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    I was just wondering whether going to Aberystwyth uni for physics would hinder my job prospects and limit the places I could get a PhD at, over a University like Birmingham or Lancaster. I'm curious because I feel like I will get an unconditional for Aberystwyth.
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    (Original post by peggyS)
    I was just wondering whether going to Aberystwyth uni for physics would hinder my job prospects and limit the places I could get a PhD at, over a University like Birmingham or Lancaster. I'm curious because I feel like I will get an unconditional for Aberystwyth.
    Very difficult to answer that question. In principle any IOP accredited physics course should allow you to do a PhD in physics, at least in areas of physics which you are exposed to. People with degrees from Universities which are lower in the league tables do go on to do PhDs all the time, often at institutions which are ranked higher. They obviously do so in much lower numbers than people who study at 'higher ranked' departments.

    I haven't seen any evidence that teaching at the higher ranked universities is massively superior (other than the Oxbridge tutorial system). However, the general academic environment and undergraduate research opportunities that you will have been exposed to probably won't be as good, which is relevant if you want to go on to a PhD. But how much an individual takes advantage of those opportunities varies, and some people may actually find it easier to take advantage of opportunities in a smaller, more-relaxed department.

    If you are interested in an academic career in physics, and this is your only consideration when applying, then my general advice would be that you should apply for the largest and most prestigious department which you can get into. It's an incredibly competitive career so you should get used to being around high-achieving people as soon as you can.

    In reality there are lots of personal factors which affect which place is best for you, which only you know about. Some people thrive in intense environments, other people less so.
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    (Original post by almostmaybe)
    Very difficult to answer that question. In principle any IOP accredited physics course should allow you to do a PhD in physics, at least in areas of physics which you are exposed to. People with degrees from Universities which are lower in the league tables do go on to do PhDs all the time, often at institutions which are ranked higher. They obviously do so in much lower numbers than people who study at 'higher ranked' departments.

    I haven't seen any evidence that teaching at the higher ranked universities is massively superior (other than the Oxbridge tutorial system). However, the general academic environment and undergraduate research opportunities that you will have been exposed to probably won't be as good, which is relevant if you want to go on to a PhD. But how much an individual takes advantage of those opportunities varies, and some people may actually find it easier to take advantage of opportunities in a smaller, more-relaxed department.

    If you are interested in an academic career in physics, and this is your only consideration when applying, then my general advice would be that you should apply for the largest and most prestigious department which you can get into. It's an incredibly competitive career so you should get used to being around high-achieving people as soon as you can.

    In reality there are lots of personal factors which affect which place is best for you, which only you know about. Some people thrive in intense environments, other people less so.
    Thanks, this was really useful and I think it was just what I needed to hear
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    PhDs aren't like banking grad schemes, where anyone can do the work, but due to supply/demand discrepancies they are able to mill out many prospective candidates and only take those from "preferred" locations. For a PhD, not everyone can do the work, and there are fewer applicants for all the PhD funding available than you may think. The key thing they want to see is that a) you have a generally suitable academic background (doing well in an IOP course) and b) specifically able to deal with the PhD (doing well in your final year project, possibly preferably in a related area and possibly also referring to individual modules of relevance in undergraduate appropriate to the PhD project).

    So it shouldn't be a huge issue - certainly at e.g. Cambridge there are many applicants, so there will be more competition. But there are plenty of other good Physics departments you can do your PhD in otherwise, with a project of your liking. Ultimately no matter where you do your PhD, you're going to come out more or less the same anyway, as far as remaining in academia is concerned. If you wanted to then go into a data science or quantitative finance role (which often require a numerate/computational PhD) then yes, again the issues regard "prestige" rear their head, but to a lesser degree than the generic first degree grad schemes, as there are fewer suitable PhD candidates for them to choose from anyway.

    The major things that will be of interest/relevance are going to be your final year project/dissertation (MPhys or BSc - they may refer to your BSc project work if you're on an MPhys but it's probably less interesting to them given the larger scope of MPhys projects), what area you've done it in (and who was your supervisor, potentially), how well you've done, what you can tell them about it etc. Since academic expertise at the research level tends to be fairly distribute across all universities, and as PhDs are so highly specific, you may find an academic at a "lower ranking" university is actually the leader in that field, and doing a final year project with them (and potentially getting a publication or two even) could go a huge way towards securing a desirable PhD project. Of course equally in this case it may well be better to remain at your institution with this particular academic, particularly if you get on with them.

    Ultimately generic "league tables" and "rankings" are irrelevant as far as graduate study is concerned, due to how highly specialized it becomes (very quickly). Even ranking by broad research areas, for example condensed matter physics doesn't give much better indication, as a university with expertise in soft matter physics may well not have such expertise in graphene materials and vice versa - despite both of these falling under the umbrella of condensed matter. Even within a smaller subgroup, one may be expert in experimental work in graphene materials for applications and industry and have many spin out companies and industrial interest, but limited theoretical research output beyond what is necessary to support that. While another may well be the world leader in the theoretical physics of graphene (and quite possible, other areas of condensed matter) but simply lack the experimental facilities to have any real output in the applications side.
 
 
 

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