Durham vs Edinburgh vs Nottingham (for master's in Physics)?

Watch
o5mium
Badges: 6
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#1
I currently hold offers from Durham University and the University of Nottingham for postgraduate (master's) Physics courses, and I'm hoping for an Edinburgh offer letter soon. I'm uncertain about which university I should be choosing, because Durham is one of the top universities in the UK but is considerably farther down in the world rankings as compared to Edinburgh. Nottingham seems to be around a similar rank as Durham in the world rankings on many different league tables, which is only opening up my options further.
I plan to go for a PhD and then into research after my master's degree, and being an international student, I may or may not stay in the UK for them. Should I be basing my decision right now on the ranking of the uni or the quality of research produced by it? How do these universities place for welcoming international students, safety, things to do, expenses etc.?
I'm an international student who did a bachelor's degree in the UK in a pretty small city, so I'm already used to a "quiet" university life (as I've heard Durham has), but I'd also enjoy living in a more bustling city.

Course-wise, I am equally likely to enjoy all 3 courses at the different universities, so this has just made me more indecisive.
0
reply
Wired_1800
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#2
Report 1 month ago
#2
Bumping this for you
1
reply
Blahhh123
Badges: 6
Rep:
?
#3
Report 1 month ago
#3
I would definitely not place much importance on rankings at all. The ranking will vary greatly depending on what you are specialising in. Research output is much more important at a postgraduate level.

Pick a university that is renowned for its research in a particular area of your interest. Durham I'd say is generally considered to be better for physics than Nottingham but again, this depends on what you want to specialise in. Durham has very strong theoretical cosmology and astronomy groups. Nottingham has a very strong gravitational physics department etc. So it all depends on what you are looking for. Considering you are applying for a masters, pick a university that has a large research group in the areas that interest you. This will make it more likely that you'll enjoy completing your research dissertation. Also it will help you make academic connections and allow you to network, to maximise your chances of finding a PhD.

I would recommend looking at each university's research group webpages and see which one fits you best. If in doubt, email the course coordinators and set-up a meeting (I did this when choosing between Nottingham and Kings college London- I went with Nottingham in the end because of their Gravity group).

My personal experience: I did my Physics Postgrad in Nottingham (MSc Gravity, Particles and Fields), but it was very distrupted by Covid so not sure how representative my experience is. Nottingham campus is beautiful and huge, with lots of great spaces to study (they've got 3 lakes!). The city centre is also pretty great.

In terms of cost, Nottingham is relatively cheap to rent in. I'm not too sure about Durham and Edinburgh but perhaps someone else can shine some light on that. All 3 universities have a huge international community, so I am certain you will feel welcome at whichever one you go to.

What courses specifically have you applied to, and what research areas interest you?
Last edited by Blahhh123; 1 month ago
2
reply
o5mium
Badges: 6
Rep:
?
#4
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#4
Thank you for your detailed insight into this! What you said makes sense, especially the parts about making connections and the uni ranking being insignificant here.

At Nottingham it would be the Gravity, Particles, and Fields course as well. From everything I've heard about it, it seems like a wonderful place to live - but after long deliberations I've decided I'd rather not get sucked into the field of Gravity (pun intended). How did you find the Particles and Fields parts of your course to be?

I'm specifically interested in theoretical Particle Physics/Cosmology, so I've applied for the Theoretical Physics course at Edinburgh (in which I'd be selecting the PP/Cosm modules) and the Particles, Strings, and Cosmology course at Durham. I had briefly looked at the relevant research groups at the universities when I was applying to them, and both Edinburgh and Durham have excellent research groups working in the fields of Particle Physics and/or Cosmology (including Particle Cosmology and dark matter research, which I find fascinating). As of this moment, I'm unsure of which area specifically I would like to pursue for a PhD, and I don't fully know the PhD topics that either university offers.
I'm going to heed your advice and email the course coordinators at Durham and Edinburgh tomorrow, so I can get some more information about the PhD (and maybe further career) prospects from both universities before I make a decision.

Do you know much about these courses at Durham and Edinburgh, either from your experience or other people's?
Also in your opinion, which do you think is a nicer city overall for the typical "student experience"?
0
reply
Blahhh123
Badges: 6
Rep:
?
#5
Report 1 month ago
#5
How did you find the Particles and Fields parts of your course to be?
If it's cosmology you're after, I very much enjoyed the cosmology part of the course (20 credits) and the University has some great researchers in the field of theoretical cosmology. The course also offers some good projects in this field for your dissertation. But if I'm answering honestly, I could not recommend the particle physics component. In my opinion, it was not taught very well and relied very heavily on you reading about the topic yourself.
The highlight of the course for me was studying general relativity and black holes, both of which were taught very well.

One piece of advice I'd give to you is, after studying for the MSc, you may find that you have a much better of an idea what to do a PhD in and not enjoy certain topics as much as you thought you would and enjoy others more. I certainly found this myself and thus, the sorts of PhDs I'm looking for are in different fields to what I thought I wanted when I first started. So be open minded, basically. It's good you're starting to look early though.

Do you know much about these courses at Durham and Edinburgh, either from your experience or other people's?
So I actually applied to the Particles, strings and Cosmology course at Durham, and it was my first choice before they cruelly rejected me. It's an excellent course. I'm glad I went to Nottingham in hindsight though since I've surprisingly enjoyed studying Quantum information and Differential geometry.

I know you said you didn't want to get sucked into the field of gravity, but if you pursue something cosmology related, it'll almost certainly involve studying general relativity, and this is compulsory in Durham (but not in Edinburgh)- something to keep in mind.
Durham and Edinburgh are both really prestigious universities so I'm sure whichever you go to, it'll be fantastic.

Also in your opinion, which do you think is a nicer city overall for the typical "student experience"?
I've visited Durham, it seemed like a really picturesque, quiet city and smaller than Edinburgh. Edinburgh is probably going to be more bustling and busy though, if that's what you're after. I'm sure there are threads on this website that compare them for student experience.
0
reply
o5mium
Badges: 6
Rep:
?
#6
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#6
This has been amazing and very insightful, thank you so much!
1
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

What support do you need with your UCAS application?

I need help researching unis (19)
16.52%
I need help researching courses (8)
6.96%
I need help with filling out the application form (7)
6.09%
I need help with my personal statement (44)
38.26%
I need help with understanding how to make my application stand out (28)
24.35%
I need help with something else (let us know in the thread!) (2)
1.74%
I'm feeling confident about my application and don't need any help at the moment (7)
6.09%

Watched Threads

View All