Partial view of a Mandelbrot set, created by Wolfgang Beyer with the program Ultra Fractal 3

Studying Mathematics and joint schools at Merton

Mathematics is amongst the largest and oldest schools in Merton, with a long and illustrious history dating nearly all the way back to the foundation of the college in 1264. Maths, Maths & Computer Science, Maths & Philosophy, and Maths & Statistics are four-year degree courses leading to Masters degrees. If they wish, students may leave at the end of the third year, receiving a BA qualification instead.
Joint school courses

Maths & Computer Science: Natural partners, the study of mathematics is integral to, and complements, that of computer science. All computer scientists require a solid grounding in the use of mathematical tools, and mathematicians now often make use of computing tools for problem solving; this degree course allows further investigation into this overlap and mutual relevance. Example papers/topics can be found in the departmental prospectus.

Maths & Philosophy: Embracing the common interests of these two disciplines, you will cover core foundational topics in both subjects, and will then have many optional papers to choose from. The only required subjects in philosophy are Elements of Logic, General Philosophy, and Frege’s Foundations of Arithmetic, all studied in the first year. The only compulsory subject in years two and three is Foundations, which includes logic and set theory. The fourth year can be given over entirely to philosophy or entirely to mathematics, or continue with a mixture of both. Example papers/topics can be found in the departmental prospectus.

Maths & Statistics: Oxford’s Maths & Statistics course provides the chance to specialise in probability and statistics. Example papers/topics can be found in the departmental prospectus.

The teaching team
Student Profile
Francesca Lovell-Read

Name: Francesca Lovell-Read

Year: 4

Subject: Mathematics

Where are you from?: Wokingham

Why Merton?
I was a little biased in favour of Merton before I even started considering which college to apply to, as my older sister was already a student here so I had heard all about what a wonderful college it was! When I really started looking, in addition to Merton’s formidable academic reputation I initially shortlisted Merton for several practical reasons, including the fact that they provide accommodation for the duration of your degree, and that you have access both to meals in hall and to good kitchen facilities. However, my mind was really made up when I visited Merton on an Open Day – I fell in love with it as soon as I walked through the gates, and never looked back!

Best thing about Merton?
There are so many wonderful things about Merton, it’s impossible to pick just one! Merton is such an incredible place in which to live and study, not least because of its beauty and history, and the traditions which are so much a part of life here. However, what has really made my time at Merton so special is the group of friends I have made here, and I think that in general the lovely community of people here is Merton’s greatest asset.

Best thing about your course?
The maths course at Oxford is really good, because it gives you a lot of flexibility to pursue areas which particularly interest you. After the first year, which gives you a really solid grounding in some really fundamental areas, you begin to be allowed to specialise, and in the third and fourth years you have completely free rein over your choice of modules. Whether you are interested in algebraic topology, mathematical biology, or the psychology of mathematics education, you have the freedom to explore whatever fascinates you the most.

Best thing about Oxford?
One of the things I love most about Oxford is the amount of history surrounding you at every turn. It’s very special to feel that you are following in the footsteps of all the incredible people who came before you. Whether it’s eating breakfast at the table JRR Tolkien once ate at or sitting your exams in the same room that Stephen Hawking sat his, it sort of makes you feel like anything is possible.

Best thing about the collegiate system?
I think that the best part about the collegiate system is the enhanced sense of community that a college provides. From the moment you arrive, being part of a college gives you a sense of belonging and an almost automatic group of friends, and your college remains a focal point of your life throughout your time in Oxford. Having that college identity really helps you find your feet in a new city.

Most important thing you’ve learnt?
The most important thing Oxford has taught me is to believe in myself more. Studying here has been really challenging, and it’s taken a lot of perseverance to get to where I am - but it’s been worth every second for the all of the incredible experiences I’ve had along the way.

The benefits of studying Mathematics at Merton
  • Merton's mathematicians have a strong academic record. Most undergraduate students continue to the four-year Masters course, and many go on to do a postgraduate degree.
  • Mathematics and Joint Schools at Merton constitute one of our largest undergraduate subject groups overall; they are also run alongside Computer Science and Joint Schools courses. In addition, Merton has a large cohort of postgraduate students studying Mathematics and related subjects. This large collection of students and researchers with similar academic interests makes for lively discussion and debate, and a strong sense of community.
  • Merton’s student-run Mathematical Society holds a variety of events, social activities and talks throughout the year, which are ever popular.
  • Merton offers generous academic grants and funding for research projects and travel.
  • Eminent mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles, well-known through his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, is a Fellow at Merton.

We welcome applications from candidates of all backgrounds and nationalities. Merton College is a member of the Mathematics Admission Group and works closely together with the other colleges; intercollegiate arrangements for the interviews of all candidates ensure that each candidate is considered by several colleges and that all suitably strong candidates find places in the University, regardless of their first choice college.

Applications are welcomed from all able and well-motivated candidates.

Video: Mathematics at Oxford University
Key facts
Average intake at Merton:

6 single honours, and 2 in Joint Schools.


Candidates must take the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT).

Written work:

None required.

Specific subjects:

Mathematics is essential and Further Mathematics is highly recommended. We expect you to take and pass any practical component in your chosen science subjects.

Deferred entry:

Applications for deferred entry will be considered on their merits.