Mathematics | University of Oxford
Mathematics
The Andrew Wiles Building is the home to the Mathematical Institute.
(Credit: Mathematical Institute)

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.

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.

Maths 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 finance, consultancy and IT.

Nathan, an engineer, 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: Mathematics and Computer Science, Mathematics and Philosophy, and Mathematics and Statistics.

The course

There are two Mathematics degrees, the three-year BA and the four-year MMath. Decisions regarding continuation to the fourth year do not have to be made until the 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.

A typical weekly timetable

  • Years 1 and 2: around ten lectures a week, two–three tutorials or classes a week
  • Additional practicals in computing (first year) and numerical analysis (if taken)
  • Years 3 and 4: eight lectures a week, with two–four classes a week, depending on options taken
1st year

Courses

Compulsory 1st year includes:
  • Algebra
  • Analysis
  • Probability and statistics
  • Geometry and dynamics
  • Multivariate calculus and mathematical models

Assessment

First University examinations:

Five compulsory papers

Computational mathematics projects

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:

Three core papers and six or seven optional papers

3rd and 4th years

Courses

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

The options listed above are illustrative and may change. A full list of current options is available on the Maths website.

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. Currently upper second required to progress to Part C. Separate classification on Part C

MMathPhys 4th year

From 2015–16, the Physics and Mathematics Departments have jointly offered an integrated master’s 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 offers research-level training in: Particle physics, Condensed matter physics, Astrophysics, Plasma physics and Continuous media. For full details see mmathphys.physics.ox.ac.uk.

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

  • A-levels: A*A*A with the A*s in Mathematics and Further Mathematics (if taken). Otherwise A*AAa with A* in Mathematics and a in AS-level Further Mathematics. For those for whom A-level Further Mathematics is not available: A*AA with A* in Mathematics.
  • Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
  • IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL
  • Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications)

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

Candidates are expected to have Mathematics to A-level (A* grade), Advanced Higher (A grade), Higher Level in the IB (score 7) or another equivalent. Further Mathematics is highly recommended. We expect you to have taken and passed any practical component in your chosen science subjects.

The majority of those who read Mathematics will have taken both Mathematics and Further Mathematics at A-level (or the equivalent). However, Further Mathematics at A-level 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.

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.

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 2018.

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU£9,250£0£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)
£9,250£0£9,250
Overseas£17,275£7,570£24,845

For more information please refer to our tuition fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2018 are estimated to be between £1,014 and £1,556 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 Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.

In 2018 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 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 living costs support.  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

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Mathematics

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

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 test

All candidates must take the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) in their own school or college or other approved test centre on Thursday 2 November 2017. 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 Sunday 15 October 2017. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline. Further information about all our written tests can be found on our tests page and details about the MAT can be found on the Maths Aptitude Test website.

Written work

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

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.

Apply

Ben Calverley

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.

Chris

'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

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.

Naomi

Current job

I am an analyst at John Laing. My role is to value and monitor John Laing's equity holdings which are mainly invested in PPP/PFI and Renewable assets around the world, as well as sell the assets when we think we can get the best returns.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

At Oxford, I learnt how to really focus and work hard. But also I learnt how to really rely on my own initiative and so when I started working I could motivate myself to start working/investigating things without being prompted to do so.

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

It opens doors. When applying for jobs, people are very aware of the Oxford reputation and it can quite easily increase your chances of at least getting an interview, or even when trying to meet people in your industry for coffee. 

My time at Oxford was hard, but it has really helped my career. 

Charlotte

Charlotte is an actuary at PwC.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

My work involves a large amount of financial modelling which my maths course helped prepare me for. But fundamentally my course at Oxford taught me how to tackle problems from a variety of different angles, and that is what is most useful in my work as no two companies need the same solution to their problems

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

Far more than the mathematics, studying at Oxford taught me resilience and the ability to bounce back from a setback

Angus

Current job

After university, I started working for a Consultancy specialising in data analytics. My company helps big businesses to use and to understand the data they collect, in order to support their decisions.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

Studying at Oxford offered me so much opportunity - so many things to do outside of my studies. I developed the ability to manage my time in order to do as many of these as I could! This initiative and organisation is certainly useful in my professional career. Additionally, my study of maths and statistics helped me for the specific analytical role that I'm in.

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

I met so many people from so many backgrounds and with so many interests - I can't understate how expansive it was to make friends with such a variety of students.

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

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