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Unit information: Foundations of Physics in 2022/23

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Foundations of Physics
Unit code PHYS00001
Credit points 40
Level of study QCA-3
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Stancliffe
Open unit status Not open
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)

IELTS minimum 5.5 overall with a minimum of 5 in writing and 4.5 in all other components or equivalent

Students should have the appropriate qualifications in Science and Mathematics at the equivalent of QCA level 2

Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)


Units you may not take alongside this one


School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Unit Information

The unit is intended to provide students with a broad understanding of the fundamental principles of physics and experience of practical techniques, as a pre-requisite for entry or progression onto undergraduate degree programmes in science and engineering.

Concepts covered will include

  • mechanics
  • geometrical optics, including fundamental optical phenomena and analysis of simple optical systems
  • fundamentals of wave motion
  • basics of electromagnetism with applications to simple circuits
  • basic laws of thermodynamics and ideal gas behaviour
  • fundamental properties of matter on macroscopic level
  • atomic and nuclear systems
  • basic laboratory skills.

Your learning on this unit

Subject-specific Intended Learning Outcomes

  • be able to describe Newton’s law of motion and demonstrate their use in simple calculations of particles motion in one dimension; be able to perform simple calculations using vectors of forces, velocity, and linear momentum
  • be able to describe laws of conservation of energy and the linear momentum; be able to perform simple calculations with work, potential and kinetic energy able to demonstrate image formation by lenses and mirrors and be able to perform simple calculations with lenses and mirrors
  • be able to demonstrate image formation by lenses and mirrors and be able to perform simple calculations with lenses and mirrors
  • be able to describe the properties of waves and oscillations using appropriate terminology and state the properties of the wave in the electromagnetic spectrum
  • be able to describe and perform simple calculations on the phenomena of interference, diffraction, reflection and refraction
  • ability to perform calculations to determine the properties of simple electrical circuits consisting of resistors and capacitors; sketch the electric field and forces acting in simple systems of charged particles and perform simple calculations of the electric potential; sketch the magnetic field associated with simple configurations of magnets or current carrying conductors; apply basic knowledge of electricity and magnetism to understand the concepts behind practical instruments
  • background knowledge of atomic models, explain the effects the four forces of nature have on the atom; recognise different types of atomic bonding and phase changes of matter
  • understand concepts of temperature and heat flow and transfer; apply the ideal gas laws as well as understand the implications of fundamental laws of thermodynamics
  • be able to describe the kinetic theory of gases and molecules; perform simple calculations on transitions in atomic systems
  • be able to describe dual nature of photons and other quantum particles; understand black body radiation, photoelectric effect and recognize different types of nuclear decays and reaction
  • be able to perform experimental work by taking measurements and analysing the results including the errors inherent in the apparatus, and write a formal report.

Generic Intended Learning Outcomes

  • ability to apply mathematics (without calculus) and basic physical principles to solve simple problems in physics
  • confidence and competence in practical laboratory work
  • ability to analyse and present experimental data.

How you will learn

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • guided activities such as short questions and multiple choice quizzes to develop and check conceptual knowledge and undertstanding
  • synchronous weekly group workshops – live sessions where lecturers will discuss questions and consolidation of the taught material, discuss worked examples and problems solving
  • synchronous weekly group tutorials, which will include discussions of assignments, feedback to students, group work and discussions of concepts and methods of problems solving
  • independent practical activities
  • laboratory sessions; students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode should note that it is likely they may be required to complete practical work or alternative activities in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy any accreditation requirements.

How you will be assessed

Assessment for Learning/ Formative Assessment

Worksheets with feedback provided in small-group tutorials

First two Lab sessions and 1st Formal lab report will be formatively assessed

Assessment of learning/Summative Assessment

  • Labs - 20 % unit mark - Continuously assessed laboratory practical work such as pre-laboratory preparation, in-laboratory and post-laboratory work as appropriate. Engaging with and passing the laboratory element is a condition for the award of credit for this unit.
  • Coursework - 30 % unit mark - Three progress tests (multiple choice questions) will be timed online or in-class tests.
  • End-of-unit timed, open-note examination - 50 % unit mark - A 3 hour (+1 hour) timed, open book examination to assess all of the material covered throughout the year. The exam will include problem-solving questions.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYS00001).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.