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I recently completed an intensive, nine-month master's program in physics at a highly-regarded university in the UK. Despite winning a prestigious physics-related prize at the university and performing well in certain modules, I was unable to pass all of my coursework due to time constraints in preparation for exams. These circumstances led to considerable burnout and frustration, so eventually I failed my year of study (and the degree).

I'm aware that this situation would negatively affect my chances of being accepted into a Ph.D. program, as my academic transcripts will be scrutinized and I failed some modules very badly. However, I found the content I studied fascinating and rewarding, and I believe I really need some more time to comprehend and apply those complex concepts. Additionally, the brief duration of the course hindered me from writing a dissertation, which wasn't a requirement, but I would have liked to complete it because I think it would help me to have a better idea of what I want to do for my PhD.

Consequently, I'm considering applying for another master's degree in Europe, also in theoretical physics. However, I've come across information suggesting that some German universities don't accept candidates who are "already in possession of a Master’s degree in physics or if have lost the entitlement to graduate in such a programme". This has given me pause and led me to wonder about the viability of my plan.

My question, therefore, is whether I can be accepted into another physics master's program in Europe (especially Germany and Switzerland), despite my unsuccessful first attempt. I've seen that some Swiss programs only require a Bachelor's degree in physics (I have a dual Bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics with a very good record in both), but I'm unsure how to navigate the application process given my past experiences. Should I write a reflection on my failure in the current UK program in my application and attempt to persuade them of my potential to succeed in their program?

Thank you in advance for your guidance!

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Yes, in general you can apply for other masters programs. However, as you have found out, some universities do have restrictions.

In Germany you have a fixed number of attempts (usually 3) to pass a module. If you failed the exam more than 3 times you are expelled. Modules from other universities are usually counted as well. This means that if you already passed a module at another university it can be counted towards your degree without, but unfortunately if you failed one it will also be counted towards your three attempts and you might even be barred from taking that module again.

I would advise you to contact the university you are interested in. Europe is huge and rules vary a lot, which makes it hard to answer you question in general.

I don't think that a reflection would help you in your application, but I would encourage you to describe your experiences in a positive manner in your cover letter.

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  • Thanks!! I appreciate it :)
    – IGY
    Jul 19, 2023 at 16:11
  • The second paragraph (about the situation in Germany) seems to be a bit of an overgeneralization. If the number of attempts is limited and - if yes - by which number, is up to the individual departments of the individual universities to decide. I've also seen (in math) a maximum of three attempts more often than other rules, but saying that it's "usually three" is quite a strong claim without statistical evidence. Jul 19, 2023 at 23:03

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