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Cambridge Part III Maths/Imperial QFFF

  1. Mar 17, 2013 #1
    Hi, I've received offers for both of the above courses and I'm trying to weigh up the pros and cons of both, bearing in mind that whatever I choose will be preparation for a Theoretical Physics PhD in the UK or Europe.

    I'd just love to spend the year at Cambridge, if only to be able to say I've done it. I also understand that doing this course is the only way I have a shot at doing a PhD at Cambridge, which is the best possible place to do a Theoretical Physics PhD in Europe. But it seems to me that it doesn't really offer the opportunity to do research - only a Part III essay. Since European PhDs, in Germany say, require a lot of research experience at Masters level, will Cambridge Part III be seen as sufficient preparation to apply for a PhD there?

    Imperial QFFF on the other hand is specifically designed to be an internationally recognized Masters course with 90 ECTS credits and a long research project. The only negatives that I can see are that it won't get me into a Cambridge PhD, and I don't get the Cambridge experience.

    Does anybody have any advice on which would be the better course to choose? You can assume that cost isn't an issue. Is anybody doing one of these this year?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2013 #2
    What makes you think Cambridge is the best possible place to do a Theoretical Physics PhD in Europe? Many great physicists (Feynman, Einstein...) didn't study at Cambridge. Why do you think it is the "be all and end all"?

    Is the part III essay *really* not the equivalent of an MSc research project? Part III and the MSc are both year long courses at the same level, and I be surprised if part III was held not to be equivalent to an MSc, and just as good a preparation for a PhD in theoretical physics as QFFF (assuming you have taken appropriate courses, and the essay/research project is in the right area...)
  4. Mar 23, 2013 #3
    Because it is the best place in Europe. Einstein went to Zurich ETH, which is admittedly also up there, and Feynman didn't study in Europe. However, when I look at lists of professors at top universities, Imperial included, it's pretty amazing how many of them got their PhDs in Cambridge.

    Part III is actually a nine month course, and the essay is written during the year. Imperial is a 12 month course, with the thesis written over three or four months during the summer. I have absolutely no doubt that Cambridge Part III is as good at preparing you for a PhD as Imperial QFFF, but my issue is whether it would be seen as sufficient in Europe outside of the UK, simply because they don't seem to worry much about the Bologna accord!
  5. Mar 24, 2013 #4
    They would like you to think that :)

    But I don't think it holds up.

    Many universities are the best at something, and none are best overall.

    If, say, your interest is in "graphene" then Manchester University may be the best place in Europe (last I heard...) If "observational X ray astronomy" is your bent, then Leicester University may be the best.

    How can it be as good if it's three months shorter and skips the research project?
  6. Mar 24, 2013 #5
    I was wondering about that myself. Do MSci/MPhys/MMath/MSc/MASt graduates typically go outside of the UK for PhD study?

    I reckon that within the UK, there shouldn't be any problems, but France, Germany, and Switzerland seem to be quite strict when it comes to this (Bologna Process). Their master's are 2 years long and amount for 120 ECTS, while UK master's degrees are typically worth 90 ECTS, as the OP mentioned.
  7. Mar 24, 2013 #6
    Exactly. I'd imagine, though they don't reveal it anywhere on their website, that Part III is technically 60 ECTS credits. You can get a Physics Masters at ETH Zurich worth 90 ECTS credits. UK Masters courses manage to do this in one year by using a calendar year rather than an academic year. For this reason, I think a UK Masters might technically just meet the criteria for a European PhD, though not Part III. This is just a guess though.
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