An ony mous
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#1
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#1
Hi! I’m interested in astrophysics and I lean more towards theoretical. For my undergraduate (4 years Msci) I’d prefer to have a rigorous course in math and physics with research opportunities that will help me get somewhere good for a phD in astrophysics/astronomy/cosmology. With respect to that, can you guys give your opinion about any or all of the 5 courses I’ve shortlisted?
1. St Andrews- astrophysics
2. Imperial- physics with theoretical physics
3. King’s College London- physics with astrophysics and cosmology
4. Durham- physics and astronomy
5. Southampton- astrophysics with year abroad
Last edited by An ony mous; 1 month ago
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2childmum!
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#2
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Hi - just to say my son did MSc Physics with Astronomy at Durham, and is now in his second year doing a PhD at the European Southern Observatory Headquarters in Munich. He basically got the place because he did an internship there between his 3rd and 4th years.

I don't think the place you do your degree is the main indicator of where you might end up for your PhD, especially as all the places you have listed are well respected universities for Physics
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An ony mous
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#3
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#3
(Original post by 2childmum!)
Hi - just to say my son did MSc Physics with Astronomy at Durham, and is now in his second year doing a PhD at the European Southern Observatory Headquarters in Munich. He basically got the place because he did an internship there between his 3rd and 4th years.

I don't think the place you do your degree is the main indicator of where you might end up for your PhD, especially as all the places you have listed are well respected universities for Physics
Thanks! Might I ask where else he applied and what were his firm and insurance?
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R T
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#4
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#4
(Original post by An ony mous)
Hi! I’m interested in astrophysics and I lean more towards theoretical. For my undergraduate (4 years Msci) I’d prefer to have a rigorous course in math and physics with research opportunities that will help me get somewhere good for a phD in astrophysics/astronomy/cosmology. With respect to that, can you guys give your opinion about any or all of the 5 courses I’ve shortlisted?
1. St Andrews- astrophysics
2. Imperial- physics with theoretical physics
3. King’s College London- physics with astrophysics and cosmology
4. Durham- physics and astronomy
5. Southampton- astrophysics with year abroad
All 5 of these universities have their physics course regularly checked and "officially recognised" by the institute of physics.

For this reason, the differences (in terms of course content and future prospects for any graduates) within academia would be extremely similar; perhaps to the point of being almost irrelevant. The most important thing (at any of them) would just be to do as well as you possibly can (First or 2i ideally, with some experience over the holidays in a lab or in some theoretical areas) to help your PhD application.

The major differences are simply going to be "prestige" which is more of a thing outside of academia (for example; at 22 you decide actually you want to go into Banking or consultancy). In this scenario, it would probably be ideal to have an Imperial or Durham degree, although again the difference is minor and the more important factor would be your degree classification (1st vs 2i vs 2ii vs 3rd).

You shouldn't overlook the more subjective points and how they can affect your performance though. e.g. If you hate London, this could easily negatively impact on your grade and wellbeing etc. Likewise if you hate the idea of not being in a major city, St Andrews might be worse. If extra circulars and a more close-knit student body are important then I'd look at Durham (Imperial for example is known for having a somewhat divided student body - which is neither a bad nor a good thing). I'd also underline that you'll want to apply for some courses which don't all have identical A-Level offers, just so you don't put yourself in an awkward situation in the scenario where you do unexpectedly badly at A-Level. This doesn't have to be a massive range, but if you are expecting A*AA then it might be worthwhile to have 1 option which is AAA or AAB for example.
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Gethandl
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#5
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#5
(Original post by An ony mous)
Hi! I’m interested in astrophysics and I lean more towards theoretical. For my undergraduate (4 years Msci) I’d prefer to have a rigorous course in math and physics with research opportunities that will help me get somewhere good for a phD in astrophysics/astronomy/cosmology. With respect to that, can you guys give your opinion about any or all of the 5 courses I’ve shortlisted?
1. St Andrews- astrophysics
2. Imperial- physics with theoretical physics
3. King’s College London- physics with astrophysics and cosmology
4. Durham- physics and astronomy
5. Southampton- astrophysics with year abroad
They're all good courses. Make sure you're picking them for the right reasons though.

If you're picking them because they're "good" universities, that's fine, but the prestige of the institution can only take you so far, and definitely won't hold sway over admissions decisions for PhD courses, Physicists care about what you've done over where you did it.
Even outside of Physics, it's not a massively powerful effect. In 2021, The Guardian ranked Swansea 20th and King's 45th for Physics (no shade on either, they're both very good unis), but still, a 1st from King's beats a 2:1 from Swansea, and a 1st from Swansea beats a 2:1 from King's. The circumstances in which the name of your institution will actually give you an advantage are astronomically slim.

If you're picking them because you like the Unis, that's even better. You'll do better at a uni you like better.

If you're picking them because you think you'll want to do a PhD in astrophysics/astronomy/cosmology, don't do that would be my advice. Prioritise finding a university and department you like, then apply there. You can almost always make changes to your programme pathway and module registrations while you're studying (check your department's specific policy). I first applied for Physics BSc, and now I'm doing Astrophysics MSci and I've chosen mainly Data Analysis- and Scientific Computing-related modules.
Your interest in these areas will change as you study them, for the worse and for the better. Don't commit yourself to anything too specific yet. Administrative hurdles will vary by institution, but it's always more academically and emotionally challenging to despecialise than the other way around.

