Mathematics
Mathematics.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Mathematics

Mathematicians have always been fascinated by numbers. One of the most famous problems is Fermat’s Last Theorem: ie if n≥3, the equation xn+yn=zn has no solutions with x, y, z all nonzero integers. An older problem is to show that one cannot construct a line of length 3√2 with ruler and compass, starting with just a unit length.

 

Often the solution to a problem will require you to think outside its original framing. This is true here, and you will see the second problem solved in your course; the first is far too deep and was famously solved by Andrew Wiles.

Mathematics at Oxford

In applied mathematics we use mathematics to explain phenomena that occur in the real world. You can learn how a leopard gets its spots, explore quantum theory and relativity, or study the mathematics of stock markets.

We will encourage you to ask questions and find solutions for yourself. You will need to think mathematically and we begin by teaching you careful definitions so that you can construct theorems and proofs. Above all, mathematics is a logical subject, so you will need to argue clearly and concisely as you solve problems. For some of you, this way of thinking or solving problems will be your goal. Others will want to see what further can be discovered. Either way, it is a subject we want you to enjoy.

Careers

Quantitative skills are highly valued, and this degree prepares students for employment in a wide variety of occupations in the public and private sectors. Around 30% of our graduates go on to further study, but for those who go into work typical careers include accountancy, consultancy, and IT.

Nathan, who graduated in 2012, is now an engineer. He says: ‘During my degree I developed my ability to solve complex problems - a fundamental skill set to tackle challenges I encounter on a day-to-day basis as an engineer. The application of mathematics in engineering and manufacturing is ever-increasing, meaning there will be more and more opportunities to find interesting roles in which I can apply my skills’.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider the three joint degrees with Mathematics.

The course

There are two Mathematics degrees, the three-year BA and the four-year MMath. You will not be asked to choose between these until your third year.

The first year consists of core courses in pure and applied mathematics (including statistics). Options start in the second year, with the third and fourth years offering a large variety of courses, including options from outside mathematics.

New MMathPhys Fourth Year

From 2015/16, the Physics and Mathematics Departments in Oxford will jointly offer a new integrated masters level course in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Mathematics students will be able to apply for transfer to a fourth year studying entirely mathematical and theoretical physics, completing the degree with an MMathPhys. The course features research-level training in Particle Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Astrophysics, Plasma Physics and Continuous Media. Read more about this fourth year.

A typical weekly timetable

  • Years 1 and 2: around 10 lectures a week, 2-3 tutorials or classes a week
  • Additional practicals in computing (first year) and numerical analysis (if taken)
  • Years 3 and 4: 8 lectures a week, with 2-4 classes a week, depending on options taken
1st year

Courses

Compulsory first year includes:

  • Algebra
  • Analysis
  • Probability and statistics
  • Geometry and dynamics
  • Multivariate calculus and mathematical models

Assessment

First University examinations:
Five compulsory papers
2nd year

Courses

  • Compulsory core of Algebra, Complex analysis, Metric spaces, Differential equations
  • Selection from topics including Algebra; Number theory; Analysis; Applied analysis; Geometry; Topology; Fluid dynamics; Probability; Statistics; Numerical analysis; Graph theory; Special relativity; Quantum theory

Assessment

Final University examinations, Part A: Two core papers and six optional papers
3rd and 4th years

Courses

Large variety, which may vary from year to year, ranging across: Algebra; Analysis; Applied analysis; Geometry; Topology; Logic; Number theory; Applied probability; Statistics; Theoretical mechanics; Mathematical physics; Mathematical biology; Information theory; Mathematical finance; Actuarial mathematics; Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme; Dissertation; Mathematical philosophy; Computer Science options; History of Mathematics

Assessment

3rd year: Final University Examinations, Part B: Eight papers or equivalent
4th year: Final University Examinations, Part C: Eight papers or equivalent
Classification on Parts A and B. Upper second required to progress to Part C. Separate classification on Part C

New MMathPhys 4th year

From 2015–16, the Physics and Mathematics Departments will jointly offer a new integrated masters level course in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Mathematics students will be able to apply for transfer to a fourth year studying entirely mathematical and theoretical physics, completing the degree with an MMathPhys. The course features research-level training in: Particle Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Astrophysics, Plasma Physics and Continuous Media. For full details see mmathphys.physics.ox.ac.uk

  • A-levels: A*A*A with the A*s in Mathematics and Further Mathematics (if taken)
  • Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
  • IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL
  • Or any other equivalent (see details of international qualifications)

Candidates are expected to have Mathematics to A-level (A* grade), Advanced Higher (A grade), or Higher Level in the IB (score 7) or another equivalent. Further Mathematics is highly recommended.

The majority of those who read Mathematics will have taken both Mathematics and Further Mathematics at A-level (or the equivalent), but this is not essential. It is far more important that you have the drive and desire to understand the subject. Our courses have limited formal prerequisites, so it is the experience rather than outright knowledge which needs to be made up. If you gain a place under these circumstances, your college will normally recommend suitable extra preparatory reading for the summer before you start your course.

All candidates must also take the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) as part of their application. Please see how to apply for further details.

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2015.

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU£9,000£0£9,000
Islands
(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)
£9,000£6,925£15,925
Overseas£15,805£6,925£22,730

For more information please refer to our tuition fees page.

Living costs

Despite what you may have heard, it's no more expensive to study at Oxford than at any other university. In fact, our world-class resources and college provision can help you to lower your living costs.

Living costs for 2015/16 are estimated to be between £950 and £1,450 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support

Home/EU

A full loan is available from the UK government to cover tuition fees for students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.

In 2015 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £42,620 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less.  This support is available in addition to the government grants and loans.  See further details.

Islands
(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written work

You do not need to submit any written work when you apply for this course.

Written test

All candidates must take the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT), normally at their own school or college on 4 November 2015. Candidates must make sure they are available to take the test at this time. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2015. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. See www.matoxford.org.uk for further details.

Applicants will be shortlisted for interview, to a ratio of around three applicants per place, on the basis of the test score and UCAS application. Further details can be found on the department’s website: www.maths.ox.ac.uk.

What are tutors looking for?

We will be looking for the potential to succeed on the course. A good mathematician is naturally inquisitive and will generally take advantage of any opportunity to further their mathematical knowledge. While AEA and STEP papers are not part of our entry requirements, we encourage applicants to take these or similar extension material, if they are available. Ultimately, we are most interested in a candidate’s potential to think imaginatively, deeply and in a structured manner about the patterns of mathematics.

Selection criteria

Candidates may wish to refer to the selection criteria for Mathematics.

Suggested reading

Reading lists for prospective Mathematics applicants can be found in the departmental prospectus, available from the Maths Department website.

Chris, 2nd year

'The Mathematics course is absolutely fantastic and is essentially problem-solving on a daily basis, which I love. You attend lectures to learn the material and then complete problem sheets on the topics. Certainly, for me, the most rewarding aspect of mathematics is solving problems, especially when they have been initially unyielding, or seemingly unapproachable; and this is right at the core of the course.

I chose to read mathematics at university because I have a real passion for the subject, and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of some of the beauty it holds. I’ve found the course has really pushed the boundaries of what I thought I could achieve, which is extremely rewarding.'

Ed, who graduated in 2010

He is now a Financial Consultant at Oliver Wyman. He says:  

‘Oxford has given me the opportunities to get where I am today through two main areas in my personal development: academia, as the drive and discipline required to complete a degree at Oxford have to come from yourself; and the interpersonal skills developed through sport, student politics and relaxing in the bar with some very bright and interesting people.

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college