The Best Oxford Colleges for Physics

The Best Oxford Colleges for Physics in 2024

Choosing the right university course is not easy, but if already decided to go with Physics and Oxford, we are here to help with our guide. Oxford University is world-renowned for its physics courses, consistently ranking among the top universities globally for physics education and research. If you are applying to Oxford this year, you will need to choose the right college. With over 20 colleges to choose from, deciding what is the best Oxford College for Physics could be challenging. 

In this guide, we break down the best Oxford colleges for physics, looking at factors like tutoring, facilities, acceptance rates and more. 

Why Study Physics at Oxford?

So, first of all, let’s see why you need to study Physics at Oxford University.

There are many reasons why Oxford remains a top destination for aspiring physicists. Firstly, Oxford Physics has extremely strong research programmes. For 2024 The Complete University Guide ranked Oxford Physics in 2nd place in the UK, just behind Cambridge. This means students get exposure to pioneering discoveries and innovative projects.

Secondly, Oxford physics students benefit from world-leading facilities like the Beecroft Building which houses extensive physics labs. The brand-new Stephen Hawking Building also provides amazing learning spaces and experiences in physics. 

Oxford colleges use a tutoring system, where students receive personalised guidance from expert tutors. This close academic support allows students to thrive and achieve their potential in physics. Working and learning in smaller groups has huge benefits when it comes to physics, maths and chemistry. 

What Are The Best Oxford Colleges for Physics?

Now let’s explore the top Oxford colleges for Physics, considering factors like tutor expertise, research output, facilities, Norrington table and more. 

Balliol College

Balliol is consistently one of the most popular choices for prospective physicists. One of the best Oxford Colleges for Physics. It offers outstanding tutoring and research opportunities. 

Balliol College at Oxford University

In the 2021 REF results, Balliol had the highest output of 4* physics research among all Oxford colleges. Joining an active research culture allows students to develop their skills and ambitions as researchers. 

Balliol’s admission statistics also prove its popularity, with over 80 applications per place making acceptance highly competitive at just 10% in 2022. If you decide to go with Balliol, make sure to have the best A-Level grades, Oxbridge personal statement, and good PAT score and to be brilliant at Interview.

University College 

Founded in 1249, University College is Oxford’s oldest college and has exceptional physics alumni including mathematician Sir James Jeans and pioneer of quantum theory Max Born.

University College at Oxford is one of the leading and best colleges for physics

As one of the best Oxford Colleges for Physics, two Professors of Theoretical Physics currently tutor at Univ, exposing students to specialist knowledge.

In 2021, Univ accepted just over 11% of physics applicants, though numbers fluctuate each year.

University College also provides newly renovated physics facilities like the Rees Centre laboratory which aids practical learning. The Junior Common Room creates a welcoming community.

Trinity College 

​​Trinity College offers an excellent environment for motivated students to pursue undergraduate studies in physics. The college has a long tradition of excellence in physics education and research. As one of the best Oxford Colleges for Physics students benefit from the personalised tutorial system, close contact with Fellow tutors, and access to world-class facilities.

For the first three years at Trinity, physics teaching is provided mainly by college tutors through a combination of small group tutorials and problem classes. This complements the broader lecture courses organised by the University of Oxford. First-year students can expect to devote equal time to physics and mathematics. Tutors typically provide one tutorial and one problem class per week, allowing for high contact hours and individualised attention.

In the fourth year, most teaching shifts to specialised courses run by the physics department and an intensive research project. 

However, Trinity tutors continue to provide academic supervision and support throughout the final year. The college also sets practice exams early in each term to help students consolidate their knowledge and prepare for university examinations.

With its long track record of successful graduates, Trinity has a highly competitive physics admissions process. Prospective students are assessed for excellent mathematical skills and scientifically curious minds. The college provides the resources and environment for motivated students to thrive in physics, supported each step of the way by expert tutors.

Magdalen College

Magdalene is gaining increasing recognition for physics, with famous physicist Brian Josephson among its notable alumni. 

It has seen major investments in physics resources like the state-of-the-art Brackenbury building with modern labs and computing equipment. Students also arrange subsidised trips to facilities like CERN.

Magdalen College, University of Oxford

Magdalene’s tutors have strong research backgrounds, from astrophysics to quantum computing.

In 2022 it accepted just 9% of applicants showing its competitiveness.

