Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy


The Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy (Cert HE) is a part-time distance learning course designed for people who have a desire to acquire knowledge and understanding of astronomical concepts. There is a range of modules to show how astronomical science has developed and how it relates to other subjects. The course covers theoretical, observational, historical and IT based aspects and provides a strong foundation that may be used to develop your understanding to a more advanced academic level. The course is suitable for life-long learners who are keen to further their academic development by studying a number of astronomy related topics at first year degree level.

The Cert HE is at level 4 (first year university level) and encompasses many of the University Certificates. Students are expected to achieve a quantitative understanding of the concepts, which may involve the use of equations, and demonstrate that they have the ability to integrate skills across the individual modules composing the Cert HE.

You do not need to have your own telescope to complete the Cert HE in Astronomy, but for all modules a PC with internet access is obligatory.


This course runs from October to May following the normal academic year for campus-based students.

The course will normally take between 4 and 6 years to complete, with a minimum duration of 2 years and a maximum duration of normally no more than 8 years.

Study Mode - Part-time by distance learning only

Learning materials are available on-line via the Course Website, which provides a noticeboard and web-based discussion groups where students can interact with one another and with staff. Tutorial support is available by email, web-based discussion or telephone. The university library's Distance Learning Service is available to students enrolled on this course.

Students are required to have access to a PC with internet connections for all modules. Students are responsible for printing out their own paper copies of the learning materials if required.

This course consists of six standard University modules (200 hours of study per module). For each standard module, students should expect to devote 4 - 5 hours per week averaged over the duration of the course. Students are recommended to undertake one or two modules per year, depending on their other commitments.

Some of the modules have optional residential weekends at the University’s Alston Observatory and discussion sessions are a major element of the weekend course. 

Admissions Criteria

The course is designed to allow non-specialists with a minimum level of academic qualifications  access to astronomical concepts and techniques. Candidates who can demonstrate that they have a strong interest in the subject and who will benefit in terms of their personal development and enjoyment will be given preference. Entry to the Cert HE will be via the successful completion of at least two University Certificates, one of which being the University Certificate in Astronomy (or equivalent). Applicants for the Certificate in Higher Education in Astronomy will therefore normally have GCSE grade C in Mathematics and English or equivalent, as required for the individual certificates.

Applicants with other qualifications or seeking to obtain accreditation for prior learning (APL) should contact the Course Leader for advice.

Students may study up to four modules as certificates before having to decide to use them as part of their Cert HE programme. Applicants in this position should contact the Course Leader for advice.

Course Content

The Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy consists of six standard university modules at Level 4, each worth 20 national credits. Most UK universities assume that one year of full-time study is equivalent to 120 national credits. The content for the individual modules is described in the separate module descriptions. You may choose 6 modules from the following:

Module Code

Module Title



Introduction to Astronomy (Core)

University Certificate in Astronomy


Introduction to Cosmology

University Certificate in Cosmology


Great Astronomers in History

Only available within CertHE, DipHE, BSc


IT for Astronomy

Only available within CertHE, DipHE, BSc


Energy, Matter and the Universe

Only available within CertHE, DipHE, BSc


Investigations in Astronomy

Only available within CertHE, DipHE, BSc 


Sun, Earth and Climate

University Certificate in Sun, Earth and Climate


Introduction to Astrobiology

University Certificate in Astrobiology

AA1051 Introduction to Astronomy (or its equivalent) is a core component.

In addition to the UCLan modules listed above, appropriate credit bearing courses from other institutions, including the Open University, can be accepted towards the CertHE by accreditation of prior learning (APL). This APL is limited to a maximum of 80 credits (4 modules) at level 4, subject to appropriate subject match and UCLan's Academic Regulations. Prospective students who intend to seek APL should discuss their programme of study with the Course Team during the application process.

All UCLan Astronomy Distance Learning modules studied before registration on the CertHE are counted automatically towards the award and do not require a formal Accreditation by Prior Learning (APL) application.


Optional Weekend Courses

Some of the modules include optional weekend courses normally held at our Alston Observatory near Preston. Cert HE students are encouraged to attend the weekend which includes tutorial sessions based on the weekend learning materials, practical work and observing sessions (weather permitting). The cost of these weekends is additional to the course fee.



Assessments for each module are normally submitted on-line according to a Module Schedule. Details of the assessment structure vary from module to module, so you should consult the appropriate module description for details. There are no end of module examinations.

Under exceptional circumstances students may be asked to take an oral examination to explain the content of their submitted course work.

Further Courses

UCLan Study Astronomy offers Level 4 University Certificate courses in related topics which are structured in a similar way. Please see the relevant factsheets for these courses. These courses can be studied separately or combined to obtain a Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy.

Students who successfully complete the Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy. can progress to more advanced awards. See separate factsheet for details of the Diploma of Higher Education in Astronomy and BSc (Hons) in Astronomy.

Entry to the full-time on-campus degree programme normally requires applicants to fulfil the A-level requirements including good grades in Maths and Physics. Suitably qualified distance learning students wishing to join Year 1 of the full-time course would be able to accredit prior learning of the University Certificate in Astronomy towards the degree. Please see the UCLan Prospectus for Full-time Students for details of the entry requirements. 

International Students

International Students are welcome to apply but should note that the course is only available in the English language.


The tuition fee for each of the six modules of the Cert HE is payable in the academic year in which the student registers for that module. The tuition fee for a standard module of 20 national credits is set each year. Please check www.StudyAstronomy.com for details of fees.

There is no tuition fee for the optional weekend courses at the Observatory, but there is a charge to cover the cost of weekend learning materials, meals and local transport.

Application Procedure and Further Information

For further information and on-line application form visit the www.StudyAstronomy.com website.

Alternatively, contact the Programme Administrator at the following address:

The Programme Administrator
Study Astronomy
School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences
University of Central Lancashire
Preston PR1 2HE

Tel:  +44 (0) 1772 893312 (direct line)
Fax: +44 (0) 1772 892915
Email: ucastro@uclan.ac.uk

Website: www.StudyAstronomy.com 


(This information is correct at the time of going to press but may be subject to change.)

Last updated: BJMHassall 5 February 2014