Skip to main content

Planetary Science with Astronomy (Certificate in Higher Education)


Application options include:

On campus Online

Course Overview

Our Certificate of Higher Education in Planetary Science with Astronomy has been designed to allow easy access to the study of the fascinating and dynamic areas of planetary science. This course allows you to explore subject areas including the origin and structure of our own planet and solar system, the surface and interior of Earth and the other rocky planets, comets, asteroids and also astronomy and the more distant stars and planets.

Whether you would like to study planetary science with astronomy for your own interest, to enhance your career or to pursue a degree in the subject after completing this course, this certificate can be taken as a stand-alone qualification or as a starting point for the BSc Planetary Exploration with Astronomy and Astrobiology.

You can choose to study through in-person teaching, through distance learning or via a blend of both. This flexibility means you can fit your studies around work or any other commitments.

Discover the career opportunities available by taking Planetary Science with Astronomy (Certificate in Higher Education) (CertHE).

Key information and modules

Find another course:


    • We offer you flexible teaching methods, balancing face-to-face and online learning.
    • Field trip opportunity to a geological site in Pembrokeshire.
    • Studying with us will give you access to world-class research facilities and researchers working on the latest space missions.
    • We share expertise, facilities and events with UCL, including through the Centre for Planetary Sciences which is one of the UK’s leading planetary and exoplanetary science centres.
    • Birkbeck was ranked in the top 25 universities in the UK for its Earth Systems and Environmental Science research in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.
    • We have been offering distance learning in this subject area for more than 20 years.

            Birkbeck makes all reasonable efforts to deliver educational services, modules and programmes of study as described on our website. In the event that there are material changes to our offering (for example, due to matters beyond our control), we will update applicant and student facing information as quickly as possible and offer alternatives to applicants, offer-holders and current students.

            • Entry Requirements Entry Requirements

              Entry Requirements

              We welcome applicants without traditional entry qualifications as we base decisions on our own assessment of qualifications, knowledge and previous work experience. We may waive formal entry requirements based on judgement of academic potential.

              For part-time courses, standard requirements are a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent.

              English language requirements

              If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests. We also accept other English language tests.

              If you don’t meet the minimum English language requirements,  or see our international study skills page for more details of how we can help.

              Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

              Visa and funding requirements

              If you are not from the UK and you do not already have residency here, you may need to apply for a visa.

              The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

              • Courses of more than six months' duration: Student visa
              • Courses of less than six months' duration: Standard Visitor visa

              International students who require a Student visa should apply for our full-time courses as these qualify for Student visa sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Student visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck's part-time courses (with the exception of some modules).

              For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

              Please also visit the international section of our website to find out more about relevant visa and funding requirements by country.

              Please note students receiving US Federal Aid are only able to apply for in-person, on-campus programmes which will have no elements of online study.

              Credits and accredited prior learning (APL)

              If you have studied at university (or have an HND or Foundation Degree), you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution.

            • Fees Fees


              Planetary Science with Astronomy CertHE: 2 years part-time, on campus or online, starting in academic year 2024-25 or 2025-26

              Academic year 2024–25, starting October 2024

              Part-time home students: £4,625 per year
              Part-time international students: £4,625 per year

              Academic year 2025–26, starting October 2025

              To be confirmed

              Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their course. Tuition fees for students continuing on their course in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

              If you’ve studied at Birkbeck before and successfully completed an award with us, take advantage of our Lifelong Learning Guarantee to gain a discount on the tuition fee of this course.

              Tuition fee and maintenance loans

              Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

              Please note: if you intend to study this certificate part-time and fund your studies via a student loan, this may affect your entitlement for future full-time funding. Find out more about funding your studies with a student loan.

              Discover the financial support available to you to help with your studies at Birkbeck.

              International scholarships

              We provide a range of scholarships for eligible international students, including our Global Future Scholarship. Discover if you are eligible for a scholarship.

            • Teaching and Assessment Teaching and Assessment


              At Birkbeck, most of our courses are taught in the evening and all of our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience.

              Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading. Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.

              In addition, you will have access to pastoral support via a named Personal Tutor.

              Methods of teaching on this course

              Face-to-face lectures are supplemented by Moodle, a web-based environment where you can access course materials and videos of lectures. Moodle can also be used as a distance learning alternative with supplementary web-based material.

