2 and 3 July, and 19 September 2014 ox.ac.uk/opendays
3 and 10 May 2014: www.maths.ox.ac.uk/events/open-days
What is Mathematics and Philosophy?
This course brings together two of the most fundamental and widely applicable intellectual skills. Mathematical knowledge and the ability to use it is the most important means of tackling quantifiable problems, while philosophical training enhances the ability to analyse issues, question received assumptions and clearly articulate understanding. The combination provides a powerful background from which to proceed to graduate study in either Mathematics or Philosophy or to pursue diverse careers. Historically, there have been strong links between Mathematics and Philosophy; logic, an important branch of both subjects, provides a natural bridge between the two, as does the philosophy of mathematics.
The degree is constructed in the belief that the parallel study of these related disciplines can significantly enhance your understanding of each.
The Philosophy Faculty is the largest in the UK, and one of the largest in the world, with more than 70 full-time members and admitting more than 500 undergraduates annually to read the various degrees involving Philosophy. Many faculty members have a worldwide reputation, and the faculty has the highest research ratings of any philosophy department in the UK. The Philosophy Library is among the best in the country. The large number of undergraduates and graduates reading Philosophy with a variety of other disciplines affords the opportunity to participate in a diverse and lively philosophical community.
The Mathematics Department, since 2013 housed in the new Andrew Wiles Building, is also one of the largest and best in the UK and contains within it many world-class research groups. This is reflected in the wide choice of mathematics topics available to you, especially in the fourth year.
There are two Mathematics and Philosophy degrees, the three-year BA and the four-year MMathPhil. You are not asked to choose between them on your application, and so long as your exam results in the second and third years are an upper second class standard or better, you have the option either to complete an honours BA or continue to the fourth year for the MMathPhil.
The mathematics units in this joint course are all from the single-subject Mathematics course. Accordingly the standard in mathematics for admission to the joint course is the same as for admission to the single-subject Mathematics course.
The compulsory core mathematics for the joint course consists of the pure (as opposed to applied) mathematics from the compulsory core for the single-subject Mathematics course. The philosophy units for the Mathematics and Philosophy course are mostly shared with the other joint courses with Philosophy.
All parts of the course in the first year are compulsory. In the second and third years some units are compulsory, consisting of core mathematics and philosophy and bridge papers on philosophy of mathematics and on foundations (logic and set theory), but you also choose options. The structure of the fourth-year Master’s level is currently under review.
A typical weekly timetable
In your first two years work is divided between lectures (about ten a week) and tutorials in your college (two or three a week). In your third and fourth years the same applies to Philosophy subjects, but most Mathematics courses are linked to intercollegiate classes rather than tutorials in your college. About a third of your week will be spent working on your own, preparing essays for Philosophy tutorials, and solving problems for Mathematics tutorials or classes.
What are tutors looking for?
For information about the selection criteria please see: ox.ac.uk/criteria. During the interview for Philosophy
you will be given the opportunity to show a critical and analytical approach to abstract questions and the ability to defend a viewpoint by reasoned argument. In Mathematics you may find yourself asked to look at problems of a type that you have never seen before. Don’t worry; we will help you! We want to see if you can respond to suggestions as to how to tackle new things, rather than find out simply what you have been taught.
Students interested in this course might also like to consider other Mathematics courses or Computer Science and Philosophy.
Recent graduates secured positions in diverse occupational areas such as software development, teaching, research, the public sector including the civil and diplomatic services, journalism, and financial and investment analysis both in the UK and abroad. A smaller group of graduates go on to further academic study.
Will, who graduated in 1999, works as a data analyst at the University of Michigan. He says: ‘My degree taught me to construct a rigorous and detailed argument, and also to adapt and defend it “live” in a tutorial setting. This is a crucial skill for jobs that require the analysis and presentation of complex data.’
Jack who graduated in 2007, is currently a capital actuarial analyst at Catlin Insurance. He says: The mathematical skills developed during my degree have helped with the technical side of my work, but studying philosophy alongside maths also developed my abilities to analyse an argument and to take a logical approach to problem-solving. These skills have proven particularly valuable in the workplace both in my current role and as an associate on the Financial Services Authority’s graduate scheme.
For more information about careers after Oxford, please see p 122 [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note].
You can approach problems from two different perspectives...and they both meet because of the logical, rational, abstract approach, which is something I really like. It really makes me feel like I’m getting at the truth about the world. Carolina