External reviews

The School is the 1st ranked Physics department in the UK and Europe.

The Academic World Ranking of Universities for 2017 has published subject level rankings in which the School has moved from 13th to 11th in the world and is now the 1st ranked physics department in the UK and Europe.

Prof Stephen Watts, Head of School, said “this is based on many academic indicators and everyone in the School should feel a personal pride in the contribution they have made to this outcome. The academics are backed up by fantastic UG students, PGR students, postdocs and a strong support team.”

The teaching in the School has also been reviewed by two independent bodies: the Institute of Physics and the Government's Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

Accreditation by the Institute of Physics

All of our degree courses have been fully accredited by the Institute of Physics. In the summary of their final report, the accreditation team wrote:

This is a major physics department residing in one of the UK's premier universities. It is highly organised, well-run and benefits from strong university structures. Physics is presented through well-planned degree courses, supported by an excellent range of facilities.

The degrees are well balanced and cover the Institute's Core of Physics and its Graduate Skills Base perfectly satisfactorily. Students give the impression that they are satisfied and well catered for. In such a large department, staff have managed to create a happy atmosphere to such an extent that is both remarkable and unusual. Staff make considerable efforts to get to know their students with the result that the department has a reputation for being sociable and welcoming. They are to be congratulated on this achievement. The department produces capable and motivated students.

Institute of Physics

The Institute can have confidence in the academic stewardship of the staff in this department.

Institute of Physics

Subject Review

A Subject Review team, from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, has examined the quality of the Department's educational programme. They awarded the School a maximum possible grade of 24. The reviewers concluded that in each of six different aspects of educational provision, the School was fully meeting its Aims and Objectives.


All undergraduate courses have been accredited by the Institute of Physics. The curriculum is well matched to well-defined objectives and is demanding in theory, experimental work and in the delivery of transferable skills.

The academic excellence of staff, and their wide range of expertise, well equips them to cover the core syllabus and optional units.

The taught masters provision is effective in meeting the needs of students primarily wishing to proceed to research or change fields.

The learning experience of students is of a high quality; the effectiveness of small-group tutorial sessions and the dedication to laboratory teaching were considered particularly impressive.

Assessment design is in keeping with the attainment of objectives and marking procedures are strictly adhered to. The quality of assessment is also reflected in the favourable comments from external examiners on the whole examination process and on the maintenance of excellent standards.

The School achieves its aim of attracting well-qualified students. Staff are to be commended on their efforts to identify those students that may be at risk, and to minimise non-progression.

Student achievement points to the attainment of learning objectives and external examiners state that qualifications are in line with best practice elsewhere. Graduates of the School are highly regarded by employers.

Student support and guidance is exceptionally strong, and considerable effort is made by staff to get to know their students. Students comment enthusiastically on the approachability and friendliness of staff.

High-quality professional, pastoral and welfare services are available, including good careers and counselling advice; students commend the effectiveness of these central services.

The Schuster Building provides excellent specialist resources for teaching physics and astronomy within a spacious and attractive environment. Students also have access to the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratory at Jodrell Bank.

The students use extensive computing resources. The John Rylands University Library is an excellent learning resource and students also have access to a specialist collection located in the Schuster Building.

Procedures for quality management and enhancement are robust and effective in maintaining quality and delivering objectives. Thorough attention is given to developing teaching skills, listening to students and developing best practice.

The openness of all aspects of the quality management system contributes to a sense of shared ownership, trust and fitness of purpose.

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