I'm currently a 2nd year undergrad in the UK studying maths and physics, and I'd really like to do a PhD in theoretical (/mathematical) physics. My problem is that more specifically I'd (currently) like to work in a field related to quantum gravitation; which as far as I can tell 1) tends to attract a number of absurdly bright people 2) seems to be predominantly confined to a small number of centres of excellence: Oxbridge, Imperial, the CPT at Durham, plus possibly a couple of the other London colleges. I'm resigned to needing a 1st class honours in order to even apply to most of these places. But my question is, what can I do now to give myself an avantage over other people with firsts? Also, I'm currently enrolled on a 4 year course. Would a normal postgraduate MSc (or similar like the Cambridge Part III) put me in a better position than my MSci? And how disadvantaged would I be were I to apply for doctoral places upon completion of my BSc instead (as only Cambridge seems to insist upon 4 yrs preparatory study)? (The reason for my haste is that I'm fairly eager to stop accruing debt and start earning- if covering the Master's material in the first year of a doctorate saves me a year's fees and doesn't have a drawback, then that would help!) Many thanks.