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Schools Physics at University in UK

  1. Sep 1, 2005 #1
    can anyone describe what physics is like at university in the uk.
    What are the exams like, what is the format?
    Is there time to stop studying and go out and have fun at night?
    Is physics a lot of brain work and extensive thinking? etc.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 2, 2005 #2


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    I'm applying too do natural science/mathematics this year and the best thing too do is to go to open days. You get to talk to undergraduates about the workload and the teaching and you get to look around the department. Some also do example lectures so you get a good idea of the pace used by a lecturer.
  4. Sep 2, 2005 #3

    matt grime

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    It would be entirely dependent upon the university since there is no such thing as a standardized university degree in the UK (or for that matter anywhere I'm aware of). Some courses are 3 years, some 4, some will only base your mark upon your final year work, some will use all years marks. There will be differernt requirements for practical work. Some may have large projects for you to do. And there are many different types of physics that all require different skill sets.

    All university students though ought to have active social lives since no university wants unhappy students.
  5. Sep 2, 2005 #4
    If you could specify the universities you are thinking about then I am sure someone who has gone to that uni could tell you something specific.

    That said, your experience will depend on you. If you want to really learn physics then you will spend most of your evenings studying and only a couple of evenings a week drinking in the union bar or some other activity.

    Though it is also possible to coast through uni doing very little work. It is entirely up to you.

  6. Sep 2, 2005 #5
    Actually quite a few uk universties are alike in their teaching. I goto Warwick and will be starting my 4th year of my MPhys. For a four year course each year is weighted as

    1st year = 10%
    2nd year = 20%
    3rd year = 30%
    4th year = 40%

    And for a standard 3 year BSc

    1st year = 10%
    2nd year = 30%
    3rd year = 60%

    For warwick the first two years each module is assessed by a 1hr exam in the third and fourth years it's 1.5 hrs... Exams at my university are UNPREDICATABLE... Sometimes they repeat questions or even entire papers from previous years other times they'll write an entirely new set if questions.. So sometime the guy he did no studying and just looked at the past paper can get 80% other times he may get 30%.. Moral of the story you have to work hard through out the entire year. Lab is a pain in the ass because most of the time the equiptment doesn't work.

    In the final year (3 or 4 year course) you'll take part in a project where you'll work with a supervisor and other PhD students..

    If you're a lazy person don't do physics.. simple as that.. LoL do economics or something like history.. I don't get time to go out much maybe once every two weeks.. even then I feel guilty about not studying that night.

    Also be prepared to be taught by some lousy lecturers and to teach your self most of the material. Lectures are 1 hour and they really do rush though it to stick to their schedule.. However you may come across a few really good lecturers but be prepared for the worst.
  7. Sep 2, 2005 #6

    matt grime

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    What proportion and how are youi quantifying "alike"?

    and at cambridge none of the first two years (or is part 1 only 1 year in natural sciences?) counts pluas you can't actually do physics per se, but natrual sciences and then take opitions from the physics department (and mathematics). So are you implying warwick is one of the ones that are alike? Or not?

    good, they aren't supposed to be easy. predictable exams are things that shuold bve banned

    again, are you claiming that this is universal? i would not be so confident as to state such a thing with you implication that this is the norm.

    i think most of us at my college went to the college bar more nights per week than not.
  8. Sep 2, 2005 #7
    For god sake man why do you over analyse things? Instead of helping the original poster you feel the need to try and disect my post.. any normal person would be able to understand that post.. you just come off as stuck up - sorry that's the impression I get based on a few threads I'ved seen you participate in, regardless of how respected you are around here.

    I said quite a few are alike in their teaching... You want me to quantify 'quite a few'?? Ok son, call all the universities in England ask for their prospectus and you can inform the original poster.

    By predictable I meant that they are inconstant in the way they adhere to regulations.. In my department it's a general rule that questions should not be repeated EXACTLY as questions in the past i.e word for word.. but some of the faculty is very lazy and will just repeat entire papers. This is extremely fustrating because someone who hasn't studied any of the material can strike it lucky by just looking at a single past paper.

    I said quite a few universities which meant I didn't have to name any in particular... I then went on to give an example of my university which followed on till the end of the post I thought it was obvious that I was talking about my university but oh well..

