Physics and Philosophy
4 years (MPhysPhil)
A*AA (with the A* in Physics, Maths or Further Maths)
Physics and Maths
|Admissions test(s)||ox.ac.uk/pat||Written work||None|
+44 (0) 1865 272200
+44 (0) 1865 276926
Subject requirements: Essential Recommended Helpful – may be useful on course
Unistats information for this course can be found at the bottom of the page
Please note that there may be no data available if the number of course participants is very small.
About the course
This course combines the most rigorous and fundamental subjects in the sciences and the arts.
Physics is concerned with unravelling the complexities of the universe from the smallest to the largest scale. Philosophy deals with foundational questions of the most general kind: what there is, what we know and how we came to know it, and how we ought to act and structure our lives.
Central to both subjects is the development and application of clear and precise thinking to foundational problems, the questioning of received wisdom and the critical articulation of ideas which aim for an understanding of how things are, in the broadest possible terms.
Physics and Philosophy are historically intertwined and each continues to contribute to developments in the other.
Philosophy played a crucial role in the two revolutions of 20th-century physics – namely, relativity and quantum mechanics. It continues to contribute both to foundational research in theoretical physics and to the articulation and critique of scientific method. Conversely, discoveries in physics provide profound implications for philosophical inquiry, such as the nature of space and time and the behaviour of matter at the quantum realm.
Students on this course can expect to investigate not only central developments in both subjects, but also this interplay.
Oxford has one of the largest physics departments in the UK, with over 100 academics leading research that spans the breadth of physics. This expertise ensures the curriculum is updated in the light of developments in research.
The Philosophy Faculty is the largest in the UK, with more than 70 full-time members; it admits around 450 undergraduates annually to read the various degrees involving Philosophy.
The Oxford research group in Philosophy of Physics is the largest in the world. It has interests ranging from classical space-time theories and foundations of classical statistical mechanics, to quantum mechanics, quantum field theory and quantum gravity.
Philosophy of Physics runs through the first three years of the course.
In the first year students delve into 18th-century investigations into matter and motion.
In Years 2 and 3 they investigate the philosophical foundations of relativity and quantum mechanics.
The fourth-year MPhysPhil options bring you to the threshold of current research. In this year students may specialise in either Physics or Philosophy, or continue with a combination, including advanced study in the Philosophy of Physics. Alternatively, students may complete the course in three years, leaving with a BA.
'Philosophy has an effect on how you view physics; how we look at where the theories came from. For example, if we're asking, "does time exist?" as a physicist you have some idea of what time is, and it brings a different attitude to the whole question.'
Discover Uni provides applicants with Unistats statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford.
Please select 'see course data' on the following course option to view the full Unistats data for Physics and Philosophy.
Please note that there may be no data available if the number of course participants is very small.
Physics and Philosophy
A typical week
Your work will be divided between independent study, tutorials, two or three classes and about ten lectures each week. Independent study (reading for and writing essays, completing problem sets) will take up the majority of your working time.
Tutorials typically take the form of 2-4 students discussing themes arising from essays or problem sets with a tutor in the students’ college. Lectures and classes are typically held in either the Department of Physics or Faculty of Philosophy.
Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. There would usually be no more than around 10 students though classes for some of the more popular papers may be up to 20 students.
Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctoral level.
To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.
First University examinations: three written papers in Physics; two written papers in Philosophy
Final University examinations, Part A: three papers in Physics; satisfactory lab work
Final University examinations, Part B: three or four written papers in Philosophy; two or four subjects in Physics
Three units chosen in any combination from the lists for Physics and Philosophy, including an advanced philosophy of physics option.
Final University examinations, Part C: a mix of three written papers and essays, or thesis (in Philosophy), or project (in Physics)
The options listed above are illustrative and may change. More information about current options is available on the Physics website and Philosophy website.
The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.
MMathPhys Year 4
The Physics and Mathematics Departments jointly offer an integrated master’s level course in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. Physics and Philosophy students are able to apply for transfer to a fourth year studying entirely mathematical and theoretical physics, completing their degree with an MMathPhys.
