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European Graduate Schools

  1. Jun 9, 2009 #1
    I recently obtained a Bachelors degree with majors in math and physics. My goal is to study mathematical physics in graduate school (a math or physics department). After doing some research, I discovered that my interests are more widely reflected in European graduate schools than in our American counterparts. A change of scenery and culture is also appealing. So I have two related questions:

    1) Is it feasible for an American with just a bachelors degree and a few advanced graduate classes to attend a European graduate school? Or is a masters level education needed?

    2) What are some good universities in Europe doing research in mathematical physics? I am not opposed to studying in a non-English speaking country. So far, I have a very small obvious list:

    Universitat Bonn (I think it is a good math school)

    Thank you in advance for any information you are able to provide.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2009 #2


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    I'd say for the most part that you will need a master's level qualification, especially if coming from the US.
  4. Jun 9, 2009 #3
    For Germany you will definately need a master. But it should definately possible to enter a masters course with a bachelor degree and then go on from there.
  5. Jun 9, 2009 #4


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    Reading this forum and now seeing Riffraff's post I am somewhat confused. Is a graduate programme in the US a programme to obtain a PhD or a master's or both? Here in the Netherlands you need to have a BSc degree to enter an MSc programme and an MSc degree to enter a PhD programme.

    Here is a link to a Dutch university that is theoretical physics oriented so you can get an idea of the requirements for different master programmes.


    I don't know if these admission requirements differ a lot between countries in the EU though.
  6. Jun 9, 2009 #5


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    Physics graduate programs in the US are mostly combined master's and PhD, and they will not usually let people leave with just a masters, or apply for just a master's.
  7. Jun 9, 2009 #6


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    Thanks for clearing that up.
  8. Jun 9, 2009 #7
    For most Ph.D positions in Europe (in Britain things may be a bit differenet), you are assumed to be able to start doing your Ph.D research almost immediately.

    A Ph.D. student is an employee of of some research institution or the university. The Prof. who wants to hire a Ph.D. student will make sure the person he/she is going to hire is up to the job, i.e. can start work on the research project.

    Your degrees are not relevant, their only purpose is to make it easier to verify that you are qualified. In principle, if you only have a primary school diploma but you know a lot about, say, conformal symmetry, and have published a few papers on the subject in leading peer reviewed journals, you would have no problems getting hired as a Ph.D. student.
  9. Jun 9, 2009 #8


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    Interesting. For Cyosis' benefit, grad school in the US also includes master's programs, but many are not strict about requiring an MS before getting PhD now...that used to be required and was just starting to change when I was in grad school. Strong students can now skip getting an MS and jump straight into a PhD program. I didn't realize physics was different about that, but other programs including biomedical fields and math programs (I have friends who are mathematicians) offer a MS as a "bail out" option for students admitted directly into a PhD program who turn out not to be very successful in it. There are still programs that allow students to enter directly into an MS program, particularly in fields where it is still useful to have an MS.
  10. Jun 15, 2009 #9
    It is possible to go straight into a PhD program following a Bachelor's degree - I graduated with a BS in Physics a year ago, and I'm now finishing up my first year at Cambridge.

    Here's my advice for the application: you're at a disadvantage as far as overall grad-level coursework is concerned, so play up your other strengths. Did you do any undergraduate research? Undergraduate research is less common in the UK, unless it's part of a joint BA-MA program, and to show that you have technical training and even publication experience means a lot. Also, discuss the advanced courses you have taken. Show that even though you don't have the grad degree, you still know the more difficult theory and concepts for your sub-field of choice.

    Another hurdle you'll face is funding: current science funding in the UK is running a bit dry, and so if you can find any other sources of funding, that also means a lot to a department or research group. Look into applying for a Gates, Marshall, or NSF scholarship. If the school you're applying for is on the college system (Cambridge and Oxford are) you'll be asked to state a college preference. Some colleges have subject-specific funding available, and if you can get one of those, they're helpful too.
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