Quote by Mépris The Master's by Research degrees are more common in the UK - often called MRes or MPhil. These would require paying tuition fees though!
Just a note about the MPhil. Most if not all Ph.D courses in the UK begin as an MPhil., the student takes an oral exam at some point around the two year mark to transfer to the full Ph.D. If the student fails this exam, or chooses not to transfer they are able to submit material for an MPhil degree instead. As a result of this many people technically doing MPhils are funded and have their fees waved.

 Quote by dijkarte Probably you need to work on your inter-personal and social skills first. This will help you a lot understanding mathematics better :)
I'm being blunt with you because you are making wild inferences and acting irrationally.

-DaveK

 Quote by dijkarte I think here we should distinguish between someone whose main interest in life is writing research papers and teach in academia, or someone whose goal is to learn.
Those aren't exclusive. Learning becomes a lot more interesting when it you end up learning stuff that no one is teaching.

 Lets leave writing research papers alone and focus on the goal of pure learning, then we cannot argue that going to college does make someone more educated about the subject than another person who did not took the same path, but decided to teach themselves.
First of all, I don't think that there is such a thing as "pure learning." All learning takes place in a social environment. Second, it doesn't make sense to talk about "teaching yourself." When you are reading a book, the book had an author. If you literally mean "teaching yourself" you'll be in an empty room doing nothing.

Second, the important bits of college are *cultural*. It's possible to learn those things in other places, i.e. the military or the work place. But the important thing about college is that if you have a good program, you learn to teach yourself stuff. If you have a library, but you can't read the language the books are written in, the library is useless. So there are some basic literacy skills, that I think the teachers should focus on, and once you have them then you are on your own.

 I have an undergraduate degree in theoretical physics, what prevents me from learning, at least to undergraduate level, computer science, for example?
Well you need a computer, and you need people to answer your questions about said computer. You need books.

 My point is about pure knowledge and ideas.
I don't think that pure knowledge and ideas exist.

