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Choosing Masters Program - Imperial College vs Durham

  1. May 9, 2015 #1
    After getting several offers, I narrowed my choice to the following two programs:
    1. MSc in Particles, Strings and Cosmology in Centre For Particle Theory at Durham University: https://www.dur.ac.uk/cpt/graduate/lectures/
    2. MSc in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces at Imperial College London: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/theoreticalphysics/postgraduatestudy/mastersdegree
    • The coursework is similar: both programs use many of the same textbooks. Imperial's courses seem slightly harder, which I like, Durham's slightly broader, which I like also. Durham allows a few more months for the research project.
    • AWRU in Physics ranks Imperial at 15th position, Durham at 28th. They rank the same if we ignore Nobel prizes, which matches my impression when I compare citation counts from the last 10 years. Imperial has a few more big-names (defined as someone I have heard of before:smile:).
    • Imperial ranks much higher in reputation-based rankings.
    • In both programs, the courses are taken alongside PhD students, which is great. Probably higher PhD:MSc ratio in Durham.
    • Imperial has higher entry requirement (1st) than Durham (2:1) but Durham has 50% acceptance ratio compared to Imperial's 80%. Not sure what that means for the caliber of students.
    • To me, Durham is a much more attractive place to live. I shudder at the thought of passing through the urban jungle that London is. But this is secondary to long-term considerations. I believe I will be successful in either course.
    • Difference in living and tuition costs makes Durham a much cheaper option. Again, this is a secondary consideration.
    I would be very grateful for pointing out anything I have missed that might differentiate the two programs.

    If my goal is admission to a decent hep-th PhD program in the USA, will Imperial's reputation give me a significant advantage over Durham?
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. May 10, 2015 #2
    • Comparing timetables: in Durham classes are conveniently scheduled 9-15 every day. Imperial's timetable is all over the place with multi-hour gaps, which from my experience makes for time that is hard to use well.
    • Durham offers Oxbridge-style catered college accommodation, freeing time and attention to be spent on physics.
    • Durham answered all my emails very promptly (within 5 minutes on one occasion!)
    For HEP, both schools seem to be in the same league. Imperial may have an upper hand in foundations of QM and in string theory, but Durham dominates in particle phenomenology. The differences are too small to matter at a masters level.

    To me, Durham appears to be a place more conducive to intellectual work, more supportive with less distractions and a better organized course. Imperial may have a better reputation, but I expect that to be insignificant compared to my individual performance. I will accept Durham's offer unless I discover a compelling reason not to.
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
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