A group of students working at a table
Mathematics research students collaborating
(Image Credit: Antonio de Capua / Graduate Photography Competition)

MSc by Research in Mathematics

About the course

The MSc by Research is an advanced research degree which provides the opportunity to investigate a project in depth and write a thesis which makes a significant contribution in the field. The research project is however designed to take less time than a Doctorate degree (normally two years, though it is possible to complete the requirements in a single year). It is not intended as a first step towards a DPhil, but rather as an alternative to a DPhil. Few students opt to apply for the MSc by Research unless there are limitations on the time or funding available.

This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. For this course, the socio-economic data you provide in the application form will be used to contextualise the shortlisting and decision-making processes where it has been provided. Please carefully read the instructions concerning submission of your CV/résumé and optional contextual statement in the How to apply section of this page, as well as the full details about this pilot.

There are no associated lectures, classes or written examinations. Your project can be in any of the subject areas for which supervision is available. The department’s research covers the entire spectrum of mathematics, with subject areas including:

  • Algebra (primarily group theory and representation theory)
  • Geometry
  • Topology
  • Mathematical biology and ecology
  • Industrial and applied mathematics (including fluid and solid mechanics, geosciences, mathematical physiology, methodologies, and networks)
  • Numerical analysis.

You will be asked to outline your research interests when you apply by listing one or more of the fields of research above on your application form under “proposed field and title of research project” and you will be matched to the most appropriate research group.

You will be expected to acquire transferable skills as part of your training, which will require you to attend courses, lectures, workshops and colloquia. You will have the opportunity to develop other valuable skills and to contribute to the teaching work of the department, both by marking students’ work and later by leading classes of around eight to twelve students.

Supervision

You will be invited to suggest a specific supervisor or supervisors in your application form, and your preferences will be taken into account in allocating you a supervisor (which will be done before your arrival). The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Mathematical Institute 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 co-supervisor may be found outside the Mathematical Institute.

Students are expected to meet with their supervisors at least four times per term. A more typical pattern is weekly, at least until you reach the stage of writing up your thesis.

Assessment

Initially, you will be admitted as a Probationer Research Student in the same way as those intending to do a DPhil.

Within four terms of admission as a PRS student you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to MSc by Research status.

A successful transfer of status from PRS to MSc by Research status will require satisfactory attendance and a successful performance in an oral examination in front of two appointed assessors.

You will be expected to submit a substantial original thesis after two or, at most, three years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a MSc by Research in Mathematics you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.

Graduate destinations

The department, working alongside the University’s Careers Service, supports graduate students as they move from the MSc by Research to the next stage of their career. Many graduate students stay in academia, by taking up a postdoctoral position, and many move into employment in a range of industries and sectors where the expertise and skills developed during the degree are highly valued.

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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, 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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding 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.

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • a first-class undergraduate degree with honours in mathematics or a related discipline. 

A previous master's degree is not required, though the requirement for a first-class undergraduate degree with honours can be alternatively demonstrated by strong performance in a master's degree.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 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

  • Research or working experience in the proposed research may be an advantage.
  • Publications are not expected.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.06.5

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

100Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*185176
C2 Proficiency185176

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

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

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

References

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Technical interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

If invited you can expect to be interviewed by at least two people and for the interview to last around 30 minutes. The interview could take place face-to-face or remotely.

It is expected that interviews will take place around three to five weeks after an application deadline.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Initiatives to improve access to graduate study

This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. For this course, the socio-economic data you provide in the application form will be used to contextualise the shortlisting and decision-making processes where it has been provided. Further details about this pilot, which applies to all applicants to this course, can be found in our pilot selection procedures section.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

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

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also 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.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

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. Each research student is allocated an office in the Andrew Wiles Building that they will share with 3 or 4 other students: each student has their own desk, with a computer. 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 café in the Andrew Wiles Building.

The department offers extensive support to students, from regular skills training and career development sessions to a variety of social events in a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. You will have the opportunity to interact with fellow students and other members of your research groups, and more widely across the department. The department is committed to offering you the best supervision and to providing a stimulating research environment.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£8,960
Overseas£24,800

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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 changes 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.

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research 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 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the MSc by Research in Mathematics:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students

If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

However, if you would like to speak to an academic member of staff involved in your preferred area of research, you may get in touch with them directly or via the course administrator using the contact details provided on this page.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

If known, under 'Field and title of research project' enter the project you are applying to or the research group or groups to which your intended field of research most closely relates. You may also leave this field blank but it is recommended that you enter at least one research group field. 

You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).

Proposed supervisor

If known, under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research. Otherwise, leave this field blank.

You can enter up to four names and you should list them in order of preference or indicate equal preference.

Referees:
Three overall, academic preferred

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 should generally be academic, though up to one professional reference will be accepted.

Your references should describe your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and aptitude for advanced research.

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 and contextual information:
Instructions for submitting your CV and optional contextual statement using the submission form

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.

Contextual statement

If you wish to provide a contextual statement with your application, you may also submit an additional statement to provide contextual information on your socio-economic background or personal circumstances in support of your application.

Submit a contextual statement

It is not necessary to anonymise this document, as we recognise that it may be necessary for you to disclose certain information in your statement. This statement will not be used as part of the initial academic assessment of applications at shortlisting, but may be used in combination with socio-economic data to provide contextual information during decision-making processes.

Please note, this statement is in addition to completing the 'Extenuating circumstances’ section of the standard application form.

You can find more information about the contextual statement on our page that provides details of the continuing pilot programme to improve the assessment procedure for graduate applications.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your reasons 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 evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study and whether a suitable supervisor can be provided.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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