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ETH Zurich or University of Cambridge for a PhD in Mechanical Engineering?


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Hi all.


I've got the mother of all dilemmas: I got admitted for a PhD at both universities, Cambridge and ETH. Even though I'm in a very lucky poisition, it makes my decision nearly impossible. What do you think? Which is the strongest in Mechanical Engineering? My pros and cons are:


University of Cambridge

+ It's Cambridge! (Ranking etc.)

+ The supervisor (and team) is very nice

+ The length is very likely to not exceed 3.5 years

- Money! The scholarship pays everything but is just enough to 'survive'


ETH Zurich

+ Money (~ three times as much as Cambridge!)

- The Professor seems to be not as nice/helpful as the one in Cambridge

- Length likely to exceed 3.5 years


This looks a bit in favour of Cambridge, but the money is a very important factor and I'd say the projects (and also other important factors) are of equal interest (thus not mentioned). What are your oppinions? Priorities? Pros/cons and their weightings? A very important factor to me is, which University has the best reputation in Mechanical Engineering. Can one really reject an offer from CAMBRIDGE and ever get happy again? On the other hand, is it just for your ego or will the degree really be so much better (in life-time) to turn down additional money in the order of magnitude of 90,000(!) USD over the time of the PhD?  Which would you choose? 


Help from everyone is appreciated. Thanks very much!!

Edited by itsmi
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Is cambridge really that much more prestigious than ETH Zurich ? There was a time where ETH was the greatest institution in the world, think 1900-1920. Isn't that were Albert Einstein got his PhD ?


I think I would choose where I would be happiest. There is no wrong decision. If the money makes you happier, ie leading to a higher quality of life, then do that. 


The world is yours, take it. 

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What about the research...?


I personally think you should be more concerned about the research, especially since you are going for a PhD. At which school will the research be more interesting for you? Which of your proposed supervisors has a larger reputation and influence with journal citations and awards etc.? Which faculty seems to have more financial support and lab space for experiments etc.?


You also need to ask yourself where will you fit in better. Just so you know Switzerland is an extremely expensive place to live so take that into consideration as well. Also in Switzerland many people talk german/swiss german so there will be a language barrier at times. Are you ok with this? Swiss has amazing mountains where England does not; if you are into outdoors activities.    

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Also think of cost of living, which is ridiculously high in Switzerland, especially Zurich. Cambridge isn't cheap, but cost of living differences will likely be high, so the money from ETH might not be as much more as you thought it was, especially factoring in insurance etc!

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Thanks very much already!

WhiteRussian: That's the reason why I wrote


I'd say the projects (and also other important factors) are of equal interest (thus not mentioned)



But it is indeed something I need to think about carefully. Maybe I really shouldn't make it all dependent on the money.


For the cost of living: I wouldn't say that Zurich is more expensive than Cambridge. I've been to both places and did a lot of research. Rents are just as high in Cambridge and Zurich is very close to Germany, which is way cheaper (e.g. groceries). Since I am from Germany, I'd go there regularly (thus the language barrier is also not given). Insurance is something I should look at, thanks for the hint!


Any more oppinions, especially on the reputation? Can ETH compete with Cambridge when it comes to engineering?


Thanks a lot guys :-)

Edited by itsmi
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