The University Certificate in Cosmology is a first year undergraduate course designed to provide the non-specialist with an informed view of concepts in cosmology, without recourse to advanced mathematics. This course will help explain how the universe began and developed to its present form. It is designed for distance-learning students. The module is also available to students enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE) in Astronomy,  Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) in Astronomy and BSc(Hons) in Astronomy.  


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

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.

Students are recommended to have access to a PC with internet connections 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 a standard University module (200 hours of study per module) and students should expect to devote 4 - 5 hours per week averaged over the duration of the course.

Admissions Criteria

This course aims to inform non-specialists about physical concepts in cosmology and allow them to appreciate the latest developments. Hence it is available to applicants with a minimum level of academic qualifications.

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. No prior knowledge of the subject is necessary, but we normally expect GCSE mathematics or equivalent high school qualification. Students will find a science background useful. Applicants who have not been involved in academic study for a number of years should discuss their application with the Course Leader.

Course Content

The University Certificate in Cosmology consists of a single standard module of 20 national credits at Level 1: AA1053 Introduction to Cosmology . The module is divided into 12 topics:

  • Cosmology: Introduction
  • The Distance Scale
  • The Expansion of the Universe
  • Particles and the Forces between them
  • Observational Evidence in support of the Big Bang
  • The Hot Big Bang Model
  • Dark Matter
  • Inflation
  • Cosmological Constants
  • The Large Scale Structure of the Universe
  • Galaxy Formation
  • Great Observations.

Learning materials consist of a Cosmology Workbook and  Course Notes, in twelve sections, covering each of the topics listed above. The recommended book for the course is either:  

Foundations of Modern Cosmology 2nd edition by J. F. Hawley and K. A. Holcomb, 2005, OUP, ISBN 019853096X, £47.00 hardback (published July 2005) or

Cosmology: The Science of the Universe, 2nd edition, by Edward Harrison, 2000, (CUP, ISBN 052166148X, £47.00) subject to availability. Students are strongly encouraged to obtain a copy of one of these.


The assessment for the University Certificate in Cosmology consists of three items of coursework (typically two question sheets and one essay). Assessments are normally submitted by post, according to a Course Schedule. It is not necessary to pass each item of coursework individually provided that the essay is attempted and the overall module mark is 40% or more. There is no examination.

Optional Weekend Course at Alston Observatory

An optional weekend course is held at our Alston Observatory near Preston on a number of dates throughout the course. These weekends allow students to meet fellow students and members of academic staff. They include tutorial sessions based on the Course Notes and Workbook, practical work and observing sessions (weather permitting). The cost of these weekends (about £98) is additional to the course fee. 

Further Courses

The Department offers Level 1 University Certificate courses in related topics which are structured in a similar way. These courses can be studied separately or combined to obtain a Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy. Please see the relevant factsheets for these courses.

Students who successfully complete the University Certificate in Astronomy  can progress to the University Advanced Certificates (at Level 2). See separate factsheet for details of the Diploma of Higher Education in Astronomy and BSc (Hons) in Astronomy.

In addition, 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