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Can I still do Astrophysics with no STEM A-Levels?

I do English Lit, history and philosophy right now. That was in the hopes of me doing a humanity at uni, but what my passion has always been is astronomy/astrophysics.

I obviously want to go to a top Russell group uni but I'm not sure what I should do should I want to pursue a degree in Astrophysics/physics/maths when most good unis demand physics and maths a levels.

Any advice? 🙏
Original post by StaticVoid!!
I do English Lit, history and philosophy right now. That was in the hopes of me doing a humanity at uni, but what my passion has always been is astronomy/astrophysics.

I obviously want to go to a top Russell group uni but I'm not sure what I should do should I want to pursue a degree in Astrophysics/physics/maths when most good unis demand physics and maths a levels.

Any advice? 🙏


If you decide not to do physics and maths in a gap year (why wouldn't you?), then you're left with 3 other options:

Complete an access course that has at least 15 credits in physics + 15 credits in maths

Complete a physics/astrophysics degree with an integrated foundation year

Complete a BTEC that has maths and physics e.g. engineering


As astrophysics is more academic than vocational, I advise not to take the BTEC route. Finding an Access course that has 15 credits in physics and 15 credits in maths is going to be a pain (by all means try), and not all universities will accept Access courses (especially not those outside of England).

The alternative would be to either do a foundation year or do the missing 2 A Levels.

Foundation degree courses that you could look into include:
https://courses.aber.ac.uk/undergraduate/astrophysics-with-foundation-year/#typical-entry-requirements
https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/studywithus/undergraduate/foundationyear.aspx
https://www.sussex.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/physics-and-astronomy-with-a-foundation-year-bsc
https://www.york.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/bsc-physics-foundation-year/#entry
https://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/coursefinder/courses/2023/astrophysics/
https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/24
https://www.ntu.ac.uk/course/science-and-technology/ug/physics-with-foundation-year#entry-requirements
https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/courses/2023/physical-sciences-entry-route-leading-to-bsc-hons-4-year-route-including-a-foundation-year-at-carmel-college#entry-requirements

The problem with foundation degrees (other than the high price tage) is that they are very difficult to change universities once you enroll onto a course. In other words, if you do a foundation year at a particular uni, you would have more chance of changing courses at the specific university than at a different university. If the particular university does not offer astrophysics as modules or as a degree, you might want to be wary of this (or at least do an undergrad in physics then consider a master's in astrophysics).

Personally, I would rather sit 2 more A Levels in one year than to do a foundation year, since I would have more choice in which university that I can apply to.
The drawback of doing physics in a gap year is that the practical endorsement costs about £1000 on top of what the exams will cost (roughly £350), excluding any cost for any courses (costs range from £395 to 800 if you choose to do them) that you want to do. You can soon find yourself footing a £3000 bill along with maths all out of pocket (because you have done A Levels before and under the ELQ policy you will need to fund your own second set of A Levels). Having said that, there is a chance that you can get funding from the Advanced Learners Loan (I'm currently doing that for physics and chemistry myself) - you don't however have funding to do just the exams alone (the exams need to be part of the course).

If you do manage to find an Access course that fits the requirements, you would be looking at a cost of £1000-3500 depending on where you study, and very likely require you to foot the bill yourself (as above). BTECs can be done at adult colleges (as far as I know), but they can cost £3500.

Prior to doing any further courses, you would need to check the entry requirements of any specific degree that you want to do first. if nothing is particularly clear, liaise with the undergrad admissions of the university's physics department, as they would be able to give you a clearer picture of what's accepted and what isn't.

The thing I have against doing astrophysics as an undergrad is that it's a bit too specialised. If I end up not liking the subejct, I don't have much choice in changing my course. Whereas if I did physics, the topic is broad enough for me to specialise in any particular area of physics or allow me to pivot away from subjects that I don't particularly like.

If I want to do a foundation year, I often think Nottingham would be one of the more favourable unis to go to (partly because I prefer their options and courses).

There are a number of unis to look out for that seem to be good for physics and astronomy in general: Oxbridge, Manchester, UCL, Imperial. I am expecting people to tell me otherwise though.
Reply 2
In short No, you cant study astrophysics without Maths/Physics A-level or BTEC in something science, You'd be missing an extreme amount of content that would help you in becoming an astrophysicist once you undertake the degree. If your set on this path do a gap year to get your Physics/Maths A-level or a foundation year at the selected uni assuming you've checked the requirements which ideally I think is the best option cause getting the degree paper is all that matters.
Original post by MindMax2000
If you decide not to do physics and maths in a gap year (why wouldn't you?), then you're left with 3 other options:

Complete an access course that has at least 15 credits in physics + 15 credits in maths

Complete a physics/astrophysics degree with an integrated foundation year

Complete a BTEC that has maths and physics e.g. engineering


As astrophysics is more academic than vocational, I advise not to take the BTEC route. Finding an Access course that has 15 credits in physics and 15 credits in maths is going to be a pain (by all means try), and not all universities will accept Access courses (especially not those outside of England).

