More impressive: Undergrad at Oxbridge or PhD at Oxbridge? Watch

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MacroDan
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A comment in another thread got me thinking, what would you guys perceive as being of higher "value" or prestige? Getting into Oxbridge as an undergraduate, or Oxbridge as a funded PhD student after having studied at a non-Oxbridge uni for the undergraduate degree (either UK or elsewhere, who cares). While both are clearly a good achievement, a case can be made for either I am sure.

N.B: Unfortunately A-level kiddies are banned from giving their opinions in this thread. In fact, the older the better.

Now talk.
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ukmed108
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(Original post by MacroDan)
A comment in another thread got me thinking, what would you guys perceive as being of higher "value" or prestige? Getting into Oxbridge as an undergraduate, or Oxbridge as a funded PhD student after having studied at a non-Oxbridge uni for the undergraduate degree (either UK or elsewhere, who cares). While both are clearly a good achievement, a case can be made for either I am sure.

N.B: Unfortunately A-level kiddies are banned from giving their opinions in this thread. In fact, the older the better.

Now talk.
Generally people care more about the most recent degree. What you've been able to achieve recently is a better indicator of success than what you did in the past. So I would have to say PhD.
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ChemistBoy
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At PhD level its really about who you did your PhD with and what you studied rather than where.
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Nichrome
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(Original post by MacroDan)
A comment in another thread got me thinking, what would you guys perceive as being of higher "value" or prestige? Getting into Oxbridge as an undergraduate, or Oxbridge as a funded PhD student after having studied at a non-Oxbridge uni for the undergraduate degree (either UK or elsewhere, who cares). While both are clearly a good achievement, a case can be made for either I am sure.

N.B: Unfortunately A-level kiddies are banned from giving their opinions in this thread. In fact, the older the better.

Now talk.
As ChemistBoy indicated, the PhD is a whole different kettle of fish to undergrad. I think there's a certain 'prestige' associated with getting into undergrad at Oxbridge (the colleges, supervisions etc), along with the fact that Oxbridge UG courses are usually quite different (and often harder) than their counterparts elsewhere.

However PhD degrees are much the same anywhere. They are the culmination of three-four+ years of research into a thesis. If someone completes a PhD anywhere, it's a very impressive achievement, there's no real difference if they did it at Oxbridge or not. The only 'prestige' at PhD level is if you join a very renown research group that produces a lot of high quality papers in the subject. That might not be at oxford or Cambridge, so as CB says, it's much more about the group you join than the university at PhD level.
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im so academic
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Personally, an undergraduate at Oxbridge.
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russellsteapot
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PhD I think.

Going to Oxbridge as an undergrad, you're essentially there because you got good A Levels (and the A level system isn't perfect by any means) and maybe good scores on whatever other entry tests they use. A levels are a good indication that you're either: very intelligent, very hard working, very well coached through the interviews, very well educated, your parents were wealthy enough to send you to an amazing school or you're very good at remembering stuff in exams. There are too many variables that it doesn't really 'impress' me that someone is at Oxbridge as an undergraduate (but they'd still deserve to be congratulated if that's their ambition). Up to starting postgraduate, you're still very much following a set scheme of progression and operating inside a framework, so it's debatable how well someone is able to function without that framework. For some people, getting into Oxbridge is a huge achievement and a great reflection on their ability, but not everyone.

PhD on the other hand requires a huge amount of original and varied thought, research and self-guided study with comparitively little support. To be funded, your research proposal has to pass through a number of experienced and often field-leading academics (unsure if Oxbridge use the same multi-layer research committee system used by some other universities, but it'd make sense if they did), and if it, or you, is not great, you won't get the funding at all. And you're probably competing against dozens of other proposals. It depends a lot more on the person. Then the work is obviously going to be at a totally different level to undergraduate as well, and you're creating the framework yourself.

