From Boethius's De Arithmetica, MS 306 Balliol Archives
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Mathematics and Philosophy

Mathematics and Philosophy at Balliol College

Since the course started, Balliol has established a strong reputation in Mathematics and Philosophy. A steady intake of Mathematics and Philosophy students means that there will be fellow students in other years, and potentially another person on the same course in your year.

There is a large community of mathematicians and philosophers at Balliol, and Maths and Philosophy students will meet, work with and be taught by both mathematicians and philosophers. There is a flourishing Mathematics society (BUMS: Balliol Undergraduate Maths Society), which helps introduce new Mathematics students to the College and also organises an annual dinner with a guest speaker. 

You might also like to see the pages for the separate Mathematics course and other philosophy courses at Balliol. 

Number of places: Usually 12

Maths and Philosophy teaching

The two sides of this course are designed to be complementary. Logic and the philosophy of mathematics, which are compulsory in years 13, make a clear bridge between the two. Students should expect to deal with highly abstract, theoretical questions throughout the course. In the optional fourth year there is freedom to choose between a huge range of Mathematics and Philosophy modules, or to specialise in one subject or the other.

Balliol tutors in both Mathematics and Philosophy recognise the special requirements of this joint course and work together to organise the teaching to best fit the course’s structure. With a great number of Fellows and Lecturers in both subjects, Balliol offers good teaching and caters for a large number of options. Read more about the teaching at Balliol in each of the three/four years of the course here.

Book loan scheme

Maths books

Mathematics students at Balliol rarely need to buy any course books, thanks to the Balliol Maths Book Loan scheme. We have numerous copies of all the main course books (for all years of the course, not just the first year), so we can lend each student the books they will need, for the whole year in which they need it. In addition, the College Library has further mathematics and philosophy books for students to borrow if they wish.

Our students

Our students come from a diverse range of backgrounds from across the UK and beyond (recent and current students in the mathematical sciences come from all parts of the UK and as far afield as Australia, the Netherlands, Romania, South Korea and the USA), and from all sorts of schools. The tutors welcome applications from all interested students, and would encourage any prospective applicant to contact our Admissions Office if you have a question not answered on this or the University’s website: undergraduate@​balliol.​ox.​ac.​uk.

Student experience

The Oxford Maths and Philosophy course is an intensely stimulating degree, and really allows you to push yourself intellectually. Students taught at Balliol receive excellent tuition and teaching in a really supportive environment. The tutors put in time and effort into helping you through the course, without subjecting you to unnecessary and counterproductive pressure to achieve high marks. Tutors are always ready to address any difficulties you might have individually. There’s also usually a couple of mathematics students working in the junior common room and willing to help you out with any maths-related issues, so you’ll always have someone to go to.’ — Nicholas Wiseman (Balliol 2018)

Studying Maths and Philosophy at Balliol is a fantastic experience and I’m very pleased that I decided to apply here. I quickly felt at home as there is a very close-knit community of students reading this course at Balliol. In Philosophy tutorials you are able to interact with experts on the issues, developing the skills to quickly analyse arguments and form coherent positions. The tutorials with internationally renowned mathematicians are not only stimulating but allow you to see problems in a completely different way. Whilst the combination can at times be very challenging, the tutors and your peers are incredibly supportive and are always willing to help you. The prestigious Balliol undergraduate maths society (BUMS) organises regular social events and holds the best dinner of the year, with a famous speaker and everybody singing amazing maths-inspired songs. It’s unique things like this that makes Balliol such a great place to be a student.’ — Steven

After Balliol

Many Balliol Maths and Philosophy students choose to stay for a fourth year of the course (leading to an MMathPhil). Afterwards some choose to continue studying, at Balliol or elsewhere, at Masters or doctorate level in areas related to Mathematics or Computer Science or Philosophy. The College has a significant number of graduate students at any one time in Mathematics, Computer Science and Philosophy, studying for an MSc, BPhil or DPhil (doctorate). Some train to be a school teacher by doing a PGCE. Balliol graduates in Mathematics and its Joint Schools have gone on to careers in many different fields, ranging from finance, accountancy, management and IT, through to being a barrister, a civil servant, working in publishing, and combining juggling with maths in shows for schoolchildren.


About the course

For detailed information about the subject, please see Mathematical Institute website. See also the University’s course pages.

Course requirements and selection criteria

Please see:

How to apply to read Mathematics and Philosophy at Balliol College