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Oxford Physics or Manchester Physics?

Hi, I’m a college student planning to apply to physics in UK and I wonder which universities are the best for physics. Manchester University says that they are the #1 in physics in UK, but you know on the other side, it is oxford. What do you think? Which one is better?
Reply 1
Manchester say they're the best in the country? What are they basing that on?

Oxford will have more small-group teaching, a more intense workload (because the terms are only 8 weeks long), but maybe you'll be able to learn more. If you can cope with the workload then I'd recommend it.

However, physics at Oxford is especially hard to get an offer for.
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 2
Original post by sinnoh
Manchester say they're the best in the country? What are they basing that on?
Oxford will have more small-group teaching, a more intense workload (because the terms are only 8 weeks long), but maybe you'll be able to learn more. If you can cope with the workload then I'd recommend it.
However, physics at Oxford is especially hard to get an offer for.

They will be basing it on the fact that they are currently joint top with Sheffield for research quality in Physics. Oxford are 9th. Source: The Complete University Guide. Although Oxford's higher research intensity, the fact it's Oxford, the higher entry requirements due to popularity and to maintain prestige and standards, and the differences you said might make people not care about that. All it is is it'd be naive to think that a Oxbridge are absolutely always better for everything academically. Life doesn't work like that as sometimes the very best researchers prefer to work somewhere else or get paid more somewhere else. And Manchester's reputation in the sciences can be enough to attract them. The first computer, Alan Turing, more UK Nobel Prize winners than anywhere outside of Oxbridge and UCL. Facilities for some subjects will be better outside of Oxbridge surely because every university worth its salt wants at least one flagship course.
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by Picnicl
They will be basing it on the fact that they are currently joint top with Sheffield for research quality in Physics. Oxford are 9th. Source: The Complete University Guide. Although Oxford's higher research intensity, the fact it's Oxford, the higher entry requirements due to popularity and to maintain prestige and standards, and the differences you said might make people not care about that. All it is is it'd be naive to think that a Oxbridge are absolutely always better for everything academically. Life doesn't work like that as sometimes the very best researchers prefer to work somewhere else or get paid more somewhere else. And Manchester's reputation in the sciences can be enough to attract them. The first computer, Alan Turing, more UK Nobel Prize winners than anywhere outside of Oxbridge and UCL. Facilities for some subjects will be better outside of Oxbridge surely because every university worth its salt wants at least one flagship course.

Research is not a zero sum game though and there certainly are areas of research I think Oxford is stronger in - pretty sure they're still one of the best places in the UK for quantum computation research. I also don't recall Manchester having much on the nuclear fusion side of things either although that may have changed.

In any event that has limited bearing on an undergraduate physics student I think.
Original post by Nilcetin
Hi, I’m a college student planning to apply to physics in UK and I wonder which universities are the best for physics. Manchester University says that they are the #1 in physics in UK, but you know on the other side, it is oxford. What do you think? Which one is better?

Hi! I did Physics at Manchester, and my sister studied it at Oxford so I have some perspective on this.
Some of the key differences include:
-Shorter terms at Oxford, while Manchester is longer. I would argue that the longer terms at Manchester give you more opportunity to enjoy your time there! The workload at both is intense, you'll do about the same total work but one is more condensed than the other.
-Oxford does have some slightly smaller group teaching than Manchester, but you're probably looking at tutorials of 2-3 people vs 5-6.
-You will do more practical work at Manchester than Oxford - Oxford runs as few practicals as they can get away with and still be accredited... Both courses are highly theoretical though, of course!
-Oxford is much harder to get into, but carries a bit more prestige when you're applying for grad jobs.
-Oxford has better bursary schemes if you're a low-income student, although both do offer them.
-Manchester is a much bigger and more exciting city, while Oxford is smaller, more historical, and closer to nature.
-The course content itself is honestly pretty similar - most physics courses teach the same foundations.
-Manchester has opportunities for study abroad, while Oxford doesn't
-Oxford's college system makes it a lot more tight-knit - everyone knows everyone! Manchester is a much bigger uni, and doesn't have that feel. There are of course many ways to build your own community in Manchester, with many clubs and societies!
Of course this is a biased perspective - I really love Manchester (I still study here as a postgrad!), but I know that there's lots to love about both.
Good luck with applications, and let me know if you have any questions :smile:
Original post by picnicl
They will be basing it on the fact that they are currently joint top with Sheffield for research quality in Physics. Oxford are 9th. Source: The Complete University Guide. Although Oxford's higher research intensity, the fact it's Oxford, the higher entry requirements due to popularity and to maintain prestige and standards, and the differences you said might make people not care about that. All it is is it'd be naive to think that a Oxbridge are absolutely always better for everything academically. Life doesn't work like that as sometimes the very best researchers prefer to work somewhere else or get paid more somewhere else. And Manchester's reputation in the sciences can be enough to attract them. The first computer, Alan Turing, more UK Nobel Prize winners than anywhere outside of Oxbridge and UCL. Facilities for some subjects will be better outside of Oxbridge surely because every university worth its salt wants at least one flagship course.

Serious question: Can there be any reliable measure of "research quality"? How, for example, can anyone measure the quality of research in theoretical physics, philosophy, history, literary criticism, and so on?

Measuring things such as number of publications, amount of funding achieved, and what not would be pretty meaningless.

As for qualitative views, who decides that Dr X has better theories about bosons than Dr Y, and why are Professor A's ideas about Othello better than Professor B's?
(edited 1 month ago)

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