London is the best city to study in and physics is the best subject to study – a potentially biased opinion but one that I am proud to argue and experience first hand. Quite a few institutions are offering Physics degrees and pupils forced to apply via UCAS use university league tables as a crutch in choosing an institution. In a future article I will discuss how I think this pressure to pick “the best” university is nonsense for the majority, an unnecessary worry, that the geography should be the main focus, but that’s for another time. Here I will simply list London’s vast array of options.
For simplicity and because I refuse to purchase The Times Higher Education book or pay to look online, I’m going to use The Guardian’s subject table.
6th – Imperial College
8th – UCL, University of London
20th – Royal Holloway, University of London
32nd – King’s College London, University of London
41st – Queen Mary, University of London
This is an enormously different picture to three years ago. UCL and Imperial were pushing for top 4 positions with Queen Mary and King’s in considerably lower positions than previous years.
As a graduate, I receive a much better understanding as to some of the criteria used to complete the university tables. One column takes the overall satisfaction of students gathered via The National Student Survey with the current year’s now being published to universities. That data is with regards to the year of 2014 yet the league table exists currently for students applying for 2015 entry. The current data from 2013’s cohort is being used to influence students that will enter in 2015 – a two year difference. It’s arguably outdated. This was one of the only columns that I naively believed to be a good indication as to the quality of the university but as an insider knowing just how large the difference between 2013’s and 2014’s NSS is, I can say that students should be cautious.
Prospective students: remember that the league tables are a guide, not to be a decision maker but a tool. I have never met anybody that said “I hate studying in London”. It’s a fantastic location to be in and whilst you’re an undergraduate, you are allocated an increased student loan for being in the capital as well as zero council tax making the city affordable. Strongly consider making one of your options one of the 5 above. London and physics will be the best decision you ever make.
London is a vibrant community with a rich mix of cultures and people. These cultures and people have, and continue to, shape the great city at the heart of England’s South East, London. Many that visit are enchanted by the mix of history with modern, rich and poor, English and not so English. Just looking at the architecture, Wren’s Baroque cathedral St Paul’s powerfully shoulders the Gherkin whilst the Shard diverts attention away from the beautiful Tower Bridge. The mix of privileged boys of Chelsea mixing with modern students on the breadline is matched by Brutal tower blocks almost embarrassed to be seen alongside London’s shiny glass covered high rises. But the best thing about London is not its aesthetics but the people that drive it. Londoners are proud folk and adopted residents work hard to be worthy of such a fantastic place to live. It’s a completely different world and unmatched by any other region in the UK. Truly, it is the place.
As a Physics graduate, I can’t help but wish there was a stronger community of scientists with those that like science. I sometimes forgot how fun my subject is and when you fall away from that, it becomes boring, achieving the end product becomes an uphill chore rather than the rewarding education that it was. Networking is important and my focus is more towards the fun parts: socialising. A web of keen chemists, brill biologists, fancy physicists and admirers of science connecting via a medium. Really, how often do we get to show off the awesomeness of our discipline? We are all so passionate about it and I’m sure everybody has experienced the frustration that we can’t always share it with the general audience. I would like to change that.
I am also a big believer in empowerment through education – coming from a not so rich background, the odds were (and still are) against me in terms of completing university. So, I would like to provide opportunities and encourage at least curiosity in science and technology as a career or even degree choice, supporting those that choose to do so. I’m now exploring a new avenue as a PG student at University College London learning tons of cool stuff on the MSc Technology Entrepreneurship course. Combining physics and entrepreneurship is an aim for me as well as something I would like to instigate in other physicists. Physicists hold the keys to our future, 2014 is a great time to start busting some problematic locks.
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