I tried to ask this question on Physics StackExchange because it's about physicists but it wasn't the right section, anyway the argument can be extended to almost every subject.

I am studying physics at university in Italy but I spent some months in Sweden and I found some differences in the teaching method.

In particular, in Italy everything is essentialy based on theory, we study models, theorems and formal proofs, the exams are mostly oral, and we just see some appliations of what we study.

In Sweden it is different, there are less theorems, and everything is more applicative. There are exercises sessions but less 'critical thinking' (that's what I think).

Said that, I just wanted to ask if, in research, you can notice a difference between people with these two different academic backgrounds and if it influences their work/researches.

Are you more likely to become a theoretical physicist if you study in Italy (or any other uni with this teaching method) and less if you study in Sweden (or any other...)?

Please share your experience! Thank you! :)

P.S. I am not judging if one method is better than the other, don't get me wrong

  • 7
    Italy provided Fermi, Sweden provided the prize. ;-) Oct 10, 2020 at 14:31
  • 2
    It is a bit unclear what you are asking. I suspect you want to know about future prospects of students who have studied in different systems: theoretical v applied. Certainly one can be successful with either sort of background.
    – Buffy
    Oct 10, 2020 at 14:34
  • 3
    I doubt that it is the country, actually, but might be individual university departments.
    – Buffy
    Oct 10, 2020 at 14:59
  • 2
    Short answer, yes, you can sometimes notice the difference, but beware also of this caveat. I hope to find the time to write a more complete answer in the next days. Oct 10, 2020 at 16:56
  • 2
    @Buffy Some of this is country-specific, I believe, for instance the amount of oral vs written exams. And this choice affects the emphasis on theorems and proofs vs exercises. Oct 10, 2020 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


Some physicists teach more mathematics. Some physicists teach more applications. It's just a matter of university, teacher, and student preference. Yes, the way you are taught will influence your career.

I do not think these preferences have anything to do with the country. A large portion of physicists have experience with multiple countries. And within a country, you will find quite a range of opinions about how to do things.

  • I think it's possible in general for country to have some effect. Some of the anecdotes relating to maths teaching at least suggest that at one point researchers in France were much more concerned with theory than concrete examples.
    – Jessica B
    Oct 13, 2020 at 21:12

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