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Programs Cambridge's Part III and PhD

  1. Sep 9, 2009 #1

    I have just finished a Master degree in Physics and I am looking for a PhD in theoretical physics. Doing this, I eventually came along with the Part III in Cambridge (also known as Cambridge Certificate of Advanced Studies in Mathematics). After reading the information given on the Cambridge website there are still some questions that remain unanswered and for which I hope that thankfully you may give me some clarification.

    The first question is what degree does Part III gives equivalence? Does it gives equivalence to a Master degree? They are not very precise with that. The relevancy of this question for me is related with the fact that, as I have understood, to apply for a PhD in Cambridge, one compulsorily needs to pass through the Part III. Does this mean that for doing a PhD in that university I will have to take a program that it's somewhat equivalent to a second Master degree? Since I have already a Master degree, may this bring problems to obtain funding?

    My second question is related with the fact that in most of the universities, the first year of the PhD program is almost entirely devoted to lectures and courses. Does the Part III gives equivalence to this first year? This concerns me a bit since (as I'm repeatedly told) the possibility of not getting a Distinction level, and thus not being admitted in the PhD in Cambridge, is very real and possible. If that happens, can I apply for a PhD in other university and jump the course's year of the program?

    Thanks a lot for any reply!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2009 #2
    Part III (CASM) of the Math Tripos at Cambridge is very specific to work that they do at that university. It is required by those looking to do a PhD in Mathematics at Cambridge and mostly Distinctions will be required to gain acceptance. Cambridge U themselves say that it is roughly equivalent to a taught Masters, it's certainly of the appropriate level but the certificate is peculiar to Cambridge. Many people do it due to the prestige of the name. If you already have an MSc in Physics you need to ask yourself why you are attempting essentially another masters, unless you specifically want to do PhD research at Cambridge.

    You should maybe consider going straight to PhD studies at some of the other top institutions: UCL, Imperial, Warwick, Durham etc The part III is not required for anywhere other than Cambridge.

  4. Sep 10, 2009 #3
    CASM is not a degree. So think about it again before you comit to anything!
  5. Sep 10, 2009 #4
    Just think of it as a course work component of your PhD.
  6. Sep 10, 2009 #5
    The thing is that I would like to do a PhD in Cambridge and to do this I need to do the Part III. However, I would like to know what will happen with me in case I miss the level of Distinction in the examination. I will certainly apply for a PhD in other University but will the courses I did in Part III give equivalence to the courses that are usually given in the first year of a PhD? I suppose that this will depend on the University and on the chosen PhD program but is this likely to happen?

    I'm worried with this since it will be quite frustrating to do 2 years of courses before returning to research...
  7. Sep 10, 2009 #6
    This is how I'm inclined to think of it. But it has a major difference to the usual course work component - you have to obtain the Distinction level to proceed. What I'm asking is that if I get, say, a Merit, will I have to do a second course work in the next University?
  8. Sep 10, 2009 #7
    Then just think of that as a course plus PhD qualifying exam. I mean, you have to pass something to show that you have the basic skills.
  9. Sep 11, 2009 #8
    You have to be careful here when you compare UK PhDs to say US ones. Most PhD degrees in the UK are straight 3 year research projects with a mentor keeping you on the right track and up to speed. There may not be any bridging or catch-up courses in the first year as you're expected to be up to speed already, although a couple of places are now getting wise to this and offering 4 year PhDs with the first year taught.

    Cambridge is such a sought after Uni for PostGrads that for Math, and possibly Physics PhDs they can afford to insist on the Part III and further select the Distinctions from within that.

    Most other Uni's won't make you repeat any courses as there aren't any to begin with, it's pure research. You're Physics Masters will be enough to get you on to the PhD at most other UK Uni's, and your postgrad level knowledge should let you crack on with the research.

    Most common route for British undergrads now is MSci degree(4 years) + PhD (3 years) often completed from age 18 - 25 or so. The US PhD is different, with the first 2 years as courses and then an extensive exam on all your undergrad material, followed by 3 years research.

  10. Sep 12, 2009 #9
    Doing part III would be like doing another MSc. Why do that just for snob value? Do you think your masters has provided you with sufficient knowledge to do a PhD in the area you are interested in? If so, why not look at other Universities, and go straight into doing a PhD? The most important thing, surely, is to find a group or supervisor that is suitable for you. That need not be at Cambridge. Then again, if you aced your MSc project, and know someone who is working in that area in Cambridge, you might approach them directly and ask about the possibilities of having them as a research supervisor. I'm sure strings could be pulled if you *really* impress them!
  11. Sep 12, 2009 #10


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    Apart from the fact that you get paid while studying for your PhD, but do not (and have to pay tuition fees) when undertaking part 3.
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