Frequently asked Questions

What makes this department at the University of Bristol unique?

Our courses are designed to provide a solid foundation in the basics of mathematics. They progress to include advanced study of specialist subjects at the cutting edge of research, as well as options that are more vocationally focused.

Stand out to employers; gain skills and experience to prepare you for a wide range of careers across industry and academia.

You can shape your degree to fit your interests; try units across the full range of mathematics or choose to specialise. There’s also the opportunity to enhance your academic study with optional units, such as modern languages or cryptography.

At Bristol, you’ll also study in world-class facilities in the Grade II listed Fry Building, with spaces designed to foster creative mathematics.

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How does the research at the school benefit the experience of the students at the school? Can you give any examples of this?

The reputation of Mathematics at Bristol attracts the very best lecturers, who want to be part of our flourishing research environment. This means that our teaching is informed by cutting-edge research across a wide range of exciting topics; as you advance, you’ll have the chance to choose higher-level mathematics units, such as topics like quantum mechanics or mathematical biology.

Our research links with industry partners also provide the opportunity for students to apply for internships or work experience to enhance their career prospects.

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What does the school do to welcome students when they first start at Bristol? Are there any student-led societies linked to the department?

Our student society Matrix provides several opportunities to make friends on your course; they run social events, guest lectures and a ‘Family’ support system where students in advanced years mentor first years. Matrix also manages a series of networks for female and non-binary, LGBT, and BAME students that you can join.

Our Head of School and students put together a message of support and advice to all our new students before they arrive. You can watch this at

The school welcomes students with a range of events to help them settle in, such as trivia quizzes and a welcome lunch with students and staff. We run an orienteering competition in teams to make sure students can find the buildings they’ll need to visit, such as the library and Students’ Union. They answer questions in each location, with a prize for the winners.

We offer specific support for mature students returning to study, including an effective study and active learning session and Q&As.

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What is the first year timetable like for those studying this course?

Our first year provides students with a robust foundation in mathematics. You will study core units in Analysis and Linear Algebra, as well as units in Applied Mathematics, Pure Mathematics and Probability and Statistics.

These include ODEs, Curves and Dynamics, Introduction to Proofs and Group Theory, and Probability and Statistics. All students also study our Mathematical Investigations unit, working in teams on a series of mini-projects – a great opportunity to help make friends in your first year.

If you are doing a joint honours course with another department, or a course with study in Continental Europe, you'll study a mix of units from maths and the other discipline.

A typical week includes a total of 19 contact hours, with teaching taking place between 9am and 6pm. Most units are at least partly taught through lectures, with weekly homework.

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What support does the school offer to new students?

Our teaching is designed to help you make the transition to university-level study. Small-group tutorials and group project work allows you to collaborate with other students and make friends. You will also work closely with your personal tutor during your first year, establishing a relationship that will guide you throughout your degree. In the first year, students have regular tutorials, problems classes and workshops.

Our Senior Tutors oversee student welfare and offer general guidance, including help choosing units in later years, exam preparation and extenuating circumstances. The student admin team provides support with timetables, exams and other queries.

We also run a student/staff liaison committee to help make sure our courses are the best they can be. Student course representatives are elected each year to sit on our Teaching Committee and feedback student experience throughout the course.

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How will the course set students up for their future careers?

Our graduates are highly sought-after by employers for their strong analytical, communication and organisational skills and a number of our courses qualify for accreditation by professional bodies.

The ability to solve problems is transferable across a wide range of applications, and our students can effectively demonstrate both independent thinking and teamwork.

Employers are impressed by how our graduates can think things through logically, work with complex data sets and stick with open-ended real-world problems.

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Are there any employers or other initiatives that the school works with for industry placements?

We run a facilitated placement scheme for students involving a large spread of organisations from small start-ups to financial companies and large manufacturers and utilities that the School has existing research links with, or who are key recruiters of mathematics graduates.

Participating companies include LV, Hargreaves Lansdown, Wessex Water, the Office for National Statistics and GSK. These summer placements last 12 weeks and span a range of numeracy-related tasks. The School matches students’ interests with available places and arranges interviews for successful candidates.