    </end rant>
  9. Sep 2, 2005 #8
    I don’t understand what matt grim was up to there!
    I totally understood what Baggio was talking about.

    Well, I really love Physics, but I am not crazy about it. Like, I don’t read books written by famous physicists (mainly because I don’t have time and rather to do other things). I enjoy the world of physics, especially the practical sides of it. Any one ever seen a Tesla Cil at work, it is truly amazing!!

    I also want to study physics because future career prospects will be very good. My teachers and careers adviser told me that a degree in physics, especially at a good university, opens many doors.

    I am being extra geekyand want to do a joint honours degree in Maths and Physics, so I can become more employable, I am also doing it because I enjoy both subjects, and I cant let go off one or the other.
  10. Sep 2, 2005 #9
    physics in university in the UK is.... HELL

    Speaking from experience from Imperial College.
  11. Sep 2, 2005 #10
    Actaully, in my experience the Matt Grime fellow is correct. I am not even going to attempt to explain the scheme at my university beyond stating that the first year does not count if you so wish, (which I had thought was quite common) as I do not understand it too well myself. :smile:

    As for your questions, I can only answer the last two.
    Well that depends on the difficulty of the topics being covered and the relative amount of ease it takes for you to grasp the topic at hand. Also, the time spent studying is inversley related to the closeness of exam dates (as you might have guessed). But as a first year, there should be plenty of fun and partying to be had for you considering how easy going it should be. Depending on your ability and level of commitment, you might find yourself having less time to "live" as you advance.
    Why yes, of course. Much more so than any other subject in existance. :biggrin:
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2005
  12. Sep 3, 2005 #11

    matt grime

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    because I felt it to be slightly misleading. you are welcome to disagree and explain as you have done

    you are not the first and own't be te last, i'm sure, to think that. however, i will eb the first to admit to being wrong, which i frequently am.

    why should I do that? it was your assertion, one that I feel is probably not correct. universities are free to set their own course content and structure.

    well, i think you should have named some of them so that the OP can know whcih ones you're talking about. is it the upper echelons like the Russell Group or do you mean the ex-polys?

    Our experiences of different universities obviosuly differs. Reading your post it appeared that you were saying there was a template that quite a few followed and yours was it. I have already made my views clear on "vague" topics in this thread. If you want to start speaking of thigns as if they were more than vague assertions (and "quite a few" implicilty means a substantial proportion in the litotic nature of english understatement) then it is better to explain the evidence so that no one is second guessing. i've found that any similiarities between places are either cosmetic, small, or of the gorss anatomy kind (ie it takes 3 or 4 years and you do some of each subject so as not to specialize too miuch too soon). I wanted you to elucidate on what proportion are similiar and to what degree.

    I have no idea whether you're undergrad, grad, or higher, but having talked to people who are undergraduates at a dozen different universities and graduates who moved university, I would say most if not all of them either assumed that thier course was typical (when they were all substantialy different) or were surprised upon moving to find that other places do things differently. (should I name them? oxford, cambridge, warwick, bath, bristol, exeter, cardiff, reading, sheffield, york for example). of course everyone felt that their original way was the best.

    CAmbridge predominantly examines only what it calls part II of the syllabus for degree marks, depending on the subject this can be one or two years with exams. Some subjects also require a part III (engineering). Oxford bases its marks on potentially all work done but not examined every year (there are prelims in the beginning instead). Some universities tend to use one exam per unit, with some smaller units occasionally concatenated, some roll them into fewer papers. some prefer lots of exams last an hour, some prefer fewer exams but that last 4 hours. and that's before we even get onto when lectures happen and what part practical or independent research work plays in the degree (for physics). which I'd guess varies even internally within a university depending on your options, options which will again vary depending on the university and its preferred topics.

    i have no problem with illustrative examples but every problem with generalizations based upon them.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2005
  13. Sep 3, 2005 #12
    My first year at Birmingham didn't count and my second and third years are weighted in the ratio 1:3. My course is BSc Physics and Astrophysics though, not straight Physics.