 "Social respect", "Titles", "Career success" are not the goals or advantages I'm talking about here. These are irrelevant to pure knowledge and innovation, and to $$as well. They actually are quite important. Social respect gets you money, which you an use to learn stuff that will get you more social respect. If you have a new idea, that's totally useless. What you need is the ability to sell your idea, and use the system to your advantage.  Quote by dijkarte I say topic closed then it's. I'm the original poster so I decide. :) Now time to sleep. Zzzzzzz...Zzz.... Well, you don't. But I think this thread is getting to it's inevitable circular non-conclusion, since we're repeating ourselves and you are repeating yourself. If the Mods have mercy on us mortals, perhaps they will grant your wish. :)  Well, you don't. But I think this thread is getting to it's inevitable circular non-conclusion, since we're repeating ourselves and you are repeating yourself. It's an interesting topic indeed, and it's going very well regardless of any heated arguments. And as long as we exchange points of views without insults, then the thread should be kept active.  Those aren't exclusive. Learning becomes a lot more interesting when it you end up learning stuff that no one is teaching. You are mixing discovery with learning. You cannot learn something that does not exist, but you can discover new things.  First of all, I don't think that there is such a thing as "pure learning." All learning takes place in a social environment. As I already mentioned, some people are better learners in a group, and others are more independent in this regard. Otherwise I will have to attend a class for everything I need to learn in daily life, which does not make sense.  When you are reading a book, the book had an author. If you literally mean "teaching yourself" you'll be in an empty room doing nothing. Yes a book as one or more authors. But if I'm teaching myself, how can I be "doing nothing?" Have you ever heard the term: self-taught? Does not this contradict with:  But the important thing about college is that if you have a good program, you learn to teach yourself stuff.?  Well you need a computer, and you need people to answer your questions about said computer. Yes I do need a computer, and other resources, which I did mention already accessibility to learning resources. I may need people to answer my questions yeah if I'm a instruction- based learner, they might be available, but in case not, there're countless online resources, forums???  I don't think that pure knowledge and ideas exist. Explain please?  They actually are quite important. Completely relative and depends on a person's self-esteem. Some people do care much about how others see them, others don't.  Social respect gets you money, which you an use to learn stuff that will get you more social respect. Never :) What does social respect have to do with how much someone makes? I wish that was the case, the higher your degree the more your skills appreciated and paid for.  If you have a new idea, that's totally useless. What you need is the ability to sell your idea, and use the system to your advantage.  If you have a new idea, that's totally useless. What you need is the ability to sell your idea, and use the system to your advantage. Ideas that require marketing! :) What about this, I make a new discovery, theory, idea, and then sell it in a usable product, and market that product instead will definitely bring more money :D At least it will be accessible to non academia world and at the same time will hit the academia since it's proven usable. Ideas that are proven and based on strong scientific merits, or at least shown to be applicable and can be utilized, need no selling and pushing.  As an undergraduate electrical engineering student, most of my learning since I joined the university was done by me in home. I rarely interact with professors and that only happens when I really can't grasp something or stuck in an exercise problem. I don't know if I would be able to continue on this trend, because there maybe some higher courses that I would need to interact with a professor in order to understand, but I hope that doesn't happen.  I ended up not attending any of these graduate courses after the first few lectures. Your best teacher is a book, pen and paper. If you have access to internet then that's great. :D :D :D  Quote by dijkarte As I already mentioned, some people are better learners in a group, and others are more independent in this regard. Otherwise I will have to attend a class for everything I need to learn in daily life, which does not make sense. You are confusing classes with academia. Most of the things that I learned in the university, I learned outside of class. Also you are confusing masters programs with Ph.D. programs. Ph.D. programs don't have classes. Also in daily life, you are interacting with people either directly or indirectly. Even when you read a book, that's interacting with a person (who could have died several hundred years ago).  Yes I do need a computer, and other resources, which I did mention already accessibility to learning resources. I may need people to answer my questions yeah if I'm a instruction- based learner, they might be available, but in case not, there're countless online resources, forums??? If you want to learn how to do web programming in 2012, there are tons of books and forums in which you can do that. I learned web programming in 1991, and I learned how to do stuff with the internet in 1987. The reason I was able to do this was that I went to a school in which they had computers connected to the internet just lying around for people to use. Not a big thing in 2012. Huge deal in 1987. The school spend tens of millions of dollars to put together an campus computing system and it was one of the first ones available. So I was able to teach myself how to use the internet about five years before anyone had heard of the internet, so that when it did explode, I was in good shape. Now today, everyone has access to the internet. But I bet that there is something in some university which is the "next big thing" what everyone will be using in ten years, but which no one has heard of.  Completely relative and depends on a person's self-esteem. Some people do care much about how others see them, others don't. Everyone cares about how *someone* sees them. A lot of life involves trying to figure out whose opinions matter and whose don't. Also sometimes, you *have to care*. If my boss thinks I'm incompetent, I care about that because having my boss think I'm incompetent means that I'm not likely to keep the paychecks coming in. Now caring about what other people think doesn't mean that you have to do what they say. If my boss is being unreasonable, then I look for another job. My wife's opinions matter more than my bosses, since it's not a huge deal to look for another job, but looking for another wife is something that one doesn't do lightly. But even if my boss is being unreasonable, what he thinks is something I can't ignore. One thing that academia gives you are foster parents. If my teachers think that I'm doing a good job, then that gives me the confidence to tell other people to go to hell if they don't like what I'm doing.  What does social respect have to do with how much someone makes? Social respect gives you power. If I go to Congress and tell people that the fate of the world depends on spending X billion on something, no one is going to listen to me. If Stephen Hawking does it, people will. They might not do what he says, but they will at least schedule a meeting. I go to my boss and ask for money. How much I get paid depends on how much my skills are respected.  I wish that was the case, the higher your degree the more your skills appreciated and paid for. Depends on the situation. Among some groups of people, having a big degree causes you to be *dis*respected. Some groups care about how much money you make, others about how much money you spend.  Ideas that require marketing! :) Sure, and I hear that there these things called universities that offer classes on marketing. Heck, they offer degrees in marketing.  What about this, I make a new discovery, theory, idea, and then sell it in a usable product, and market that product instead will definitely bring more money :D Fine. Where are you going to learn to do that? One reason that I think my university had an excellent program was that in addition to learning the science, you ended up learning about the business of science. There were all of these contests, and talks about starting your own business, and you ended up with social contacts that would help you with starting your business.  At least it will be accessible to non academia world and at the same time will hit the academia since it's proven usable. It often works the other way. Universities have research money which they can use to develop things that have no immediate profit possibility. The other thing is that businesses have an incentive to keep things secret, universities don't. I'm working on some cool stuff for my company, but I'll get fired if I post the source code on the internet. I'll even get into major trouble if I publicly mention what I'm doing. If it's "proven usable" there is no point in having it in the university. Universities work on stuff that may be totally useless. Universities have more money to work on useless stuff, and once in a blue moon, the useless project actually changes the world.  