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Programs Considering a physics degree in the UK?

matt grime

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alfredblase said:
I'm beggining to think this is one of those long arguments I was afraid of.... :s
What argument?

I say 'pick a university with a 'bad' degree in whatever metric' you ask me to name one specifically, I don't and say you should pick one yourself, you evidently have some differentiation between the quality of university (one that allows you to say Sussex is good) so use it (and all of the last 8 posts including this one would have been avoided if you'd just thought of your own example).

The 'point' was that expand upon the idea that you can't just use numbers like 'number of people passing' or 'relative failure rate' to compare different institutions, even in the same degree.
 
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OK this is the funny thing. You know your post (number 18 in this thread)? I actually agreed with it, LOL. But then you edited your very good post and presented the infamous comparison xD and things got messy IMO. Having read your last post I... agree with you! I also disagree with you because I still think statistics can be used as an indicator of degree dificulty. We are both entitled to our different opinion as we both have valid arguments supporting our different opinions. The matter is obviously subjective to at least a large emm degree.. :S i'm getting sick of that word, hehe. I'm not going to post anymore concerning this matter, go ahead and have the last word xDD :P ;)

regards, alf
 
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0rthodontist

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Wikipedia makes it look like Sussex University is pretty good overall at #13 in the UK.
 
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OK take your ill considered post off Grime. Good idea, but I know what you wrote and I'm leaving this reply here. (If you are curious it went something along the lines of, "its peoples perceptions that matter not the actual quality of the degree program, when I think of Sussex, I think of its history department") HAH!

in the words of Samuel L Jackson, allow me to retort:

ok so you don't get goosebumps when you hear Sussex in connection with Physics.. so what? To be honest there are only 3 universities I'd get "my pulse racing over" to quote you, and those are Cambridge, Imperial and Oxford in that order. But who cares if I didn't go to one of those 3? To suggest that to have a good degree in physics you need to have gone to a university that sets "your pulse racing" is one of the most ridiculous things I have EVER heard! That's what it seems like you are doing, and this coming from an "advisor"! Frankly your attitude astounds me and disgusts me.

The way I think about it is, and the way i would expect anybody with half a brain cell to think about it, is as follows: ok you have this candidate from Uni X, (not one of the top 3) does that mean you dismiss him?! No of course not! If you don't know much about the univeristy (which you obviously don't, since it also ranks along side LSE for political studies, and previously unbeknown to you, in the top 20 for physics), you take a quick look at any easily available ranking list and say, OK decent university for the subject.

This is the way biggoted, ignorant and foolish Mr Grime goes about it, oh it's not Cambridge, no good.

Frankly, **** off and stop dispensing your useless, discouraging and negative advice/opinions on the matter.
 
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matt grime

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I took it off precisely because people might leap to an unfounded conclusion as you did: that it was my perceptions that I was talking about, and seeing as the first line in my reply was that I believe Sussex has a good physics department you have been disingenuous to leave it off. Indeed I pointed out that it had exactly the same RAE ranking as where I work.

You have struggled to obtain a job in your chosen area. It would be foolish to overlook the possibility that you have been unfairly overlooked because of people's misconceptions. The job market is saturated, jobs have many applicants for one place as you have found out. Recruitment people do make large scale and potentially unfounded assumptions about candidates simply because there are so many people. You have 300 applicants for one position, all with 2:1 or better from universities ranked in positions 3-13 in your list. Do you interview them all?

The other extreme might be that your degree and university actually aren't sufficiently good (to get the job you want). Again I am not expressing a belief in this fact before you start to get angry. Your perception is that they are both good, and I agree with that; it is the job market that is in a mess these days, and even though you don't believe it I am very sympathetic with that: I have been at the wrong end of the stereotypical recruitment officer in HR with a 2:1 in media studies attempting to decide if a pure maths degree is suitable for some undemanding job.
 
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We agree that the physics job market is saturated.

My opinion is that to make the grade in a pure physics career you have to have an outstanding CV. It was my advice, from experience, to potential physics students. As far as I can see from all the feedback, its actually good advice.

