The Student Room Group

Thinking ahead, quite a bit

I'm applying to do Computer Science at St Andrews, Durham, Nottingham, and Surrey. I've received offers from Durham, Nottingham, and Surrey - St Andrews is yet to offer/reject and I was rejected from Cambridge.

I know I want to do at least a master's degree after my bachelor's, and perhaps a doctorate, depending on how the master's goes. I was rejected from Cambridge for two sort-of stupid reasons - one being that I don't do Further Maths despite their site saying you don't need it (in 2019, 131/133 students had Further, and the ratio is roughly 1:10 so it's required); and the other being that I completely flopped the entrance exam (a lot harder than previous years, first time used for Computer Science, no real help from my school - some people had prepared for 6 months with their teachers, I got 30 minutes where they had no idea how to do it either - I didn't prepare properly, and I've never done an exam in that style before, including never having done Maths Challenge).

Thinking ahead, I was thinking of applying to Cambridge and perhaps Oxford for a master's, since there is no restriction and my head of sixth said I might have better chance there, as well as some other universities, perhaps including wherever I go. I am torn between Durham and St Andrews, obviously if St Andrews reject me then it's quite an obvious choice, as St Andrews has really low international rankings but extremely high domestic ones. The international rankings being lower is, supposedly, to do with their research output, which would usually not be an issue for an undergraduate admission, however since I'm thinking of doing a research-based master's, it might be important, I don't know.

St Andrews is a lot smaller (8000 students), but has really high student satisfaction, I've also heard that in Scotland people don't actually think that highly of it. Durham is well known all over, also not ranked that well globally.

Tl;dr which uni is better to go to, Durham or St Andrews, if I am thinking of applying to do a master's (research based) after my bachelor's, to many unis including Oxford and Cambridge.
I don't know for computer science specifically, but Durham has a much better reputation overall. However, one of my closest friends is in a very similar position to you, having been rejected from Cambridge for compsci and deciding between St Andrews and Durham; I know that she thinks that the St Andrews course seems more suited to her, but you may feel differently? It's probably not very helpful but I would pick the course that you prefer because the more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to get better grades and therefore get into oxbridge for your masters. good luck!
Original post by aioheuiawe
I'm applying to do Computer Science at St Andrews, Durham, Nottingham, and Surrey. I've received offers from Durham, Nottingham, and Surrey - St Andrews is yet to offer/reject and I was rejected from Cambridge.

I know I want to do at least a master's degree after my bachelor's, and perhaps a doctorate, depending on how the master's goes. I was rejected from Cambridge for two sort-of stupid reasons - one being that I don't do Further Maths despite their site saying you don't need it (in 2019, 131/133 students had Further, and the ratio is roughly 1:10 so it's required); and the other being that I completely flopped the entrance exam (a lot harder than previous years, first time used for Computer Science, no real help from my school - some people had prepared for 6 months with their teachers, I got 30 minutes where they had no idea how to do it either - I didn't prepare properly, and I've never done an exam in that style before, including never having done Maths Challenge).

Thinking ahead, I was thinking of applying to Cambridge and perhaps Oxford for a master's, since there is no restriction and my head of sixth said I might have better chance there, as well as some other universities, perhaps including wherever I go. I am torn between Durham and St Andrews, obviously if St Andrews reject me then it's quite an obvious choice, as St Andrews has really low international rankings but extremely high domestic ones. The international rankings being lower is, supposedly, to do with their research output, which would usually not be an issue for an undergraduate admission, however since I'm thinking of doing a research-based master's, it might be important, I don't know.

St Andrews is a lot smaller (8000 students), but has really high student satisfaction, I've also heard that in Scotland people don't actually think that highly of it. Durham is well known all over, also not ranked that well globally.

Tl;dr which uni is better to go to, Durham or St Andrews, if I am thinking of applying to do a master's (research based) after my bachelor's, to many unis including Oxford and Cambridge.

St Andrews and Durham both do better in domestic tables than international, and a quick check of the Complete University Guide you will see both unis have a very similar research quality score for CompSci.

i graduated from St As and everyone i know is glad we chose St As over Durham for social reasons, as for the course it just depends on which uni offers the course that appeals to you. I have a source that CompSci is one of the few subjects (along with Economics) where St As graduates earn more than most other unis (top 7) but for research, bigger is better generally so somewhere like Southampton would be really good for you.

What most of my friends at uni have done is after 4 years in a small town, to then do a Masters in a big city which makes sense experientially.
Reply 3
Original post by skittish
I don't know for computer science specifically, but Durham has a much better reputation overall. However, one of my closest friends is in a very similar position to you, having been rejected from Cambridge for compsci and deciding between St Andrews and Durham; I know that she thinks that the St Andrews course seems more suited to her, but you may feel differently? It's probably not very helpful but I would pick the course that you prefer because the more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to get better grades and therefore get into oxbridge for your masters. good luck!

