The best course/University for a Maths degree.

(303 Posts)

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Mel2Mel Tue 21-Apr-15 19:41:47

My DS will be starting his As levels next year. He is a capable mathematician and highly motivated.
I would really appreciate your advice on the best University for him to study Maths and what are the differences between the courses from one University to another.
Thank you very much in advance smile

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babyfedleaning Tue 21-Apr-15 19:44:53

I seem to recall Warwick was good (but this was 15 years ago). DH says Cambridge.

OhahIlostmybra Tue 21-Apr-15 19:49:22

Perhaps depends what he wants to do with it. If, for example, he wanted to be an actuary, he should look at the IFoA website to see which degrees give the most exemptions.

Mel2Mel Tue 21-Apr-15 20:03:42

At the moment, he just loves Maths in general. However from what I have noticed, he is more interested in the Theory and the Mechanics but not much the statistics side of it.

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UptheChimney Tue 21-Apr-15 20:55:04

That sort of question is a wee bit like asking "How long is a piece of string."

As someone upthread says, Cambridge is considered one of the best places for Mathematics, but is it the sort of teaching style, living conditions etc etc that your DS might thrive in? What kind of Maths? What does he want to specialise in by his final year? Which degree programmes offer the areas, options, and topics he's interested in?

And so on ...

With any generalist subject (just like English or History or Biology) you might start by looking at league tables for high research ratings and high student satisfaction ratings. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive as MN/general public mythology often assumes. Find maybe 10 degree courses/universities that might appeal, then look at their specific Departmental websites. That's where you'll find details of approach, curriculum, Department size, Joint degree programmes, emplyment opportunities, and so on.

Lots of good degree programmes now use FaceBook & Twitter to keep students in touch: you could search for those as well.

Then where does he want to live? How? City centre campus (eg Manchester, UCL)? Campus university (usually a greenfield site ... think of Lancaster or York).

And so on.

DidgeDoolittle Tue 21-Apr-15 21:00:48

Cambridge and Warwick still regarded as the top two.

I went to Warwick, loved it.

Reluctantlandlord Tue 21-Apr-15 21:04:07

Me too, Didge ! I bloody loved it.


Mel2Mel Wed 22-Apr-15 09:21:48

I can understand it is a vague question. The fact is we don't know the specifics yet, he is still in year 11 and I have no idea about the higher education in the UK.
My ds would rather be in a small town rather a big city but he might not have a choice.

We have have looked at the websites of Cambridge, Warwick, Oxford and Imperial and we have booked some open days visits. I am hoping by posting here to be able to find out a bit more before our visits.

I am glad to hear that both DidgeDoolittle and Reluctantlandlord have enjoyed Warwick. If it is possible, would you please let me know how was the course and how approachable were the professors.

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UptheChimney Wed 22-Apr-15 09:32:06

Sounds like you've made a good start.

Maybe browse a few of the threads here to get a sense of what others have done in your situation?

And set your DS on to The Student Room. Although a lot of the information in there is of the status of urban myth -- but he may get a sense of what it's like to be a student at those universities.

Think about the deal breakers for studying and living. Open Days can be good for what he doesn't want, as well as what he does want.

Have a look at the websites for the Student Unions (sometimes called Student Guilds) -- again, a sense of what student life is in each university.

And of course, the Departmental websites: look for what the CORE curriculum is; what likely options are (but don't expect that options will always be available); what forms of assessment are used (for example, my Department doesn't do unseen exams, which is a big draw for some applicants, but I'm in an Arts Faculty, not Maths!).

Fluffles Wed 22-Apr-15 09:42:25

Name changed as about to out myself.

I went to St andrews and imperial and teach at Edinburgh.

St. Andrews was good and rounded. First years choose three subjects even if doing single honours. So theoretical physics and logic and philosophy of science are good options.

St. Andrews and Edinburgh mix arts and science students in halls and generally I think this helps make good intellectually rounded adults.

Imperial is very single minded. No arts students. Lots of Overseas students with a very "heads down" approach to the course. If mathematics is his only motivation for university there's no denying its world class but I'm not sure it helps with preparing students for life outside academia or broadening their mind and helping them mature. It has a lot of clubs and life there can be quite closeted if the student doesn't already know London or have a non-imperial group of peers in the city.

Also, maths is a broad topic - pure and applied and statistics are often very different at the same uni. Some will specialise in one rather than the other two. Or if in one then one facet. Eg when I was there St andrews was best in the world at wildlife population modelling.
Some Unis maths will be closely related to pure computer science. In other unis those departments may not be linked but maths and physics may be. Or maths and logic/philosophy.
In Scotland you can do maths as an arts or science degree!

TheWordFactory Wed 22-Apr-15 09:46:52

If he's very able, I'd say Oxbridge or Imperial.

Given he doesn't fancy a city, then probably Cambridge?

It's small, quiet really (and quite hard to get to).

I like Warwick as an institution. Well placed and designed campus (if not attractive). Plus lots of work on campus for any student who needs/want it. But I don't know anything much about their maths department.

JaWellNoFine Wed 22-Apr-15 10:02:41

I know a young girl who has selected Bristol University for Maths. She is Oxbridge material but on investigation was told that she would have no time for her music if she went to Oxbridge. She plays 4 instruments.. 3 at, is it Diploma level? The highest?
It was a sacrifice she was not willing to make.