The alternative would be to either do a foundation year or do the missing 2 A Levels.

Foundation degree courses that you could look into include:
https://courses.aber.ac.uk/undergraduate/astrophysics-with-foundation-year/#typical-entry-requirements
https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/studywithus/undergraduate/foundationyear.aspx
https://www.sussex.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/physics-and-astronomy-with-a-foundation-year-bsc
https://www.york.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/bsc-physics-foundation-year/#entry
https://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/coursefinder/courses/2023/astrophysics/
https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/24
https://www.ntu.ac.uk/course/science-and-technology/ug/physics-with-foundation-year#entry-requirements
https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/courses/2023/physical-sciences-entry-route-leading-to-bsc-hons-4-year-route-including-a-foundation-year-at-carmel-college#entry-requirements

The problem with foundation degrees (other than the high price tage) is that they are very difficult to change universities once you enroll onto a course. In other words, if you do a foundation year at a particular uni, you would have more chance of changing courses at the specific university than at a different university. If the particular university does not offer astrophysics as modules or as a degree, you might want to be wary of this (or at least do an undergrad in physics then consider a master's in astrophysics).

Personally, I would rather sit 2 more A Levels in one year than to do a foundation year, since I would have more choice in which university that I can apply to.
The drawback of doing physics in a gap year is that the practical endorsement costs about £1000 on top of what the exams will cost (roughly £350), excluding any cost for any courses (costs range from £395 to 800 if you choose to do them) that you want to do. You can soon find yourself footing a £3000 bill along with maths all out of pocket (because you have done A Levels before and under the ELQ policy you will need to fund your own second set of A Levels). Having said that, there is a chance that you can get funding from the Advanced Learners Loan (I'm currently doing that for physics and chemistry myself) - you don't however have funding to do just the exams alone (the exams need to be part of the course).

If you do manage to find an Access course that fits the requirements, you would be looking at a cost of £1000-3500 depending on where you study, and very likely require you to foot the bill yourself (as above). BTECs can be done at adult colleges (as far as I know), but they can cost £3500.

Prior to doing any further courses, you would need to check the entry requirements of any specific degree that you want to do first. if nothing is particularly clear, liaise with the undergrad admissions of the university's physics department, as they would be able to give you a clearer picture of what's accepted and what isn't.

The thing I have against doing astrophysics as an undergrad is that it's a bit too specialised. If I end up not liking the subejct, I don't have much choice in changing my course. Whereas if I did physics, the topic is broad enough for me to specialise in any particular area of physics or allow me to pivot away from subjects that I don't particularly like.

If I want to do a foundation year, I often think Nottingham would be one of the more favourable unis to go to (partly because I prefer their options and courses).

There are a number of unis to look out for that seem to be good for physics and astronomy in general: Oxbridge, Manchester, UCL, Imperial. I am expecting people to tell me otherwise though.

Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't all students entitled to 3 years state-funded (ie free) at sixth form/college?
Original post by apolaroidofus
Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't all students entitled to 3 years state-funded (ie free) at sixth form/college?


As far as I know, students are entitled to get their first completed level 3 qualification for free. Under the ELQ policy, they would need to fund their second level 3 qualification by themselves (advanced learner's loan might still be available though for some reason - currently checking on this).

So after the OP completed her/his first 3 A Levels, she/he will need to pay for any subsequent A Levels that she take. For foundation years, she would be fully funded though.

If you know of any information that's different from the above, I would very much like to know. The cost of doing a second set of A Levels are killing me.
Agree with the advice above. Absolutely take maths A level even if you have to take a year or two to do so. Physics also would be hugely advantageous but can be harder to arrange. You might look at access courses PLUS maths A level - it is almost impossible to find an access course which would equip you to enter and progress with a physics degree due to lack of mathematical content.

One option is to look at foundation years - Southampton have one that might suit.
Yes, you can just apply to physics/astrophysics degrees with a foundation year (e.g. at Manchester, Southampton, Birmingham, etc).
Original post by StaticVoid!!
I do English Lit, history and philosophy right now. That was in the hopes of me doing a humanity at uni, but what my passion has always been is astronomy/astrophysics.

