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University in England to study theoretical physics

  1. May 25, 2015 #1

    I'm from Norway and I'm planning to go to university in England in 2016 to study theoretical physics, but I can't decide which ones to apply for. I have never been to England so I don't know the best places to live, how's studying in London for example? Which schools rank the highest in physics?

    I took the ACT and got 26, but I'm planning on taking at a few more times to up my score. I'm taking three SAT-S tests and I'm expecting to get about 700. I will also be taking 4 or 5 AP exams, it's difficult to predict scores, but probably 4-5. All tests are in relevant subjects. Which universities can I expect to receive offers from based on these scores?

    Some schools I've looked at are oxford (obviously), durham, imperial, king's and ucl. Other possibilities include queen mary, Sussex, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leicester and Southhampton. Any advide when it comes to ranking, course, location, campus and accommodations?

    Thanks :-)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2015 #2
    No one?:nb)
  4. May 26, 2015 #3


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    I think one named a number of good schools. There's also University of Manchester and Edinburgh.

    Here is a rankings list - http://www.whatuni.com/degrees/cour...ted-kingdom/m/united+kingdom/r/8978/page.html
    I only cite this link for the list of schools with theoretical physics programs.

    Apparently the Times ranks schools, probably the same way US News and World Report ranks US universities, but I would not put a lot of credence to any rankings. Rather I recommend reading some research articles in areas of interest and identifying the authors and their affiliations to get an idea of who is doing what and where.
  5. May 26, 2015 #4
    This site might be also helpful for physics-specific rankings: http://www.myphysicscourse.org/ as whole-university rankings are not always useful. All the universities you mentioned are good; it all depends on which individual modules you want to take, and which city you would prefer to live in.

    Manchester is also strong for physics, and though they require very high grades you can actually get an offer with less than the A*A*A they ask for. The only issue with Manchester is their course is "Physics with theoretical physics" which means you still have a lot of practicals to do.

    If you are interested in Mathematical Physics, Cambridge's Mathematical Tripos might be a better choice than Oxford. Despite its name, you can choose a lot of theoretical physics courses and it is meant to be an extremely good degree. http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/ has examples of their lecture notes, research etc. You would have to sit the STEP exam to apply to Cambridge- there are lots of past papers with solutions online.

    I study at the University of Edinburgh, as they offer a specific "Mathematical Physics" program which has a lot of flexibility. I would recommend this course if you are considering studying in Scotland.
  6. May 26, 2015 #5
    Thank you! Do you know which ones I could potentially get an offer from?:smile:
  7. May 26, 2015 #6


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    Since I'm not familiar with one's academic background, I won't speculate on what programs might provide one an offer. I think one should have an idea of which programs and research is of interest, and then look at the financial support, e.g., stipend and coverage of tuition and fees.

    For example - here is some information posted by the Higgs center (Edinburgh) - http://www2.ph.ed.ac.uk/particle/Theory/PPT09_studentships.html#applying
  8. May 26, 2015 #7
    Thanks :smile: What is the differences between mathematical physics and theoretical physics? I don't know if my test scores hold up at schools such as oxford and cambridge, so I might opt out of applying in case I don't get offers from other schools. I'm scared of not getting in anywhere. Also, at Cambridge, don't you have to study natural science the first year or two before you can specialize?
  9. May 26, 2015 #8


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    What sense does it make to do American exams when applying to British schools?
  10. May 26, 2015 #9
    They only offer American exams in my country unfortunately. I asked some universities beforehand and it was no problem for me to be accepted based on American entry requirements.
  11. May 26, 2015 #10
    http://www.uni-leipzig.de/~physik/bachelor-physik-ipsp.html [Broken]

    Leipzig University in Germany offers an 'International Physics studies program'. The pros are :
    it's, of course, in English because it's for international student, Leipzig is one of the best universities in Germany, the university's tuition are very low, and Leipzig is one of the cheapest cities in Germany.
    If you face great difficulties in getting into a university in UK, check out Leipzig.
    Do all you can to get into a University in UK though.

    Best of luck.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  12. May 26, 2015 #11
    The difference between mathematical and theoretical physics at my university is that the mathematical physics students have no compulsory lab sessions, do extra pure-maths modules, and take slightly different versions of some courses (like classical mechanics, complex analysis, quantum) than the theoretical students do.

    Cambridge offers both Natural Sciences and Mathematical Tripos as different degrees, the tripos is the one that is particularly good for theoretical physics. You do a lot of maths in first year, but also plenty of physics (the same as you would study anywhere else), and no biology/chemistry at all.

    I think 4-5 corresponds to A-A*? If so, that is sufficient for most good universities. Almost everywhere (apart from Cambridge) places more emphasis on your predicted grades, references and personal statements than your current grades. In the case of Oxford I think they base it a lot on your entrance exam, too.

    If you are concerned about grades, the Scottish system is quite good: the entrance requirements for their standard 4-5 year degrees are lower, so even if you miss out on your predicted grades you can still get admitted for the longer degree and then ask to be moved up a year when you arrive.
  13. May 26, 2015 #12
    Thank you, I'll look into it :biggrin: If I don't get in to any of my 5 school choices in England, can I still apply to a different country for the same year?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  14. May 26, 2015 #13
    I'm not sure, make sure you check out the deadlines..
  15. May 26, 2015 #14
    You've definitely given me something to think about, I might just go for a mathematical physics course instead. I'm terrified of not getting in anywhere, in which case I would have to wait another year to apply again, so I don't want to waste one of my five spots applying to a school which is out of my league. Which of the schools would you recommend I apply for? I don't have any teachers to write a reference, besides teachers I had in 4-10th grade, because I studied independently, what should I do?

    Edit: By the way, neither Oxford nor Cambridge were in the link of rankings.
  16. May 26, 2015 #15
    I'm not applying until later this year/next year :smile:
  17. May 26, 2015 #16
    If you do not have any teachers who can give you a reference and give formal predicted grades, you should talk to the universities directly and explain your situation, so that they can factor this in when considering your application. If you email the undergraduate admissions for each university (the emails will be on the sites) then there will be someone who can help.

    NB- the course at Oxford is just called “Physics”. Liverpool and Cambridge both count mathematical physics as part of the maths department rather than the physics, so it won’t show up on the rankings for these universities, though they are still proper physics degrees.
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