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 Mathematical 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 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 will be divided into schedule I (basic) and schedule II (advanced). Students will 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.

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. Students will be required to pass five courses that include two courses from section B and two at the schedule II level - these need not be distinct - and the dissertation.

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

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.

Graduate destinations

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

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Computer Science

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a subject with significant mathematical content. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

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

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Publications are not expected.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

Supporting documents 

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

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

If you are shortlisted for interview you will usually be notified within one month of the application deadline which you met. Where applications are still accepted after the final standard University deadline, you will be informed whether or not you are invited for interview shortly after applications close. In both cases you should expect to receive one to two weeks’ notice of an interview and it is expected that interviews will take place around five to six weeks after an application deadline.

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 you will be asked questions on material relevant to the course. In addition, you will be asked why you would like to undertake the course and there will be opportunity for you to ask questions (although these questions are not taken into account when assessing interview performance).

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

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

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

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 six lecture theatres and six classrooms. 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, where students will find an extensive range of books and journals. A shared study room with desktop computers is located in the Mathematical Institute for MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science students.

Graduate students have access to the department common room, where graduate students regularly gather for coffee and other social occasions and the mezzanine level of the Andrew Wiles Building houses a café and teaching spaces.

The Department of Computer Science is located in the Wolfson Building on the corner of Keble Road and Parks Road. Access to this building will need to be activated on your University card at the Department of Computer Science.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£10,145
Overseas£26,405

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.

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.

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.

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 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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are welcome to make contact with the Course Director, Professor Jonathan Pila, before you apply 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 documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

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.

CV/résumé

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Around 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; 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.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two 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.

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.

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

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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