    As for exam format, most of mine have had two sections (this is for 1st and 2nd year, not sure if it changes for 3rd year). The first section was full of short questions and was worth 40% of the exam (the pass mark). To get full marks, you could either answer 4/6 questions correctly or if not, you could answer all the questions and build up marks to the 40%. Any marks over that would be disregarded. The second section was made up of long questions where you'd have to answer any 2 out of 3. Most of my exams last year were 90 minutes, except Maths which was 3 hours (same sort of format though, but just more questions in each section).

    Going out, yeah, there's time.. I just didn't go out much either of my first two years.

    Physics is hard, especially Quantum Mechanics.. that just screws with your brain (at least, it does mine :/).
  14. Sep 3, 2005 #13
    Right, but physics is fun right? Do you enjoy the practicals?
  15. Sep 4, 2005 #14
    Actually no, I pretty much hate the course, lol. Some of the practical stuff is ok. I liked doin stuff that involved electronics (or assembly programming, but that was only one experiment :( ).
  16. Sep 4, 2005 #15
    Really? Why excactly do you hate it?
  17. Sep 7, 2005 #16
    It isn't really that interesting. I'd have been happier doing Comp Sci.
  18. Sep 15, 2010 #17
    Hey kindly inform me what do you thing which university is the best of Studying Universities In United Kingdom or i also heared that there is free Universities in Sweden which offer's free studies so kindly tell me which is the better?
  19. Sep 15, 2010 #18
    At least in Sweden you are required to do half a year worth of research to even graduate so I wouldn't be surprised if that were the cases in other places as well.
    I think that this was the last year Sweden brought students in for free.
  20. Sep 21, 2010 #19
    Could not agree more :approve:
  21. Sep 21, 2010 #20
    It's my understanding that Sweden provides free tuition at undergraduate and masters level, but they are going to start charging for non EU/EEA student's PhD level study as from either 2010/11 or 2011/12 (can't remember which).

    I'd love to get there to do a masters, but no scholarships for living costs unfortunately :(
  22. Oct 8, 2010 #21
    Hi forums :)

    I'm finishing an economics bachelor next summer; however, after painful soul searching I have recently realised that I must study physics. I desperately need to change the environment so my goal is to enrol abroad. Luckily I am an EU citizen. Currently I am leaning towards universities in the UK. The circumstances include no financial support from parents, so I am looking for an optimum solution maximising the quality of education while keeping the costs at bay. So a few questions for people experienced in UK's higher education:

    • How are students financed in the UK? Grants, loans, tuition waivers?

    • Which university should I choose?

    • Will my bachelor in economics be an obstacle? (my grades in secondary school were top; however they degraded quite bad during the recent years)
  23. Oct 8, 2010 #22
    When did you finish high school? The answer to that question is what your choice of universities is going to depend on. Some of them namely do not take on students that have finished high school more than 5 years ago. I was in the same situation as yourself, applying to UK programs, and, say, Durham, Imperial, UCL and Warwick told me they wouldn't take into consideration my grades, since they were obtained more than 5 years ago (second degree student, as well). On the other hand, places like Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Southampton, Glasgow, etc. had no problems with me being so far removed from high school and I actually don't think it hurt me much. Can't say anything about Oxbridge, since I was too late to apply there anyway, so I don't know what their policy is. My advice is to e-mail a couple of universities and explain your background, it's going to be the best way of knowing where to apply. And since you said you were looking for a cheap solution, you'll be glad to find out the undergrad application process (via UCAS) is probably as cheap as it can get, as you only pay for the online application and you can choose up to five schools.
  24. Oct 8, 2010 #23
    Thanks for the reply. I finished school in 2007. I'll be 22 in about a month. About the finance, I was wondering about the tuition fees. Are they similar in all unis in the UK or is there a big gap between the cheapest and the most expensive schools?

