Observational Astrophysics (Distance Learning)

Observational Astrophysics (Distance Learning) MSc

Course fees (2018/19 entry)

Option / fee Value
Home/EU full-time annual tuition fee: 
Home/EU part-time tuition fee: £37 per credit
International full time annual tuition fee: £74 per credit

Course type



Astrophysics Research Institute

Study mode


About your course

This innovative MSc in Observational Physics is delivered by world leading academics at Liverpool John Moores University. The Masters degree includes access to LJMU's research class robotic Liverpool Telescope and is designed as a route to PhD study.

  • Course available to study full time (1 year) and part time (2 years) via distance learning
  • High-quality, innovative teaching
  • Access to the two metre research-class robotic Liverpool Telescope
  • Qualification designed to facilitate continued study at PhD level

Degree delivered by world-leading researchers via distance learning.

You will be able to access the Liverpool Telescope, one of the world's largest robotic telescopes, which was designed, built and is now owned and operated by LJMU.

Introduction to the School

The Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) has around 25 researchers plus post doctoral research assistants and PhD students carrying out research in 4 areas:

  • Galaxy Evolution
  • Star Formation
  • Time Domain Astrophysics
  • Astronomical Instrumentation

Annually ARI researchers publish around 125 refereed papers coauthored with astronomers worldwide. ARI researchers collect and analyse astronomical data across the electromagnetic spectrum from international premier observatories and satellites.

For more than 10 years the ARI has owned and operated the unmanned two metre fully robotic Liverpool Telescope (LT). Sited on the summit of the island of La Palma in the Canaries, the LT exploits its rapid reaction capability to gain new insights into the physics of transient astronomical sources on timescales of a few seconds to years.

Various modules on the MSc distance learning programmes make use of data from the LT providing a stimulating insight into the astronomers' world of research.

The Institute also carries out substantial programmes in local and national public engagement. The National Schools' Observatory (NSO) is a major educational website allowing schools to make their own observations alongside professional astronomers using the LT.

More than 10,000 observations are taken annually for more than 2,000 registered schools across the UK. The NSO is widely recognized as a powerful way of developing key scientific and literary skills of schoolchildren through direct experience of a major international research facility. The NSO has recently given exhibitions at the Houses of Parliament and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

In addition to the MSc Distance Learning, the ARI teaches both BSc and MPhys degree progammes jointly with the University of Liverpool. These are the only physics-based degree programmes run jointly between two universities anywhere in the country. 

Why study this course at LJMU?

The Observational Astrophysics programme is ideal if you have a strong background in mathematics and a good knowledge of basic physics at degree level. You do not need any specific knowledge of astrophysics.

In these scientific fields, entry to top-level research is almost always via the PhD route, and it is anticipated that most of the students taking this MSc will be interested in further study at PhD level and beyond. 

The programme offers the flexibility of studying remotely and gaining a Masters qualification by distance learning. 

All learning materials are delivered by Blackboard, LJMU's Virtual Learning Environment. You will have access to all the major astrophysical research journals and a carefully selected range of e-books to support your studies and extend your reading.

This course is an excellent way to specialise and further your academic career in the exciting and dynamic astrophysics field. 

Programme outline and structure

Astrophysics is enjoying an unprecedented burst of new discoveries about the universe we live in, as a result of revolutionary techniques that are opening new windows for the exploration of planets, stars, galaxies and the entire universe.

LJMU's Astrophysics Research Institute has played a leading role in many of these advances, including the development of the world famous robotic Liverpool Telescope. 

Over the last decade, this has become one of the most flexible and powerful observatories for the study of rapidly varying sources such as Gamma-Ray Bursts, novae and supernovae. This Masters course has been developed to enable students, throughout the world, to share in these new discoveries and graduates to pursue further research through a PhD or equivalent.

The programme emphasises independent student learning and each module provides you with the opportunity to explore current literature, with support from experienced tutors, all of whom are engaged in cutting-edge astrophysical research. 

All sessions on this Masters degree are delivered via distance learning to provide maximum flexibility.

What you will study on this degree

Please see guidance below on core and option modules for further information on what you will study.

Level 7
  • Astrophysical Concepts
  • Astrophysical Observations
  • Time-domain Astrophysics
  • Cosmology
  • Computational Astrophysics
  • Observational Research Project

Further guidance on modules

The information listed in the section entitled ‘What you will study’ is an overview of the academic content of the programme that will take the form of either core or option modules. Modules are designated as core or option in accordance with professional body requirements and internal Academic Framework review, so may be subject to change. Students will be required to undertake modules that the University designates as core and will have a choice of designated option modules. Additionally, option modules may be offered subject to meeting minimum student numbers.

Academic Framework reviews are conducted by LJMU from time to time to ensure that academic standards continue to be maintained. A review is currently in progress and will be operational for the academic year 2016/2017. Final details of this programme’s designated core and option modules will be made available on LJMU’s website as soon as possible and prior to formal enrolment for the academic year 2016/2017.

