PHYSICS 748 : General Relativity


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Discusses Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity with application to astrophysical problems, drawn from black hole physics, gravitational waves, cosmology, astrophysical lensing and solar system and terrestrial tests of the theory. The course includes the mathematical background needed to describe curved spacetimes in arbitrary coordinate systems and the covariant description of fundamental physical relationships.

Course Overview

This course provides an introduction to the General Theory of Relativity, with a focus on applications in astrophysics, cosmology, and gravitational waves.  The course covers representations of physical systems in general coordinate systems (including those with nonorthonormal bases), 4-vectors and tensors, contravariant and covariant quantities, and the construction of the Einstein Field Equations.  We will see how to extract the weak field limit of General Relativity, explore the properties black holes, and derive the cosmological dynamics of a Friedman-Robertson-Walker universe.

Students will ideally have taken PHYSICS 356 and 331/741 and should be familiar and comfortable with multivariable calculus. 

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the General Theory of Relativity and the physics of curved spacetime. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the properties of simple black hole spacetimes (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of simple cosmological spacetimes and their physical consequences (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of gravitational wave production and propagation in General Relativity. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Critically evaluate information from the scientific literature on astrophysical systems. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 45% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Case Studies 15% Peer Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Final Exam
Case Studies
Plussage will apply on the tests and homework; the weighting on the final exam / assignments / case study will be 60/25/15 if this is to the student's benefit. 

Special Requirements


Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

On a weekly basis you can expect 2 hours of lectures, a 1 hour tutorial / office hours, 7 hours of reading and thinking about the content and  work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Lectures may not be available as recordings. Other learning activities including will not be available] as recordings.
The course will include live online events including group discussions.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Covid Level 1: Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode.

Covid Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person. All teaching and assessment will have a remote option, or will be remote by default. 

Covid Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely.

Learning Resources

Text:  Schutz, A First Course In General Relativity 

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 08/07/2021 03:52 p.m.