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Programs Physics Graduate School in UK/Germany/Europe

  1. May 29, 2017 #1
    Hello all.
    I had a few questions about obtaining a PhD in UK and/or Europe.
    I am currently an Undergrad physics student from Brazil studying in the US, once I am done I will pursue my PhD in some other university, since my current one, unfortunally, does not have a Physics Grad program.
    My dream is to be able to study in the UK or Germany (or somewhere in Europe really, but mainly UK or Germany).
    However I could not find the answer as to a question. Is physics grad school free on those places?
    I know that one is usually funded to study physics in grad school here in the US, and is ofted paied to do research. Making obtaining a PhD essentially free. Is it the same in the UK/Germany? I would only think that yes, given the long history those countries have with the study of physics, but I could find no sources that sould affirm it.
    I am a 3.9 GPA student at SHSU - TX.
    Thank you in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 29, 2017 #2


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    Last edited: May 29, 2017
  4. May 29, 2017 #3


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    I am in the US but know people who did/are doing their PhDs in the UK and Germany.
    The UK system it is quite different from the US. In the US you take courses during the PhD in the first year or so, but in the UK you need to get a master's before the PhD. All of your coursework is completed in the masters before you begin your PhD. The PhD's there are also shorter and more structured. In the US you apply to a department and indicate your research interests on your application. While people usually stay in their intended subfield, they are technically not bound to it and can switch later on. In the UK you apply to a specific group and are much more restricted because of that. You usually get funding for three or four years, which is how long they usually take to do the PhD over there. On the other hand physics PhDs in the US usually take five to six years. This may sound very long, but I have heard some professors in the UK like the US system better for that reason since they feel that three years is not enough for most students to become truly independent researchers.

    I think the system is similar in Germany based on the people I know who have experience there.
  5. May 31, 2017 #4


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    The answer is that PhDs are usually free; but there are exceptions. You can sometimes find unfunded positions but this does NOT -usually- mean that you will be paying a fee to the university, it just means that you won't get any money from e.g. a scholarship (or salary, depending on the system). These positions are usually targeted towards students who e.g. have managed to get a scholarship from their home country to do a PhD abroad (typically China and some countries in the ME).

    Personally I would be vary of doing an unfunded PhD; at least if it is experimental. The salary/scholarship for a PhD student is usually quite a small part of the cost of a project meaning if they are not able to pay you the group is probably not very well funded. However, there are -as always- exceptions (some grants won't allow you to pay students etc)

    The system in the UK is really complicated at the moment since we are moving more and more towards a "US style" grad school systems with 4-year CDTs (centres for doctoral training) where the first year is coursework, but there are still 3-year positions available. For the former you do need to have a MSc, for the latter the university can in some instances make exceptions and allow you to start with "only" a BSc, but then you would they you would have to pass some MSc level courses as well during your first year(usually).
  6. Jun 26, 2017 #5


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    In Germany there are either no fees or at most negligible ones. Whether you will have to take some classes depends on the university. However, you will have to participate in teaching.
    Usually, you will be offered a half-time position which corresponds in the first year to about 2100 Euros /month netto. However, this depends on your supervisor, who is still the most important choice you have to make.
    As an example, here's the link to the phd programme of the TU of Munich:

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