I obviously want to go to a top Russell group uni but I'm not sure what I should do should I want to pursue a degree in Astrophysics/physics/maths when most good unis demand physics and maths a levels.

Any advice? 🙏


Have you looked at degrees with foundation years and access to HE courses? I think Nottingham do a good foundation year which then could progress on to a Astrophysics degree. https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/studywithus/undergraduate/foundationyear.aspx
Original post by UndercoverJames
Have you looked at degrees with foundation years and access to HE courses? I think Nottingham do a good foundation year which then could progress on to a Astrophysics degree. https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/studywithus/undergraduate/foundationyear.aspx


Problem with Foundation years is that they limit you to that uni most of the time. Plus I am still unsure about astrophysics so maybe a gap year and doing maths and physics would be good no? Could leave my options open to engineering, CS, Architecture and physics.
Original post by ajj2000
Agree with the advice above. Absolutely take maths A level even if you have to take a year or two to do so. Physics also would be hugely advantageous but can be harder to arrange. You might look at access courses PLUS maths A level - it is almost impossible to find an access course which would equip you to enter and progress with a physics degree due to lack of mathematical content.

One option is to look at foundation years - Southampton have one that might suit.


Had a look at colleges for a gap year, they cost 3-6k for studies there as they are private so I'm unsure if its worth it. I'll definitely do at least 2 A-Levels in that 1 year. Most likely physics and maths.
Original post by _Case
In short No, you cant study astrophysics without Maths/Physics A-level or BTEC in something science, You'd be missing an extreme amount of content that would help you in becoming an astrophysicist once you undertake the degree. If your set on this path do a gap year to get your Physics/Maths A-level or a foundation year at the selected uni assuming you've checked the requirements which ideally I think is the best option cause getting the degree paper is all that matters.


Yeah, might do the gap year option though it does cost quite a lot.
Original post by StaticVoid!!
I do English Lit, history and philosophy right now. That was in the hopes of me doing a humanity at uni, but what my passion has always been is astronomy/astrophysics.

I obviously want to go to a top Russell group uni but I'm not sure what I should do should I want to pursue a degree in Astrophysics/physics/maths when most good unis demand physics and maths a levels.

Any advice? 🙏


My question is if your passion was always in astronomy/astrophysics, why would you choose all humanities? Regardless, the previous replies should hopefully help you embark on your astrophysics journey even if it may cost a lot of money and some time. Best of luck :smile:
Original post by MindMax2000
If you decide not to do physics and maths in a gap year (why wouldn't you?), then you're left with 3 other options:

Complete an access course that has at least 15 credits in physics + 15 credits in maths

Complete a physics/astrophysics degree with an integrated foundation year

Complete a BTEC that has maths and physics e.g. engineering


As astrophysics is more academic than vocational, I advise not to take the BTEC route. Finding an Access course that has 15 credits in physics and 15 credits in maths is going to be a pain (by all means try), and not all universities will accept Access courses (especially not those outside of England).

The alternative would be to either do a foundation year or do the missing 2 A Levels.

Foundation degree courses that you could look into include:
https://courses.aber.ac.uk/undergraduate/astrophysics-with-foundation-year/#typical-entry-requirements
https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/studywithus/undergraduate/foundationyear.aspx
https://www.sussex.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/physics-and-astronomy-with-a-foundation-year-bsc
https://www.york.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/bsc-physics-foundation-year/#entry
https://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/coursefinder/courses/2023/astrophysics/
https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/24
https://www.ntu.ac.uk/course/science-and-technology/ug/physics-with-foundation-year#entry-requirements
https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/courses/2023/physical-sciences-entry-route-leading-to-bsc-hons-4-year-route-including-a-foundation-year-at-carmel-college#entry-requirements

The problem with foundation degrees (other than the high price tage) is that they are very difficult to change universities once you enroll onto a course. In other words, if you do a foundation year at a particular uni, you would have more chance of changing courses at the specific university than at a different university. If the particular university does not offer astrophysics as modules or as a degree, you might want to be wary of this (or at least do an undergrad in physics then consider a master's in astrophysics).

Personally, I would rather sit 2 more A Levels in one year than to do a foundation year, since I would have more choice in which university that I can apply to.
The drawback of doing physics in a gap year is that the practical endorsement costs about £1000 on top of what the exams will cost (roughly £350), excluding any cost for any courses (costs range from £395 to 800 if you choose to do them) that you want to do. You can soon find yourself footing a £3000 bill along with maths all out of pocket (because you have done A Levels before and under the ELQ policy you will need to fund your own second set of A Levels). Having said that, there is a chance that you can get funding from the Advanced Learners Loan (I'm currently doing that for physics and chemistry myself) - you don't however have funding to do just the exams alone (the exams need to be part of the course).

