MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science | University of Oxford
DPhil
Mathematics research students collaborating
(Image Credit: Antonio de Capua / Graduate Photography Competition)

MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science

About the course

The MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science, run jointly by the Mathematics Institute and the Department of Computer Science, focuses on the interface between pure mathematics and theoretical computer science. 

The mathematical side concentrates on areas where computers are used, or which are relevant to computer science, namely algebra, general topology, number theory, combinatorics and logic. Examples from the computing side include computational complexity, concurrency, and quantum computing. Students take a minimum of five options and write a dissertation.

The course is suitable for those who wish to pursue research in pure mathematics (especially algebra, number theory, combinatorics, general topology and their computational aspects), mathematical logic, or theoretical computer science. It is also suitable for students wishing to enter industry with an understanding of the mathematical and logical design and concurrency.

The course will consist of examined lecture courses and a written dissertation. The lecture courses will be divided into two sections:

  • Section A: Mathematical Foundations
  • Section B: Applicable Theories

Each section shall be divided into Schedule I (basic) and Schedule II (advanced). Candidates shall  be required to satisfy the examiners in at least two courses taken from Section B and in at least two courses taken from Schedule II. The majority of these courses should be given in the first two terms. 

During Trinity term and over the summer students should complete a dissertation on an agreed topic. The dissertation must bear regard to course material from Section A or Section B, and it must demonstrate relevance to some area of science, engineering, industry or commerce.

It is intended that a major feature of this course is that candidates should show a broad knowledge and understanding over a wide range of material. Consequently, each lecture course taken will receive an assessment upon its completion by means of a test based on written work. Candidates will be required to pass five courses, of which at least two shall be from Schedule II, and not all of which may be from the same section.

The course runs from the beginning of October through to the end of September, including the dissertation.

Graduate destinations

Graduates pursue careers in research into mathematics and/or computer science or industry.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2016-17

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a subject with significant mathematical content.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.4 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

References/letters of recommendation 

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and to commitment to pursue the chosen course to a successful conclusion.

It is recommended that you use at least two academic referees, who can comment directly on your academic work. You may also use up to one professional reference.

Written work produced by the student

Submission of written work is optional. All written work must be in English.

Statement of purpose/personal statement

You should write a statement which is approximately one page of A4, and must be in English.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying; evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study; the ability to present a reasoned case in English; and commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course.

Your statement should focus on your motivation for wishing to undertake the course rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

If invited you can expect to be interviewed by at least two people. The interview could take place face-to-face or by telephone or Skype.

The major part of the interview will be the technical interview in which candidates are asked questions on material relevant to the course. In addition, candidates will be asked why they would like to do the course and there will be opportunity for the candidates to ask questions (although these questions are not taken into account when assessing interview performance).

Publications

Publications are not expected.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Mathematical Institute and/or the Department of Computer Science to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Mathematical Institute and/or the Department of Computer Science and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Mathematical Institute and/or the Department of Computer Science.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course, however it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

The Mathematics Institute provides six lecture theatres and six class rooms. The largest lecture theatre seats up to 363 people and all classrooms can accommodate 24 people.

The Mathematical Institute provides IT support and the department's Whitehead Library. A shared office with desktop computers is allocated to students on arrival. 

Graduate students have access to the department common room and the mezzanine level of the Andrew Wiles Building houses a canteen and teaching spaces.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. Information about the full range of funding available can be found in the Fees and funding section.

For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria and apply by the relevant January deadline, you will be automatically considered. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

Divisional funding opportunities

There are many different funding opportunities for students studying in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division at Oxford. Funding covering fees and living costs is available for a substantial number of doctoral training programmes. Research Council and other funding opportunities are also available for doctoral programmes in MPLS subjects.

Departmental funding opportunities

Additional funding opportunities may also be offered by your department. Department scholarships are included in the funding search tool, with links to further information. More details on funding opportunities may also be available on the department’s website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£5,910£2,933£8,843
Overseas£16,280£2,933£19,213

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of the website.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2016-17 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £970 and £1433 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

You are welcome to make contact with the Course Director, Professor Samson Abramsky, prior to submitting an application in order to find out more about the course. However, it is not necessary to contact a potential supervisor as this will be arranged on your arrival.

The set of materials you should send with an application to this MSc comprises:

  • a statement of purpose, around one page in length
  • a CV/résumé
  • three academic and/or professional references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date.

It is recommended that you use at least two academic referees, who can comment directly on your academic work. You may also use up to one professional reference.

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.