I freely admitted in the OP that I do not have an outstanding CV.

I merely have a good education. Your first ignorant reply to my OP suggested that in your opinion this was not true. Now since having been proved wrong you've shifted your argument to saying that people in general don't percieve it to be true. Again BULL, you're the only person in this thread who has made those kind of comments. Every other post has been at the very least respectful, and without going over all of them again many have even been complimentary and/or encouraging. Get your facts straight please.
 

matt grime

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In the first reply:

"this is going to sound harsh, but Sussex does not raise pulses on many people's radar for its science."

and you agreed:

"To be honest there are only 3 universities I'd get "my pulse racing over" to quote you, and those are Cambridge, Imperial and Oxford in that order."

It is perfectly possible, indeed plausible, to get a job in the sciences with a 2:1 from a good university. I know plenty of people who have PhDs who obtained 2:1's, and not just from Oxford Cambridge or Imperial, so my experience is that it is not a barrier to a career in the sciences to obtain a 2:1 from some universities, and to tell everyone else that it is based solely upon your experience is not necessarily accurate.

It would appear that 13th on that list you cite doesn't practically make it a good enough university these days. I guess this means that I shall have to amend my opinion, an opinion that you instilled in me, that Sussex was a good university to obtain a physics degree from, if you are representative of people's experiences there.
 
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I agree completely with everything you said in your last post. =)

And yes I am representative of people's experiences at Sussex in physics, at least in my year. The only people from Sussex, doing Physics PhD's, out of the 100+ who started their degree at the same time as I did, are people who got firsts.

All those with 2:1's are pursuing succesful careers, however not physics careers. As I have been looking for physics opportunities, we understand my lack of success.

The best course of action I can think of right now, is that suggested by J77 in his second post here.

Oh and I cited it as being in the top 20 of the Guardian's list. I cant see the name right now but the postion of 13th was cited by somebody else in this thread, from Wikipedia. As was also pointed out a rating of 5 in the RAE. Three independent evaluations that place the university in a good position can't be all that far off the real mark...

Thanks to all those that have shown an interest. At least there's plenty of food for thought. :smile:

Actually there's something I didn't mention, the PhD's I've been applying to have all been leaning strongly towards the theoretical side of things.. perhaps those types of PhD's are harder to get into, I don't know.
 
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J77

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alfredblase said:
hmm i see your point. But you've just rubbished the entire grading system in the UK with one paragraph! Surely there's at least a very rough correlation between a 2:1 here and a 2:1 there no?
A 2:1 from Oxbridge is better than a 2:1 from any other British university.

The style of teaching is entirely different from all (I may stand corrected) universities and, in my experience, it shows in the understanding of their graduates.

You're right tho', and I stood corrected in one of my first posts, Sussex is high in Physics research with a 5A; one below the top mark (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and Lancaster only acheived the 5*A).
 

matt grime

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The RAE, though, is purely a measure of the department's research. The TQA is the rating of the teaching, but they're mostly useless since it seems impossible to get less than 22 out of 24 or more than 23. Sometimes the universities are graded by newspapers or other sources using different criteria. None of them I would imagine uses a 'percentage of successful applicants to PhD programs who obtained a 2:1' statistic. They do of course use the 'percentage of those unemployed after a year', but just because you have a job doesn't mean you're happy in it, and just because you do not have a job doesn't mean you are doing badly: perhaps you're doing voluntary work, or travelling.
 
J77 said:
You're right tho', and I stood corrected in one of my first posts, Sussex is high in Physics research with a 5A; one below the top mark (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and Lancaster only acheived the 5*A).
AHEM, Southampton's up there too. I don't mean to be rude but everybody forgets about Southampton, and considering I'm going to be there in October it gets up my nose (I'm starting to think I might have made the wrong choice. What do you think a 1st from Southampton is worth? If I told you it was ranked by the Guardian (one of the 2 most respected list of university rankings) as as the 3rd best physics department in the UK would you change your evaluation? :grumpy: )
 

matt grime

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Not unless you explained what the Guardian ranking was based upon. And what you think consitutes 'good' or 'best', or what you intend to do with it at the end. Is this rating based on research, or what?


Want to know what the maths ratings are in 2005? (at the risk of annoying Alfred with more negative comments; they aren't supposed to be negative just amusing, but then I'm on the other side of the fence, and is no comment on Southampton at all).
http://education.guardian.co.uk/universityguide2005/table/0,,-5163905,00.html
Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Reading, LSE, Nottingham, APU make up the top 7.

LSE doesn't even offer a degree in maths. (It is mathematics and economics.) And I don't think i even want to contemplate what at 2:1, or possibly even a first, from Reading or APU (which doesn't even have a mathematics department that I can locate) would imply if you wanted to do Part III in preparation for trying to get a PhD place at Oxbridge or Warwick, where as I know a 1st from Bath (16th in the list, or Bristol 24th, making them worse than Central Lancashire but 1 better than Southampton), is a good degree. I know of plenty of well respected academics with degrees from Bristol and Bath.
 
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matt grime said:
Not unless you explained what the Guardian ranking was based upon. And what you think consitutes 'good' or 'best', or what you intend to do with it at the end. Is this rating based on research? That does not necessarily imply anything about its teaching, there are so many variables.
Take a look yourself - http://education.guardian.co.uk/universityguide2005/table/0,15905,-5163920,00.html

It seems definative enough (and not just judged on research), it isn't like they judged it on the how nicely the walls were decorated.

n.b. because of the weird course structure Cambridge wasn't included on the tables, so in reality it's probably 4th according to those tables.
 

Hootenanny

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Just out of interest where would you guys rate liverpool univeristy in your rankings?

~H
 
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This is my opinion: if you get a 1st from a respectable university you will have nothing to worry about. If you get a 2:1 from one of the heart stopping or radar alerting universities you will have nothing to worry about. Anything less than either of those, and the academic market starts to get competitive.
 

J77

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Just some guy said:
AHEM, Southampton's up there too. I don't mean to be rude but everybody forgets about Southampton, and considering I'm going to be there in October it gets up my nose (I'm starting to think I might have made the wrong choice. What do you think a 1st from Southampton is worth? If I told you it was ranked by the Guardian (one of the 2 most respected list of university rankings) as as the 3rd best physics department in the UK would you change your evaluation? :grumpy: )
Southampton has some top research centres, eg. Sound and Vibration, plus a very good maths department. Didn't one of their top research centres burn down last year tho'...

Physics: 5*B :wink:

For reputation, I'd put Southampton up there as one of the top universities in the future. Liverpool's not too bad either and I think that John Moores is one of the best expolys :smile:

edit: It was a fire in CS - http://www.theregister.com/2005/10/31/south_research_fire/
 
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Just some guy said:
AHEM, Southampton's up there too. I don't mean to be rude but everybody forgets about Southampton
If I pass my 4th year exams I'm doing a PhD there for high energy physics :) SH is very good for physics.
J77 said:
Didn't one of their top research centres burn down last year tho'...
It was the chemistry department if I remember the BBC news story correctly.
matt grime said:
And I don't think i even want to contemplate what at 2:1, or possibly even a first, from Reading or APU (which doesn't even have a mathematics department that I can locate) would imply if you wanted to do Part III in preparation for trying to get a PhD place at Oxbridge or Warwick, where as I know a 1st from Bath (16th in the list, or Bristol 24th, making them worse than Central Lancashire but 1 better than Southampton), is a good degree. I know of plenty of well respected academics with degrees from Bristol and Bath.
If you're applying from outside Cambridge, you MUST have a 1st. Quite a few people here have done 4 years of maths then start Part III, as one guy I know who went to York before Part III.

I got a 2.1 in the Part II tripos and they let me, along with quite a few friends who didn't get 1st stay on. We've handled the course pretty well. Obviously had to put a lot of work in, but never felt 'Dear god, I'm in over my head by a long way', though I know some people have.