And, obviously, having a PhD is much more impressive than being an undergraduate, no matter where you go.
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Theflyingbarney
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(Original post by ChemistBoy)
At PhD level its really about who you did your PhD with and what you studied rather than where.
I'd have to agree with this.

Obviously the PhD is the more impressive qualification, and getting into Oxbridge to do one is no mean feat, but there are plenty of people who do their undergrad at Oxbridge and their PhD elsewhere just because other places may be offering better opportunities, or have better resources in their specific field. Oxbridge may be good but that doesn't mean they're the world leader in every single specific area you might choose to do a PhD in.

So on balance, it's hard to say - getting into Oxbridge as an undergrad is a good indicator that you're among the top few % academically for your age group, which isn't necessarily true for a PhD there, but an Oxbridge PhD is still hugely impressive.
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PhDs are given to people who give the world a piece of knowledge or understanding that didn't exist before, so I'd say that a PhD anywhere is a lot more impressive than an undergraduate course at Oxbridge.
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Arketec
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(Original post by MacroDan)
A comment in another thread got me thinking, what would you guys perceive as being of higher "value" or prestige? Getting into Oxbridge as an undergraduate, or Oxbridge as a funded PhD student after having studied at a non-Oxbridge uni for the undergraduate degree (either UK or elsewhere, who cares). While both are clearly a good achievement, a case can be made for either I am sure.

N.B: Unfortunately A-level kiddies are banned from giving their opinions in this thread. In fact, the older the better.

Now talk.

I would rather get into Oxford as an undergraduate. PHD is so specialised that the chances of finding a better place to study is higher for postgrads than it is for undergrads.
Mind you what you study at degree level could mean your better off elsewhere e.g Baking a cake. I don't believe oxbridge do degrees in bakery but you can do one somewhere in London.
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Vanbrugh
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At undergraduate level, the institution that you went to is the most important. An Oxbridge BA confers upon the student arguably the greatest amount of prestige of any other UK university.

A PhD/DPhil is a different type of degree altogether. As an old Oxbridge graduate myself now interested in a Doctorate, speaking with my former tutors, none said that I should apply to a university because of the "prestige" factor that was so important at undergrad. To achieve at the highest level and get the most out of your Doctorate it is all about the funding, facilities and above all the best supervisor(s) - which may be at completely different universities. This applies to both arts and science subjects. Should I apply for PhD opportunities in future, the best supervisors for my area of interest actually teach at other universities. This is not to say that Oxbridge won't add a bit of a "wow" factor on your Doctorate certificate, but the serious student would go where the opportunities are best and career prospects brightest and not for the vague notion of institutional prestige that undergraduates are familiar with - and those for whom it matters will know this.

These are two quite different degrees, at every different academic levels, with different measures of "prestige". So to conclude, I would say that depending on who you ask or what you want to do with your degree, "it depends".
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Eugenie Grandet
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(Original post by Vanbrugh)
At undergraduate level, the institution that you went to is the most important. An Oxbridge BA confers upon the student arguably the greatest amount of prestige of any other UK university.

A PhD/DPhil is a different type of degree altogether. As an old Oxbridge graduate myself now interested in a Doctorate, speaking with my former tutors, none said that I should apply to a university because of the "prestige" factor that was so important at undergrad. To achieve at the highest level and get the most out of your Doctorate it is all about the funding, facilities and above all the best supervisor(s) - which may be at completely different universities. This applies to both arts and science subjects. Should I apply for PhD opportunities in future, the best supervisors for my area of interest actually teach at other universities. This is not to say that Oxbridge won't add a bit of a "wow" factor on your Doctorate certificate, but the serious student would go where the opportunities are best and career prospects brightest and not for the vague notion of institutional prestige that undergraduates are familiar with - and those for whom it matters will know this.

These are two quite different degrees, at every different academic levels, with different measures of "prestige". So to conclude, I would say that depending on who you ask or what you want to do with your degree, "it depends".
This. You will need a great supervisor in your particular field for a PhD. This could be at Oxford or it could be elsewhere.

