In September 2017, I started work on a MSc in Observational Astrophysics, studying at Liverpool John Moores University. I’d also considered the Postgraduate Diploma in Astronomy from the University of York as a possibility, plumping for LJMU because i) it offered a full Masters degree and ii) the syllabus looked considerably more challenging. Both are distance courses and hence ideal for a late middle-aged bloke with lots of enthusiasm and interest but no focus on making a career out of it.
So … I’m one semester into a two year course and have just taken the exams for the first module: Astrophysical Concepts. It’s going well at the moment … I can’t fault the people at the University; their responsiveness is first rate and I’m finding the course content pitched at about the right level. The ideal candidate would, I think, be a graduate from any area of Mathematical Physics – my maths is fine but has 30 years of rust on it; my physics is weak (A-level) but can be shored up as I go along.
We’ve had a whistle-stop introduction to the Solar System, Star Structures, the Interstellar Medium, Galaxies and Cosmology. They’re all interesting but my sweet spot probably lay in Galaxies and Cosmology. I’m looking forward to leveraging some of my amateur astronomy experience later – perhaps in spectroscopy.
There aren’t many distance learning solutions that lead to a formal postgraduate qualification and the LJMU solution seems to be working well so far. Open-book exams were a revelation however, the combination of required detail and time pressure was a real surprise.