The small yearly intake creates close-knit learning, and Magdalene’s riverside location provides a picturesque study setting.

St Edmund Hall 

‘Teddy Hall’ has an excellent reputation among aspiring physicists with around 70 applications annually, it’s considered of the Best Colleges for Physics at Oxford. Two specialist Physics tutors teach students.

The college excels in practical learning, using labs in the Denis Sciama Building. Hall has its physics library for easy access to key texts. It also accepts a higher proportion of Physics applicants compared to other colleges – 17% in 2022.

Small class sizes in a supportive college environment give students excellent access to academics. Hall attracts physicists fascinated by exploring the universe and its theoretical dimensions.

The Queen’s College

Queen’s has an outstanding academic heritage in science and maths and is home to the University’s long-running Theoretical Physics research group.

Tutors with specialisms like astrophysics, quantum optics and physics education research teach students. In 2021, Queens had the 3rd highest research output score for physics in Oxford, demonstrating its strengths. That puts Queen’s on the table of best Oxford colleges for Physics for the last few years.

The newly renovated George Clerk Physics building provides modern labs and study rooms. Queen’s intimate academic community and riverside location make it a distinctive choice.

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Entry Requirements for Physics at Oxford

To study undergraduate Physics at the University of Oxford, you will need excellent grades as well as a passion for the subject. Physics is a highly competitive course, and only the best students will have a chance to be considered for an interview at Oxford

Typical entry requirements for Physics at Oxford:

  • A-Levels: A*AA (with an A* in Physics, Maths, Maths Mechanics modules or Further Maths). 
  • IB: 38-40 points total, with 6 or 7 points in Physics and Maths at Higher Level. 
  • Other qualifications like BTECs may also be accepted when combined with A levels. 

It’s also vital to have strong performances in admissions tests like the PAT to demonstrate aptitude for physics. Oxbridge admissions are highly competitive, so focus on getting the best possible grades and exam results.

Oxford Physics Acceptance Rate 

In 2022, the acceptance rate for physics across Oxford colleges was around 12%. This means less than 1 in 8 applicants gain a place. Learn more about Oxford acceptance rate

For the top Oxford colleges for physics like Balliol and Magdalene, acceptance rates can be under 10%. The lowest acceptance rate for Physics was Trinity at just 6.8%. 

This highlights the extremely high level of competition for physics places at Oxford. Applicants should have realistic expectations and apply wisely to universities. 

For admission in 2023, the Oxford Physics Department received 1633 total applicants for their Physics and Physics Philosophy programmes, according to the Department feedback report. This represents an 8.5% decrease compared to 2021 applicant figures, which saw a total of 1785 applicants. Of the 1633 applicants in 2022, 1605 students were competing for the 191 admission slots available. 

In case you miss your chance to be admitted and decided to take a Gap Year, here are useful guides you can read and prepare yourself for University life after Gap Year.

Is Oxford Good for Physics?

Undoubtedly, Oxford is one of the best possible universities to study undergraduate physics based on global university rankings. It’s ranked 2nd in the UK for Physics courses, according to the national league tables.

In the 2023 QS World Rankings for Physics, Oxford placed 3rd in the world behind only MIT and Harvard. This reflects its outstanding reputation among academics and employers.

The research power of Oxford Physics also ensures students learn cutting-edge content at the forefront of physics innovation. Whether studying astrophysics, quantum physics, applied physics or more, Oxford provides a world-leading physics education.

Does Oxford Have an Entrance Exam for Physics?

Along with achieving top grades, prospective physics students must sit admissions tests. This allows Oxford tutors to effectively assess aptitude for the course.

The two main tests are the Physics Admission Test (PAT) and Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT). Most applicants choose the PAT to demonstrate physics skills. 

The PAT takes 2 hours and involves multiple choice questions and long written responses on physics knowledge and problem-solving. The MAT focuses solely on mathematical ability over 2.5 hours. 

Learn more about PAT Test.

Some colleges may also require applicants to take the Physics Higher Admissions Test (HAT). This 3-hour test covers the A-Level physics syllabus in depth. Practice papers help students prepare effectively for these essential exams.

Final Thoughts

This breakdown of the top colleges provides a starting point for choosing where to apply for physics at Oxford. Remember that interests and instincts will also guide your decision.

Oxford remains a world-leading university for undergraduate physics. Its excellent tutoring resources, research output, facilities and more equip students for success in this complex but rewarding subject.