physconomics
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So I’m in Year 12 and I want an idea of some unis to apply to, but i’m not sure which ones are best for physics (there’s so many it’s sooo overwhelming)

For context, I’m doing Physics, Economics, Maths and Further Maths and predicted AAAA for the end of Year 12 (9A*s,2As at GCSE). I’m interested in particle physics and quantum mechanics and want to end up specialising in this kind of area. I’m looking for a uni that’s quiet and not too heavy on the partying side because i’m pretty shy and not that comfortable around people.

I’d really appreciate any personal experiences, or if you know the physics department at your uni is good!
Thank you!
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Ellieg333
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Looo at the league tables...
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HertsExRep
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(Original post by physconomics)
So I’m in Year 12 and I want an idea of some unis to apply to, but i’m not sure which ones are best for physics (there’s so many it’s sooo overwhelming)

For context, I’m doing Physics, Economics, Maths and Further Maths and predicted AAAA for the end of Year 12 (9A*s,2As at GCSE). I’m interested in particle physics and quantum mechanics and want to end up specialising in this kind of area. I’m looking for a uni that’s quiet and not too heavy on the partying side because i’m pretty shy and not that comfortable around people.

I’d really appreciate any personal experiences, or if you know the physics department at your uni is good!
Thank you!
Heya! I'm currently in my fourth year of my degree (MPhys) at UH, and I would 100% recommend the School of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics here.

The department is incredibly small in the best way possible--you can really get to know your lecturers, and they're also keen to help you in whatever you find difficult in studying, and life at University. It also means that more opportunities are available to you, compared to bigger departments, if you want to do research work with some of our reknowned researchers during the summer. 100% of the research conducted at the University is considered as having very considerable or considerable impact, and we've just installed new atmospherics labs which is really exciting! We tend to cover particle physics/quantum mechanics (research-wise, at least; you'll have several modules covering these) through astrophysics; but I know so, so many people that change their interests initially throughout their degree as they explore other areas of physics, go on placements, etc. and the lecturers/department can really help guide you in this regard!

I consider UH very much a "you get the experience you want" kind of Uni--there is definitely opportunity to have a hyped social life, but equally so there are a lot of more relaxed nights out--eg. Bingo Lingo next Thursday, held in the big Forum nightclub, but not at all a "proper club night out."

I would recommend attending an Open Day to get a feel for the campus if you're able! Also feel free to ask me any questions, whether about the physics courses specifically or the campus!
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georgelagalle
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Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge and King’s College are very good for the science based degrees including physics.
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University of Bath
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(Original post by physconomics)
So I’m in Year 12 and I want an idea of some unis to apply to, but i’m not sure which ones are best for physics (there’s so many it’s sooo overwhelming)

For context, I’m doing Physics, Economics, Maths and Further Maths and predicted AAAA for the end of Year 12 (9A*s,2As at GCSE). I’m interested in particle physics and quantum mechanics and want to end up specialising in this kind of area. I’m looking for a uni that’s quiet and not too heavy on the partying side because i’m pretty shy and not that comfortable around people.

I’d really appreciate any personal experiences, or if you know the physics department at your uni is good!
Thank you!
Hello there!
My name's Lydia and I'm a final year physics student at the University of Bath, and I would definitely recommend my course and university to any potential physics student.

The standards of teaching here are fantastic and the University was awarded gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework award this year.

Bath University is a campus university, which I would definitely recommend for more introverted people (like myself) because it is like living in a little town which is easy to get to grips with, and I end up recognizing lots of faces just walking along to my lectures from my accommodation- which wouldn't be so likely in a bustling city campus.

When choosing universities a good thing to look at is the method of assessment. So for example for physics at Bath, 70-90% of your grade comes from the January and May exams (and the rest from lab work and reports, as well as coursework). Whilst some universities I applied to were 50% coursework, 50% exams. So they would set homework each week, and the results of which would go towards your final grade. It is worth thinking about what style of assessment best plays to your strengths.

Our university has a great physics society. It organises yearly week-long trips to places like CERN, Iceland (to see the Northern Lights) and Chernobyl (to see the nuclear accident aftermath), as well as many pub lectures throughout the year where members of the physics department will come to explain their research in an informal setting over a beer.