Well done to anyone who gets into Oxford for their BA or PhD though
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poohat
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A PhD from any decent Russell Group is more impressive than an undergrad from Oxbridge. High school exams like A-levels are only weak predictors of ability (even combined with interviews) and it is very hard to identify the best people based on those alone, so its not like Oxbridge gets all the best students at undergrad - yeah, the average student at Oxbridge is smarter than the average student elsewhere, but not by that much, and there are a lot of students at Oxbridge who are only decent. By the time it comes to apply for a PhD there are clearer measurements of ability available, and so PhD admissions tend to be more meritocratic and less based on luck. Getting into a funded PhD at any decent university is very hard, and quite a few Oxbridge students arent going to be capable (of course, anyone who got a 1st at Oxbridge would be capable intellectually). On the other hand, if you have a PhD from anywhere that isnt terrible, its more or less guaranteed that you'd have been able to get at least a 2:1 at any place for undergrad.

The difference between Oxbridge and elsewhere for undergrad is that Oxbridge is more likely to have the true genius kids who stand out as being obviously brilliant during high school. But they are only a small fraction of the Oxbridge population, and 90% of Oxbridge students dont fall into that category. The top 5-10% of students at Oxbridge are likely to be a lot better than the top 5-10% of students elsewhere, but that doesnt mean the average is a lot higher. It is a bit higher sure, but not by such a large amount that you can say a 2:1 at Cambridge is more impressive than a PhD from UCL or Nottingham, thats just completely ridiculous.
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MacroDan
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I like you poohat, that was a decent dollop of truth you dished out in those two posts.

I am divided on Oxbridge PhD students, while on average they are better, on the whole they don't live up to the notion which everyone holds which is "I am going to Oxbridge, everyone is going to be a genius". Don't get me wrong, there are some exceptionally talented people here, in fact I would say that the smartest person I have ever met is a PhD student here but you also notice that the average student is more driven, there is less "dead wood" i.e people who are at uni for the sake of it: the people here mean business, no mucking about.

That is my impression anyhow.
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james_78
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It seems that people tend to underestimate the difficulty of getting in Oxbridge for a PhD. As though being admitted at Oxbridge is a question of choice for someone deciding to do PhD research!

I think that this is largely incorrect, given that there is a huge competition for places in Oxbridge PhDs. No doubt, it is not as standardized as A-levels, but potential candidates have to prove that they have excelled in their undergraduate and postgraduate studies (typically they already have a masters with distinction from well-established unis).

In addition, Oxbridge is a highly competitive and demanding environment, and Oxbridge PhDs are usually expected to deliver more compared to their counterparts in other UK institutions.

Last, it seems very unrealistic to say that it mostly matters what you will study and with whom. It is the name of the institution that will (only) stay on your cv at the end of the day.

That said, I do not imply that PhDs from other unis may not conduct better research or prove to make better academics or researchers. But this applies for Oxbridge undergraduates as well, who are not necessarily going to be (or end up being) the very best.
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Joinedup
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(Original post by james_78)
It seems that people tend to underestimate the difficulty of getting in Oxbridge for a PhD. As though being admitted at Oxbridge is a question of choice for someone deciding to do PhD research!

I think that this is largely incorrect, given that there is a huge competition for places in Oxbridge PhDs. No doubt, it is not as standardized as A-levels, but potential candidates have to prove that they have excelled in their undergraduate and postgraduate studies (typically they already have a masters with distinction from well-established unis).

In addition, Oxbridge is a highly competitive and demanding environment, and Oxbridge PhDs are usually expected to deliver more compared to their counterparts in other UK institutions.

Last, it seems very unrealistic to say that it mostly matters what you will study and with whom. It is the name of the institution that will (only) stay on your cv at the end of the day.

