Studying Astrophysics and Cosmology at UKZN


Students interested in studying astrophysics and cosmology at UKZN should register for a BSc degree in the Mathematical Sciences stream. The relevant subjects within the M-stream are Physics, Astronomy, and Applied Mathematics, with electives in cognate subjects such as Computer Science, Statistics or Chemistry. The Astronomy Major (see below) was introduced in 2015, and has a common curriculum in 1st year with the Physics and Applied Mathematics majors. Astrophysics courses are offered in the 2nd and 3rd years of the degree. For full details on all of UKZN’s courses, please see the official handbook. BSc graduates qualify to study a BSc Honours degree, which can be done in either Physics or Applied mathematics, with modules chosen from both disciplines. Since 2015, UKZN also offers the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP) at Honours and Masters levels. The deadline for NASSP applications is usually 31 August each year. Undergraduate students studying astrophysics and affiliated with ARC qualify to participate in the Undergraduate Internship Programme (UIP), which provides individual tutoring and mentoring to astrophysics undergraduates. Various research projects are also offered through this programme. In order to study astrophysics at UKZN, students should apply for admission via the CAO and select the BSc Stream M degree at the Westville campus.

The Astronomy Major

Undergraduate Internship Programme

An Astronomy Major, taught by ARC members, is offered as part of the BSc Mathematical Sciences stream in the College of Agriculture, Engineering, and Science.

The table below gives the structure of the Major (all modules are 16 credits). Click on the links for the ASTR modules to view course content and learning goals.

Year 1

MATH130 (Introduction to Calculus)

MATH140 (Calculus and Linear Algebra)

PHYS113 (Mechanics) [or PHYS110, which this replaced]

PHYS114 (Thermodynamics and Electromagnetism) [or PHYS120, which this replaced]

Year 2

ASTR203 (Stars and Planets)

ASTR204 (Galaxies and Cosmology)

MATH212 (Advanced Calculus & Linear Algebra)

MATH251 (Further Calculus and Introductory Analysis)

Year 3

ASTR301 (Astronomy Beyond the Visible)

ASTR303 (Fluids in Astrophysics)

ASTR304 (Observational Project)

and either MATH327 (Numerical Analysis) or MATH344 (Tensor Analysis)

Note that from 2018, the modules ASTR203, ASTR204, ASTR304 have replaced ASTR201, ASTR202, ASTR302 respectively. This is only because the names of the modules have been changed – the content is identical to the older courses.

The first year curriculum is the same as the first year of the Physics Major, and we recommend that students register for both the Astronomy and Physics Majors.

ARC runs an undergraduate internship programme (UIP) to enhance the coursework, research and outreach experience for ARC undergraduate students. The programme involves students studying astrophysics and cosmology at the undergraduate level (BSc and BSc Hons), including students in the SARAO-NRF-UKZN bursary programme. The UIP comprises a number of activities to strengthen the academic programme for ARC undergraduates and involves close interaction with academic staff, postdoctoral research fellows, and postgraduate students. These activities include:

  • Individual tutoring and exam revision meetings with ARC postgraduate students
  • Mentorship meetings with ARC staff members
  • Participation in astronomy outreach activities
  • Participation in research projects by ARC postdoctoral fellows and staff members

General orientation and administrative assistance is also provided for UIP students.