When I tell people I study Maths and Philosophy, I’m usually greeted with the same chorus of responses, along the lines of: ‘Wow, how do you do two degrees?” Often, people want to know if studying Maths and Philosophy is worth the difficulty and the workload, since you’re doing two difficult, abstract subjects at the same time. So: is Oxford Maths and Philosophy worth it?
For me? It’s a resounding yes!
Remember: studying a joint honours maths degree is not actually doing two degrees. It is a huge workload, but then all the degrees at Oxbridge are, especially the STEM-based degrees, where you have a lot of contact hours compared to the humanities, and you’ll have several deadlines every week.
How much work is a Maths and Philosophy degree?
In my first year, the mathematicians would generally have 5 problem sheets a week. I would then have 3 and an essay, or 4 and a logic sheet.
At Oxford you are generally expected to spend about 6-8 hours per problem sheet, and about 16-20 hours per essay. At least that’s what my tutors told me! So, you can see that you will be expected to do roughly 35-40 hours of work per week.
When you add up the hours split between essays and problem sheets for a Maths and Philosophy degree, it equates to roughly the same number of hours as studying pure Maths.
For more info, take a look at our guide to what daily life is like as a Maths and Philosophy student.
How is the work different for Maths and Philosophy?
It is also good to be aware that you are expected to do more independent work for the philosophy aspect of the degree. Unlike for maths, where you can gain a good understanding of the topics by attending all the lectures and consulting the relevant textbooks and lecture notes, the bulk of your learning for philosophy will take the form of independent reading. To get an idea of what this might be like, you could start exploring philosophy yourself with our reading suggestions.
Although there are lectures, there will only be one or two a week, and they are designed to complement your reading.
To succeed at Maths and Philosophy, you need to be able to solve problem sheets and write clear and engaging philosophical essays, two very different skills. So although you may not technically be getting a larger workload studying Maths and Philosophy, it is more of a challenge to develop two skill-sets to the required standard.
However, it is incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. It is nice to have the variety of the two subjects, and it means I am never bored doing just one course.
“I wish I’d thought about doing a joint honours at Oxford; studying just Maths for six hours every day of the week can leave you wanting some variety.”Peter B, Maths, Oxford
It’s also worth bearing in mind that, as you progress through the course, you have more choice in terms of how you divide your time between the two disciplines. You can take up to 80% of your papers in one subject, so there is a lot of flexibility.
Conclusion: Is it worth it?
If you absolutely love maths and never want a break from it, then a Maths degree is definitely for you! But if you’re like me and you’re looking for a course with a broader scope, then a joint honours degree is perfect for you. For my own part, I’m absolutely confident that Oxford Maths and Philosophy is worth it!