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Mathematics and Philosophy (BSc)

UCAS codeTypical offerLength
GV15AAB including A in Mathematics (See full entry requirements)3 years full-time
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Mathematics and Philosophy have occupied common ground from ancient times (Pythagoras) to modern (Russell). Both subjects share a commitment to intellectual rigour. Over the centuries, however, each discipline has developed its own distinctive cultural identity, and contemporary academic practice reflects this.

York offers:

  • Wide variety of modules covering the full spectrum of mathematical disciplines
  • Emphasis on small-group teaching
  • An active and lively student-run Philosophy Society and a busy programme of extra lectures by both York staff and eminent visitors

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Why study Maths and Philosophy?

Mathematics underpins almost all of modern science and technology, and its applications in society range from economics and statistics to finance and IT.   At school the emphasis tends to be on manipulation – moving symbols around the page – but university maths is primarily about the construction of elaborate, beautiful bodies of certain knowledge, about patterns, numbers, geometry and many other abstract concepts, and how to apply those concepts in practical problem solving.  The high demand for mathematicians reflects the special transferable skills developed during three or more years studying mathematics at university – namely, clear and logical thinking, analytical and problem-solving ability, and the skills involved in communicating complex ideas and information.

Philosophy is not a body of knowledge but an activity: the activity of seeking a reflective understanding of ourselves and of the natural and social worlds we inhabit. We do philosophy by critically examining the assumptions made and the conclusions drawn by natural and social scientists, writers, historians and thinkers of all kinds. At an early stage of reflection, we may simply seek to integrate the various perspectives into a broader understanding. But the exciting, and more difficult, part of philosophical inquiry arises when it is found that this integration cannot be carried out completely. For example, how can free will, which is typically assumed in ethical deliberation, be reconciled with the causal determinism that seems to be characteristic of natural science?


Why study at York?

York’s three-year programme not only provides skills highly sought after by employers, such as analytical and critical thinking, the ability to construct a coherent argument and defend it, and the ability to quickly identify issues, but also the mathematical knowledge specifically required for certain careers. 

The Mathematics degree programme is largely based on lectures and problem-solving, with assessment by closed examination, whereas the Philosophy degree involves learning to refine and defend your own opinions through group discussions, independent study and essay writing. The joint degree has one foot in both camps, and consequently students are exposed to a variety of teaching methods and develop a broad range of learning skills.  The early part of the degree concentrates on the essential aspects of each subject, but in latter years considerable specialisation within both Mathematics and Philosophy is possible.

At York we place particular emphasis on small group teaching and a friendly atmosphere. Our comprehensive tutorial system gives extensive support to first year students.

About 40 mathematicians are engaged in teaching, and are also active in developing the subject through leading international and interdisciplinary research.  Our research includes all areas of mathematics – pure, applied and statistics (including mathematical physics, fluid dynamics, mathematical biology and mathematical finance).  Thus we are able to offer a wide range of final year options which are taught and supervised by enthusiastic lecturers involved in the latest developments of their subject.

Transferable skills are developed during the entire degree programme.  Tutorials encourage logical and analytical thinking, and help develop your ability to read books and papers critically, and to write clearly and concisely.

Course content

First Year

In the Mathematics Department, you take two 30 credit modules that run during the entire teaching year:

Altogether you obtain 60 credits in Mathematics.

In the Department of Philosophy you take

  • VLE Beginning Philosophy PHI0000IC (10 credits) an online module that runs during the entire teaching year
  • Reason and Argument PHI00005C (20 credits) Autumn Term 
  • Knowledge and Perception PHI00008C (20 credits) Spring Term
  • Metaphysics PHI00003C (10 credits) Summer Term

Details of these modules can be found on the Philosophy Department website.  Altogether you obtain 60 credits in Philosophy.

Second Year

In the Department of Mathematics you take:

In addition you choose 30 credits of Mathematics optional modules from:

Altogether you obtain 60 credits in Mathematics.

In the Department of Philosophy you choose two Philosophy pathways:

  • Knowledge and Reality PHI00001I (30 credits) 
  • Practical Philosophy PHI00002I (30 credits)
  • Language and Mind  PHI00003I (30 credits)
  • History of Philosophy PHI00004I (30 credits)

Details of these modules can be found on the Philosophy Department website.  Altogether you obtain 60 credits in Philosophy.

Third Year

You must first decide whether to do the Maths Final Year Project (BA/BSc final-year project MAT00004H (40 credits)) or two 20 credit Philosophy modules plus two Philosophy Extension modules (ie 60 credits in total). You then choose further optional modules.

The Mathematics optional modules should be chosen from the following:

Please refer to the Department of Philosophy website for current third year modules

Altogether you take 120 credits in the third year.

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.

This module will:

  • define academic integrity and academic misconduct;
  • explain why and when you should reference source material and other people's work;
  • provide interactive exercises to help you to assess whether you've understood the concepts;
  • provide answers to FAQs and links to useful resources.


Teaching in Mathematics

For most modules, lectures are the main mode of teaching.  In the first year there may be around 200 students in a lecture.  The crucial factor in any university programme is the small group teaching in support of these.

In your first year, your meet your supervisor once a week for a small group tutorial, where there are between 8 and 10 students.  In these sessions you discuss the core modules – usually this means reviewing any lecture material that is puzzling, discussing solutions to assignments, and developing your skills in understanding, creating and presenting mathematical arguments.  In addition, the tutorials are used to teach transferable skills, increasing your employability on graduation.

