Mathematics undergraduates at Warwick enjoy extensive tutorial support. Although our entry requirement is high, once you are here we work very hard to make sure you flourish. The statistics on degree classes and failure rates bear this out. The course offers many modes of learning and assessment. Students have great freedom of choice, both in their work load and range of subjects they can study.
Here is a brief description of how we support learning in Mathematics at Warwick. More detailed information can be found in the various sections of our Study Guide
Lectures and Classes
The most common way of imparting knowledge is the 50-minute lecture, with audiences ranging from upwards of 250 down to 5 students. Many core modules in the first two years are taught in large lectures, but they get smaller as the course diversifies and the range of options increases. Other teaching formats include seminars, computer-lab sessions, directed self-study, and small classes (of around 30, for instance, in the important first-year module Analysis where students learn through active problem-solving in a hands-on way).
The learning process begins in lectures but continues in earnest elsewhere. Assimilating mathematical ideas, deepening understanding, and gaining mastery of new material all take time, commitment, and intelligent effort. This process may take place in the quiet of your room or in a brainstorming session with fellow mathematicians on your corridor the night before an assignment deadline. To reinforce learning, to monitor progress, and to provide a regular pattern of study, students meet their graduate supervisor on a weekly basis in groups of five (twice a week initially). During these hour-long meetings (called supervisions), marked work is returned and discussed, and any difficulties with understanding the lecture material are dealt with. In later years of the degree course, examples classes serve a similar purpose.
Every undergraduate has a Personal Tutor, who is an academic member of staff. Your tutor's role has three main strands: academic, pastoral, and administrative.
- Your tutor will advise you on your course, help you to negotiate difficult new work, and put the mathematics you are studying in a broader context and convey its deeper meaning. Undergraduates meet their tutors weekly or fortnightly in their first year, and usually less frequently thereafter, although the tutor is always available if the student wishes to discuss any aspect of their studies or life at university.
- Your tutor will be concerned about your personal welfare. If the going gets tough, your tutor will provide encouragement, a sympathetic hearing and, if appropriate, impartial advice. For problems your tutor cannot deal with, there are professional advisors on Campus.
- Your Tutor will write references on your behalf while you are at university, and also to prospective employers, and to universities to which you apply for postgraduate study.
- In a sentence, your tutor is a friend within the system who has your interests at heart.
The Options System
Our Mathematics degrees are amazingly flexible in both the range of subjects and the quantity of material available for study. In the first year around three-quarters of the normal load is core (obligatory) material. Thereafter, for students on the 3-year BSc Mathematics degree, almost any subject taught in the University can be added to a core of around 50% mathematics, enabling students to fashion their own academic profile as their interests develop. Some opt for 100% mathematics, some for a strong second subject not unlike a joint degree, while others study a broader spread of disciplines. Students on the 4-year MMath degree have less choice - in all four years, 75% of their load has to be mathematics. On both degrees, there are no compulsory maths modules after the second year - you choose which modules you take, from a very wide range of pure and applied mathematics.
Another special feature of Warwick is the ability to adjust how much material you study and offer for examination. The normal load is 120 CATS in each year of study; this is the equivalent of ten 30-hour lecture courses, each calling for a total of around 120 hours work. Students who feel they have the energy and intellectual capacity can offer anything up to 150 CATS. Your end-of year average (contributing to your final degree class) is calculated on your best 120 CATS worth of marks each year.