              Teaching hours

              Our evening hours are normally between 6pm and 9pm (6-7.30pm and 7.30-9pm). Some programmes also offer teaching during the day and this will be clearly signposted to you where it is available.

              On our taught courses, you will have scheduled teaching and study sessions each year. Scheduled teaching sessions may include lectures, seminars, workshops or laboratory work. Depending on the modules you take, you may also have additional scheduled academic activities, such as tutorials, dissertation supervision, practical classes, visits and field trips. On our taught courses, the actual amount of time you spend in the classroom and in contact with your lecturers will depend on your course, the option modules you select and when you undertake your final-year project (if applicable).

              Alongside your contact hours, you will also undertake assessment activities and independent learning outside of class. The amount of time you need to allocate to study both for taught sessions (this might include online sessions and/or in-person sessions) and personal study will depend on how much you are studying during the year and whether you are studying full time or part time.

              Birkbeck’s courses are made up of modules and allocated ‘credit’. One credit is equivalent to ten hours of learning time. Modules are usually in 15, 30 or 60 credit units. A 15-credit module will mean around 150 hours of learning, including taught sessions and independent study or group work. This is spread out over the whole period of that module and includes the time you spend on any assessments, including in examinations, preparing and writing assessments or engaged in practical work as well as any study support sessions to help you in your learning.

              On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, discussion, collaboration and interaction with your lecturers and fellow students is encouraged and enabled through various learning technologies.


              Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).

              Indicative class size

              Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to larger groups, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups led by a tutor.

              Independent learning

              On our taught courses, much of your time outside of class will be spent on self-directed, independent learning, including preparing for classes and following up afterwards. This will usually include, but is not limited to, reading books and journal articles, undertaking research, working on coursework and assignments, and preparing for presentations and assessments.

              Independent learning is absolutely vital to your success as a student. Everyone is different, and the study time required varies topic by topic, but, as a guide, expect to schedule up to five hours of self-study for each hour of teaching.

              Study skills and additional support

              Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:

              • academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
              • written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
              • numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).

              Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.

              Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.

              Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short- or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.


              Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations, although this will vary from course to course - on some of our courses, assessment is entirely by coursework. The methods of assessment on this course are specified below under 'Methods of assessment on this course'. You will need to allow time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

              Where a course has unseen written examinations, these may be held termly, but, on the majority of our courses, exams are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June. Exams may be held at other times of the year as well. In most cases, exams are held during the day on a weekday - if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance - but some exams are held in the evening. Exam timetables are published online.

              Find out more about assessment at Birkbeck, including guidance on assessment, feedback and our assessment offences policy.

              Methods of assessment on this course

              A combination of reports, practical work and written examinations.

            • Careers and employability Careers and employability

              Careers and employability

              Graduates can pursue career paths in the oil, mineral and groundwater industries, education or research. Possible professions include:

              • astronomer
              • minerals surveyor
              • research scientist
              • higher education lecturer.

              We offer a comprehensive careers service - Careers and Enterprise - your career partner during your time at Birkbeck and beyond. At every stage of your career journey, we empower you to take ownership of your future, helping you to make the connection between your experience, education and future ambitions.

            • How to apply How to apply

              How to apply

              You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link. Please note that online application will open in September.

              You will need to prove your identity when you apply - read more about suitable forms of identification.

              Help and advice with your application

              Get all the information you need about the application, admission and enrolment process at Birkbeck.

              Our online personal statement tool will guide you through every step of writing the personal statement part of your application.

              Apply for your course

              Apply for your course using the apply now button in the key information section.

            Course structure

            Course structure listing

            Course structure and modules for Planetary Science with Astronomy CertHE: 2 years part-time, on campus or online, starting October 2024

            You must complete modules worth a total of 120 credits.

            • Year 1: three compulsory modules
            • Year 2: one compulsory module and one Level 4 option module (30 credits) or two Level 5 option modules (15 credits each)
            Year 1 compulsory modules
            Year 2 compulsory module
            Level 4 option module
            Level 5 option modules

            Course structure and modules for Planetary Science with Astronomy CertHE: 2 years part-time, on campus, starting October 2025

            You must complete modules worth a total of 120 credits.

            • Year 1: three compulsory modules
            • Year 2: one compulsory module and one Level 4 or two Level 5 option modules
            Year 1 compulsory modules
            Year 2 compulsory module
            Level 4 option module
            Level 5 option modules