Cambridge mathematics, famous world-wide (think of Newton, Ramanujan, Hawking), is highly challenging but also deeply rewarding. The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, which sits alongside the new Centre for Mathematical Sciences, just south of Fitzwilliam, is enhancing the excellent international reputation of Cambridge Mathematics even further.
The Mathematical Tripos (the undergraduate mathematics course) dates from 1750: it is the oldest Tripos at Cambridge, and the most famous. The prestige attached to being a Wrangler (the name given to those placed in the First Class in Part II of the Mathematical Tripos) is considerable. One of the most attractive features of the Cambridge course is the optional fourth year, which enables those who are thinking of doing a PhD in Mathematics to improve the depth of their knowledge before committing themselves to a particular research topic.
The structure and syllabus of the Tripos is designed to make the intellectual benefits of a Cambridge mathematical education available to a wide range of students, including able mathematicians whose schools do not offer double Maths A level. There is also a first year option of Mathematics with Physics: this allows some flexibility as to the choice of eventual degree subject.
We generally admit between six and eight mathematics undergraduates each year. There are 10 or 12 hours of university lectures a week and, in addition, there are supervisions in College about twice a week, normally in groups of two. These supervisions, which last an hour, are in the first two years of the course usually given by in-house supervisors drawn from the list below: we place greater stress than most colleges on the opportunity this system of teaching gives for building up personal links with the students and answering their mathematical questions individually.
Like all Cambridge colleges, Fitzwilliam has a well-stocked library. It also has good computing facilities: these are particularly valued by those mathematicians who opt to do computing projects as part of their coursework in the second and third years. There are several terminals for accessing the various university computers, Apple Macs for word-processing, plus PCs for graphics and programming.
Our students have always come from diverse school backgrounds and we are used to judging pupils from famous independent schools alongside the majority of our applicants, who come from comprehensive schools and sixth form colleges. For this reason our offers in mathematics are usually conditional on specified grades in STEP: we have found that this exam gives all our candidates, whatever their background, the fairest chance of proving their ability. Some applicants are at first slightly intimidated by STEP, having perhaps heard that it requires special teaching which their schools cannot provide. Those who persevere and sit it anyway are often pleasantly surprised to discover how well they do. At Fitzwilliam they will in any case be competing for places principally against others who have had little or no special STEP teaching either.
Typical conditional offers are as follows: A*A*A at A Level, including Maths and Further Maths, plus I, I in STEP Maths II and III. In the IB, our typical offer is 40-42 points overall with 776 at Higher Level plus the STEP requirements.
Most years, current Fitzwilliam Maths students run a STEP Day for the college's offer holders, to support their preparation and increase their confidence for the STEP exams.
Life after Cambridge
In recent years most of Fitzwilliam's mathematicians have chosen to continue in education when they graduate, either staying on at the College to do Part III (the optional fourth year of the Mathematical Tripos) or doing a Master's degree or a doctorate. They have then gone into a wide range of careers such as accountancy, teaching, actuarial work, computing, operational research and management consultancy.
Director of Studies
Dr Rachel Camina