About the course
The course provides a high-level, internationally competitive training in mathematical and theoretical physics, right up to the level of modern research. It covers the following main areas:
- quantum field theory, particle physics and string theory
- theoretical condensed matter physics,
- theoretical astrophysics, plasma physics and physics of continuous media
- mathematical foundations of theoretical physics
The course concentrates on the main areas of modern mathematical and theoretical physics: elementary-particle theory, including string theory, condensed matter theory (both quantum and soft matter), theoretical astrophysics, plasma physics and the physics of continuous media (including fluid dynamics and related areas usually associated with courses in applied mathematics in the UK system) and mathematical structures underlying physical theory. If you are a physics student with a strong interest in theoretical physics or a mathematics student keen to apply high-level mathematics to physical systems and their underpinning mathematics , this is a course for you.
The course offers considerable flexibility and choice; you will be able to choose a path reflecting your intellectual tastes or career choices. This arrangement caters to you if you prefer a broad theoretical education across subject areas or if you have already firmly set your sights on one of the subject areas, although you are encouraged to explore across sub-field boundaries.
You will have to attend at least ten units' worth of courses, with one unit corresponding to a 16-hour lecture course or equivalent. You can opt to offer a dissertation as part of your ten units. Your performance will be assessed by one or several of the following means:
- invigilated written exams
- course work marked on a pass/fail basis
- take-home exams
- mini-projects due shortly after the end of the lecture course.
The modes of assessment for a given course are decided by the course lecturer and will be published at the beginning of each academic year. As a general rule, foundational courses will be offered with an invigilated exam while some of the more advanced courses will typically be relying on the other assessment methods mentioned above. In addition, you will be required to give an oral presentation towards the end of the academic year which will cover a more specialised and advanced topic related to one of the subject areas of the course. At least four of the ten units must be assessed by an invigilated exam and, therefore, have to be taken from lecture courses which provide this type of assessment. A further three units must be assessed by invigilated written exam, take-home exam or mini-project. Apart from these restrictions, you are free to choose from the available programme of lecture courses.
The course offers a substantial opportunity for independent study and research in the form of an optional dissertation (worth at least one unit). The dissertation is undertaken under the guidance of a member of staff and will typically involve investigating and write in a particular area of theoretical physics or mathematics, without the requirement (while not excluding the possibility) of obtaining original results.
Research in mathematical and theoretical physics or industry.
Other courses in this area
- MSc in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing
- MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science
- DPhil in Mathematics
- Msc in Mathematical and Computational Finance
- MSc in Mathematical Finance
- Industrially Focused Mathematical Modelling (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
- DPhil in Theoretical Physics
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 2019-20
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 mathematics, physics, or a related discipline at the time this course starts.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 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:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
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 Department of Physics 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 Department of Physics 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 Department of Physics.
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.
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 Mathematical Institute's home is the purpose-built Andrew Wiles Building, opened in 2013. This provides ample teaching facilities for lectures, classes and seminars. The Mathematical Institute provides IT support, and students can use the department's Whitehead Library, with an extensive range of books and journals.
In addition to the common room, where graduate students regularly gather for coffee and other social occasions, there is also a cafe in the Andrew Wiles Building.
The Department of Physics provides the following facilities:
- teaching space in the Denys Wilkinson building and the Clarendon Laboratory
- use of the canteens in either building
- IT support.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
For students applying to programmes within the MPLS Division at Oxford, Research Council and other funding opportunities available, subject to eligibility. These opportunities are included in the Fees, funding and scholarship search.
You may also be interested in departmental funding opportunities. Further details can be found on the Mathematical Institute website.
Annual fees for entry in 2019-20
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£9,755|
The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.
Course 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 course fees). 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.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
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.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics:
- Balliol College
- Campion Hall
- Exeter College
- Hertford College
- Jesus College
- Keble College
- Kellogg College
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Magdalen College
- Mansfield College
- Merton College
- New College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- The Queen's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- St John's College
- St Peter's College
- Somerville College
- Trinity College
- University College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
How to apply
You are welcome to contact academics involved, however this is not a necessary prerequisite to the application process. If you are unsure of who to contact you should send an e-mail to the Academic Assistant.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Up to one page
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
This will be assessed for your reasons for applying, evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study, commitment to the subject beyond the requirements of the degree course, capacity for sustained and intense work, reasoning ability, the ability to absorb abstract ideas and at a rapid pace and an indication of your intended pathway through the programme.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which must be academic
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.
Your references will support your intellectual ability, academic achievement, academic potential, and motivation, particularly with regard to mathematical and theoretical. Academic references are required.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.
Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.
Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.