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UK vs US physics/mathematics

  1. Apr 26, 2012 #1
    Cambridge has one of the best physics/mathematics departments in the world. Studying there would probably be a desire for anyone considering a PhD after a MSc or something equivalent. But once you are admitted, you need to find funding, which is even much harder than being accepted, (read on several sites).

    Now I was looking into US universities. Harvard has a full funding programme for anyone who studies there and I expect the other league ones to offer same opportunities.

    Theoretical physics with as much maths as possible - what would you recommend? Is there a big difference between UK leading unis like cambridge and e.g. Harvard? Are there reasons to choose for a US uni instead of cambridge (in the ultimate scenario you get an offer from both)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 26, 2012 #2


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    Most US universities will offer funding if they accept you, at least in physics. I'm not sure about mathematics.
  4. Apr 26, 2012 #3
    I don't know how things are done exactly in Cambridge, but I believe there are some significant general differences between PhD programs in the UK and in the US. For a start PhDs in America take longer on average, and my impression is that they generally have a more significant formal learning component before independent research begins, though obviously independent learning is still required. In many ways the shorter duration of UK courses is a disadvantage for the student intending to continue in research, as a longer course allows the student to be more competitive upon qualification, in terms of knowledge and publication record. The 2010 EPSRC report on mathematics, for example, contains the disturbing, for me at least, statement "The most worrying factor in education and training is that, to a large extent, UK PhDs are not competitive for academic positions in today’s global market."
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