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Mathematics and Physics

These handbooks describe the programmes of the 3 year BSc (GF13) and the 4 year MMathPhys (FG33) undergraduate courses in Mathematics and Physics. They should be read in conjunction with the sections that are relevant to all programmes based in the Physics Department. Any query concerning your degree course should be directed to your personal tutor, the Director of Studies, Nicholas d'Ambrumenil, or the Director of Student Experience, Michael Pounds.

You will also find some useful information on the Maths pages.


Mathematics and Physics are a sensible combination to study at university, and provide the basis, we believe, for a stimulating and enjoyable education.

The two subjects emphasize different approaches to problems. In mathematics, people are much more concerned with proof and with generality, while in physics people are looking for the explanation of very specific phenomena---those we 'see' in the natural world. The overall aim of the joint degree courses is for students to master these two different approaches.


The following are our aims for the Mathematics and Physics joint degree courses:

  • To provide a stimulating education in mathematics and physics
  • To provide a learning environment which helps students to achieve their academic potential
  • To help students develop intellectual and general transferable skills
  • To leave students well-prepared for the next step in their professional lives


When you graduate, you should have

  • Obtained a working knowledge of some important mathematical techniques and have developed an appreciation of some of the major areas of mathematics
  • Developed your appreciation and understanding of the fundamental principles of physics and of how these can be applied to explain and predict physical phenomena
  • Developed your analytical, problem-solving, self-study, communication and independent working skills. You will also have had opportunities to develop organisational, modern language and other skills.
  • Acquired skills in IT and have had the opportunity to develop these further

If you graduate with an MMathPhys, you should also
  • be able, with appropriate supervision, to undertake project work and to communicate the results clearly in writing
  • be aware of some current research interests in physics and/or mathematics
  • be prepared for postgraduate study in an area of theoretical physics and/or mathematics

The MMathPhys Course

On joining the department you will be registered for either the 3-year BSc degree or the 4-year MMathPhys degree. This registration will not affect the actual modules you take this year as the BSc and MMathPhys programmes are identical. You should however consider your registration carefully during the first year.

The Bachelors (three year) degree should be seen as part of a general rounded education, which should leave students numerate, articulate and employable. The four year degree should appeal most to those who wish to work using mathematics or physics or who would like to consider doing some research.

The four year course covers the main areas of mathematics and physics. As in the three year course, students can study a broad spectrum of courses. However, students are encouraged to concentrate on one or two areas. This can give time to take in and reflect on some of the more recent discoveries. Opting for the four year degree allows students more time to explore the implications of what they have already learnt. This is the idea behind the project and group project work in the third and fourth year.

An alternative form of 4-year degree involves taking an intercalated year

The Intercalated Year

If you wish to spend some time gaining experience outside the university, either abroad or in scientific employment, you can register for the Intercalated Year Scheme. This requires you to spend your third year outside the University and take a total of four years to complete your degree programme. The Intercalated Year Scheme is not possible for students on the MMathPhys degree course.

The intercalated year will be spent in a supervised research placement, either in Industry, Commerce, a Research Institute, a Higher Education Research Laboratory, an ERASMUS programme or, alternatively, attending courses at an overseas university. This will give you valuable experience before continuing with the third year of your degree, and the words with intercalated year' will appear on your degree certificate. You must submit a satisfactory report of the intercalated year on your return to the Department, failing which you will revert to the normal degree course. The report will not, however, contribute to final degree credit.

In general, if you are interested in following this scheme, it will be necessary for you to make your own arrangements and submit an outline proposal to the Physics Department for approval. If we consider that the proposed programme abroad meets our requirements, then permission for an intercalated year will be granted. To satisfy the University's requirements you should seek approval early in the second year. However, if you receive some financial support from your local authority, i.e. you do not pay the full student contribution to your fees, you must change your registration before the end of the first year if you want the support to continue for all four years of the programme. In any case please discuss this with your tutor at the earliest opportunity.