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MSc (Oxford, ETH) vs. Assistantship


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I'm in a slightly unusual situation here. I'm a computer scientist, finishing my bachelor's this year. My interest is in theory. Although I have been turned down for the PhD programmes I applied for, I have been offered three things:


1. A funded 1.5-year taught MSc in Theoretical CS (with thesis component) at ETH Zurich.

2. A 1-year taught MSc in Maths & Theoretical CS at Oxford, possibly funded (otherwise very expensive).

3. A 1-year research assistantship at Caltech in a largely unrelated area, with publication potential.


My goal after any of these is (at present) a PhD in the US. Ordinarily I would leap on the first one since I got a scholarship for it, but I'm worried that if I do, I'll end up essentially repeating those courses in my PhD. I'd rather not limit myself to schools offering transfer credit. I like the idea of the assistantship, but it's not really related to what I want to do so I don't know how useful it will be.


Any thoughts?

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Take the funded position. A thesis component may very well lead to a publication and conference presentation - which are 2 notches on your belt above a year of courses at Oxford. You will decide which courses to take during your doctorate with your supervisor. It's in no one's interest to have you waste your time repeating courses.

Edited by selecttext
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Thanks for the advice. The Oxford course also has a thesis but I believe it is a 3-month rather than 6-month project, and the assistantship will also have scope for publication. By repeating courses, what I'm getting at is that (depending on the institution) I may well have to fulfil the requirements for a master's degree again, which seems like something of a waste of time that might be more valuably spent getting research experience. Your reasoning is sound, though, and I am certainly leaning towards ETH.

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