Thank you for the reply! I feared Durham had a better reputation too. I love both, for pretty much the same reasons, which makes picking one very hard. I'll take a look at the courses more and try and use that to help me.
No problem- good luck! I hope you’re happy with your choice :smile:
Reply 5
Original post by A Rolling Stone
St Andrews and Durham both do better in domestic tables than international, and a quick check of the Complete University Guide you will see both unis have a very similar research quality score for CompSci.

i graduated from St As and everyone i know is glad we chose St As over Durham for social reasons, as for the course it just depends on which uni offers the course that appeals to you. I have a source that CompSci is one of the few subjects (along with Economics) where St As graduates earn more than most other unis (top 7) but for research, bigger is better generally so somewhere like Southampton would be really good for you.

What most of my friends at uni have done is after 4 years in a small town, to then do a Masters in a big city which makes sense experientially.


Thank you for your reply, too! I noticed what you said too, about it being very good for comp sci, it's very very vain of me, but I know that the name 'Durham' is just better known all over, and that could be important for master's applications (I don't know). Since both unis are quite similar, I will look into the courses more to help, otherwise i'll have to just pick what *sounds* better :/ and that's what I'm unsure of.

I know Durham has a good reputation, but St Andrews' rankings are great at thhe moment, but why? I've heard lots of people saying it's not very accurate etc, and it's worrying.
Original post by aioheuiawe
Thank you for your reply, too! I noticed what you said too, about it being very good for comp sci, it's very very vain of me, but I know that the name 'Durham' is just better known all over, and that could be important for master's applications (I don't know). Since both unis are quite similar, I will look into the courses more to help, otherwise i'll have to just pick what *sounds* better :/ and that's what I'm unsure of.

I know Durham has a good reputation, but St Andrews' rankings are great at thhe moment, but why? I've heard lots of people saying it's not very accurate etc, and it's worrying.



The thing about St Andrews is that it’s only started doing well recently, whilst Durham has been doing well for a long time, so it’s uncertain as to whether St Andrews will stay strong. Also, Durham is a Russel group uni, whilst St Andrews isn’t- that doesn’t necessarily change much but it partly explains why Durham’s reputation is better.

With regards to applying for a masters, your degree result is much more important than the university you went to- they’d rather a 1st from St Andrews than a 2:1 from Durham
Reply 7
Original post by skittish
The thing about St Andrews is that it’s only started doing well recently, whilst Durham has been doing well for a long time, so it’s uncertain as to whether St Andrews will stay strong. Also, Durham is a Russel group uni, whilst St Andrews isn’t- that doesn’t necessarily change much but it partly explains why Durham’s reputation is better.

With regards to applying for a masters, your degree result is much more important than the university you went to- they’d rather a 1st from St Andrews than a 2:1 from Durham

Ah it's only recently? It's still very luring haha, #3 or #2 depending on where you look - I suppose I need to find out what the reputation is in the academic community.

Durham is quite a bit lower, #6 or #7 but it's stable, and I know it has a good reputation. Thanks all, I'll take a look at the courses some more and use that.
Original post by aioheuiawe
Thank you for your reply, too! I noticed what you said too, about it being very good for comp sci, it's very very vain of me, but I know that the name 'Durham' is just better known all over, and that could be important for master's applications (I don't know). Since both unis are quite similar, I will look into the courses more to help, otherwise i'll have to just pick what *sounds* better :/ and that's what I'm unsure of.

I know Durham has a good reputation, but St Andrews' rankings are great at thhe moment, but why? I've heard lots of people saying it's not very accurate etc, and it's worrying.


st andrews' and durham 'names' are roughly as good as eachother if you asked 100 random people (in fact with massive student expansion Durham is becoming far less selective), but without wanting to sound harsh it really is silly to be worrying about microscopic differences in reputation between two good unis in this way. Changes in the world are not made on employers being more likely to filter a Bath graduate than a Bristol graduate and so on, this is crazy and low level to be worrying about!.

What matters most is experience, and whilst this should mostly refer to work experience that employers will care about more than what uni you went to, for me experience was the culture of the uni - i literally had the most difficult decision on St A and Durham and i ended up choosing the former as i really liked the 'posh but international/American/3CK' vibe of St A vs the 'just posh/England' vibe of Durham, which has given me friends all over the world. 20% of students are from the US and having those links is quite cool as well. The most important thing is whether you like the course, the course at St Andrews is pretty rigorous, don't know about Durham.
Reply 9
Original post by A Rolling Stone
st andrews' and durham 'names' are roughly as good as eachother if you asked 100 random people (in fact with massive student expansion Durham is becoming far less selective), but without wanting to sound harsh it really is the stuff of Asperger's to be worrying about microscopic differences in reputation between two good unis in this way. Changes in the world are not made on employers being more likely to filter a Bath graduate than a Bristol graduate and so on, this is crazy and low level Asperger's-esque to be worrying about!.

What matters most is experience, and whilst this should mostly refer to work experience that employers will care about more than what uni you went to, for me experience was the culture of the uni - i literally had the most difficult decision on St A and Durham and i ended up choosing the former as i really liked the 'posh but international/American/3CK' vibe of St A vs the 'just posh/England' vibe of Durham, which has given me friends all over the world. 20% of students are from the US and having those links is quite cool as well. The most important thing is whether you like the course, the course at St Andrews is pretty rigorous, don't know about Durham.

