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 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). 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, 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. 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.
Graduates pursue careers in research into mathematics and/or computer science or industry.
Other courses in this area
- MSc in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing
- MSc in Mathematical Sciences
- MSc in Mathematical and Computational Finance
- MSc in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics
- MSc in Mathematical Finance
- DPhil in Mathematics
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 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 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 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).
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.
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 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 office with desktop computers is allocated to students on arrival.
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.
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|
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.
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 Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science:
- Balliol College
- Campion Hall
- Exeter College
- Hertford College
- Jesus College
- Keble College
- Kellogg College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Magdalen College
- Mansfield College
- Merton College
- New College
- Oriel College
- The Queen's College
- St Anne's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hugh's College
- St John's College
- St Peter's College
- Somerville College
- Trinity College
- University College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
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:
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.
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: 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.