I have finished my mathematics undergraduate degree in the UK at a low ranked university. I just missed out on a 2:2. I struggled with modules such as statistics and Operations research but excelled at pure maths and applied maths modules.

I have miraculously still been accepted by a university to study for MSc in maths. This university is not part of the Russell group universities but does do better in the league tables than some of the universities that are part of the Russell Group.

Out of fun I was researching the masters course in maths at Cambridge. In the handbook they mentioned something interesting. They said that if your first degree is not up to scratch then you may take the second and third year at Cambridge to bring yourself up to the right level.

After contemplating this, I am thinking about doing a second masters in maths but with the aim of doing it at Cambridge. Off course I will need a very high distinction to do this.

I was wondering in general, would a masters in maths at a much lower ranked university be a good preparation for a masters course at a very top university?


2 Answers 2


They said that if your first degree is not up to scratch then you may take the second and third year at Cambridge to bring yourself up to the right level.

Are you talking about Körner's unofficial guide to Part III? He says "If you are a very able student whose first degree course is not up to the standard required for Part III, it may make sense to apply to become an 'Affiliated Student' taking the second and third year of the Cambridge mathematics course to obtain the Cambridge first degree." This is closest statement I'm aware of to what you mention, but it means something different. It's talking about repeating undergraduate studies (when the applicant did very well in courses that are insufficient preparation for Part III), rather than repeating a master's program. Furthermore, admission as an affiliated student at Cambridge requires first or upper second class honours.

I'm not at Cambridge and can't offer definitive guidance about what they will or will not allow. However, I'm skeptical about the idea of studying for a second master's degree. You shouldn't plan on this unless you have a clear indication that Cambridge will consider it. I'd bet that the chances are low.

  • Yeah but instead of being an affiliate student and doing two years, would a masters degree not be sufficient preperation?
    – user232183
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 17:27
  • Yes, it probably would, but I doubt they would allow it. As a general rule, universities frown on repeating degrees in order to upgrade them to a fancier or more demanding university, on the grounds that spaces in programs are a limited resource and this is not the best use of them. Sometimes they allow it (for example, via being an affiliated student at Cambridge), but it generally requires special permission. Maybe Cambridge would allow this for Part III, and the only way to know for sure is to ask. However, by default I'd assume they wouldn't, unless you hear otherwise. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 18:05
  • (In particular, the fact that Cambridge has a university-wide mechanism for repeating an undergraduate degree doesn't imply that they will necessarily do the same for master's degrees.) Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 18:05
  • I completely agree about the fancy degree stuff. But my argument for doing another masters degree would be that my first masters does not go Into as much depth or is not rigorous. For example my first masters covers all aspects of applied and pure maths but does not go into much depth and the modules reflect this I.e my first masters course offers 3 pure maths modules but Cambridge or imperial offer a separate masters for pure maths.
    – user232183
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 21:45

I interpret the information you found about Cambridge to mean if a person with run-of-the-mill grades in his Bachelor's degree does very well in his first year of his Master's program, he may apply to transfer to Cambridge to continue his Master's there.

I you're not sure whether your interpretation or mine is correct, I would suggest contacting Cambridge by email to ask for clarification.

You know, rank isn't everything. In your studies this fall, try to find out what parts of mathematics you like best, and work hard but enjoy yourself and try to have some balance in your life. Try to take all that competitiveness and ranking and so on with a grain of salt.

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