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Queen's vs. UCL (BSc Physics)

  1. Aug 3, 2008 #1
    I have been accepted into both unis for a while and still havn't decided. My deadline to decide (from UCL) is Aug. 8th. I want to go to Imperial MSc or Ph.D for plasma physics. If not, a top school in physics in the US would be nice (i.e. Chicago). If you have any idea which one may be better, vote for one, explanation or no explanation. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2008 #2
    hmm, judging from the rankings from Shanghai Jiao Tong (which I hear are supposed to have the most well regarded rankings system), Univ College London is number 4 in Europe, wheras they rank Queen Mary Univ London as 83-123! This was for 2005 though, I cant seem to find the upto date ones.

    Times Good University guide ranks UCL as number 6 and Queen Mary as 42, so it seems Queens is quite a bit of UCL yet again, however this a general ranking of course, not physics dept specific.

    I have no experience with the Queen Mary physics dept, but I do think it's supposed to be quite small, but has a good reputation for string theory (Think thats the place Michael Green was actually at during the conception of string theory), so it probably has a string theory dept that has a relativley better reputation than rest of the uni.

    If you're interested in plasma physics I would just check the research area of both the UCL and Queens dept website, and see which seems the best from there...
  4. Aug 5, 2008 #3


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    Firstly, presumably, the OP means Queen's college Belfast. Secondly, one should be wary about ranking systems: for example, if one is intending on applying for undergraduate studies, then the teaching is going to be more important, whereas if one is applying for graduate studies, the specific research groups are going to be the thing to be looked at in more detail. Since the OP is talking about a BSc degree, then there is no need to look into whether or not each university has a plasma physics group, or whether it is world renowned.

    As an aside, yes, Queen Mary was where Green was working during the 'superstring revolution.'
  5. Aug 5, 2008 #4
    Ah my apologies if this is the case...UCL got me thinking of London Unis...

    Yeah I agree, I quoted the two sets of rankings, simply because I have no first hand experience with either depts and no one else had answered, so thought the rankings would be better than nothing, and give at least some raw indicator. The times list is geared towards undergraduates though, and considers things like student satisfaction, teaching quality etc. They have a physics specific list too http://extras.timesonline.co.uk/tol_gug/gooduniversityguide.php, and other resources for undergrads, which may be of use.

    I think although the quality of the research group is not directly going to affect the quality of your education (teaching, courses you do etc) all that much. If you know you want to do a PhD in plasma physics, graduating from a uni with a strong plasma physics goup, could be of an advantage. i.e. you will get to know professors, who will be well known in that field, and able to write strong references for you etc. Also there may be more opportunities to undertake lab projects (especially in your last year) that are directly related to the future research you want to do in your PhD.

    But yes I would probaby agree that the overall calibre of the institue is of greater importance than the group for an undergrad.

    Just out of interest is Queen Mary still regarded as having a strong string group then? is it anywhere near Imperial?
  6. Aug 5, 2008 #5


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    For an ugrad degree I think where you are going to live is most important.
    Without wishing to be too insulting - while still at school deciding that in 4years you are going to do a PhD in a particular area is perhaps a little premature? Although getting to know people in that field and what interesting work is being done will be usefull - in general PhD programs in the UK will look equally on anyone from a decent ugrad course.

    The big differences:
    UCL is a large (by UK standards) institute in the middle of a big city, there are lots of people from different backgrounds (I'm guessing the OP is chinese?) and doing different courses. there is also a lot to do outside lectures!
    Queens is a nice enough place and Belfast is improving as a city, but it is a lot more monocultural (or unfortunately two distinct cultures).
  7. Aug 5, 2008 #6
    Sorry for not being specifit, I meant Queen's University in Kingston, Canada. But from what I know, its similar to Queen's University in Belfast, both being upper tier national universities.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2008
  8. Aug 6, 2008 #7
    I will say this, if you've never lived in London before you can find you hate it very quickly and very strongly.

    I'm in London at the moment as my partner is finishing her studies here and, god, I hate this city. Everything is dirty. Everyone is scared of knives. RUDE! You've never see rude before. The tube is like a cattle train, the buses are full of scum.

    London is an expensive city. I'm guessing you'll be a poor student, which adds to the misery. It can be a fun city to visit for a week, but I wouldn't recommend it for any longer than that (unless you are earning over £40k. Then it's a different world).
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