UK Centre for Astrobiology

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The UK Centre for Astrobiology offers a dedicated MSc degree programme, an undergraduate course, and an online course via Coursera.

MSc Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences

Video: MSc Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences
MSc Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences

The UK Centre for Astrobiology (UKCA) in the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics & Astronomy runs an MSc in Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences. The programme builds on Edinburgh’s substantial and leading role in astrobiology, geobiology and planetary sciences, including cometary studies and exoplanet science. 

Click here to visit the applications portal for 2024 entry.

Click here for information about the Higgs MSc Scholarships, worth £10,000 each.


Astrobiology and the planetary sciences are interdisciplinary subjects that build on physics, chemistry, biology and geosciences to answer fundamental questions. Astrobiologists seek to understand life in an astronomical context: how it forms, varies and evolves in concert with planets and stars, and how it is distributed across time and space. Planetary scientists investigate the origin, diversity and behaviour of planets, moons, rings, asteroids, comets, and solar systems. Together, these sciences offer a distinctive and mind-expanding perspective on our own place in the universe. 

The MSc programme provides graduates with an exciting foundation in the rapidly advancing interdisciplinary science of life in the universe while offering methodological training for further technical or academic work in the planetary, life, or space sciences.

Key features of the programme include:

  • Full-time programme, 12 months
  • Taught components in astrobiology (theory and methods), planetary sciences, and a range of optional courses from environmental geochemistry to space law
  • Extensive contact with Edinburgh's community of astrobiologists and space and planetary scientists as well as our wider international network of collaborators
  • A research dissertation

Click here for more information.

Undergraduate Astrobiology

The Centre has been behind a pre-Honours Astrobiology course offered to all Schools across the University (PHYS08051) since the 2013/2014 academic year. It attracts around 200 students each academic year. It typically has attracted students from 11 schools across the University

 It provides a grounding in all sciences with the focus on the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the Universe.

A general summary of the course is below.

Online Astrobiology

The Centre developed and implemented an online Astrobiology course with Coursera as one of six courses developed by the University. It was first offered in 2012 and by 2018, ~145,000 students globally had taken the course. The five-week course can be taken on demand at any time.

The Edinburgh on-line Astrobiology Course.

Astrobiology Textbook: 'Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe'

In collaboration with Wiley-Blackwell, Charles Cockell wrote an astrobiology textbook, now in its second edition, that can be used to teach an undergraduate astrobiology course. 'Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe' has been used in many universities and course around the world since its first edition in 2015. Alongside the textbook, there are 20 sets of lecture slides that can be used to start an astrobiology course in any location. 

The book and further resources are available here.