I have another threat where I talk more about the university and the course, which I'd suggest you head over to if you're interested: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho...rimary_content

A typical offer would be A*AA, or AAA plus grade A in an EPQ, grade B in the Welsh Bacc Skills Challenge Certificate, or grade M1 in Cambridge Pre-U Global Perspectives ( to see more on the course and entry requirements then go to: http://www.bath.ac.uk/courses/underg...s/bsc-physics/ ) However many of my course friends got offers with lower grades when I applied.

If you have any more questions feel free to ask! And I wish you the very best in your search.
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JuliusDS92
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(Original post by physconomics)
So I’m in Year 12 and I want an idea of some unis to apply to, but i’m not sure which ones are best for physics (there’s so many it’s sooo overwhelming)

For context, I’m doing Physics, Economics, Maths and Further Maths and predicted AAAA for the end of Year 12 (9A*s,2As at GCSE). I’m interested in particle physics and quantum mechanics and want to end up specialising in this kind of area. I’m looking for a uni that’s quiet and not too heavy on the partying side because i’m pretty shy and not that comfortable around people.

I’d really appreciate any personal experiences, or if you know the physics department at your uni is good!
Thank you!

Hi, I graduated with a physics degree from Edinburgh this past summer. Ignore league tables like the plague, they're absurd. What makes a university "good" for physics -or any other subject for that matter - is quite ill defined, so I'm going to interpret your question as which universities will expose you to the full breadth of the field as well as which will allow you tospecialise in areas you find interesting. These will be universities with large departments which have research going on in many different areas. This is because after the first couple of years when all unis teach the same foundational material (classical and quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism etc), what you get to study depends heavily on the research interests of the staff. An experimental astrophysicist is unlikely to put together an advanced course on superconductivity, for instance.

For example, Manchester has a colossal physics department, so if there's an area of the subject you find you have a passion for, Manchester will almost certainly be able to accommodate you. Edinburgh has a very active particle theory group, meaning you can take multiple courses in Quantum Field Theory, gauge theories, physics of the standard model, particle fields etc. Bristol, on the other hand, doesn't offer much of this type of thing in comparison.

Smaller departments have their advantages too, such as not being one student among thousands and often getting to know the staff better (which can help with things like arranging research internships etc.) Smaller departments tend to be at smaller universities, which might also suit you more socially.


(Original post by physconomics)
I’m interested in particle physics and quantum mechanics and want to end up specialising in this kind of area.
Another thing is that "real" physics is very different from what you do at A-level or read about in pop-science books and what you think you're interested in and what you'll actually be interested in can be very different. For instance, quantum mechanics is more of a framework than it's own research area - the majority of physics research involves QM in some way. (although some areas are more dependent on it than others i.e. quantum many body systems). A lot of people start uni thinking they want to do as much theoretical particle physics as they can but most go into other areas. This is because either they get turned off by all of the math they have to go through to get to the sexy stuff or become interested in another area of physics that's not nearly as marketable (at least to the public) but appeals to them much more for whatever reason. This applies to me; I'm doing my masters in a different subject but had I stayed in physics I would have likely focused on computational soft matter (maybe protein folding).

I realise I've written quite a bit and I may have made the decision harder for you! I guess my aim is to give you a sense of the different factors that should go into choosing where to apply to. Feel free to ask if you have any other questions about applying to or studying physics.
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Schadenfreude65
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Royal Holloway is very good for particle physics - it has strong links with CERN - and is a smallish campus university that might suit your ideas of a quieter pace of life. Other quieter universities you could look at, as well as those mentioned above, include St Andrews, Durham, York and Surrey.
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artful_lounger
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Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, and Bath all have strong Maths programmes with signifcant Applied Maths/Theoretical Physics content and/or joint honours courses in these areas which build on these strengths. They also have excellent to good Physics departments. Edinburgh and Glasgow also both have very strong Physics courses (I'm not sure about maths) - the former being the home of the Higgs Centre and the current academic residence of it's namesake to my knowledge. Warwick has a very strong Maths course, however I think they have a touch less physics content in it - I'm not sure how their Physics department is specifically, however they are quite well regarded overall and I doubt it's "bad" by any means, and likely benefits from the strengths of it's Maths department to some extent.