If you're absolutely, positively sure that you're interested in research above everything else, apply to the BSc and do an MRes afterwards. Same number of years, same funding, same degree level, but an MRes will boost your research CV much more than an MSci will.
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Anonymous(
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#6
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#6
(Original post by An ony mous)
Hi! I’m interested in astrophysics and I lean more towards theoretical. For my undergraduate (4 years Msci) I’d prefer to have a rigorous course in math and physics with research opportunities that will help me get somewhere good for a phD in astrophysics/astronomy/cosmology. With respect to that, can you guys give your opinion about any or all of the 5 courses I’ve shortlisted?
1. St Andrews- astrophysics
2. Imperial- physics with theoretical physics
3. King’s College London- physics with astrophysics and cosmology
4. Durham- physics and astronomy
5. Southampton- astrophysics with year abroad
Hi, these are all good universities for physics, although imperial probably stands out. Their physics department is almost as good as oxbridge’s. Why didn’t you apply to Cambridge btw? It’s the best for astrophysics in the UK. Anyways, prestige isn’t that important for research. What’s more important is the grade you get. You should be aiming for a high first, since phd programs in astrophysics are quite competitive. Also, I would recommend doing a straight physics/maths/theoretical physics degree instead of specialising so early. Many people think that theoretical astrophysics is the only interesting thing, but then they go to uni and end up liking a different field such as condensed matter, experimental physics etc. These degrees will also give you a more solid grounding in the basic principles of maths and physics, and once you know these, astrophysics becomes easy to learn. To get into a good PhD program, you also need to have good grades in your masters degree. You can choose to do the MSci at these universities itself, but IMO it would be better to do the BSc from any of these and then do your masters at Oxford/Cambridge/imperial, it would make you a more competitive applicant. Your masters should be a specialised one, for example part iii astrophysics at Cambridge. Anyways, don’t worry about all this right now. Just focus on getting good grades and successfully getting into these unis (preferably imperial or St. Andrews, but it doesn’t really matter that much). And you should probably just do a straight physics/maths/tphys degree and choose the more mathematical and astrophysics options.
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Anonymous(
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#7
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#7
Also consider the points made by RT, you should choose the university you like the most and will thrive the most at.
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An ony mous
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#8
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#8
(Original post by R T)
All 5 of these universities have their physics course regularly checked and "officially recognised" by the institute of physics.

For this reason, the differences (in terms of course content and future prospects for any graduates) within academia would be extremely similar; perhaps to the point of being almost irrelevant. The most important thing (at any of them) would just be to do as well as you possibly can (First or 2i ideally, with some experience over the holidays in a lab or in some theoretical areas) to help your PhD application.

The major differences are simply going to be "prestige" which is more of a thing outside of academia (for example; at 22 you decide actually you want to go into Banking or consultancy). In this scenario, it would probably be ideal to have an Imperial or Durham degree, although again the difference is minor and the more important factor would be your degree classification (1st vs 2i vs 2ii vs 3rd).

You shouldn't overlook the more subjective points and how they can affect your performance though. e.g. If you hate London, this could easily negatively impact on your grade and wellbeing etc. Likewise if you hate the idea of not being in a major city, St Andrews might be worse. If extra circulars and a more close-knit student body are important then I'd look at Durham (Imperial for example is known for having a somewhat divided student body - which is neither a bad nor a good thing). I'd also underline that you'll want to apply for some courses which don't all have identical A-Level offers, just so you don't put yourself in an awkward situation in the scenario where you do unexpectedly badly at A-Level. This doesn't have to be a massive range, but if you are expecting A*AA then it might be worthwhile to have 1 option which is AAA or AAB for example.
I’m an international student btw, I understand that subjective things matter but they’re sooo uncertain for me that they make no difference. I’m going to have to adjust wherever I go in UK, I’ve never been there b4, and I really don’t have an opinion on London lol. Opinions on which places are more culturally diverse or have more extracurriculars vary from person to person and it’s a lot of effort to get to know them. I’ll prolly look into the unis at that depth when I have to pick a firm and an insurance

As for similar A-level offers, my safe uni is in not in UK so no worries!
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R T
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#9
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#9
(Original post by An ony mous)
I’m an international student btw, I understand that subjective things matter but they’re sooo uncertain for me that they make no difference. I’m going to have to adjust wherever I go in UK, I’ve never been there b4, and I really don’t have an opinion on London lol. Opinions on which places are more culturally diverse or have more extracurriculars vary from person to person and it’s a lot of effort to get to know them. I’ll prolly look into the unis at that depth when I have to pick a firm and an insurance

As for similar A-level offers, my safe uni is in not in UK so no worries!
Ah ok, if you are international then a few things are of note:
1. The University with the best worldwide reputation is Imperial. It is definitely the most known.
2. The international student fees might vary significantly. I know Imperial is notorious for this. I don't know any details, but it's worth looking into if there really is a big gap in terms of money (remember that even if money isn't an issue now, money saved might be useful for a future PhD etc).
3. Top UK University students as a demographic are not going to be racist or disinterested in other cultures, and I wouldn't massively worry about culture shock. London will definitely be the most international, and St Andrews would almost certainly be the "least" international, but this is quite a subjective point when it comes to making your final decision - only you know how much this would matter to you.
4. Extracurriculars in general are probably something you should think about defining a bit more for yourself and then look at each option. For example, if you are very into golf or rowing, London isn't ideal. In terms of basic things (music, popular sports, etc) i would expect most of these universities to have active clubs for all of them, but it doesnt hurt to check via google anyway.

