Study With Us

Life in the Universe & SETI

Note that this course will be offered only once more by the University of Manchester, beginning Oct 2009.

Application deadline 14th September 2009.


Facts at a glance
Duration 24 weeks
Start date 2009 October 12th
End date 2010 wc March 29th
Cost (2009/10) £258 (EU)
Level 1
Credits 20

This part-time distance learning course provides an astronomical perspective on our cosmic origins from the big bang to the development of intelligent life. It includes all the necessary astronomical background and features a detailed study of the search for extraterrestrial life and SETI. Our bodies contain elements which were created in the first few minutes after the big bang, processed in the nuclear furnaces deep within stars and forged in the explosions that mark the violent death of massive stars. The course emphasises and explains these links between Life and the Universe before going on to describe the search for extraterrestrial life, including all the latest developments and plans for the future.

You can apply now online using this web-based form.

Course content

The course runs over 20 teaching weeks from October through March and is available by distance learning to students from around the world. The course is delivered online through a virtual learning environment.The computer-based nature of the course requires you to have a PC with access to the internet. Tutorial assistance is available by telephone, email and a web- based discussion forum.

Sample course content available here

The syllabus has been divided into a number of modules studied at the rate of one per week. These modules cover the following areas of astronomy:

The course materials are delivered through the University's online teaching system. Your time online will also be used for downloading assessments, reading associated web sites and accessing the discussion forum for communicating with fellow students.

Entrance qualifications

You need have no prior knowledge of astronomy. This course develops many aspects of introductory astronomy in order to support the theme of Life in the Universe.

This course is taught at the level of 1st year undergraduate degrees in general science whose base entrance requirement would be A' levels or equivalent. However the course is in part designed to widen access to higher education and encourage lifelong learning hence we will accept a minimum level of GCSE Mathematics and Science or their equivalent. Applicants with these qualifications must show a passion for the subject e.g. via a compelling personal statement on application, perhaps demonstrated by membership of a local astronomical society, ownership of a telescope or supporting references.

You must be proficient in the use of the English language, which is the medium of instruction and examination in the University. The minimum acceptable level of proficiency is: GCSE English Language (grade C or above); Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (grade C or above); or an International English Language Testing (IELTS) average score of 6.0. If you have another English language qualification or are proficient but not certified you should contact the Course Director for advice (see address below).

To study at The University of Manchester, you must normally be at least 17 before the degree programme begins and not currently in secondary education. We expect most applicants for this course will be mature students over 21 years of age. Those who have not been involved in academic study for a number of years are welcomed. All students will be assigned a tutor with whom they should make regular contact.

As the course makes extensive use of a personal computer and online materials you will require access to a PC and the internet with a broadband connection.

The Course Director, or their representative, is happy to discuss any issues relating to your application.


Assessment will take the following form:

A Certificate of Credit for 20 Level 1 credits will be awarded for a final mark of 40% or greater. Students achieving a mark of 60-79% will be deemed to have passed with Merit and those with 80% or higher with Distinction.

The University of Manchester credit system follows the UK national standard in which 120 Level 1 credits correspond to the first year of full- time undergraduate study.

These credits can therefore be transferred to other suitable programmes of study - for example the Certificate in Introductory Astronomy offered by the University of Manchester in partnership with the Open University.

Course credits may also be accepted on the Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy by Distance Learning offered through the consortium of universities - if you are intending to do this you must first check with the director of the target programme that this course is suitable for accreditation.

How to contact us

Jodrell Bank Observatory
School of Physics and Astronomy
The University of Manchester
Cheshire SK11 9DL
United Kingdom