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Graduate School in the UK

  1. Jun 29, 2009 #1
    Hello,

    I am interested in attending a graduate program in the UK after completion of my BS in physics but am unsure of the lay of the land. A few questions I have are:

    1. Is it possible to get into the Ph.D. program in the UK w/o a masters? If it is difficult is it possible to do the masters in the UK?

    2. What is the funding situation like for a US student doing a Ph.d. and/or Master's in the UK?

    3. Would it be possible to bring my wife along to work in the UK with I go to school? Also, we probably plan on staying after I am done to seek employment.

    4. I am coming from a rather average school that would probably be mostly unknown in the UK(University of Massachusetts) and expect a final GPA in the 3.3-3.6 range. I don't expect to be going to Cambridge but are there reasonable school I could apply for in the UK?

    5. Do you have to be ultra exceptional to get into anywhere abroad as a International student or will some places look at your qualification more lax as they want to promote an "international image" or something? Or atleast judge you the same as domestic applicants?

    Also, I'll be visiting London this winter hopefully, are there any school nearby I might have a look at? Thanks for the help!!

    ps. I have a particular interest in astrophysics so schools geared toward that would be great, how difficult for example is it to get in to the Astrophysics program at the University of Manchester for example?
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2009
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  3. Jun 29, 2009 #2

    cristo

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    1. Yes it's possible to get into PhD programmes, but most that I know of tend to prefer students with either an MSc or an undergrad masters. Yes, you can do a masters degree here.

    2. Pretty grim, to be honest. Studentships from research councils are only available for UK and EU students.. there may be limited funding available from universities for overseas students. You may be able to get a tuition fee waiver, but I don't know how common it is for overseas students to receive a stipend.

    3. Probably, but you will need to prove that you can support her without working over your allowed number of hours, or applying for benefits. As for staying on after, I'm not sure how that works. Note that the UK immigration policies have been changed/tightened quite a bit recently (as of this year). The best place to look is the home office website: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/

    4. I don't think there is a standard conversion between US and UK degrees, so you should probably write to admissions tutors to ask about this. However, most of the people I know who are studying for a PhD holds a first class undergrad degree (most of the time a masters), which will probably equate to something near a 4.0.

    5. I can't see anywhere being biased towards students with an American degree. I imagine you will be judged against home students with a BSc degree.
     
  4. Jun 29, 2009 #3
    I appeciqye the info but must say I am rather disheartened after reading it. It seems as though there is very little opprutuniy for a us student to go to the uk then unless they are top tier? At my school in the us I know thAt all sorts of international students get to do TAing and RAing to support living there.

    In the UK do they usually provide lodging for grad students?

    Are there any specific programs that might make it easier as a US student?
     
  5. Jun 29, 2009 #4

    cristo

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    You've got to understand the difference between the two countries: over here, not only are there fewer universities but graduate studies are completely different. There are no "qualifiers," and grad students normally start research in their first year of grad school. Also, grad students aren't relied on as heavily for teaching. Both of these factors mean that comparatively fewer students will be taken on.

    Well, firstly, are these what you would call "top tier" students? But, secondly, unfortunately, TA and RA doesn't exist over here. The equivalent of the RA is (in most cases) a research council studentship, which I mentioned was only for UK or EU students, or in some cases a university studentship. Remember that the UK is part of the EU, and as such, has to treat students from these countries on an equal footing as home students, due to EU law, thus hugely increasing the pool of 'home' students.

    The equivalent of that TA doesn't really exist: most graduate students do some teaching on the side, but this is generally intended to supplement research council studentships, and not as an alternative source of income (in fact, given that there are no summer classes here, I don't think teaching like this could fully support a student and allow him to do any research, let alone thinking of the problems of working on a student visa etc..)

    I think most universities will guarantee you somewhere in their student accommodation for at least first year grad students (though, of course, you have to pay for it!)

    I don't know the answer to this one, though I think that undertaking a masters degree will stand you in a better position.
     
  6. Jun 29, 2009 #5

    mgb_phys

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    Agreeing with what Christo has said there are a couple of other differences Uk-US.
    In the UK you pretty much specialise in the core area in school from 16 and UK undergrad degrees generally have no requirements outside your main subject. So the impression in the UK is that a US student will be a year or two behind a UK student and so to make up for this they tend to only look at top school students with almost perfect scores and lots of extra-curricula academic stuff.

    Then as Christo said, there aren't 2 years of grad courses in a Uk PhD - you start research straight away (in general, there may be some course work available/required). You are also often interviewed/selected by the specific PhD supervisor for a topic that has already been proposed (and funded).

    (Some of these impression are a little out of date with the changes in Uk schools over the last 10years - but PhD supervisors also change slowly).
     
  7. Jun 29, 2009 #6
    Damn the depression just piles on :cry:, I really have a dream of coming to live in the UK someday and doing grad school there would make it sooner rather than later, but perhaps the best is to finish school first and then immigrate?
     
  8. Jun 29, 2009 #7

    mgb_phys

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    They are making that a LOT more difficult as well - probably even more difficult than the INS.
    Perhaps the UK-USA could agree a prisoner exchange with a UK citizen that wants to move to the US?

    Time to find an Irish grandparent or become really good at rowing !
     
  9. Jun 29, 2009 #8
    I looked on the websites and it seems like if you have an MS or PHD that they are pretty lax about letting you come work in the UK, you dont even have to find a job before hand, since you are considered a "Highly Skilled Worker" know anything about it?
     