Please email courses@ljmu.ac.uk if you require further guidance or clarification.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment methods are designed to support learning and reward progression during the course of the module.

Most taught modules on this course include a written examination, with other assignments including quizzes, short essays, and critiques of scientific papers.

The research project and dissertation exam includes a written report and an oral presentation/interview. In most cases the oral interviews will be done via video link, although you may opt to come to Liverpool to do these in person.

Staff research interests

Around 99% of research from LJMU submitted to the REF 2014 for the Physics category is considered world-leading or internationally important.

This research ensures that the curriculum is at the vanguard of development in the field and that you will study alongside leading experts.

Staff in the Astrophysics Research Institute are world-leading experts in many areas of astrophysics including:

  • Star formation
  • Stellar evolution
  • Stellar explosions including novae, supernovae and gamma-ray bursts
  • Galaxy structures and dynamics
  • Galaxy cluster and large scale structures

Entry requirements (Home)

You should hold a degree in the physical sciences or STEM discipline (e.g. science, technology, engineering, mathematics, etc.) of classification 2:2 or higher.

This programme requires a good knowledge of basic physics at degree level, and competence in mathematical techniques, including calculus, differential equations and complex numbers. An online test is available to enable students to undertake self-assessment of their mathematical skills.

Applicants who do not hold an Honours degree in a relevant subject will be considered on their individual merits in relation to the programme. Professional experience, publications, CPD activities and other suitable evidence of accomplishment will be taken into account. Please refer to Admissions Hub for more details.

You must also provide a satisfactory reference from a suitable person such as your employer or line manager.

An intake of students is recruited in September every year.

Entry requirements (International)

Entry requirements are the same as per Home/EU applicants plus you need to have a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (minimum of 5.5 in each component) or equivalent. Please note: as this is a Distance Learning programme the usual rules in terms of UK Visas and Immigration restrictions to full-time study do not apply to MSc Astrophysics.

Application and selection

To discuss the programme please contact:


International applicants are required to demonstrate equivalent qualifications to the standard requirements for entry when applying for courses at LJMU.

You must also demonstrate a proficiency in communicating through English, for example via an IELTS tests or equivalent.

Please contact LJMU's International Team for more information and advice.

Will I be interviewed?



6.5 (Minimum of 5.5 in each component)


58-64 (Min. 51 in each component for UKVI Purposes)

Is RPL accepted on this programme?


Please Note: All international qualifications are subject to a qualification equivalency check via NARIC.

Financial support

Tuition fees

All students enrolled on postgraduate taught programmes at LJMU are liable to pay an annual tuition fee. You can opt to pay your tuition fees in full at the start of each academic year or in instalments. If you need advice about how to pay your tuition fees, please email LJMU’s Student Funding Team.

Funding sources

There are many ways to fund postgraduate study for home and international students. From Postgraduate Masters Loans and Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs) to International Scholarships and subject-specific funding, you’ll find all of the information you need on our specialist postgraduate funding pages.

Graduate employment

This Observational Astrophysics MSc programme is focussed on preparing you for a research career in astronomy, astrophysics, space science or related disciplines.

In these areas, entry to top-level research is almost always via the PhD route, and it is anticipated that most of the students taking this MSc will be interested in further study at PhD level and beyond.

The ARI has a long-standing and healthy PhD programme, and we are well-placed to support students to apply for PhD places on our programme and in other institutions world-wide.

The MSc provides the opportunity for you to plan and complete a substantial programme of original research at the highest level. We expect that all projects should provide the potential for you to publish papers in refereed journals.

The MSc also provides key transferable high-level skills in computing, accessing and manipulating complex data from large databases, assimilating information from the research literature, and scientific writing; all of which are vital for a broad range of careers in academic and industrial research.

International Study

International applicants are required to demonstrate equivalent qualifications to the standard requirements for entry when applying for courses at LJMU.

Students must also demonstrate a proficiency in communicating through English, for example via an IELTS tests or equivalent.

Please note: UK visa restrictions mean that international students are only permitted to study on a full-time basis.

Please contact LJMU’s International Team by visiting www.ljmu.ac.uk/international for more information and advice.


LJMU has launched a range of generous international scholarships for students enrolling at the University.

These prestigious scholarships take the form of tuition fee waivers and are available for outstanding international students applying for taught postgraduate programmes and research degrees.

You will need to complete an additional application form in order to be considered for these scholarships. Full eligibility criteria and the online application form are available here: www.ljmu.ac.uk/international

Applications for these scholarships are welcomed from:

  • new international applicants
  • current LJMU international students hoping to progress onto postgraduate study at the University
  • LJMU international alumni

The University reserves the right to withdraw or make alterations to a course and facilities if necessary; this may be because such changes are deemed to be beneficial to students, are minor in nature and unlikely to impact negatively upon students or become necessary due to circumstances beyond the control of the University. Where this does happen, the University operates a policy of consultation, advice and support to all enrolled students affected by the proposed change to their course or module.
Further information on the terms and conditions of any offer made, our admissions policy and the complaints and appeals process.

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