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What do graduates go on to do after studying this course at Bristol?

A significant number continue with postgraduate study, while many graduates find employment in accountancy, finance, management, teaching and a wide variety of other sectors. Examples of organisations our graduates work for include the Civil Service, TeachFirst, HBSC, KPMG, Sky, Deloitte and Cambridge Brain Sciences, as well as a range of smaller start-ups.

Examples of job titles include: Software Developer, Data Scientist, Business Analyst, Actuary, Engineer, Options Trader and even Quantity Surveyor or Professional Poet.

Find out more about what our students do after graduating or read our alumni profiles. You can also watch a film following three of our students on their graduation day.

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What opportunities are there to study abroad as part of this course?

We offer two programmes with study abroad; Mathematics with Study in Continental Europe, and Mathematics with Study Abroad.

The Study in Continental Europe course offers students the opportunity to take a year abroad and study mathematics in your chosen foreign language. The Study Abroad course offers options to study internationally (in English), at universities in locations such as Australia, Singapore or the United States.

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What are the facilities like on campus that students will use to study this course?

At Bristol you will study in a fully refurbished Grade II-listed building at the heart of campus. From quiet study areas to new collaboration spaces and even boards in the courtyard garden, the whole building is designed to support creative mathematics, wherever that light-bulb moment strikes.

Take a look at the building, including lecture theatre and study spaces, with our virtual tour.

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How many hours (on average) are required outside of lectures for additional work and study?

This may vary from week to week. We design our courses aiming for students to be able to complete both scheduled classes and additional study within a normal working week through the term and exam periods. As a ballpark figure, we recommend an average of three hours per unit of additional study in your first year, or 18 hours per week.

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How do assessments work for the department?

Most units are assessed mainly by exam and we run two exam periods: in January and in May/June.

All our first- and second-year units include at least 10% coursework; normally students must pass all units to progress to following year.

Your degree class is the weighted average of marks from second year onwards. Roughly 25% of our BSc students graduate with 1st class degrees, and 65% with a 2.1 classification or higher.

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What would you say are the main differences between studying at school and study at university?

Studying Mathematics at university is more challenging, and more interesting than at school or college; our students enjoy the satisfaction of sticking with a difficult problem to find the answer. At university, there’s a far wider range of topics to choose from. This means you can try lots of different types of mathematics to see what you enjoy - which might be different from what you preferred at school. This flexibility allows students to choose to specialise based on their interests.

There’s also a strong sense of community, as students work together to try and solve problems together. This friendly environment means you get to know other people on your course well, and help each other with the material.

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What examples are there of final year projects or dissertations that students have worked on when they study this course?

Due to our broad research base, you can pick from a wide range of topics. Examples of recent final year projects our students have worked on include:

  • Solar Cells
  • Algorithmic randomness and analysis
  • Probabilistic Group
  • Theory Quantum Chaos and the local density of states
  • The Mathematics of Rubik’s Cube
  • The Classification of Surfaces
  • Simulation Methods in Population
  • Genetics Hydrodynamics of swimming bacteria
  • Information spread on networks

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What could I do over the summer to prepare for starting this course?

The units you will take in your first year will build on what you learned in A-levels, but will soon go significantly beyond that, both in content and in the style of mathematics. The following books are good references to help you prepare for this transition and are a useful study companion for the first year. Once you have registered they will both be available online free of charge via the University Library

  • Lara Alcock, How to Study for a Mathematics Degree
  • Ian Stewart and David Tall, The Foundations of Mathematics

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STEP Resources

Extra, more demanding work you can try out is also available at: (These are difficult questions that even our first years would not find easy.)

You don’t need to decide between a BSc (3 year) or MSci (4 year) programme before you start as it’s easy to change between these once you are here (up to Year 3 for single honours & Year 2 for joint honours). You can also normally transfer easily between our different single honours programmes.

See our website at for all the ways you can switch between different programmes.

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