Manchester, UCL, Sheffield, Nottingham, KCL, Birmingham and Southampton all have good undergraduate Physics programmes - the latter at the least has the opportunity for the best students to spend their final year at CERN or the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory doing a yearlong research project. Another topic of note is that Birmingham has the option to "intercalate" a year in the Computer Science department - following the second year of their CS course I believe. This would be very useful for budding theoretical physicists (especially astrophysics) or experimentalists who anticipate a large amount of modelling work (condensed matter experimentalists for example) as preparation for their PhDs. Oxford also is the leader in the Philosophy of Physics, and has an excellent joint honours in this course. Unlike other such courses, this is essentially a theoretical physics degree, with some philosophy of physics and science - the latter replaces the experimental components. It covers all the essential mathematical and physical content you need, and their philosophy of physics courses necessarily assume all of this content and so it's not merely fluffy minded discussion of "quantum mechanics is weird". Indeed, fundamental questions about the nature and structure of quantum mechanics and space-time physics are very important for theoretical physicists, and continue to be relevant even today (for example the Bell inequalities). It's also worth noting Maths at Cambridge has the first year option of "Maths with Physics" which allows you to either continue in the Maths course as typical for second year onwards, or to switch into Natural Sciences Physics/Astrophysics (i.e. Experimental Physics - although the Astrophysics course does have some non-trivial overlap with the Maths course at the Part III level, and you can go into Part III Maths from Part II Physics/Astrophysics potentially).

However Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and slightly further behind, Edinburgh are by far and away the frontrunners. For Theoretical Physicists especially, Maths at Cambridge might be one of the best choices for an undergraduate course - indeed many theoretical physicists from various locations pursue the Cambridge Part III Maths course as a standalone masters. Oxford however has recently (a year or two ago) launched a similar masters in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Imperial has it's well established QFFF course for theorists as well, although it also has a great number of more experimentally oriented masters courses (and options in it's undergrad course). If you were interested in having some exposure to the philosophical side of things (a fairly reasonable prospect for a potential theoretical physicist) it's quite common for the Oxford PhysPhil students to continue to Part III Maths at Cambridge and then onto PhDs in various places. This would certainly give you the "best of both worlds" if this is your aim. If you're more on the experimental side, this may not be as appealing an option though.

Additionally as touched on above by other posters, certain universities usually have specialisms in certain areas and have large and/or active research groups in these areas. This usually manifests in undergraduate courses as optional modules and possible 3rd/4th year projects/dissertations/theses. As a result, this might cause your to lean more to one than another. Manchester is of course the birthplace of graphene, so has a fairly well known graphene group. However Exeter also has quite a prolific graphene group - they're also known for Exoplanet research. UCL has a good amount of planetary science and space physics research ongoing, while Cambridge has quite a lot of condensed matter and materials physics work (sometimes working with their EE or materials groups/departments) and fundamental physics (especially through maths). Southampton has a reasonably sized gravitation group in their maths department which has a number of links to their physics course, as well as a great deal of optoelectronics work between the physics and EE departments. Imperial, as well as a fair amount of theoretical work and applied maths, has some particular expertise in fluid/continuum dynamics and shock physics as well as quantum computing and optoelectronics. As a result, one university which may be considered "worse" by a league table, or even my comments, may be better for you.
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physconomics
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(Original post by University of Bath)
Hello there!
My name's Lydia and I'm a final year physics student at the University of Bath, and I would definitely recommend my course and university to any potential physics student.

The standards of teaching here are fantastic and the University was awarded gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework award this year.

Bath University is a campus university, which I would definitely recommend for more introverted people (like myself) because it is like living in a little town which is easy to get to grips with, and I end up recognizing lots of faces just walking along to my lectures from my accommodation- which wouldn't be so likely in a bustling city campus.

