Bursary. 

The astrophysics curriculum itself provides comprehensive foundations in both physics and astronomy, with the opportunity to utilize on-campus observatory facilities. Students can also study abroad through Lancaster’s partner universities worldwide. 

After graduating, students can continue their astrophysics education through Lancaster’s Master’s and PhD programs.

Undergraduates have the opportunity to attain robust training in astrophysics concepts coupled with hands-on observational experience. Postgraduate students can further develop their expertise through Lancaster’s research degrees and work alongside faculty supervisors undertaking cutting-edge astrophysics projects.

Choosing the best university for astrophysics in the UK

Choosing the best university for astrophysics in the UK is a crucial decision that can shape your future career in this exciting field. Consider factors such as reputation, resources, faculty expertise, and location when making your decision. 

The universities mentioned in this guide are among the top institutions in the UK for astrophysics studies, offering excellent academic programmes, cutting-edge research opportunities, and a vibrant scientific community. 

Take the time to research and visit these universities to find the one that aligns with your interests and goals. 

Embarking on a journey in astrophysics at one of these prestigious universities will provide you with a solid foundation for a successful career exploring the wonders of the universe.

Astrophysics Degree Entry Requirements in the UK

How hard is it to get into a university astrophysics programme in the UK? Probably many applicants are wondering. However, gaining entry into an Astrophysics course requires strong grades in physics and mathematics, as these subjects are the foundation of the degree. 

Here are the typical entry requirements for astrophysics in the UK universities:

A-Levels for Astrophysics Degree

You will need at least AAA at A-level, including an A* in both Physics and Mathematics. Practical skills are important for any science degree, so you will need to pass the practical component of your science A-levels.

If you don’t meet the grades or subject requirements, many universities offer an integrated foundation year to help prepare you for the astrophysics degree.

Also, you will need to submit a strong personal statement and reference letter.

Contextual Offers for Astrophysics Degree

Some universities may offer reduced grade requirements if you meet certain contextual criteria. For example, you may be offered AAA including Physics and Maths with an A in one of those subjects.

Duration of A-Level Study

If you took your exams early or followed an accelerated curriculum, your application will be considered against standard requirements. If your A-level exams were spread over 3 years in an advanced curriculum, whether you receive an offer is up to the admissions tutor.


AS-level grades are generally not considered for admission to astrophysics degrees.


You will typically need a minimum of 5 GCSEs or IGCSEs at grade 4/C or above, including English Language and Mathematics. English Literature is not accepted in place of English Language.

International Baccalaureate

You will need 38 points overall, with 7,7,6 at Higher Level including 7s in both Physics and Maths. Maths: Analysis and Approaches or Maths: Applications and Interpretation are accepted.

Tuition Fees For Astrophysics Degree in the UK

Tuition Fees:

  • For UK/EU students pursuing an undergraduate degree, tuition fees are typically £9,250 per year at most universities.
  • For international students, fees are usually between £15,000 and £30,000 per year.
  • Fees for UK/EU postgraduate degrees are usually in the range of £5,000 – £10,000 for taught courses, and around £4,500 per year for research degrees. International fees can be 1.5-2x higher.