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Universities in Scotland: Physics

  1. Apr 5, 2012 #1
    Very soon I will be applying to universities and I have found the destination I wish to study at. This location would be Scotland.

    Has anyone studied at a university in Scotland before? Been to one? Or (the most important question I have) could you recommend a specific one?

    After having read some course descriptions from universities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Dundee and Aberdeen, I have found it hard to differentiate between what each university actually excels at. If anyone can offer some help with this it would be great.

    Specific areas in physics that I am interested in: Particle physics and studies on energy, frankly I would have a hard time finding a field which I would not be interested in.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2012 #2
    In Scotland St Andrews has one of the best reputations for physics but on their website they only list astrophysics, condensed matter and photonics as research fields. Edinburgh also has a good reputation and it does do research in particle physics. I've also heard that Strathclyde has a very good physics department.

    I know Aberdeen doesn't do particle physics, I think it is more focused on cosmology, biological physics and solid state physics.

    St Andrews seems to excel at astrophysics based on people I've spoken to. A lot of people I know that have gone there recommend it.
  4. Apr 10, 2012 #3

    First off, as an undergrad, I don't think the research focus of the University should be your main consideration as there is no guarantee that you will stay there for graduate studies (if you choose to go for a PhD following your BSc or MSci degree).

    You should consider both the department and the city you are in as you'll be there for 4 years. Feel free to send me a message for a more in-depth response but i'll give a brief reply here:

    As was said above, Scotland has some great physics departments that each focus on different things. That said, I would consider three main choices: University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow and University of St. Andrews (or if you want to go for a very applied physics route also look into Strathclyde University who have specific options such as 'photonics' and 'laser physics' for degrees instead of more general 'physics' or 'physics and astronomy' etc.,, but they are more known for engineering).

    Glasgow and Edinburgh are very similar, I would think, in terms of student experience both being in (reasonably) big cities with a good night life and a lot to do. St. Andrews is a bit more isolated and very much smaller but still a very nice place (if you like golf then head there :P). However, Scotland is pretty small and so getting between these places is not difficult - meaning that if you go for Glasgow you can still get to a quiet, outdoorsy place in next to no time.

    In terms of teaching, I know that Glasgow is very student focused (whilst also having world-leading research) and they are a very well respected department (though st andrews and edinburgh are also!).

    I would recommend doing some research into the three schools I mentioned and seeing what you think about not only the departments but where they are.

    Can I ask why you plumped for Scotland (great choice by the way!)? Where are you from?

    Good luck with your decisions!
  5. Apr 10, 2012 #4
    The specific research of the university doesn't matter at all for undergrad. If the university specializes in optic, and you're interested in relativity, then you'll likely still get a superb course in relativity (provided the university is good). So don't look at the research the university does.

    If you're going to go for a PhD, then the research areas of the university matter a lot, of course.
  6. Apr 10, 2012 #5
    Aberdeen is a very small physics department and Dundee University is located in Dundee, so that leaves Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and St Andrews.

    Edinburgh and Glasgow are similar in terms of student life as they're both in similar sized cities, although Glasgow is definitely better for parties and gigs. Strathclyde is better known for applied degrees rather than "pure" ones.

    St Andrews is in a small town where the night life focuses on house parties and pubs rather than packed clubs. That might be more your thing, it's entirely up to you.

    One thing you should consider is the teaching quality. Teaching quality at the large, research universities i.e. the Russell Group can be hit or miss - I've heard some horrendously negative feedback about Edinburgh's and Manchester's for engineering but it could be entirely different for physics: the point was to illustrate that big universities often couldn't care less about undergraduates, especially since they're so cash strapped nowadays.
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