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How to Choose Your Maths University Course

How to Choose Your Maths University Course

So you’ve decided you want to study mathematics at university - great, the hard part is over! However, now comes the daunting task of choosing which university you will spend the next 3-4 years at, possibly in a town or city you’ve never even visited.

There are many factors to consider in this decision, including the entry requirements of a university, the location, and employability statistics.

In this article, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know about choosing your perfect university.

Course Requirements

Naturally, most students want to go to the best university that they can get into. This often depends heavily on the grades achieved at A-Level. Universities will either ask for a set amount of A’s or B’s or a target number of UCAS points.

For example, Sheffield Hallam, the university local to the Tutorful office, requires 112-120 UCAS points. This can be done by achieving a C and 2 B’s at A-Level.

One key point to remember, however, is that at most universities, a prior qualification in mathematics is non-negotiable.

Every university should have a page on their website outlining exactly what you need to get onto their course. This should talk you through any alternative routes available such as BTEC Diplomas.

A small number of courses don’t have any prior requirements, such as the maths degree The Open University offers. If you’re really not sure what you need to do to ensure the best chance of getting into your dream university, many of our tutors offer university advice as a subject and can give you valuable help and direction when it comes to preparing for university.

Likelihood of Acceptance

Some universities are more competitive than others, which means that they have extra requirements students need to meet to get a place. The best candidates can be narrowed down by their personal statements, extra-curricular activities, and even an interview or aptitude test during the application process.

The bottom line is that grades aren’t everything, although they’re definitely important.

If you just meet the grade requirements of your first-choice university, but don’t have much else to bring to the table in the way of volunteering, personal projects, or a riveting personal statement, it’s important to thoroughly research other choices, too.

The university acceptance rate for some of the top unis can be as low as 20%, which means 4 out of 5 people won’t get a place! It can also vary depending on the course.

If your sights are set on Oxford University, you might be interested to know that between 2019-2021, an average of 34% of applicants were interviewed for their maths programme, just 11% of applicants were successful, and their total intake was 186 students.

If you’re dead set on an Oxbridge university, we actually have tutors who specialise in Oxbridge admissions, so if you want the very best chance, some help from an expert could be the key.

The competition for places may be a direct result of how many people go to university, because in 2020-2021 academic year, there were over 2.5 million students in further education.

The percentage of people who go to university recently reached 50%, and is as high as 57% for women, according to figures from the Department for Education, for 2017-18.

This means that the competition is tougher than ever, so it is wise to have a variety of choices with a range of entry requirements on your UCAS application.

Choosing a University Based on Location

There are over 160 universities in the UK, each with its own range of courses and entry requirements.

Many students are excited to move away to university and experience student life, however when you have a brilliant local university, it can often make sense to stay at home.

Young student with long black hair smiling in a university study area

Before settling for your nearest university, it’s wise to do some research on it. You can do this by checking out university league tables and see how your local university scores when it comes to graduate prospects and student satisfaction.

If you’re unsure which universities are nearby, you can check out this handy map of UK universities that UCAS has put together.

Consider the Course’s Modules

No two maths university courses are the same. Part of choosing the right university for you should involve checking out the modules and topics covered and ensuring they are appropriate for the maths career you’re considering.

Every university should outline their modules on their website, just like Sheffield Hallam has done here.

The final year may include just a few compulsory modules, with the rest being elective. This means you basically get to build your own course, and opt for the topics you feel will be the most beneficial. For example, some of the elective modules you can choose may include Data Mining With Business Applications, Game Theory And Recreational Mathematics, and Mathematical Biology. Maths at university is more than just increasingly complex algebra!

Added Extras

Some maths degrees include a professional placement year, where you will spend a year working in the industry during your degree. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean you get a year off from uni work - it actually means that your course will extend to four years instead of three!

The University of Cardiff, for example, offers a course of this kind, where you can spend your third year in paid work as a mathematician or statistician, helping you gain valuable skills. You still have to come back for your final year and assessments, though.

This can help you stand out from the crowd upon graduation, as you already have experience of working in a professional mathematics role. According to Cardiff’s website, they are partnered with placement providers such as HM Revenue and Customs, The Ministry of Defence, and Disney - definitely not an opportunity to be scoffed at!

If you have dreams of working in a heavily maths-focused role such as that of a data analyst or accountant, a year in placement can help you decide whether this industry is truly for you, and can help you choose modules for your final year accordingly.

Businesswoman working on a laptop at a desk with a calculator.

Some universities will also offer you the opportunity to volunteer in a school whilst studying. This would involve assisting teachers in their lessons and helping to inspire students to pursue higher education.

Universities such as The University of Leeds also offer the option of studying abroad at one of their partner universities in your third year.

How Courses are Assessed

A maths degree generally lasts between three and four years, and each year is split into modules.

Each module is worth a certain amount of credit, which is a measure of the percentage of your final grade that it accounts for. Modules are usually worth between 10 and 40 credits, and the more modules you can scoop top marks on, the more likely you are to walk out with a first-class degree.

A typical week at Oxford university consists of around 10 hours of lectures and 2-3 tutorial classes. Outside of this, a lot of self-study is required. Modules are assessed by either coursework or an exam, and only results from years two and three will count towards your final grade.

Some courses even include a practical element, so if this is something that interests you, make sure you do your research. Conversely, if you’re more of an exam focused, pen to paper sort of person, it could be a good idea to check that the course is assessed in a way that allows you to demonstrate your ability in the best way for you.

Employability Statistics

A maths degree opens the door to many different jobs - we even wrote a whole article about it to help potential students consider their options.

Many courses will proudly tell you their employment statistics all across their website.

The below is from Sheffield Hallam’s Mathematics Degree page:Screenshot saying: 95% of our graduates are in work or further study fifteen months after graduating - source, 2019/2020 Graduate Outcomes Survey

If you’re struggling to find this information, you may have to do some more research. Graduate prospects can be assessed in different ways. One of these is a table of employability based on which universities recruiters at top companies believe best prepare its students for employment. A global list featuring 14 UK universities can be found here.

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Kirstan N

Kirstan N

23rd Nov 2022