Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

BSc Honours in Mathematics

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: not applicable
Final award: BSc Honours
Programme title: Mathematics
UCAS code: G100
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Mathematics, statistics and operational research
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: School of Mathematics' Quality Assurance Officers
Date of production/revision: July 2012

External summary

Mathematics is one of mankind’s great intellectual adventures and although it started many thousands of years ago it has never been more active than it is now.  It is an essential tool in Sciences, Engineering and many other academic subjects as well as in industry and commerce and other areas of human endeavour.  As has happened through history new questions are being posed to mathematicians from new areas like Biology and Finance, and applications are being found for Mathematics that was originally developed for its intrinsic interest and beauty.

Mathematics at university level is about having a thorough understanding of why things are true, why procedures achieve the results they do, what their limitations are.  With this, we develop the ability to generalise or otherwise adapt our knowledge to apply to new situations.  Mathematics is a subject where we start with basic truths, or clearly stated assumptions, and follow through to conclusions depending only on reasoning.  A fundamental idea is that of abstraction:  taking the fundamental mathematics from a situation and working out its consequences so that it can be applied in seemingly different areas that have the same underlying mathematical structure.

As well as technical knowledge, the programme develops critical thinking and the ability to analyse logically.  These are skills that are of great value for both employment and further study in many areas.  Students do project work, both individually and in groups and acquire team-working and presentation skills as well as facility in computing.

Educational aims of programme

We aim to use the School’s world-class expertise across the broad spectrum of Mathematics to offer students the opportunity to study the subject widely or to specialise in one or two from a large range of areas including Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, Operational Research, Financial Mathematics and Statistics.  

The programme aims to develop students in to mathematicians who have the knowledge and skills necessary to use mathematics in employment, further education, or in any appropriate situation where logical reasoning and analysis or dealing with quantitative data is required.  The content is informed by the School’s excellent research across a broad range of areas.

The programme offers the following :

  • Strong coverage of Mathematics as an intellectual endeavour and as a tool in applications.
  • Training in the ways of thinking and practising of the professional mathematician:  problem-solving, the axiomatic method, calculation and computing, deductive reasoning and logical thinking.
  • Development of communications skills in a mathematical context: reading, writing and presenting technical material.
  • The opportunity to do sustained work on a topic individually or as part of a group.
  • Exposure to mathematics and its applications in the modern world.
  • An environment where students take responsibility for their learning and academic staff facilitate individual intellectual development.

Most courses involve lectures, tutorials and private study from books and other materials.  Most assessment is by examinations which are intended to test understanding and problem-solving based on the area of study.  Tutorials in the early years are generally in a studio environment that promotes teamwork and cooperation, guided by staff.  There are also a number of points in the programme where students do project work, normally assessed by a combination of a written report and an oral presentation.

We offer a continually evolving range of courses at higher levels which reflect current trends in mathematics and its applications.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

Graduates will have studied a balanced curriculum of core mathematics in their early years, and have chosen to specialise in one or two areas, or to take advanced topics across a range of areas in their final years.  A typical graduate will have the following :

  • Knowledge and understanding of core mathematics and its applications.
  • Knowledge and understanding of a selection of advanced topics in mathematics and its applications.
  • A good level of skill in calculation and manipulation.
  • The ability to develop and evaluate mathematical arguments.
  • Skill in abstracting the essentials of problems, formulating them mathematically and obtaining solutions by appropriate methods.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Typical graduates will be able to do the following :

  • Research topics (particularly those which link to mathematics) using all appropriate sources of information.
  • Approach sources of information with an open but critical mind, analysing them thoroughly and logically.
  • Carry out sustained work requiring background research followed by further analysis.
  • Analyse problems by reducing to essentials, by considering simplified models, considering boundary cases and counterexamples.
  • Analyse arguments by identifying assumptions both explicit and implicit, and checking that the conclusions are fully supported by logic.
  • Provide proper references and appropriate citation.

The research skills are developed during independent study of texts and other sources of information that feature in courses throughout the programme.  These skills are particularly developed and assessed during project-based work.