That said, I do not imply that PhDs from other unis may not conduct better research or prove to make better academics or researchers. But this applies for Oxbridge undergraduates as well, who are not necessarily going to be (or end up being) the very best.
Who'd win a fight between an elephant and a shark?

depends who you're trying to impress... mum and dad, generic prospective employer, specialist employer, researchers in your field or your old headmaster.

IMO the difference between the nature of a Phd and an undergrad is much greater than the differences between undergrads at different unis that so many on TSR obsess about - even oxbridge with it's atypical mode of undergrad tuition.

The value of the prestige boost any undergrad school gives to an individual graduate is highly overstated on TSR - if you give the appearance of not being competent to operate a pop up toaster at a job interview, sadly the employer isn't going to give a monkeys how prestigious your undergrad uni was.
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MagicNMedicine
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(Original post by Joinedup)
Who'd win a fight between an elephant and a shark?

depends who you're trying to impress... mum and dad, generic prospective employer, specialist employer, researchers in your field or your old headmaster.
wat wud impress da punani more?
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username207685
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(Original post by james_78)
It seems that people tend to underestimate the difficulty of getting in Oxbridge for a PhD. As though being admitted at Oxbridge is a question of choice for someone deciding to do PhD research!

In addition, Oxbridge is a highly competitive and demanding environment, and Oxbridge PhDs are usually expected to deliver more compared to their counterparts in other UK institutions.

Last, it seems very unrealistic to say that it mostly matters what you will study and with whom. It is the name of the institution that will (only) stay on your cv at the end of the day.
There's huge competition for all PhDs. "Prestige" of the university is 100% irrelevant for a PhD, and Oxbridge PhD students publish the same amount of papers and defend the same thesis as everyone else. As people have said, when applying for PhDs if you're basing it on anything but the supervisor and the project (personal issues like geographical/financial needs aside) then you're doing it wrong. When you're interviewing for postdocs they won't care what university you went to, they will care who your supervisor was, what skills you have, what your publication record looks like, and whether they get on with you.

Also, an academic CV will contain the title of your PhD thesis, a description of your research, skills, and the names of your supervisors. The name of the university is a footnote next to the date you were awarded the degree.

PhDs and academia are very different from undergraduate and non-academic employment.
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0le
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Seriously, I don't rate anyone at university based on what university they go to. I rated my friend because he could actually think out of the box. He looked at something completely differently to what professors and peers did. People thought he was crazy. But he reasons with logic. Most other students just memorize facts, figures and do some coding, which after a while, becomes second nature. Speaking to several professors, I only rated a handful as well. So, no, I don't rate anyone that got into Oxford or Cambridge just for the sake of it.

Incase your wondering, no, I don't rate myself either.

I laugh that you dismiss people with A-Levels, when in truth, university is much like completing A-Levels, just memorising in more detail. How many people can truthfully say they picked up a textbook and started reading pages and pages of it, for fun, rather than just to understand something for an exam? I'm sure there are many, don't get me wrong, but there are also many who are like me and aren't that great either.

There are also professors who think publishing lots of papers means they are successful, whereas I measure success as actually changing the way we think or developing new ideas to think about something. These are not commonly achieved. People like to celebrate anything these days and really lack ambition to go on and do something phenomenal.
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ChemistBoy
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(Original post by James_78)
Last, it seems very unrealistic to say that it mostly matters what you will study and with whom. It is the name of the institution that will (only) stay on your cv at the end of the day.
Do you have a PhD or are you a PhD student? If not, I think it is pretty patronising to dismiss the experience of those of us who have achieved that qualification and gone out to the job market with it.

Of course if you don't want to use you PhD and just get a graduate job then you may well be right, but anyone who regularly employs PhDs quickly looks beyond the brand name.

Also, it would be a very odd CV indeed if a PhD holder didn't include the title of their thesis and name of their supervisor at the very least when describing their PhD.
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Zenomorph
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I Say undergrad
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