The Diploma of Higher Education in Astronomy (Dip HE) is a part-time distance-learning course designed for life-long learners who are keen to further their academic development by studying for a substantial award in astronomy. It  is similar in level and content to the first two years of a full-time undergraduate university degree course. The DipHE encompasses all the modules available to the Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy, the University Advanced Certificates as well as some level two modules not currently available to other awards. The course covers a variety of theoretical, observational, historical and IT based approaches to astronomy  and presents a broad range of topics from observational techniques, the solar system, stellar astronomy, the galaxy and extragalactic astronomy.  The level 2 modules increasingly explain the use of observational data to deduce the physical properties of astronomical objects and provide a scientific account of our current understanding of the topic in question. The Dip HE is a balanced, coherent programme of study, and by providing a strong foundation, it forms a basis for further study. Students are expected to achieve a quantitative understanding of the concepts, involving the use of equations, and to demonstrate that they have the ability to integrate skills across the individual modules composing the Dip HE. 

You do not need to have your own telescope to complete the Dip HE in Astronomy, but for all modules your are recommended to have a PC with access to the Internet. For some modules a PC and/or 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 6 and 10 years to complete, with a minimum duration of 4 years and a maximum duration of normally no more than 12 years.

Study Mode

Part-time by distance learning only

Learning materials are supplied on-line via the Course Website, which also 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. For some modules, the learning materials are also available on a CDRom.

Students are required to have access to a PC with internet connections for some of the modules. For other modules an internet connection is recommended in order to obtain maximum benefit from the course. Students are responsible for printing out their own paper copies of the learning materials if required.

This course consists of twelve 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. Initially, 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 and tutorial sessions are a major element of the weekend courses. 

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 Dip HE will normally be via the successful completion of

  • the Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy (or equivalent) or
  • appropriate A/AS levels (normally with a UCAS tariff of 320 points) successfully completed within the previous 2 years, in which case you should contact the Course Leader for details.

Whilst studying modules at level 2 you are expected to achieve a quantitative understanding of  the concepts. This will involve increased use of equations compared with the level 1 modules. Applicants for the Diploma of Higher Education in Astronomy are therefore normally expected to have GCSE grade C in Mathematics and English or equivalent high school qualification (as required for entry to the Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy) and to have covered the material in the University Certificate in Astronomy. A2 or A-level study of mathematics or science is advantageous but not compulsory. 

Applicants with OU or other qualifications or seeking to obtain accreditation for prior learning (APL) should contact the Course Leader for advice. Dip HE students can use accreditation of prior learning both for UCLan modules and others from our partner institutes. Prospective students should note that the maximum number of modules that can be accredited in this way is eight, which therefore sets a limit to how many modules a student can study before deciding to use them as part of their Dip HE programme. Applicants in this position should contact the Course Leader for advice.

Course Content

The Diploma of Higher Education in Astronomy (240 national credits) consists of twelve standard university modules at Levels 1 and 2, 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 and factsheets. 

Stage 1 corresponds to the six level 1 modules. 

You may choose 6 level 1 modules from the following to include the core mode and an elective:

Module Code Module Title Factsheet
AA1051* Introduction to Astronomy (Core) University Certificate in Astronomy
AA1053 Introduction to Cosmology University Certificate in Cosmology
AA1066 Great Astronomers in History University Certificate in History of Astronomy
AA1055 IT for Astronomy University Certificate in IT for Astronomy
AA1056# Energy, Matter and the Universe University Certificate in Physics for Astronomy 
AA1057 Investigations in Astronomy Only available within CertHE, DipHE, BSc 
AA1058 Sun, Earth and Climate University Certificate in Sun, Earth and Climate
AA1059 Introduction to Astrobiology University Certificate in Astrobiology
  Elective at Level 1 Chosen from DL modules across UCLan
or by APL from other institutions

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

# Students who have not previously studied Mathematics and Physics to A/AS level are required to take AA1056 in Stage 1 or 2 of the DipHE.

Stage 2 corresponds to the six level 2 modules or five at level 2 and 1 at level 1. 

Module Code Module Title Factsheet
AA2051 The Milky Way University Advanced Certificate in Astrophysics of Galaxies
AA2052 Galaxies Beyond the Milky Way
AA2053 UV Optical and Infra-red Astronomy University Advanced Certificate in Astronomy
AA2054 Exploring the Solar System
AA2055 Solar Astrophysics University Advanced Certificate in the Astrophysics of the Sun and Stars 
AA2056 Solar-Stellar Connection
AA2057 Astrobiology Not available as a separate certificate

The Department is continuously adding to its portfolio of distance learning courses eligible for inclusion in the Dip HE. There is also the opportunity to study modules from our partner institutions, which can be accredited to the Dip HE programme through Accreditation by Prior Learning (APL). Please contact the Department for details.

The modules at levels 1 and 2 currently available at our partner institutions: Liverpool JMU and Jodrell Bank Observatory are linked from the joint website

Students are recommended to complete at least 4 modules at level 1 before embarking on level 2 modules.

Weekend Courses

Dip HE students are encouraged to attend the optional level 1 weekend course, which includes tutorial sessions based on the weekend learning materials, practical work and observing sessions (weather permitting). The cost of this weekend is additional to the course fee. We have withdrawn the compulsory weekend previously associated with AA2053.


Assessments for each module are submitted normally according to a Course Schedule. Details of the assessment structure vary from module to module, so you should consult the appropriate module description for details.

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

Further Study

Students who fulfill the A-level requirements can study the full-time on-campus degree programmes in Physics or Astrophysics. Prior completion of University Certificate in Astronomy will count towards the degree, by means of accreditation of prior learning. 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 a standard module of 20 national credits is set each year. Please visit the Module Fees page on our website for details of this year's fees:

Application Procedure and Further Information

For further information and on-line application form visit the 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 893541 (direct line)
Fax: +44 (0) 1772 892996


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

Last Updated: 13 July 2010 sd