Study With Us

M.Sc by Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics

About us

The University of Manchester is home to the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA), one of the largest astrophysics groups in the UK. JBCA includes about 170 people, who are based either in the Alan Turing Building on the University South campus or at Jodrell Bank Observatory (JBO), which lies 30 km south of Manchester. JBCA is part of the School of Physics and Astronomy.

Our research

JBCA research interests span many areas of astronomy and astrophysics, including:

Technology development
Technology development
The Sun and extrasolar
The Sun and extra-solar planets
Pulsar astrophysics
Pulsar astrophysics
Galactic astrophysics
Galactic astrophysics
Galaxies and clusters
Galaxies and clusters

JBCA research encompasses the entire electromagnetic spectrum from radio to gamma-ray wavelengths. It embraces technological, observational and theoretical research.

JBCA is one of the world's most important centres for the technical development of radio telescopes and instrumentation. We are responsible for the operation of the MERLIN, eMERLIN and VLBI national facilities and the Lovell telescope. We also house the SKA Program Development Office, as well as the UK ALMA Regional Centre. JBCA staff and students access multi-wavelength data from a wide range of leading ground and space-based facilities including HST, Spitzer, Planck and VISTA. Theoretical work includes solar plasmas, outflows, gravitational lensing, galaxy formation and cosmology. JBCA has access to an array of local, university, regional and national high-performance computing facilities.

Part of the benefit of being a large UK hub of astrophysics research is that we enjoy a healthy and vibrant research environment. Astronomers from around the world frequently visit JBCA and JBO for periods of days to months, to make observations, reduce data, or participate in technical and astrophysical collaborative projects. We frequently host major international workshops and conferences.

Colloquia by visiting scientists are held weekly at JBCA during term-time. A less formal "Internal Seminar" series provides a forum for staff, postdocs and students to present their recent work. We also have a weekly informal "astro coffee" where staff and students report back from recent international conferences or review current papers. Some of our research groups also regularly host more specialized lunch-time disussions and seminars. As members of our research group, M.Sc students are encouraged to attend these events as part of their general astronomical education.

The M.Sc by Research programme

The M.Sc by Research (MScR) in Astronomy and Astrophysics is suitable for students with good honours B.Sc degrees, or with M.Sci or M.Phys degrees who have not studied astrophysics at fourth-year level and wish to transfer into the area. The course typically begins towards the end of September, at the start of the academic year. The course is usually a 1-year course, in somecircumstances and in agreement with the supervisor, can be taken part-time over a 2-year period. Note that although the course is nominally of 1-year duration, the thesis will need to be examined by 2 examiners (one external) and may require significant corrections. This means that in many cases, the students will only formally be awarded an MSc several months after the end of the programme. This also means that the first opportunity to formally graduate will usually be the following summer (July), rather than in December, depending on the examination process (note that attendance of the graduation is not compulsory and does not affect the award of the MSc).

The MScR programme is a credit-based modular course with a total of 180 credits divided up into 45 credits worth of taught modules (1/4) and a 135-credit research project (3/4). Taught modules are mostly lecture-based courses and may be spread over two semesters, though many students opt to take all of their taught modules in the first semester and devote the remainder of their time exclusively to their research project.

All M.Sc taught modules are worth 15 credits, meaning four are required to pass the taught component of the programme. A non-exhaustive list of taught modules includes:

Typically, students select their research project within the first 1-2 weeks of arriving at JBCA, after having had a chance to talk with staff who are offering projects. However, we encourage you to discuss projects with potential supervisors before the start of term to try and decide before you start. Your choice of project will also determine who supervises you. Your supervisor will be an expert in your research area and will be your principal mentor and point of contact throughout your M.Sc studies. You will also be assigned an Advisor who will be on hand to provide more general advice and guidance when needed.

The majority of M.Sc students are based in the Alan Turing Building on the University Campus, just south of the Manchester City Centre, a 10-15 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly train station. We are building number 46 on this Campus Map. For some projects, the student may spend significant time at the Jodrell Bank Observatory (JBO) or SKA Orgnisation, depending on choice of project.

Further details on the programme, including costs, contact points and links to the online application procedure are available from the School website.

When and how to apply

Whilst applications can be made throughout most of the year early application is strongly advised!

General information on the online application procedure is available here. Further details on the M.Sc by Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics programme, including costs and contact points are available from here.

Please complete the online application form carefully and fully. Your nationality should be that which is recorded in your passport. Please enclose details of any disability/special needs. This information will not prejudice your application but will be helpful in discussing whether the university facilities are sufficient to meet your needs. Contact the Disability Support Office for more information.

All graduate students are required to be proficient in the English language. If your first language is not English or you have studied at an institution where English is not the language of instruction then please pay particular attention to the English language entry requirements for this programme. Applicants may be required, as a condition of admission, to undertake training in the English language.

It is important that the application returned to us is filled in completely and accurately. Referees' reports may be included in sealed envelopes with your application, or sent directly to us by the referees in the case of online applications. Although we try to reach decisions within a few weeks of receiving applications, consideration of applications may be delayed until the referees' reports arrive. You should enclose copies of your degree certificates and official transcripts, where appropriate. You should also include score reports for English Language tests. If you would like a written acknowledgement of your application, please enclose a stamped self-addressed postcard; otherwise acknowledgements will be sent by email. Any document enclosed which is written in a language other than English must be accompanied by a certified translation into English.

You do not need to send us a 1000-word account of the research you propose to undertake as specified in the Graduate Study website. It would however be helpful to us if you specify up to three areas of interest on the "areas of proposed research" part of the form; this is used only to gauge demand for particular subject areas and does not commit you to working in a particular area.

Financial Support

There are no UK or EU research council grants for students taking M.Sc courses. However, if you are a UK national or have "settled status" in the UK, and if you are considered as residing in England at the commencement of the academic year, you may be eligible for a Career Development Loan.

Please note that applying for funding and applying for admission are two separate processes that must be undertaken in parallel. We deal with admission applications but applying for funds is your own responsibility. If you need advice we will try to help. A good starting point is to check out the University postgraduate website.


Manchester is an exciting place to live as a student. The University has a wide variety of accomodation available and Manchester also has a thriving private sector offering flats and houses for rent.

Further enquiries

If you have any questions about our M.Sc by Research programme you can contact us by phone or email: