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Programs Cosmology PhD in oxbridge - what are my chances?

  1. May 2, 2009 #1
    Hello everybody!
    I'm about to make an important decision concerning my PhD, and I'm totally lost. Here is my situation:
    I'm about to finish my MSc in physics (cosmology) in my home country (which is neither in the USA nor in Europe). I suppose my university is quite good by international standards, since some of our graduates have been accepted to prestigious places for their post-docs. I think I've done some pretty good work during my MSc, but it is not groundbreaking, and my grades are good, but not briliant. I hope I'll have a publication eventually. Also, my thesis advisor is pretty known in his field.
    My dream has always been to go abroad for the PhD, especially to the UK. So I could aim at the highest, and try to get into Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Imperial or Queen Mary, as indeed my thesis advisor advised me to do. If only I could be accepted into any of these, that would be perfect. Trying is no harm, but I'll finish my MSc this autumn, and I can only apply for autumn NEXT year, and that means I'll have to sit and wait for a whole year. And if I don't get accepted, that would be a total waste.
    On the other hand, I could stay just where I am, not waste a year, but that means bye-bye to my dream.
    Of course I can try and get into less prestigious places, but then it will hardly be worth of wasting a whole year.

    So, to sum up, is there a reasonable chance for me to be accepted into Oxbridge, UCL, Imperial, QMUL and the like (astrophysics/cosmology)? Will a publication help (or is it impossible without having a publication)? Is there a reasonable chance to win a full scholarship (for overseas rate)?

    Thank you very much for reading all this, any comments will be helpul!

  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2009 #2


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    Sure, it sounds like you'll have a good application, although the most important thing is how you've done in your course, and less so how prestigious the university is! Anyway, I'm 99% sure you won't get into Cambridge, simply because they only take people onto their PhD programme who have completed part III (their masters-type programme).

    Of course it will help, but it is not necessary to have a publication, since hardly any UK students have published something pre-PhD.

    This is probably the toughest one to answer. Since you're not from the UK or Europe, then you won't be eligible for a research council studentship. You might be able to get university scholarships (or at the very least, a waive of fees), but this will depend on the university.

    Most departments have taken on their students for this autumn now, anyway. (In retrospect, you could have applied to start in autumn this year, having just finished your masters. Still.. it's too late now).

    Good luck!
  4. May 2, 2009 #3
    Nothing much to add, but I'm in a similar position. Finishing up my third year soon with another year to go and I'll have to really start considering where (and what field) I want to do postgraduate study in.

    Currently I'm enrolled on an MPhys Astrophysics scheme and Cosmology is one area that has certainly been of interest along with theoretical Particle Physics. Oxford, Imperial, Durham, Edinburgh and maybe Manchester are some of the institutions I'll want to take a closer look at this summer.

    I'm not completely clear on the scholarships available for international students as this can vary between institutions. I'd say that it's probably best to go through the short-list you've made and just see what options are available. Although not on your list above a typical example would be from Durham:

    http://www.dur.ac.uk/graduate.school/doctoral_fellowships/ [Broken]

    This for instance covers tuition fees for both home and overseas rates as well as providing a maintenance stipend. So there are scholarships about and often there's plenty to cater for international students. If in doubt it's best to fire off a quick email to the admissions office of the university (it's what they're there for! :) )

    Sorry I can't really add much else as I'm not sure on where I stand with my applications and where I should be aiming, but best of luck in whatever you choose to do!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. May 2, 2009 #4
    cristo and LithiumHelios, thank you very much for your answers!

    I see there are scholarships available, I just don't know how competitive they are, and where I stand compared to other international students.

    As for Cambridge, I realize that my chances of getting into DAMTP are slim, so I was thinking about the astrophysics group.

    LithiumHelios, good luck to you too! I highly recommend you to choose cosmology, I'm enjoying it very much (although if you do, we might end up competing for the same PhD positions next year :) ).

    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  6. May 2, 2009 #5
    Yeah, only DAMTP req part III, so you have as much chance of getting into the Cam Astro group as say, the Ox Astro group..
  7. May 2, 2009 #6
    If your MSc is going well and your thesis supervisor is good then why not stay where you are? Can you extend your MSc thesis into a PhD in the same area? Once you get your PhD then you might be able to do a PostDoc in the UK, if the economy hasn't collapsed by then and there is still money to pay for 'out there' things like cosmology...

    If you still decide to go for the UK consider a few other places -- Sussex, Leicester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, wherever... It really depends where the good people in your specific area of interest are, and they could be anywhere. Look at the addresses on your favourite MSc papers.
  8. May 2, 2009 #7
    This might be a good idea, but, unfortunately, I feel I don't connect very well with my advisor on the personal level, and I definitely don't want to do my PhD with him.
    So, if I decide to stay where I am, I'll have to switch to a different area, maybe out of cosmology, as there are not so many cosmologists around here. This is a possible solution, but I'm thinking, maybe I can both let my dream about going abroad come true, and work in the area I really like, instead of compromising for switching to anoter field and staying here.

    Of course I'm considering other departments too, only I'll have to waste a year in order to go to the UK, so it has to be worth it. And with the collapsing economy it will be difficult to find a job during this extra year.

    Anyway, thank you very much for your reply!

    Last edited: May 3, 2009
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