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Which country for undergraduate degree?

  1. May 23, 2010 #1
    Hello there.

    I am a high school student with a passion for physics. I want to study physics in university and have applied to several universities in the UK.

    However, I've been recently told that the UK do not emphasize a lot on research...and that it would be better off for me to go study in the US, as there is more emphasis on research in the US. If I choose to go to the US I would need to take a gap year and reapply (as admissions is over this year I think)

    I am more interested in the theoretical aspect of physics, and wish to take a physics and maths joint degree for my undergraduate degree. Do you guys have any advice/suggestions as to which country to go?

  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2010 #2

    Who ever told you that research in the US is better than the UK , made an unreasonable statement.
    You can't really generalize that the US has better research, as some really awesome research is conducted in the UK, but the US has a larger number of university and hence more research (more doesn't necessarily mean better).
    What it boils down to, is the school that you will be joining, good schools typically feature good lectures and good research (this depends on the faculty, funding etc...).

    I am not sure about you, but I personally wouldn't want to waste a whole year waiting.

  4. May 23, 2010 #3


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    I interpreted what he said differently - that undergrad education in the US emphasizes research more, not that it's necessarily better.

    annms, how much a particular department involves undergrads in research varies dramatically from school to school. So if you're going to follow the study-in-th-US path, be sure the school you attend will allow you to pursue your research goal.
  5. May 23, 2010 #4
    Why would you say UK universities don't emphasize research? I've applied to a couple this year and looking at the curriculum, you have at least a final year project, lasting six months, and a group project in your third year. Unless I'm mistaken in thinking this counts as research, I think your thinking doesn't really hold up.
  6. May 23, 2010 #5
    mm I wouldn't say this is a good reason to choose the US over UK - the systems are totally different so you should try to appreciate them more. In the US, you'll have to cover far more subjects than your major, many humanities subjects etc whereas in the UK, if you take an undergraduate degree in physics, you'll spend 4/5 years studying physics pretty much on it's own. This is more important to consider since you need to work out what kind of education you want, the US will be less specific but more well rounded.

    In the UK, it is true that we do not emphasize a lot on 'research' at undergraduate - but I think with good reason. People may disagree with me, but I feel that the whole idea of undergraduate research is a bit of a fallacy: it might be a handy introduction but to me it isn't as important as US students like to make out: particularly if you're staying in the UK afterwards.

    That said, there are always opportunities to take on research projects as an undergraduate in the UK. The difference is that these are almost always taken over summer, but at the university I went to, the physics department always funded a few students per year for, say, an 8 week project, and there are various scholarships available as well. I, myself, carried out some research projects after speaking to researchers and applying for scholarships.

    I found that these were certainly interesting to do and gave me more experiences to talk about in future interviews etc, but I also have many friends who have gone on to take PhDs that didn't carry out any undergraduate research.

    Finally, it also depends where you think you'll end up after your degree. In the UK, as well as in the US, all of the undergraduates are in the same boat as each other - country wide there isn't a great emphasis on research so you won't be missing out as compared to the other students.

    I see my post is a bit disjointed - the weather here is excellent and I am tired! Feel free to message me if there are any specific questions I may help with.
  7. May 23, 2010 #6
    Thank you guys for your input.

    And thank you lisab for actually reading my post. physiker- I never said the US is better at research than the UK. Read lisab's post. Ryker- Why would I say UK universities don't emphasize research? It is not me who thinks the UK doesn't emphasize on research- it's just that I have been told so by some people (read my post).
  8. May 23, 2010 #7

    Sorry, I read your topic real quick hence I misunderstood.

    p.s. I have no academic connection with the UK.
  9. May 23, 2010 #8
    Of course! I can't believe I neglected to mention this. The final year project is standard in both Bsc and Msci, and is obviously bigger in scope for Msci degrees. Group projects vary and are not a standard requirement however: these might be more along the line of normal lab classes.
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