/ Calling Physicists Part Deux - Which Uni?

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Rob Exile Ward on 14 Mar 2013
Not least following advice received here in the past, No 2 son now needs to decide which uni as first choice, he wants to do a Physics MSc, though he's not currently sure which area - tiny, medium, astro - he will specialise in. Probably not astro; and FWIW his maths is pretty sound. So, how to choose between Lancaster, Manchester, Birmingham or UCL? (Leeds is probably safety).

To be fair to the boy he's done quite a bit of research into the different unis, but he's at the stage when different sources assign different and contradictory rankings. FWIW it seems to me if he gets a decent degree from any of those and has enjoyed his 4 years, the difference between them will be pretty small and anyway, reputations/staff may change over 4 years in a way that we can't predict (chaos theory!)

However, I stand to be corrected, so any informed contributions to the discussion will be welcome.
Trevers - on 14 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Manchester have a long history of excellence, and a recent Nobel Prize winner. Also I think the overall experience will be better there- I have a friend studying for a masters at UCL (in mech eng) who did his Physics BSc in Leeds with me, he says he's glad he wasn't at a London university for his undergrad degree.

I would say Manchester is the best overall choice, and I get the impression UCL puts it's research reputation before it's undergrad student experience (but feel free to correct me anyone who went there).
Rob Exile Ward on 14 Mar 2013
In reply to Blue Straggler: The masters some do MPhys and some MSci (is our understanding.)
Blue Straggler - on 14 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Oops sorry I deleted my post by mistake. I had been puzzled about the OP but now it's clear - M.Phys or M.Sci - basically committing to 4 years at the outset and gaining a Masters degree - got it. As opposed to an M.Sc which is a 1 or 2 year postgrad course. Don't mind me - just being pedantic :-)
I have a B.Sc and M.Sc in Physics but neither are from any the universities you mentioned so I can't really comment.
pyro2312 - on 14 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: I'd say Manchester or Birmingham out of those, have heard good things from friends studying in both departments. You're right though, there's not much to pick between them.
itsThere on 14 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: I know nothing about how good each uni is. Lancaster is a campus uni, Manc is in a city. In that respect they are very very different. Maybe have a look round and see what type of place he wants to live in. That helped me decide.
Welsh Kate - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
All good universities. My nephew's half way through his first year doing Physics at Manchester and is loving both the course and the city, though he had to work hard at the maths to begin with despite his A* at Maths A level.

He still has a few weeks to choose, so he can always try to pop in another visit if he's uncertain. Has he looked at NSS results? Worth a glance.
Rob Exile Ward on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Welsh Kate: NSS? I don't know those but Sam probably does - I'll ask him, if they're well known and important I'd hope thaht he had already. Thanks.
BIgYeti86 - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Tbh with those Uni choices, where does he want to live and what other interests he has will be more important than differences between courses.

I ended up studing cosmo, astro, quantum and particle physics, there is quite a lot of overlap between the very big and very small.

Also to consider is most unis offer the chance to change from a Mphs/Msc to Bsc in thier second years, but not the other way round (Which is what I did, but also then went onto do a Masters).
New POD - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

had this problem with my son and an MChem a couple of year back. He was holding identical AAB offers from Liverpool, Machester, Brum, York and Leeds.

As far as I could tell Identical courses too. (They are all acredited by RSC so the sylabus must be close)

He discounted Liverpool as Too close (12 miles) from home. Manchester because he thought the city too agressive (As a mank myself it's 15 years since I set foot in the city). And leeds fell bacause he felt Brum and York more friendly.

He put York 1st and Brum as a back up, because the students at Brum were a bit "up themselves" and I thought their Bursary system was 'flawed' .

In the end I suspect it was the layout of the campus that appealed.
Liam Brown - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

I did my undergraduate at UCL and then a MSc at Manchester. Manchester is so accessible, friendly and cheap that it is easy to get really excited about the city. It has a lot going on. London is more daunting and takes more effort - this is probably obvious, but is definitely worth it. I know the department is very strong at the moment in Manchester - I'm doing a PhD in Maths so I'm just across the way, and apparently they have a lot of money sloshing about. I would have thought they would get stronger over the coming years. They also appear strong across a number of fields.
Liam Brown - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Liam Brown:

I'll see if I can get some of the Physicists to reply when we go for coffee later.
Angrypenguin - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: I'd say don't stress about it too much. All of those unis will offer good courses and he wont do badly at any of them. When picking between units like those it's probably only +/- 5%.

A fair bit of your undergraduate experience is luck - whether you get on with the lecturing style, which halls you get into, who you get in your flat at halls, the quality of the student union that year etc.

I'd say keep as general as you can for as long as you can - don't specialize too early. He will definitely develop a preference after his first two years and then when he gets there he can select his third/fourth year lectures and Masters project to suit his preference.
Oujmik - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: Go to the open days (or has that happened already? I'm very out of touch with uni life) and see which he likes. As others have said, the courses are much of a muchness, the lecturers are pot luck and they'll all be 'worth' about the same to employers. It's probably better to focus on the general environment (self-conatined campus vs. inner city) accomodation and facilities as well as the location relative to home/other areas of interest etc.
Coel Hellier - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> So, how to choose between Lancaster, Manchester, Birmingham or UCL?

They're all good. And as you say, random factors such as particular allocations of staff to courses (which you can't do anything about) will matter as much as the differences between these. All the courses will be accredited by the IoP, so the core syllabuses will be the same. Options may differ and will be more significant in the 4th year, but it may be hard to predict now what will interest him then.

Non-academic factors also matter. At UCL the accommodation will be expensive and may be 45 mins commute by tube from the lectures. But you have museums and loads of other bonuses. Lancaster is a campus university. Perhaps just visit, and see which one "feels" right.
scruff - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: Don't know anything about the courses but as other have said they are quite different places to live.

Wouldn't get to hung up about Lancaster being a campus university, most students live in the city after the first year. Commuting to the uni from there is about a 20 minute cycle or bus journey - perhaps not that different from elsewhere.

However Lancaster itself is much smaller then the other three cities, some will like this, some won't.
Richard J - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
The odd one out there is Lancaster, which is a small department in a campus university, as against the others, which are all big departments in big cities. If you want to be a student in London UCL is a good choice (if you can't get into Imperial), if not it isn't. One thing to say about Manchester Physics is that it has become a very popular choice recently, thanks to Andre Geim and Brian Cox (probably the latter more than the former) which is probably good for their finances, less good for staff student ratios.

Lancaster, though small, is a very fine department in research terms, which seems to look after its students very well (it has stellar results in the student surveys).
davidbeynon - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

I studied physics at UMIST so obviously Manchester university is rubbish, but I have to concede that they have a pretty good physics department.

Don't know too much about the others, but when I visited Lancaster I remember thinking the campus was a bit remote.
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elsewhere on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
Lancaster, Manchester, Birmingham, UCL or Leeds - what have they done on ice?

Andrei Geim did the highest or the some of the highest peaks of the then Soviet Union.


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