Oxford and Durham (and now Southampton too) make you do a 4 year PhD in high energy physics, the first year doing what Part III does, because undergrad courses don't seem to be getting people up to speed enough to do research in HEP. Southampton let you skip the first year if you have done Part III or ... I think it was an MPhys, can't remember exactly.
 
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matt grime

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We were chatting about the Guardian ratings at work today. The consensus was that Southampton was in all likelihood very good for Physics though none of us knows a great deal about it, and that the Guardian ratings were frankly preposterous (the biggest joke being that a collection of academics who've worked at many universities in the UK and experienced many different aspects of mathematics at university have never had any dealings with APU professionally, which came 6th or something for mathematics, owing to the fact that they do not have a mathematics department, and correspondingly do not offer degrees in mathematics).
 
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If you'd consider teaching but want to earn then perhaps Teach First might be a good option for you (although I get the impression you'd prefer to do a PhD). You don't get a massive salary but it's certainly better than the £6000-£9000 grant you get for a PGCE course alone. You need a 2:1, which you have, but also there's some A-Level criteria which you may or may not have. Apparently they struggle to recruit physicists.

It also sounds like you *might* need to work on your applications. I know it sounds obvious but try to sound enthusiastic about the job, research it well and try to mention something about the area that not everyone will know well (I recently applied to medical physics and mentioned an interest in photodynamic therapy and photoacoustic imaging, for example). If you haven't got experience in the field itself then mention examples of things that you've done that are as relevant as possible, they'll be impressed if you can remember things you've done in your degree that might be transferable. You'll have an eye for detail from tricky lab projects, you may have some programming skills, you'll have done presentations, written reports, read scientific journals etc. Also, make sure someone checks your spelling and grammar, I've noticed you're prone to the odd mistake which is fine on a forum but not acceptable in an application.

If you know what you want to do but need more experience, then ask to shadow someone in the field even if it's just for a week or so. If you're unemployed then you can't say you don't have the time to do it (barring personal circumstances, of course).

Good luck!
 

jtbell

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<cough> Take a look at the date on the post preceding yours.

And welcome to PF! You're far from the first person to have fallen inadvertently into our "necropolis of posts." :smile:
 
Oh and I cited it as being in the top 20 of the Guardian's list. I cant see the name right now but the postion of 13th was cited by somebody else in this thread, from Wikipedia.
Sigh, he still didn't understand ... Alf if you're reading this please tell me you didn't become a teacher...
 

Vanadium 50

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<cough> Take a look at the date on the post preceding yours.

And welcome to PF! You're far from the first person to have fallen inadvertently into our "necropolis of posts." :wink:
 
so that fedex ad was specially for me, actually i did see the dates, hence the tense i used.
 
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I know that I'm very late coming to this discussion, but I thought I would add in my experiences.

It seems to me that if someone with a 2:1 in physics can't get a job, either there is something fundamentally unattractive to employers about them, or they are looking in the wrong industries for work.

I have a 3rd in Physics from a prestigious university (yes - a third!). I was on course for a 1st or a 2:1, but a death in the family in my final term sent me off the rails. I failed my honours astrophysics paper, and unfortunately uni regulations didn't allow for compassionate circumstances to be taken into account if an honours paper was failed. That said, the university were good enough to endorse my transcript with a note that said they recognised that I sat my finals at a time of great personal distress as a result of a family death.

Post grad I went on and got a distinction in a masters in electron microscopy. I then worked on an MRC research project in radiobiology for a few years, became a Chartered Biologist and moved sideways into senior management with a salary in excess of £50K, having also got a Masters in Public Administration from the LSE. I'm not bragging - just setting out what is possible irrespective of primary degree classification.

Ill-health forced me to give up my job at a very early age, but I am now in the process of setting up a company to promote public understanding of science in my local area. I'm not out to make money at it - just wanting to do something with my knowledge and experience.
 

Vanadium 50

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<cough> Take a look at the date on the post preceding yours.

And welcome to PF! You're far from the first person to have fallen inadvertently into our "necropolis of posts." :wink:
 

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