When choosing universities a good thing to look at is the method of assessment. So for example for physics at Bath, 70-90% of your grade comes from the January and May exams (and the rest from lab work and reports, as well as coursework). Whilst some universities I applied to were 50% coursework, 50% exams. So they would set homework each week, and the results of which would go towards your final grade. It is worth thinking about what style of assessment best plays to your strengths.

Our university has a great physics society. It organises yearly week-long trips to places like CERN, Iceland (to see the Northern Lights) and Chernobyl (to see the nuclear accident aftermath), as well as many pub lectures throughout the year where members of the physics department will come to explain their research in an informal setting over a beer.

I have another threat where I talk more about the university and the course, which I'd suggest you head over to if you're interested: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho...rimary_content

A typical offer would be A*AA, or AAA plus grade A in an EPQ, grade B in the Welsh Bacc Skills Challenge Certificate, or grade M1 in Cambridge Pre-U Global Perspectives ( to see more on the course and entry requirements then go to: http://www.bath.ac.uk/courses/underg...s/bsc-physics/ ) However many of my course friends got offers with lower grades when I applied.

If you have any more questions feel free to ask! And I wish you the very best in your search.
Hi, thank you so much for all the information. I’m currently planning which universities I want to apply to and Bath is definitely a choice I’m strongly considering. I just wanted to ask if it’s possible to transfer into Mathematics and Physics if I initially applied for Physics? (Is the first year the same?) Also, does the university make contextual offers at all, and along with that, what bursaries are available? I have booked the open day on the 23rd and I’m really excited to go see it haha. Thanks again!
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frangipani19
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(Original post by physconomics)
Hi, thank you so much for all the information. I’m currently planning which universities I want to apply to and Bath is definitely a choice I’m strongly considering. I just wanted to ask if it’s possible to transfer into Mathematics and Physics if I initially applied for Physics? (Is the first year the same?) Also, does the university make contextual offers at all, and along with that, what bursaries are available? I have booked the open day on the 23rd and I’m really excited to go see it haha. Thanks again!
Hey what did you think of the Bath open day? I have an offer but didn't get a chance to visit the university.

(Original post by artful_lounger)
Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, and Bath all have strong Maths programmes with signifcant Applied Maths/Theoretical Physics content and/or joint honours courses in these areas which build on these strengths. They also have excellent to good Physics departments. Edinburgh and Glasgow also both have very strong Physics courses (I'm not sure about maths) - the former being the home of the Higgs Centre and the current academic residence of it's namesake to my knowledge. Warwick has a very strong Maths course, however I think they have a touch less physics content in it - I'm not sure how their Physics department is specifically, however they are quite well regarded overall and I doubt it's "bad" by any means, and likely benefits from the strengths of it's Maths department to some extent.

Manchester, UCL, Sheffield, Nottingham, KCL, Birmingham and Southampton all have good undergraduate Physics programmes - the latter at the least has the opportunity for the best students to spend their final year at CERN or the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory doing a yearlong research project. Another topic of note is that Birmingham has the option to "intercalate" a year in the Computer Science department - following the second year of their CS course I believe. This would be very useful for budding theoretical physicists (especially astrophysics) or experimentalists who anticipate a large amount of modelling work (condensed matter experimentalists for example) as preparation for their PhDs. Oxford also is the leader in the Philosophy of Physics, and has an excellent joint honours in this course. Unlike other such courses, this is essentially a theoretical physics degree, with some philosophy of physics and science - the latter replaces the experimental components. It covers all the essential mathematical and physical content you need, and their philosophy of physics courses necessarily assume all of this content and so it's not merely fluffy minded discussion of "quantum mechanics is weird". Indeed, fundamental questions about the nature and structure of quantum mechanics and space-time physics are very important for theoretical physicists, and continue to be relevant even today (for example the Bell inequalities). It's also worth noting Maths at Cambridge has the first year option of "Maths with Physics" which allows you to either continue in the Maths course as typical for second year onwards, or to switch into Natural Sciences Physics/Astrophysics (i.e. Experimental Physics - although the Astrophysics course does have some non-trivial overlap with the Maths course at the Part III level, and you can go into Part III Maths from Part II Physics/Astrophysics potentially).

However Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and slightly further behind, Edinburgh are by far and away the frontrunners. For Theoretical Physicists especially, Maths at Cambridge might be one of the best choices for an undergraduate course - indeed many theoretical physicists from various locations pursue the Cambridge Part III Maths course as a standalone masters. Oxford however has recently (a year or two ago) launched a similar masters in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Imperial has it's well established QFFF course for theorists as well, although it also has a great number of more experimentally oriented masters courses (and options in it's undergrad course). If you were interested in having some exposure to the philosophical side of things (a fairly reasonable prospect for a potential theoretical physicist) it's quite common for the Oxford PhysPhil students to continue to Part III Maths at Cambridge and then onto PhDs in various places. This would certainly give you the "best of both worlds" if this is your aim. If you're more on the experimental side, this may not be as appealing an option though.

Additionally as touched on above by other posters, certain universities usually have specialisms in certain areas and have large and/or active research groups in these areas. This usually manifests in undergraduate courses as optional modules and possible 3rd/4th year projects/dissertations/theses. As a result, this might cause your to lean more to one than another. Manchester is of course the birthplace of graphene, so has a fairly well known graphene group. However Exeter also has quite a prolific graphene group - they're also known for Exoplanet research. UCL has a good amount of planetary science and space physics research ongoing, while Cambridge has quite a lot of condensed matter and materials physics work (sometimes working with their EE or materials groups/departments) and fundamental physics (especially through maths). Southampton has a reasonably sized gravitation group in their maths department which has a number of links to their physics course, as well as a great deal of optoelectronics work between the physics and EE departments. Imperial, as well as a fair amount of theoretical work and applied maths, has some particular expertise in fluid/continuum dynamics and shock physics as well as quantum computing and optoelectronics. As a result, one university which may be considered "worse" by a league table, or even my comments, may be better for you.
Do you know which unis have good astrophysics research groups? My options are Bristol, Bath, York, Sheffield and Exeter. Thanks
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by frangipani19)
Do you know which unis have good astrophysics research groups? My options are Bristol, Bath, York, Sheffield and Exeter. Thanks
Exeter I'm aware of specifically has a generally well regarded astro group, and particularly notable exoplanet group within it. They also have (competitive) EPSRC funded summer research projects which may include astro (depending on availability of a supervisor, although I don't think this is an issue). They also have a student led Space and Astrophysical Science society which built it's own radio telescope (which I believe is fully operational now, when I left it was in the latter part of the build stage) which might be of interest.

The others I don't know as specifically (having not attended any of them), but they're all reputable generally, and Bristol and Bath are particularly well regarded as I can tell and seem to have very good programmes. I don't know much about York (only person I knew who went there did PPE) but I know Sheffield has it's Chemical Physics course, which means the Physics department is certainly large enough to support joint courses, however it may indicate their research skews to the quantum side (rather than astro). I'd suggest checking out their research pages (in fact all of them, if you are able) to see what areas they focus on. This isn't of course the be all and end all as an undergraduate but often is indicative of the areas in which more (or fewer) optional modules and project/dissertation titles may be available.
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frangipani19
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Exeter I'm aware of specifically has a generally well regarded astro group, and particularly notable exoplanet group within it. They also have (competitive) EPSRC funded summer research projects which may include astro (depending on availability of a supervisor, although I don't think this is an issue). They also have a student led Space and Astrophysical Science society which built it's own radio telescope (which I believe is fully operational now, when I left it was in the latter part of the build stage) which might be of interest.

The others I don't know as specifically (having not attended any of them), but they're all reputable generally, and Bristol and Bath are particularly well regarded as I can tell and seem to have very good programmes. I don't know much about York (only person I knew who went there did PPE) but I know Sheffield has it's Chemical Physics course, which means the Physics department is certainly large enough to support joint courses, however it may indicate their research skews to the quantum side (rather than astro). I'd suggest checking out their research pages (in fact all of them, if you are able) to see what areas they focus on. This isn't of course the be all and end all as an undergraduate but often is indicative of the areas in which more (or fewer) optional modules and project/dissertation titles may be available.
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply with all this info! It's really helpful to me
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