100 Level Courses - Physics and Astronomy - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

100 Level Courses

PHYS101 Engineering Physics A: Mechanics, Waves and Thermal Physics and PHYS102 Engineering Physics B: Electromagnetism, Modern Physics and 'How Things Work' are the 100-level 15 point courses required for advancement to 200-level for a student majoring in either physics or astronomy.

Year 1 students will normally enrol in 120 points made up of eight 100-level, 15-point courses (four each semester). A total of 360 points is required for the degree.

The normal entry requirement for PHYS101 is a "good pass" in both secondary school Physics and Calculus, i.e. 14 credits in level 3 NCEA Physics and 14 credits in level 3 NCEA Mathematics and Calculus.

Students who do not qualify for admission to PHYS101 in the first semester may take PHYS111 in the first semester and PHYS101 in the second semester. They can then take PHYS102 in the summer semester. Further details are given below.

Passes in alternative secondary school level qualifications, such as Cambridge AS, International Baccalaureate, and University Foundation Courses will usually be acceptable alternatives to NCEA.

The University of Canterbury offers a choice of physics and astronomy courses designed to cater for students with a range of backgrounds and interests. We offer courses if you plan to be an engineer, or if you have biological or environmental interests, as well as courses if you plan to be a physicist or astronomer. We also offer a "cultural" paper that will give non-physicists (and physicists too) some appreciation of the revolutions in physics and astronomy. The largest group of students who take physics at Canterbury do so because physics (along with mathematics and chemistry) is an essential background for their future job as an engineer or as a physical scientist.

Students intending to major in physics or astronomy are advised to take PHYS101, PHYS102, MATH102, MATH103, and either MATH170 or COSC121. In addition to these, students intending to major in Astronomy are advised to also take ASTR112 in Semester 1 and ASTR212 in Semester 2.

For physical science or engineering the choice of first year courses will depend on your previous experience (in particular your results from NCEA physics and mathematics with calculus) and future plans. The core physics paper for Engineering Intermediate PHYS101 Engineering Physics A: Mechanics, Waves and Thermal Physics is offered twice a year – in Semesters 1 and 2. Students with good passes in both secondary school Physics and Calculus (i.e. 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 Physics and Mathematics and Calculus, or acceptable similar qualifications) will be permitted to take this course. Other students are required to take PHYS111 (Introductory Physics for Physical Sciences and Engineering), offered in the first semester. Either entry route would enable completion of the basic Engineering Intermediate in one year or the completion of a BSc in three years. Students who qualify for PHYS101, but did not score well (e.g. have a total of less than 14 credits in Level 3, NCEA Physics) may find PHYS101 quite challenging. These students are encouraged to consider taking PHYS111 first.

For those planning to advance in physical science or to proceed to Electrical and Electronic Engineering, PHYS102 Engineering Physics B: Electromagnetism, Modern Physics and 'How Things Work' is offered in the second semester, with PHYS101 as the usual prerequisite. Students with 18 level 3 NCEA credits in Physics and Mathematics and Calculus will also be admitted. Engineering Physics B: Electromagnetism, Modern Physics and 'How Things Work' is also offered during the summer. This enables those students who take the PHYS111 and PHYS101 path in their first year to pick up PHYS102 over the summer and so complete the courses required for advancement in either physics or electrical engineering.

If you plan to advance in science you should realise that the three-year BSc and four-year BSc(Hons) degrees are very flexible.

Students who have shown high ability and understanding of secondary school physics and mathematics with calculus, may wish to consider direct entry to 200-level courses. This option opens up the possibility of a wider range of more advanced courses in subsequent years. If you think such a path may be of interest to you, contact the Department during enrolment week, or before, to discuss your options.

The first-semester course ASTR112 (Astrophysics) is popular with students from diverse backgrounds who have an interest in a broad education.

The Department also contributes to the interdisciplinary course ANTA101 (Antarctic Studies). The theme of our contribution is the interaction of the Sun's radiation and the solar wind with the atmosphere, causing auroras, ozone formation and loss, heating and cooling and the characteristic large-scale wind structures around the Earth, as well as the developments in astronomy in the Antarctic.

Academic Writing Assessment

To enter second-year physics courses or First Professional Engineering you are required to demonstrate that you can write clear, coherent English in a style appropriate to university level courses and technical reports. As part of the coursework for ENGR101 an Academic Writing Test will be given in semester one. Students planning to major in physics or astronomy will sit this test as well. Physics and astronomy students enrolled in semester two courses will be tested separately. There will be lectures to help you prepare for this test.

Further advice

If you have further questions, direct them as appropriate to:

Enquiries to

100 Level Supervisor of Studies

For 100 Level enquiries it is essential that you send an e-mail with your name, student ID and a detailed description of the nature of your enquiry.

Head of Department

Rutherford Building Room 530, DDI: +64 3 369-4252 (Internal 94252)

or any of the lecturers concerned.

  • Department of Physics and Astronomy
    University of Canterbury,
    Private Bag 4800,
    Christchurch 8140,
    New Zealand.
  • hod-secretary@phys.canterbury.ac.nz
    Phone: +64 3 364 2523
    Fax: +64 3 364 2469
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