    Also, while looking up physics programmes, I have noticed that many unis offer 3 year bachelor and 4 or 5 year MPhys. Is MPhys equivalent to master's degree? Can I, say, apply for Ph.D after graduating MPhys course?
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2010
  25. Oct 8, 2010 #24
    I think the fees are pretty much the same wherever you choose to go, or at least I haven't found any differences. They might even be the same across England, but if not, they are only a couple hundred quid apart at most. Since you're from the EU, you'd be paying home fees, anyway, and I think they're in the range of £3,000 - 3,500. Be sure to check out their policies for second degree students, though. Manchester, for example, implemented one this year that states such students have to pay fees that international students' rates, which is a lot, and, in my opinion, not worth it, because you've got so many other universities on the same level without such policies. Though, of course, other universities could start doing the same thing, but I kind of doubt it, I think this is more of a "we're Manchester and we're aiming to be at the top with Oxbridge, so we can afford this kind of stuff" mentality :smile:

    I'll let other people answer your second question, but, personally, I didn't even consider doing a BSc, but only an MPhys. From what I could tell, it's formally an undergraduate degree, but it "feels" and gives you the knowledge of a Masters one. But I'm not really sure how the implementation of the Bologna system impacted the UK, and I'm not studying there, so I can only guess. I've been told you can do a PhD after a MPhys, and possibly even after a BSc, though I guess not a lot of people get in then. And if you want to go abroad, I doubt they would take you in with only a BSc (except perhaps the US), as it's common practice in other countries to do a bachelors, Masters and doctorate without skipping the Masters. I come from an EU country, as well, and that's how it's done (t)here anyway (although, again, it's a bit weird now, since a bachelors degree usually took 4 years, but they had to trim it down to 3 years due to the Bologna process - now people that are getting Masters degrees are actually only on par with those that got a bachelors degree in the old system). And I've looked up some CV's from people that made it to MIT and such, and they had a Masters degree, too, even though they went to the US. Which, if you think about it, is kind of weird, because studying anywhere in the EU, a BSc will give you more Physics knowledge than a BSc in the US will. But eh, I digress. Still, I'd recommend doing a MPhys, it's only one additional year, but I bet the knowledge you get adds up to more than that and you're in a better position for a PhD (well, you're certainly not worse off than someone with a BSc).

    Funding for EU students unfortunately isn't as good as for UK residents, because there's no bursary scheme that would take into account your finances. You can get a loan quite easily, but the amount you can get isn't that high (I think it's around £3,000 maximum, so if you don't have a lot of money, that's not going to help that much, it's not a make-or-break kind of amount). I have a friend who studied in West Bromwhich, though, and said she didn't spend much more than she would've at home (and I don't come from one of the affluent European countries, such as Germany or France). Though take that with a pinch of salt, she had that cheap British grocery store chain right across her apartment, and you know how it is with girls, they don't eat much :wink: Anyway, I stopped following the Euro-sterling exchange rate, but I think the UK is the most affordable English-speaking country to study in for an EU student right now. Unless you get a scholarship in the US, Canada or Australia, anyway.

    But, again, I'm not studying in the UK, I'm in Canada right now, but this is the info I gathered this year when contemplating studying there.
  26. Oct 9, 2010 #25
    Well, I think I can explain the Swedish system, since I currently study at the University of Lund (am going to Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh next year though). First of all, if you go to Sweden, there are only three universities here with a decent budget, which is Lund, Uppsala och Linköping in a decreasing order, don't even think of going to a university other than those if you want a good degree (as for physics, we in Lund is by faaaar the biggest around here with a national lab, doing research with synchrotrone light, and soon ESS, the European Spaliation Source). it is quite easy to get involved in the research there if you really want to, they want students there. thus, if you want physics in Sweden, Lund is the place.

    You also have quite a lot of flexibility and it encouraged to think for yourself what modules you want to take, some are of course mandatory for the degree but they are all placed in the first two years. other than those two years you can choose from a LOT of physics courses. there are only one physics prof here who is not doing research, which might not be the most pedagogical setting but it gives you the opportunity to get involved in personal research. of course, the budget here doesn't rival the budget of like Cambridge and stuff.

    also, education is completely free here, except for people now from Europe (stupid EU regulations) , but that's next until next year. for PhD level you usually get paid ;)

    as for student life it is unmatched, to university that I have ever heard of have more student life.

    of course there are some drawbacks, I am trying to show as little personal biases as possible. one being that it is quite expensive to live in Sweden, and getting a place to live is a pain in the ***.

    think that is as fact based as I can be

    also, could take the opportunity to ask a question myself. I am a bit puzzled if I should reapply to a bigger Uni (my personal statement was not the best and can now get a reference from a researcher from the national lab here since he is teaching me some stuff there) or if I should stay at heriot-watt? I am going for a PhD in physics, what would be the best thing to do?
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