Ideas that are proven and based on strong scientific merits, or at least shown to be applicable and can be utilized, need no selling and pushing. Not true. People are busy, and you need to make a *huge* effort to get people's attention. That's one more reason universities exist. If you look at any senior scientist, you'll find an enormous amount of effort spend of raising money. When I was at UTexas Austin, you had dozens of people devoted full time to getting money, often from the state legislature or Congress or alumni or various rich people looking for a tax deduction. I didn't have to worry about that. Once you go outside the university, then you have to worry about dozens of things that you didn't have to before, and that kills time for research.  Quote by CDTOE I don't know if I would be able to continue on this trend, because there maybe some higher courses that I would need to interact with a professor in order to understand, but I hope that doesn't happen. But universities != professors, and a lot of the useful work that professors do ends up not being related to actual teaching. For example, to run a 500 person class requires a ton of effort. You have to find the teaching instructors, write the tests, grade the tests, make sure that you've scheduled the rooms, etc. etc. The problem is that a lot of things you don't notice unless someone goes wrong. If you have a well run class, then everything "just works" and someone taking the class doesn't notice. However, this poses a problem because when things "just work" people assume that there is no work involved in making it work, and therefore it's all useless. There is a ton of behind the scenes work that makes a university work, and if you want to replicate a university online, you have to find functional substitutes for everything. This *will* happen, but it hasn't happened yet for science and math (it has for business degrees see University of Phoenix). One thing about universities is that we know how to run a 500 person intro physics class at a physical location. People have done it before. As of 2012, no one knows how to run a 5000 or 50000 person intro physics class. I'm sure it can be done, and I'm sure that by 2022, we'll know how to do it.  Quote by Robert1986 If you can learn about a topic as an undergrad, then you can probably learn it by yourself, especially with the internet. Really, you should "self-teach" most of the stuff you learn as an undergrad in the first place The internet does change the structure of knowledge a lot. The thing about the internet is that there are some things that are easy to google for and some things that are hard to google for. You can get the latest research pretty easily, but information on *how* to become a researcher is much harder. The thing about a lot of knowledge is that it's tacit or implicit. Sometimes, someone does it, and then can't explain themselves how they do it. That means it's not getting onto google. In some ways, google makes professional expertise more important. I've been in situations with doctors and lawyers (and professors!!!) in which I only talk to them for an hour, but in that hour, they give me the "magic google terms" which are relevant to my situation. I was involved in a legal situation, and the lawyer involved just talked to me for an hour (and it was a very expensive hour) but in that hour he told me the "magic google keywords" and everything else I could either figure out for myself or have his much cheaper paralegal handle. (He also mentioned not to get offended if he doesn't answer his e-mail but has the paralegal do it, since he is trying to save me money.) You have the same sort of relationships with professors and teaching assistants.  So, if you just want to learn more, and you don't care about the other things, then it would be crazy for you to go back to school. A lot depends on what it means to go "back to school". I spend as much time as I can at the local university, and a lot of it is going to conferences, and just meeting people. It turns out that I don't have to pay money since I can barter knowledge. If a professor talks to an undergraduate for an hour, he isn't likely to learn anything that will help him, so that means that the undergraduate has to pay money for the professor to listen to the. Now if I talk to a professor, I have knowledge that I can use to barter for his attention. For example, I can tell the professor what I'm working on, what math techniques I'm using, which ones seem to work, and which ones seem not to work. It's information that you can't find on google. That's useful for the professor since he can then change his syllabus to include that information. For example, if I tell a professor, that a certain obscure math technique turns out to be really, really useful in, then that professor can include that technique in his courses. When it comes time for interviews and it turns out that the professors' students know that math technique, then that's useful for getting the students jobs, which pays off the loans, that pays the tuition that pays for the professors salary.  But, I was under the impression that your ultimate goal was to do a lot of research; is this incorrect? If it is indeed the case that you want to do pure research, my argument is that it seems much easier to do research if you work at a university where you are essentially getting paid to do research. Also universities can afford to look long term. I get paid to do research. However, if I wanted to research a math technique and it looks like something that could turn a profit next quarter, I'd do it myself. If it won't turn a profit the next quarter, I can't do it. But I can mention this as something that the professor might be interested in looking. This also involves people. A company will let you research stuff, but they won't teach you to research if you don't already know how to do it, because they are trying to make a profit. A university has the resources to teach people to do stuff that doesn't make a profit. Universities also are "white gloves." I know of one situations in which our company has come out with a math technique which we shared with some professors specifically so that they could publish papers on the technique. We don't want our competitors to know that we are using the technique, but we do want people to know about it, and mentioning it to some academics so that they can do some work on it, and publish papers works great for everyone.  500 person class? wow! I never have been to such a class in my university especially in a science or engineering one. That's a lot of O2 consuming. Anyway, I don't regret doing most of learning myself, because it has also allowed me to learn new things on the process, and helped to free up more time to learn future courses before I take them. Last semester, I took an object-oriented programming course using Java, and I never studied it at all during that semester. Whenever there's an exam, I go and get an excellent grade. The reason is that I have been learning it well before I took it in university, whereas other students I know suffered a lot from it because they came directly to it with no at least a background in OOP, and some of them still consider it an effort-consuming course.  One interesting thing about this thread is I cannot help but reply. :) Talking about an OO-programming course, I took this course and at that time I knew a lot about object oriented design principles which I learned by myself. This helped me judge the professor, the lectures, and content of the course. I'm not going into detailing the disappointing experience with this course, but I can tell you how bad I felt wasting my time and huge amount of$$\$ on a course that, first, I did not need. Second, it's nothing more than a very basic OO principles that could be covered in an elementary programming text. Nonetheless the course turned into a programming language how-to's. Well done professor. I could have tell you countless examples based on my own experiences and others'. However for someone who's new to the subject, they would not be able to tell that the course is screwed up until probably very late in their professional work experience cycle.
 I learned physics up to (some)quantum field theory on my own without even taking calculus at university
 I think the basic problem here is "going to university" == "taking classes". Personally, I dislike taking classes, and I managed to skip every class that I could. I've only taken one formal class on programming in my life, and it's a a class that anyone can now take on the internet. (However, sometimes one class is enough if it is *good* class.) However, I couldn't have learned programming outside of a university. The computers and internet access weren't available (remember this was in the late-1980's), and because I went to university I got internet access about five to ten years before the rest of the world did. OK, today everyone has internet access, but I'm sure that there is something at a university that you can get, that everyone else will have in five to ten years. As far as learning to do research. You can't learn to do research in a class. You learn to do research by doing research, and while it's not an iron law of nature that this can't be done outside of university, it so happens that at this moment in history the social networks that you need pass through universities.

