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Current state of grad programs in UK for US student

  1. Mar 11, 2015 #1
    Hey everybody,

    I am looking to solicit some information from those who might know. I have been poking around here to see what its like for an undergrad to possibly apply to UK grad schools for physics, and all the posts I find give the answer 'not good.' I was wondering if it is still like it was 5 years ago, with all the information I have read. I'm considering applying there because I have a certain love for quantum information in general, and quantum photonics in particular, and I know University of Bristol has a cool grad program regarding this. I was looking around at other grad schools there, and some of them have some real awesome research going on, which I would love to be involved in, and I wouldn't mind getting out of the US for a few years. What are the protocols for grad school in the UK? How feasible is it for an international student to study in the UK to get a PhD? From what I have seen, there is little to no support for international students, and getting any spot in a UK program hinges more on luck than anything else. I'm not a bad student, I love physics, my GPA is upper B+ to lower A-, and I am involved with research already in the field. In my mind, that seems like something good to have, but I have also read that programs there prefer a more theoretical background. Any kind of information would be nice.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2015 #2
    Any of your advisor's have a connection to Bristol or elsewhere? My advisor has several connections at Oxford. I opted against leveraging them because I had no interest in working for anybody at Oxford, but according to him if any of those faculty wanted me I would have gotten in. I never investigated if my advisor's claims were true or not though.
  4. Mar 24, 2015 #3
    I think what you read is rather accurate if i'm honest, I had a friend from the US who came over to do his masters in the same class as me at a top UK institution because he ****ed up his GRE's despite his 4.0 GPA. Spent the entire 1st semester stressing over whether he could get into any grad school, he ended up applying to oxbridge, UCL, ICL, Durham, Warwick, Edinburgh, and Bristol... Was given false hope by being conditionally accepted to 6/8 of those, the condition being he gets funding which is attained via different medium to STFC for nationals and he was declined for every single one despite him being on track for a distinction, they usually place 1-2 international students for consideration from each department across the university for the same very limited international funding, rather outrageous but thats the truth. I'm really not even sure what makes the people who acquire this funding successful beyond winning a fields medal or something, I must add this was in theoretical particle physics which is particularly competitive, but as I say each department across the University seems to be considered for the same funding.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  5. Mar 27, 2015 #4


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    First of all, there are plenty of foreign PhD students in the UK. In the group where I work we have people from India, China, Spain etc.

    There are essentially two issues,. The first being that it is difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to get accepted to a PhD program unless you already have a MSc (in some places it is impossible, an MSc is e.g. a requirement to get accepted to all Doctoral Training Centres). This is obviously a problem if you are from the US since the "normal" route there would be to apply to graduate school after finishing a BSc. In the UK there is also no connection between an MSc and PhD; getting accepted to a MSc program does in no way guarantee that you will then be accepted as a PhD student.

    The second issue is funding. Ideally you need to find your own funding via some form of scholarship (this is the case with nearly all our international students). There are other ways to fund PhD students (i.e. from research grants), . especially for students not attending a DTC, but there are few such positions nowadays; so you would have to be very good (or have good connections) in order to get accepted.
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