You might also want to briefly consider how difficult travel to/from university might be, as well as setting up accommodation. London is tricky in a number of ways on these points, but London also has decent transport links to major airports. Although these points really depend on what you think your plans will be in terms of how often you will be going back home. Durham is less connected than London, and St Andrews is literally an island at the top of scotland.
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An ony mous
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#10
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#10
(Original post by Anonymous()
Hi, these are all good universities for physics, although imperial probably stands out. Their physics department is almost as good as oxbridge’s. Why didn’t you apply to Cambridge btw? It’s the best for astrophysics in the UK. Anyways, prestige isn’t that important for research. What’s more important is the grade you get. You should be aiming for a high first, since phd programs in astrophysics are quite competitive. Also, I would recommend doing a straight physics/maths/theoretical physics degree instead of specialising so early. Many people think that theoretical astrophysics is the only interesting thing, but then they go to uni and end up liking a different field such as condensed matter, experimental physics etc. These degrees will also give you a more solid grounding in the basic principles of maths and physics, and once you know these, astrophysics becomes easy to learn. To get into a good PhD program, you also need to have good grades in your masters degree. You can choose to do the MSci at these universities itself, but IMO it would be better to do the BSc from any of these and then do your masters at Oxford/Cambridge/imperial, it would make you a more competitive applicant. Your masters should be a specialised one, for example part iii astrophysics at Cambridge. Anyways, don’t worry about all this right now. Just focus on getting good grades and successfully getting into these unis (preferably imperial or St. Andrews, but it doesn’t really matter that much). And you should probably just do a straight physics/maths/tphys degree and choose the more mathematical and astrophysics options.
Hi! I didn’t apply to Cambridge because of the early deadline :/

I heard that you should apply to MSci courses and if you don’t meet its requirements, they will give you an offer for Bsc. Do you know if I can go to Oxbridge/imperial for my Msci, if I go to some other uni through a UCAS MSci offer?
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An ony mous
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#11
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#11
(Original post by R T)
Ah ok, if you are international then a few things are of note:
1. The University with the best worldwide reputation is Imperial. It is definitely the most known.
2. The international student fees might vary significantly. I know Imperial is notorious for this. I don't know any details, but it's worth looking into if there really is a big gap in terms of money (remember that even if money isn't an issue now, money saved might be useful for a future PhD etc).
3. Top UK University students as a demographic are not going to be racist or disinterested in other cultures, and I wouldn't massively worry about culture shock. London will definitely be the most international, and St Andrews would almost certainly be the "least" international, but this is quite a subjective point when it comes to making your final decision - only you know how much this would matter to you.
4. Extracurriculars in general are probably something you should think about defining a bit more for yourself and then look at each option. For example, if you are very into golf or rowing, London isn't ideal. In terms of basic things (music, popular sports, etc) i would expect most of these universities to have active clubs for all of them, but it doesnt hurt to check via google anyway.

You might also want to briefly consider how difficult travel to/from university might be, as well as setting up accommodation. London is tricky in a number of ways on these points, but London also has decent transport links to major airports. Although these points really depend on what you think your plans will be in terms of how often you will be going back home. Durham is less connected than London, and St Andrews is literally an island at the top of scotland.
Thanks!! I’m really into stargazing and I was initially not as excited about London as St. Andrews because of the light pollution, but my mentor who had done her phd from Nottingham told me that you’re not gonna get amazing skies anywhere because of the rains and cloudy skies

Edit- I also beatbox, and I’m not comfortable practicing in front of ppl, but looking into whether there’s shared housing or not seems like overkill rn
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Anonymous(
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#12
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#12
(Original post by An ony mous)
Hi! I didn’t apply to Cambridge because of the early deadline :/

I heard that you should apply to MSci courses and if you don’t meet its requirements, they will give you an offer for Bsc. Do you know if I can go to Oxbridge/imperial for my Msci, if I go to some other uni through a UCAS MSci offer?
Almost everyone applied to the MSci course. You should apply to the MSci course and if you’re accepted, you can later on choose to just leave with a BSc and do your MSc elsewhere.
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An ony mous
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#13
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#13
(Original post by Anonymous()
Almost everyone applied to the MSci course. You should apply to the MSci course and if you’re accepted, you can later on choose to just leave with a BSc and do your MSc elsewhere
Sounds good, thank you!
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An ony mous
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#14
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#14
Also, I’d prefer completing my phd from the top universities in USA so any inputs about that (with respect to the ucas application and msci) are welcome!
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