So while a uni maybe the best for maths, i do think it matters how it impacts all your other interests.

So my 2p worth. May not be relevant. smile

Reluctantlandlord Wed 22-Apr-15 10:08:45

It's over 25yrs since I was there and I didn't do maths but I clearly remember those that wanted to do maths were advised to look at Oxbridge, spec Cambs and Warwick. I'm not sure whether the favouring of Camb over Oxford was due to our head of 6th form having gone there himself.
As I say, I didn't do maths but I do know that at that time the Warwick maths dep was seen as one of the best. Things change though so I'd check the student room for more recent info.
Campus was great. Not pretty but everything you need and guaranteed accom for all 1st years and a large % of final yrs. If you were doing a 4yr course you were guaranteed halls for 4th year. That may also have changed. Easy access into Coventry although most students I knew lived in Lem Spa. Just be aware it is in Coventry and not in Warwick if that matters. Lots on campus for students to do, great arts theatre. Big but well contained if that makes sense.

Mel2Mel Wed 22-Apr-15 10:26:11

Oh thank you so much for all you advice and trust me they are all relevant smile

I haven't thought of the Student Unions! I will check them out than you.

He loves Music but not to the point of playing many instruments. However he is a keen rower and a golfer. He has a divers circle of friends some are keen mathematicians but others are into History or Classics so I am certain he will enjoy a diverse environment.

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Mel2Mel Wed 22-Apr-15 10:32:34

He will have to pick 5 courses but only Oxford or Cambridge, can you imagine I have only found out...not long ago blush

I have noticed from different sources that many favour Cambridge over Oxford for Maths but still don't know why.

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senua Wed 22-Apr-15 10:33:48

I'm not sure that OP is asking the right question. Maths is a very single-minded subject. To get into The Best Universities you have to be very, very good at Maths. TBU are not totally convinced that A Levels are up to the job of differentiating (pun not intended) between good pupils and the best pupils. Hence why just-Maths is not a good idea, you should have Further Maths too. And UKMT. And maybe STEP.
So have a look around TBU and at their entry requirements - make sure that his sixth form is up to the job of preparing him properly.

An up-and-coming place that fits your 'small town' criteria is Bath, which has had many recommendations on MN.

arf @ twf saying Cambridge is "quite hard" to get into. Understatement or what!grin The place at Camb for Maths is Trinity.

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Wed 22-Apr-15 10:35:55

Bath (generally regarded as in the tier just below COWI - Cambridge/Oxford/Warwick/Imperial) offers a placement year in industry, which improves employability stats. Lovely place to live, accommodation is on the pricier side though. Good student satisfaction rates, DD1 has had a great time there. Needs STEP exams (as do the COWI unis), so worth checking what support for those will be offered at school/college, as they're different to A levels.

Mel2Mel Wed 22-Apr-15 10:40:30

Thank you Reluctanlandlord I really appreciate you sharing your experience.
TheWordFactory We will be visiting Cambridge this coming Saturday.

On Open days, what should we look out for? I really want my Ds to make the most out of the visit and get all the information he needs.

Thank you

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TheWordFactory Wed 22-Apr-15 10:45:48

senua well I don't like to put anyone off grin.

But actually I meant get to, as in travel to. Cambridge is not the easiest to access from various places.

OP if he's a rower as well as a mathmo, he has Oxbridge in his DNA wink.

senua Wed 22-Apr-15 10:47:21

I don't think that Oxford requires STEP - they have their own Admissions Test.

glittertits Wed 22-Apr-15 10:50:20

DH has a maths degree from Durham. Has served him very well in life. Went on to get his PhD at MIT.

senua Wed 22-Apr-15 10:52:07

Ah, I get you twf. Hard to get into and hard to get to.
We're not really selling it well, are we.grin

TheWordFactory Wed 22-Apr-15 10:53:51

As for open days, getting the most out of them depends on what it is your DS really wants to know.

I work at two universities and open days are orchestrated affairs. We try to cover a lot of bases (perhaps too many?), and we're certainly wearing our Sunday Best. But I hope prospective applicants, and their families, get a feel of the place.

Does this seem like somewhere I could live for three years? Does it suit my personality/hobbies/life style?
Do I think it will support my studies appropriately (being brutally honest about myself and my habits)?
Is the course structured in a way that would suit me (again being honest, but also accepting that nothing is perfect)?

TheWordFactory Wed 22-Apr-15 10:55:30

Senua at least the weather's wait...

Mel2Mel Wed 22-Apr-15 11:03:07

senua My ds will be taking for his A levels; Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
As I have already mentioned, we have looked at the Universities Websites and he is well aware of the STEP I/II/III and the MAT exams (for Oxford). He has been attempting few of the questions and looking at past papers.
What I (and my ds) don't know is what is the best course and University for Maths. By best I mean; reputation, course work, tutors in their ability and helpfulness,.....

TheWordFactory His grandma lives in Cambridge, we manage to get there even though I don't like to wink

glittertits Yes you are right Terry Tao is one (if not the best) mathematician alive and he chose Princeton over Harvard/MIT.

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