The skills in analysis are fundamental to mathematics and so assessed and taught throughout the programme, although they are much more generally applicable.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Typical graduates will be able to do the following :

  • Think abstractly about structures and problems.
  • Solve problems independently or as part of a group by logical analysis.
  • Approach information in the spirit that it needs to be criticised, checked and understood, rather than simply believed.
  • Notice and appreciate open problems and approach them in a spirit of adventure and enquiry.
  • Understand that deep problems can be present even in seemingly elementary things.

These attributes are intrinsic to the study of mathematics.  Our courses and assessments emphasise understanding and problem solving rather than memorisation of information.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Typical graduates will be able to do the following :

  • Communicate mathematical arguments and conclusions effectively and accurately.
  • Communicate well on technical and non-technical subjects.
  • Present logical arguments clearly in written and oral form.

We have a number of courses which develop skills in, and are assessed on the basis of, written and oral presentations.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Typical graduates will be able to do the following :

  • Work constructively both individually and as part of a team.
  • Plan and undertake and report on a substantial project.
  • Reflect on their progress.

We promote communication from the early years, teaching in small groups in a 'studio' environment in which students are strongly encouraged to participate actively.

Group projects feature as part of courses in later years and the final year of the programme contains a substantial project or equivalent undertaking.

Students are supported throughout by their Personal Tutor and others and encouraged towards a self-reflective approach that develops their organisational skills and intellectual independence.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

The programme includes some training in computing which provides a sound basis for the application of IT in numerous areas.

Programme structure and features

The programme structure is full-time, four-year Scottish Bachelors with Honours with entry at first or second year level and is fully compliant with the University's Curriculum Framework and Scottish Qualification Framework.  Details of the Programme's requirements for any specific academic session are provided in the University of Edinburgh's Degree Regulations & Programmes of Study:  http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk/.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Most courses are delivered using lectures and tutorials.

Several early-years courses are delivered using Peer Instruction:  a technique where the class discusses multiple-choice questions set be the 'lecturer' and responds using electronic audience response systems, usually called 'clickers'.  This is part of a commitment in the School to introduce interactive engagement methods that promote deeper learning. 

Feedback is a vital aspect of learning and students have tutorials throughout the programme that provide opportunities for more personal teaching than lectures.  Lecturers, and indeed all members of staff, are available to help if students have problems.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 139610
Year 231690
Year 332680
Year 424760

Assessment methods and strategies

Most courses are examined mainly by examinations.  Many examinations are 'open book' so that notes and/or textbooks are permitted.  This reflects the principle that it is understanding which is important rather than just memorisation of facts.

Honours classification is determined on the courses taken over the final two years, weighted on a 50:50 basis.

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 186014
Year 268032
Year 377023
Year 454046

Career opportunities

Mathematics graduates from the University of Edinburgh find a wide range of careers open to them.  The logical, analytical and practical problem-solving skills you learn during your degree are sought after by employers.  Many of our recent graduates have been employed by large firms in the financial and business sector, or have gone on to work in aircraft engineering, software engineering, investment analysis, transport logistics and teaching, to give but a few examples.  Others pursue further study at Masters of Doctoral level in the UK or overseas.

Other items

Personal Tutors

Each student is assigned a Personal Tutor who provides both academic and pastoral guidance.  Throughout a student's time at the University, the Personal Tutor guides the student in his/her choice of courses and provides general support.  Courses are administered and run through the Mathematics Teaching Organisation.  Detailed online course information is provided through the University's Degree Regulations & Programmes of Study pages, and also through 'Learn' software for students enrolled on a course.  Students also have access to a Mathematics Student Learning Advisor who provides support and study advice, particularly in early years.

Other Opportunities

We have a 'Mathematics Engagement Officer' who works on communicating our research and mathematics more generally to the outside world and students have opportunities to participate in this work as part of their development.  We also offer a 'Mathematics Education' course in Year 4, which enables students to learn about issues in education and undertake short placements in local schools.

Each summer, the School has a number of students working on 'Vacation Scholarships' where they undertake study and research beyond the usual curriculum under the guidance of a member of academic staff.

Equality and Diversity

The School of Mathematics is fully committed to the University of Edinburgh policies promoting equality and diversity.  See http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/equality-diversity.