University of Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus 2015 entry

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Physics and Philosophy

A BA in 3 years, an MPhysPhil in 4 years

UCAS code: VF53

Course statistics for 2013 entry

Interviewed: 44%

Successful: 12%

Intake: 16

Entrance requirements

A-levels: A*AA - this should either be A*A in Physics and Mathematics (with the A* in either Physics or Mathematics) plus any other A, or A* in Further Mathematics with AA in Mathematics and Physics

Advanced Highers: AA/AAB

IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL (the 7 should be in either Physics or Mathematics)

Or any other equivalent

Candidates are expected to have Physics and Mathematics to A-level, Advanced Higher, or Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent. The inclusion of a Maths Mechanics module would also be highly recommended. Further Mathematics and an arts subject can be helpful to candidates in completing this course, although they are not required for admission.

How to apply (see page 118) [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note]

Tests: PAT on 5 November 2014

Written Work: None required

Tuition Fees for 2014

Home/EU: £9,000/year

No upfront costs: you can get a loan for the full amount

Grants, bursaries and scholarships available

More on student finance: p 120 [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note]

More Information


+44 (0) 1865 272200


+44 (0) 1865 276926

Oxford Open days

2 and 3 July, and 19 September 2014

If your application for Physics and Philosophy is unsuccessful you will be considered for Physics. If you do not want to be considered for Physics please make this clear at interview.

What is Physics and Philosophy?

Physics and Philosophy is a demanding and rewarding course, combining as it does the most rigorous and fundamental subjects in the arts and the sciences. It seeks understanding of the nature of reality and of our knowledge of it. Historically, there have been strong links between physics and philosophy, and the stimulus for each discipline lies in part in the other. The combination of the two provides a powerful background from which to proceed to graduate study in either, or to pursue other diverse careers.

Physics and Philosophy at Oxford

Oxford has one of the largest physics departments in the UK, with an outstanding and broad research programme. The wide range of expertise available in the department ensures the undergraduate curriculum is updated in the light of developments at the research frontier.

The Philosophy Faculty is the largest in the UK, and one of the largest and most prestigious in the world. It admits around 500 undergraduates annually and the library and the Philosophy Faculty facilities in the new Humanities building are acknowledged as among the best in the country. The large number of undergraduates and graduates reading Philosophy affords the opportunity to participate in a diverse and lively philosophical community.

The Oxford research group in Philosophy of Physics is extremely active, with interests in classical space-time theories, foundations of classical statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, quantum field theory and quantum gravity. It is the largest of its kind in the UK and among the foremost in the world.

Physics and philosophy are studied in parallel during the first three years. The physics corresponds to the more theoretical side of the standard three-year Oxford Physics course while the philosophy focuses on modern philosophy, particularly metaphysics and the theory of knowledge. The bridging subject, Philosophy of Physics, is studied in each of the first three years, and remains an option in the fourth year. Specialist lectures are given in this subject together with tutorials and classes.

Students who complete the first three years can, if they wish, leave with a BA degree. Students going on to the MPhysPhil in the fourth year may specialise in either Physics or Philosophy, or continue in their study of both disciplines and their interrelations. Other final-year options include a physics project or philosophy thesis.

A typical weekly timetable

Your work is divided between tutorials and classes (two or three a week), lectures (about eight weekly) and private study. Private study (reading for and writing essays, completing problem sets) will take up the majority of your working time.

What are tutors looking for?

Philosophy is not usually taught in British schools, but 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. During the interview, 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 (see the Physics page, p 106 [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note], and website for further information).

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Mathematics and Philosophy, Computer Science and Philosophy or Physics.



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 their subject. Recent graduates have entered sectors as diverse as law and finance, and include a technical policy adviser for a security agency, an auditor of central government departments and a solicitor.

For more information about careers after Oxford, please see p 122 [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note].

1st year



  • Mechanics and special relativity

  • Differential equations and linear algebra

  • Calculus and waves


  • Elements of deductive logic


First University examinations: Three written papers in Physics; Two written papers in Philosophy

2nd year



  • Thermal physics

  • Electromagnetism

  • Quantum physics

  • Mathematical methods

  • Three physics practicals


  • Early Modern philosophy or Knowledge and reality


Final University examinations, Part A: Three papers in Physics; satisfactory lab work

3rd year


One elective paper in either Physics or Philosophy


A choice of three (or five if the elective paper is in Physics) of the following subjects:

  • Classical mechanics

  • Flows, fluctuations and complexity

  • Symmetry and relativity

  • Sub-atomic physics

  • General relativity and cosmology

  • Condensed-matter physics


  • Philosophy of science option

  • Philosophy of quantum mechanics

  • Choice of Philosophy option (if the elective paper is in philosophy)


Final University examinations, Part B: Three or four written papers in Philosophy; One or two written papers and one short paper in Physics

4th year


Three units chosen in any combination from the lists for Physics and Philosophy Advanced philosophy of physics is an option.


Final University examinations, Part C: A mix (three in all) of written papers and essays, or thesis (in Philosophy), or project (in Physics)

Student statement

The Philosophy has an effect on how you view the Physics, how we look at where the theories came from. Talking about ‘does time exist?’ As a physicist you have some idea, of what time is, and it brings a different attitude. James

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