If you do manage to find an Access course that fits the requirements, you would be looking at a cost of £1000-3500 depending on where you study, and very likely require you to foot the bill yourself (as above). BTECs can be done at adult colleges (as far as I know), but they can cost £3500.

Prior to doing any further courses, you would need to check the entry requirements of any specific degree that you want to do first. if nothing is particularly clear, liaise with the undergrad admissions of the university's physics department, as they would be able to give you a clearer picture of what's accepted and what isn't.

The thing I have against doing astrophysics as an undergrad is that it's a bit too specialised. If I end up not liking the subejct, I don't have much choice in changing my course. Whereas if I did physics, the topic is broad enough for me to specialise in any particular area of physics or allow me to pivot away from subjects that I don't particularly like.

If I want to do a foundation year, I often think Nottingham would be one of the more favourable unis to go to (partly because I prefer their options and courses).

There are a number of unis to look out for that seem to be good for physics and astronomy in general: Oxbridge, Manchester, UCL, Imperial. I am expecting people to tell me otherwise though.


Thanks for this massive reply, greatly helpful! If I do physics and maths in a gap year and still want Astrophysics I'll probably just do an integrated degree with either Physics and Maths or Physics and Astrophysics or I'll just to Physics.

Would you recommend the same if I were to pursue a career in Software Engineering which is another hobby of mine? Something I enjoy that I also am fairly well versed in (can code in LuaScript, a bit in Python and C#, HTML and trying to learn JavaScript. Also been having fun with Penetration Testing (Ethical Hacking)).
Original post by StaticVoid!!
I do English Lit, history and philosophy right now. That was in the hopes of me doing a humanity at uni, but what my passion has always been is astronomy/astrophysics.

I obviously want to go to a top Russell group uni but I'm not sure what I should do should I want to pursue a degree in Astrophysics/physics/maths when most good unis demand physics and maths a levels.

Any advice? 🙏

Heya!
If entry requirements state you need maths and physics then you will need to do them. You could do maths and physics during a gap year or perhaps look into doing a foundation year (if offered). Foundation year is for people who don't have the exact alvl requirements :h:

I hope this helps!
Milena
UCL PFE
Study Mind
Original post by StaticVoid!!
Thanks for this massive reply, greatly helpful! If I do physics and maths in a gap year and still want Astrophysics I'll probably just do an integrated degree with either Physics and Maths or Physics and Astrophysics or I'll just to Physics.

Would you recommend the same if I were to pursue a career in Software Engineering which is another hobby of mine? Something I enjoy that I also am fairly well versed in (can code in LuaScript, a bit in Python and C#, HTML and trying to learn JavaScript. Also been having fun with Penetration Testing (Ethical Hacking)).


With software engineering, I would probably recommend an apprenticeship over a degree. Although to do a degree in software engineering, you would likely need to have maths A Level (only a minority of universities won't ask for it).
Also, you don't need a degree to go and become a software developer; the key requirement for the role is often skills and experience in programming. This is why people from outside of software engineering can go into the field without issue e.g. backgrounds in physics, maths, engineering often have no problem getting into the tech sector because the degrees cover programming, problem solving, and maths to sufficient levels.
There is a chance that an apprenticeship in software engineering might ask for A Level maths, but don't quote me on that. It's better if you look through the apprenticeship job descriptions before taking any further courses.
See: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/software-developer

Again, the same options are open for you should you wish to go into software engineering:

Do A Level maths in your gap year

Do an Access course with 15 credits in maths and ideally at least 15 in IT (you will likely be asked to do A Level maths on top, but check)

Do a computing/IT related BTEC (you will likely be asked to do A Level maths on top, but check)

Do a foundation year integrated degree in software engineering (there are quite a few out there)

Physics is not a prerequisite for software engineering, but maths is. Check the entry requirements of the individual degree to be sure.


Personally, I would prefer to do professional IT certifications over academic degrees, because the knowledge that you get is more practical and the certifications are usually more prized than degrees. Fpor ethical hacking for example, you can get the following which are recognised in the industry:
https://www.eccouncil.org/train-certify/certified-penetration-testing-professional-cpent/
https://www.eccouncil.org/train-certify/certified-ethical-hacker-ceh/

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