Course Structure and Assessment


The certificate course extends over two academic years, starting in late September each year. After an induction evening, classes occur over two terms per year, for eleven weeks in each term. Consult the calendar for dates for 2012/2013.

The certificate course consists of:

Lecture Modules

All lectures are held on Tuesday evenings, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm, as follows:

6:00 - 6:50 : Lecture
6:50 - 7:15 : Refreshment break
7:15 - 8:00 : Lecture
8:00 - 8:10 : Short break
8:10 - 9:00 : Lecture

Students attend lectures one evening per week throughout each term. Lectures are given by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, at University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT. First year lectures are held in the Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre. Second year lectures are held in room A1-3, on the top floor of the Physics and Astronomy department. The programme of lectures is interspersed with discussion sessions and problem classes.

Details of subjects taught are in the lecture syllabus.

Practical Courses

Each practical course consists of eight practical classes (four per term), in smaller groups than the lectures. Each group usually attends at three week intervals (see calendar). Classes run from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. For administrative purposes each practical course has an eight character course code starting with "PHAS". First year students, PHAS1510, attend on Wednesday evenings and second year students, PHAS2520, also attend on Wednesday evenings.

Practical classes are held at the University of London Observatory in Mill Hill, North West London. Weather permitting, full use is made of the observatory's suite of telescopes, under appropriate supervision. Students are instructed in the use of telescopes and the types of observations that can be made. On cloudy nights, a wide range of scripted practical exercises are available, including the use of catalogues, star charts, analogue and digital images, and computer-based simulations.

Review Essays

One review essay is written per year, on an astronomical subject chosen by the student from a provided list. Each essay should be about 4,000 words, with a maximum of 6,000 words, so a significant amount of research is required. The deadline for essays is 23 April 2013. The course codes for these essays are:

Assessment and Examinations

Lecture Modules

Each lecture module is assessed as follows:

  • 20% homework, consisting of short essays and simple problems, assigned regularly during the terms. Although assessed, these are mainly intended to enhance the student's understanding of the subject matter. There are normally between two and four homework assignments per lecture module.
  • 80% exam. Each year there are two written examinations of two hours each. Each exam covers the lecture material of one of that year's terms (i.e. two lecture modules). The exams will be held on two evenings, usually in the middle of May. Exam papers from previous years are available to aid revision.

Practical Courses

Practical course assessment is based on work completed and submitted during the practical classes at the Observatory. Students must satisfactorily complete a minimum of three practical exercises per year in order to pass that year's practical course, and it is better to complete four.


Each year counts for 50% of the total assessment. Assessment within each year is in the following proportions:

  • 50% lecture modules (comprised of 12.5% for each of the four modules)
  • 25% practical course
  • 25% review essay

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