Uni/Subject rankings - do they matter? Watch

DeanLearner
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I know this question has likely been answered thousands of times before, but I'm struggling to find the answers I need

I'm looking to study physics at uni, and I obtained BBC in my AS grades. Now theoretically I can increase this to AAB at A2 my C was in physics and was only 2 ums away from a B), however so far I am struggling slightly in certain maths topics, so I'm setting myself a more secure target of ABB with AAB being an optimistic target.

Now, in the physics degree rankings, most universities in the top 30 require AAB as entry; the only ones on there not requiring that or higher being Belfast (too far away), Swansea (which I'm going to see on Saturday) and Strathclyde (which I didn't like). What suprised me, however, is how Kent is ranked 40th for physics despite being ranked 30th overall in the Times University Guide.

At the moment, I'm looking at applying to Glasgow (AAB), Sheffield (AAB), Sussex (AAB - ABB), Kent (ABB) and one other (likely Swansea, depending on whether I like it or not).

My dream career is to become a research physicist, and thus I need to ask the following questions:

1. If I was to apply to do a masters/phd after finishing my degree (depending on whether I am able to transfer to a masters while an undergraduate), do universities discriminate depending on where you went before?

2. Do subject and/or university league tables matter, and if so, which is more important? Obviously I know to take them with a pinch of salt and that they fluctuate yearly, however I'm just wondering whether they do actually matter.

3. Does anyone know how lenient universities are typically for physics? Two of my friends wanted to do physics last year; one required AAB for Glasgow, only got BBC yet still managed to get in, whilst the other required ABB for Surrey, got BBB yet got rejected (he's now taking a year out to work, resit and reapply), and I don't really want to end up in the same boat as him.

Thanks for any advice you guys can give me!
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Nymthae
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(Original post by DeanLearner)
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It's somewhat less of an issue in technical sectors, because what's important is your technical ability. If you performed very well in your undergraduate the you're always in with a chance. Check the degree is accredited/recognised by the relevant body, and if so then you should really have covered enough content to be on a level(ish) footing. I'm no expert, but personally looking at those universities, I think you would be alright.

What you need to do is try get in with a research group during summer time of your undergraduate (after second or third year, depending on BSc/MPhys/who will have you). I want to go into industry, but there's a lot of people on my course (Chemistry) that have gone down the route of doing a summer placement with some of the academic staff, and are looking at PhDs. If you can get your name on a paper out of it then it will help your application. It would be a good idea to speak to your tutor when you get there about your intentions, as I imagine they will have a good grasp of how to help put you in the best position. Try and end up doing something relevant to what you want to research in, which can be difficult to pick, but some departments are known better for certain areas (a good idea is to check all the academic staff, and see who is doing what).

I generally paid attention to ~top 40 in most cases. Tables are always taken with a pinch of salt. RG universities are where you want to be heading if you're into research, but if it's not really feasible at the time (grades) then doing your undergraduate elsewhere isn't going to completely rule you out of the area. RG universities get more research funding, so targetting those for your MSc/PhD is handy. It's not a hard and fast rule entirely of course, but as a guide, from my experience. It's not the be-all-and-end-all anyway. I know someone who graduated from Oxford last year, and went off to Swansea to do an MSc this year. Some of it will come down to what you're interested in researching ultimately, because that's the priority - and some areas will have more opportunities available than others, depending on funding direction.

Leniency is all about numbers - depends who else misses their offer typically. If you're BBB+ then the cap on numbers is flexible so you stand a better chance, but BBC or below probably isn't going to end up too well I imagine.
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