  10. Jun 29, 2009 #9

    mgb_phys

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    "Highly Skilled Worker" used to be very easy (much easier than H1-B), pretty much anyone with a degree from a country we weren't currently at war with was OK.

    There have been suggestions about limiting the time someone can stay to a maximum of 3years. It's the usual political posturing of appealing to the "Dey tuk er jeobs!" crowd while trying to get US companies to move their headquarters there.
     
  11. Jun 29, 2009 #10

    cristo

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    Erm.. no, immigration isn't "pretty lax" for anyone! Whilst it's true that you could come in without a job offer under tier 1 of the point based scheme, just having a PhD won't suffice (check uk border and immigration for more info). I don't know much about this, but you would presumably be required to obtain a job that needs your high level of skills in order to stay longer than the 2 year maximum. Getting a postdoc over here is not that easy either!

    The moral of this is.. don't presume things will be easy, especially when immigration is concerned!
     
  12. Jun 29, 2009 #11
    I might actually might be able to procure so sort of EU citizenship, either through Ireland or Poland, speaking of Ireland though what is the University situation like there for the same questions I asked above?
     
  13. Jun 29, 2009 #12
    Hi lubuntu! I don't know if I can be of much help, as I'm now in a somewhat similar situation myself. I'm about to finish my masters in physics and want to apply to PhD in the UK. That is, I'll only apply this winter, to start next year.

    Anyway, I also qualify as an overseas student (I'm not from the US), and I did some extensive research on the studentships available. In fact, almost every university offers some studentships for overseas students which, in the best case, cover both the tuition fees and living expenses. Of course I don't know what is the real chance of me (or you :) ) actually getting one, they must all be highly competitive. In addition, there are country-based scholarships, for example Marshall for US sitizens, and a bunch of scholarships for people of chinese/polish/russian/whatever descent. In other words, you should check the universities' websites for the full list. For example, there is the SUPA scholarship to study in any scottish university, which is open to everybody.

    Also note that the immigration authorities demand that you prove that you can support yourself for the full length of your studies (from what I gather, at least). So, you can't tell them: I have enough money to pay for the first year, and then I'll work part-time and save money for the second year. That will not work, from what I understand (but better check yourself).

    Of course I cannot say anything about whether you qualifications are good enough, but this brings up a certain question I have about the UK education system.

    In my country, you have a 3-years undergraduate degree (4-years in my case, as I did it with EE), then 2 years masters, then 4 years PhD. That is, if all goes well, which frequently does not. But even in the most successful case, this is 3+2+4=9 years before you have your PhD. In the UK, however, you have 3 years undergrad + 3 years PhD and voila! 6 years! So how does it work? Do you learn faster? Do you learn more in high school? Probably your whole program is different! Anyway, this is a complete puzzle to me.

    And back to the topic - I don't think you should give up so fast, and since I believe I have a chance of getting a scholarship, I believe you have it too!
    Hopefully, life will prove me right! :)

    --cosmogirl
     
  14. Jun 29, 2009 #13

    cristo

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    These are normally cross-discipline though, aren't they, so you'll be up against everyone, and not just (say) physicists.

    This is probably true, however if you're set on only taking a place with a scholarship/studentship, then an offer letter from the funding source should be sufficient. Otherwise, you're likely to have to have a lot of cash: overseas tuition fees are about £12k a year, with living expenses probably around £10k a year.

    Well, I don't know where you're from, but I wouldn't say we learn faster over here! In high school, we certainly specialise earlier than in the US, so that will account for one or two years. As for the rest, it's very unlikely to obtain a PhD in 3 years, especially after only a bachelors degree. Most people nowadays take masters degrees, or take 4 years to obtain a PhD.
     
  15. Jun 29, 2009 #14
    So you think chances of getting a scholarship are slim? The university websites say they have a large number of international students, somebody must be getting those scholarships! I wish I knew how many people usualy compete for each scholarship, than maybe I wouldn't even bother trying... :(

    I think our system is very similar to the one in France and Germany. Anyway, our masters is 2 years and it includes some pretty extensive research, as opposed to what I gather from a UK masters which is a 1 years taught program. (right?) And our PhD can easily take even 5 years, so still a lot more time.
    We're not going to solve this mystery here, obviously the UK system is somehow faster, just a curious point.
     
  16. Jun 29, 2009 #15

    cristo

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    It depends what they mean by "international student," as this may include EU students. What universities' scholarships are you looking at?Also, note that the number of international students doesn't equal the number of scholarships given out: there will be many international students who come here and pay full whack.

    I don't want to discourage you, though, I'm just trying to give some facts.


    Yes, the only research in a UK masters is a half year at most.
     
  17. Jun 29, 2009 #16

    mgb_phys

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    In the UK it is normal to specialize from age 16 and just do eg. maths+physics.
    Undergrad degrees have no 'minor' requirements outside your field, no arts subjects no languages etc.
    PhDs had no classes or course work requirement, just research, and because they are fully funded there are no TAs so you do research full time. Officially PhDs took 3years and the dept lost funding if you took much longer. On the other hand it was rarer for students to publish and so you could regard a US PhD as a UK PhD+Postdoc.

    Things have changed in the last 10 years, an extra year has been added to ugrad degrees to make up for higher exam marks in schools. These are generally called MasterScience degrees and are equivalent ot an old Honours degree - not to be confused with an MSc masters degree which is a separate 1 year taught+research degree.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2009
  18. Jun 29, 2009 #17
    I'm going to start a new thread with the same questions about Ireland, perhaps we could make up a series of these? If not feel free to merge the threads, but I want to get more info on Ireland.
     
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