Dissertation in mathematics

This module enables you to carry out a sustained, guided, independent study of a topic in mathematics. Currently there are six topics to choose from: algebraic graph theory; aperiodic tilings and symbolic dynamics; dynamical functional equations and applications; history of modern geometry; interfacial flows and microfluidics; and Riemann surfaces. This list is subject to change. You will be guided by study notes, books, research articles and original sources (or English translations where necessary), which are provided. You’ll need to master the appropriate mathematics and ultimately present your work in the form of a final dissertation.


M840 is a compulsory module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

The list of topics available varies each year. We’ll let MSc in Mathematics students know the available topics that October in the spring, before the module starts.

Recently available topics have included:

  • Advances in approximation theory
  • Algebraic graph theory
  • Aperiodic tilings and symbolic dynamics
  • Dynamical functional equations and applications
  • History of modern geometry
  • Interfacial flows and microfluidics
  • Riemann surfaces
  • Variational methods.

Please note:

  1. Since the available topics vary from year to year, check that we are offering the topic you wish to study before registering.
  2. For staffing reasons, you might not be able to study your preferred topic. Therefore, we’ll ask you for your first and second choice. We can usually offer you one of your choices, although this cannot be guaranteed.

You will learn

Successful study of this module should enhance your skills in understanding complex mathematical texts, working on open-ended problems and communicating mathematical ideas clearly.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.

The module has a dedicated and moderated forum where you can join in online discussions with your fellow students. There are also online module-wide tutorials. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Dissertation in mathematics (M840) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2029.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

This module is a dissertation and assumes a high level of mathematical maturity.

To study this module you must:

  • declare the MSc in Mathematics (or another qualification towards which the module can count) as your qualification intention
  • normally have successfully completed at least four other modules in the MSc in Mathematics (F04).

Provided you have successfully completed at least three other modules in the MSc in Mathematics (F04) programme you may be given permission to take M840 alongside other modules.

  • The ‘Advances in approximation theory’ topic builds on the material in Advanced mathematical methods (M833) and the discontinued module Approximation theory (M832). Normally, you should have completed both these modules to be accepted to study this topic.
  • To study the ‘Variational methods applied to eigenvalue problems’ topic, normally, you should have completed Calculus of variations and advanced calculus (M820).
  • To study the ‘Riemann surfaces’ topic, you should have completed a course in complex analysis such as Complex analysis (M337) with at least a Grade 2 pass.

The number of students on each topic may be limited so you are advised to register early, noting that you may not be offered your first choice of topic.

All teaching is in English and your proficiency in the English language should be adequate for the level of study you wish to take. We strongly recommend that students have achieved an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score of at least 7. To assess your English language skills in relation to your proposed studies you can visit the IELTS website.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
07 Oct 2023 Jun 2024 -

Registration now closed

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2029.

Future availability

Dissertation in mathematics (M840) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2029.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Study weekend

This module has an optional study weekend. You must pay £60 for tuition and refreshments. You must also pay for your travel to and from the venue, and accommodation if you need it.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

You will need

You will need to buy the set book relevant for your topic (see ‘Materials to buy’ section).

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Gray, J. Worlds Out of Nothing: A Course in the History of Geometry in the 19th Century Springer £29.99 - ISBN 9780857290595 History of modern geometry option set book. Please ensure you purchase the December 2010 edition.
  • de Boor, C. A Practical Guide to Splines (Revised edn) Springer £69.99 - ISBN 9780387953663 Advances in approximation theory option set book.
  • Godsil, C. & Royle, G. Algebraic Graph Theory Springer £36.99 - ISBN 9780387952208 Algebraic graph theory option set book.

Note: All of these books are Print on Demand, please allow at least 2 weeks for receipt following order.

If you have a disability

The material contains small print and diagrams, which may cause problems if you find reading text difficult. Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.

Request your prospectus

Our prospectuses help you choose your course, understand what it's like to be an OU student and register for study.

Request prospectus