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 Quote by twofish-quant However, I couldn't have learned programming outside of a university. The computers and internet access weren't available (remember this was in the late-1980's), and because I went to university I got internet access about five to ten years before the rest of the world did. OK, today everyone has internet access, but I'm sure that there is something at a university that you can get, that everyone else will have in five to ten years.
Being part of university allows me a lot of packages like Gaussian, amber... access to journals... there are a lot of benefits outside of courses.

 IT depends, you can learn things on your own, no university needed, but like the old saying, "you also need to sharpen your intellect" (sword... I forgot the saying actually). Yes, I did most of my own self-studying, but upon becoming serious about work in college, I gained further insight from professors. But not only that, the labs are essential as well, and I didn't have a lot of money to create a make-shift laboratory at home, and I definitely wouldn't even if I did have the money because I am not an expert. There are certainly more pros than cons from academia in the sciences in terms of attending university. The cons is getting up and leaving your house and being able to sit through a lecture. But I primarily base the latter on helping with discipline. Besides, I personally, now, like the structure of going to lecture and watching the professor just write on the board and listening to what it has to say on the subject.
 I liked all my lectures as they were helping me getting more sleep time :D I'm not really against academia and getting formal education and certificate, but I'm with some reform. Yes the Academia still needs a lot of reform and rethinking to adapt to the new technology and globalization. Ancient university settings are not of great help in this era.