Non-core modules are supported by additional weekly small classes known as seminars, which typically have around 20 students.

Seminars continue through the second year, while in third year the lecture programmes are mostly in smaller groups and each has a weekly seminar or problem class.

Some modules have practical computer classes.

All modules have extensive material provided on Moodle, our VLE.  This may include lecture notes, solutions to assignments, past exam papers, and links to further reading.  In addition, each module has its own discussion forum, allowing students to ask questions about the module content. 

Around 20% of your time will be spent in scheduled teaching.  University maths is full of new concepts and requires more time spent assimilating these - more 'thinking time' - than school maths.  Therefore an important part of studying mathematics is independent study and practising problem sheets.  Of course, if you have any difficulties, lecturers are always available for informal consultation, and we maintain an atmosphere of approachability amongst our staff.

Teaching in Philosophy

The Department's teaching programme combines lectures, seminars, and small group tutorials.

First year

Teaching during the first year largely takes place in lectures and seminars, with exercise classes for the Reason and Argument module. The VLE Beginning Philosophy module is taught online.

All elements of the teaching programme are compulsory. Students are often surprised that contact hours are relatively few compared to school or college. This is because philosophy is not a subject that can be taught solely in formal classes; it must be practised. Readings in philosophy often require a great deal of concentration, and students are expected to undertake a lot of private study involving guided reading, thinking through the philosophical problems posed, and writing essays.

Second and Third year

The teaching of the modules provided for second and third year courses normally involves a mix of lectures, seminars, and tutorials. The precise mix varies from one module to another since different teaching methods are more appropriate to different subjects. All modules involve a good deal of private study and the submission of non-assessed written work on which students receive feedback from their module tutor.


Assessment in Mathematics

The majority of the first two years are assessed by examinations, complemented by weekly or fortnightly homework so that you and the lecturers can assess your progress as you proceed through each module.  This allows you to practise the maths and gain valuable feedback before the formal assessment takes place.  In the 3rd year you may undertake an individual project, which is assessed as a mixture of final report, poster presentation and short written assignments.The project accounts for a third of your final year, with the rest being mostly assessed by examination.

Assessment in Philosophy

The Department employs a mixture of normal examinations and the submission of essays.

First year

The modules undertaken in the first year are assessed by examination and essays.

Second and Third Year programme

The precise mix of examinations versus essays which forms the basis for assessment is partly dependent upon a student's choice of modules. In the second year, modules are, in general, assessed by examinations. In the third year, there is a wide selection of modules to choose from, all of which are assessed by essays.


What kind of feedback will I get?

Lecturers provide feedback in a variety of forms, according to the needs of the specific module. It may consist of written feedback on work that you have handed in, in-class discussion of common problems on a particular assignment, model answers, or online responses to questions posted on the module discussion board.

Adjustments for students with disabilities

We do our best to accommodate reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities wherever possible. This may include extra time, rest breaks, or provision of a transcriber, amongst other things. These adjustments would be preceded by a formal assessment of needs.  Further information can be found on the Disability Services website.



Mathematics and philosophy graduates are in great demand by a wide range of employers, who value the skills developed over the course of the degree. The ability to communicate and solve complex problems and critically analyse information in a logical way are all much sought after from organisations in both the public and private sectors. While a number of graduates choose to pursue careers in research and teaching, over 70% of our most recent graduates have gone on to a range of careers including:

  • Banking and financial services
  • Charities
  • Computing and IT
  • Government 
  • Law 
  • Engineering 
  • Accountancy and actuarial work
  • Management
  • Media and creative
  • Public administration 
  • Logistics 
  • Hospitality and sales 
  • Telecommunications

Six months after graduation, 91% of University of York Maths graduates are employed or in further study. More information can be found at the University's careers pages where you can also see profiles of recent graduates



All applications must be made through UCAS.  We do not generally interview applicants before making an offer, but all those who are offered a place will be invited to a visit day between January and April. Here you will have an opportunity to meet our staff and students, including a one-to-one conversation with a member of academic staff.  This is an ideal opportunity to visit the campus, find out more information about studying mathematics, and ask any questions you may have. If you are interested in visiting York before applying, the University runs a number of Open Days throughout the year.

A-level requirements

  • AAB in three A-levels including Mathematics at grade A.

For the remainder of the offer the department accepts all (including vocational) A-level subjects, with the exception of Modern Foreign Languages taken by native speakers.


Other qualifications

Cambridge Pre-U: Pass with D3, D3, M2 in three Principal Subjects, including Mathematics

International Baccalaureate: 35 points overall, including HL6 in Mathematics

Scottish Highers: AAAAB including A in Mathematics 

Irish Leaving Certificate: AAAABB including A1 in Mathematics

European Baccalaureate: 80% average overall, including 85% in Mathematics

English Language Qualifications

Our language requirements for overseas applicants can be found here.

Mature students

We welcome applications from suitably qualified 'mature' applicants (those aged 21 or over). Mathematics is not an easy subject to take up later in life, but it can be a rewarding one. However, if you want to read mathematics at York, then you will need to have studied mathematics at A-level or equivalent standard in the fairly recent past, because the first year courses all start from the presumption that you have this knowledge. This does not mean that we will necessarily insist on any particular formal qualifications as long as we are convinced that you are in a position to benefit from the course here. We normally interview all mature applicants before making a formal offer.

Edited 10 Oct 2014 - 14:16 by sbc502

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