The course offers research-level training in: Particle physics, Condensed matter physics, Astrophysics, Plasma physics and Continuous media.
|A*AA to include Mathematics and Physics. The A* must be in Mathematics, Physics or Further Mathematics.|
International Baccalaureate (IB):
|39 (including core points) with 766 at HL (the 7 should be in either Physics or Mathematics)|
Any other equivalent qualification
|View information on other UK qualifications, and international qualifications.|
Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.
Read further information on how we use contextual data.
|Candidates are expected to have Physics and Mathematics to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent.|
|The inclusion of a Maths Mechanics module would also be highly recommended.|
|Further Mathematics can be helpful to candidates in completing this course, although it is not required for admission.|
If a practical component forms part of any of your science A‐levels used to meet your offer, we expect you to pass it.
If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.
All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown on our Applying to Oxford pages.
The following information gives specific details for students applying for this course.
|20 October 2023|
|29 September 2023|
All candidates must take the Physics Admissions Test (PAT) as part of their application.
Separate registration for this test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered.
We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.
Everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, can be found on the PAT page.
Updates to PAT
The test consists of maths and physics questions, which are mixed in sequence (there are not separate maths or physics sections). Formula sheets, tables and data books are not permitted. Calculators are permitted.
Guidelines about the use of calculators along with details of the syllabus and links to supporting materials which candidates are encouraged to look at for preparation are available on the PAT page.
You do not need to submit any written work when you apply for this course.
What are tutors looking for?
Anyone who has an interest in general questions about the nature of science, mathematics, mind, knowledge or truth has an interest in philosophy. No more than that is needed – you are not disadvantaged if you have not studied Philosophy before.
Philosophy tutors will be looking for a critical and analytical approach to abstract questions and an ability to defend a point of view by reasoned argument. The Physics tutors will ask you the same style of questions about mathematics and physics as they ask Physics applicants, to determine your mathematical and problem-solving ability and potential for further study.
Visit the Physics website and the Philosophy website for more detail on the selection criteria for this course.
Graduates in Physics and Philosophy offer an unusual and valuable combination of skills to employers in commerce and industry.
Almost 40% go on to study for a higher degree; some will enter science professions such as research and development, or technical roles in industry; many others enter professions unrelated to the course, such as the public sector, including the Civil and Diplomatic Services.
We don't want anyone who has the academic ability to get a place to study here to be held back by their financial circumstances. To meet that aim, Oxford offers one of the most generous financial support packages available for UK students and this may be supplemented by support from your college.
Note: These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2023. Course fee information for courses starting in 2024 will be updated in September.
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
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 2023 are estimated to be between £1,290 and £1,840 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.
A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK, Irish nationals and other eligible students with UK citizens' rights - see below*) students undertaking their first undergraduate degree**, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.
In 2023 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to Home students with a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to UK students from households with incomes of £27,500 or less. The UK government also provides living costs support to Home students from the UK and those with settled status who meet the residence requirements.
*For courses starting on or after 1 August 2021, the UK government has confirmed that EU, other EEA, and Swiss Nationals will be eligible for student finance from the UK government if they have UK citizens’ rights (i.e. if they have pre-settled or settled status, or if they are an Irish citizen covered by the Common Travel Area arrangement). The support you can access from the government will depend on your residency status.
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:
Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships 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
Additional Fees and Charges Information for Physics and Philosophy
There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.
Unistats course data from Discover Uni provides applicants with statistics about a particular undergraduate course at Oxford. For a more holistic insight into what studying your chosen course here is likely to be like, we would encourage you to view the information below as well as to explore our website more widely.
The Oxford tutorial
College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.
During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your tutorials will be doing the same course as you. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.
Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education
Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.
- At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
- Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
- Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
- Dining hall
- Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
- Student accommodation
- Tutors’ teaching rooms
- Chapel and/or music rooms
- Green spaces
- Common room (known as the JCR).
- All first-year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
- All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
- While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.