I agree, I do tend to exhibit these types of obsessive behaviours quite often haha. I can't shake it though. Eventually i'll work myself up enough that I am forced to just make a decision so it'll be fine.

As you went to St Andrews, I was wondering whether I've made a mistake to start second year? For comp sci it was an option, and originally I didn't take it, but I contacted them and they said I had the correct grades to apply for it, so I did (4 years cut down to 3 like my other options).
Reply 10
Original post by aioheuiawe
I agree, I do tend to exhibit these types of obsessive behaviours quite often haha. I can't shake it though. Eventually i'll work myself up enough that I am forced to just make a decision so it'll be fine.

As you went to St Andrews, I was wondering whether I've made a mistake to start second year? For comp sci it was an option, and originally I didn't take it, but I contacted them and they said I had the correct grades to apply for it, so I did (4 years cut down to 3 like my other options).

I've applied to St Andrews this year, and apparently it's easy to change between first and second year within the first week of lectures. So you're not locked into either one at the moment.
Original post by aioheuiawe
I agree, I do tend to exhibit these types of obsessive behaviours quite often haha. I can't shake it though. Eventually i'll work myself up enough that I am forced to just make a decision so it'll be fine.

As you went to St Andrews, I was wondering whether I've made a mistake to start second year? For comp sci it was an option, and originally I didn't take it, but I contacted them and they said I had the correct grades to apply for it, so I did (4 years cut down to 3 like my other options).


'everyone' from England doing physics and maths does direct 2nd year, so i presume it's similar for CompSci. I personally think it's a mistake experientially (spellchecker keeps telling me this isn't a word but idc) but the sensible thing to do economically.

I think the best thing is to visit. I was literally exactly like you back in the day - i used the all the rankings but 0.001% differences to decide where to apply, and for that reason I put Durham as my firm until the 11th hour, but in the end i realised i was going to spend 4 years of my life there and liked the Scottish system far too much - St Andrews, Durham, Bath and Warwick would have all been very different experiences to one another
Original post by A Rolling Stone
'everyone' from England doing physics and maths does direct 2nd year, so i presume it's similar for CompSci. I personally think it's a mistake experientially (spellchecker keeps telling me this isn't a word but idc) but the sensible thing to do economically.

I think the best thing is to visit. I was literally exactly like you back in the day - i used the all the rankings but 0.001% differences to decide where to apply, and for that reason I put Durham as my firm until the 11th hour, but in the end i realised i was going to spend 4 years of my life there and liked the Scottish system far too much - St Andrews, Durham, Bath and Warwick would have all been very different experiences to one another

Mhm yea you're right. I'll go ahead and look at the unis, the course, all that in much more depth. Hopefully that, or a rejection from St Andrews, will make my decision more obvious haha. Thanks.
If you get a 1st why bother with an MSc - it's 2 more years and goodness knows how much more expense. Go straight for a doctorate?
Original post by Grizwuld
If you get a 1st why bother with an MSc - it's 2 more years and goodness knows how much more expense. Go straight for a doctorate?

An MPhil is only 9 months, generally I think, and for oxbridge PhD courses they state it's highly desirable, unless you already have publications. Perhaps, after the 9 months, I may decide I enjoyed it but don't want to do ~4 years of research, but I will leave with an MPhil and can return any time I want. Almost like a trial phd.
Original post by aioheuiawe
An MPhil is only 9 months, generally I think, and for oxbridge PhD courses they state it's highly desirable, unless you already have publications. Perhaps, after the 9 months, I may decide I enjoyed it but don't want to do ~4 years of research, but I will leave with an MPhil and can return any time I want. Almost like a trial phd.

Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately I'm a little confused and somewhat perplexed. How does a B.Sc student get admitted to an M.Phil degree, where such a course is usually considered a second and more senior Masters degree, for which a plain M.SC is often the entry requirement? As for nine months - that is completely beyond my understanding! Would you illuminate me further.

Many thanks.
Original post by Grizwuld
Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately I'm a little confused and somewhat perplexed. How does a B.Sc student get admitted to an M.Phil degree, where such a course is usually considered a second and more senior Masters degree, for which a plain M.SC is often the entry requirement? As for nine months - that is completely beyond my understanding! Would you illuminate me further.

Many thanks.

I'm not that knowledgeable, as you can tell by me literally asking the difference between people's perceptions by their name haha, but from my understand an MPhil is simply a master's degree, but rather than it being an extra year or two of content and teaching, it's research based. The one master's I've researched, a master's in Computer Science from Cambridge, is an MPhil and has the requirement that "Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK First class Honours Degree." Until you said this, I hadn't thought about it, I presumed they meant a bachelor's degree, perhaps they want an MSci first? Not sure now.

It also says its aim is "to provide preparation appropriate for undertaking a PhD programme in computer science." Further to this, the PhD program for computer science on their website states that an MPhil beforehand is highly desired, rather than applying without a master's.

Correct me if any of that is wrong please!
https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/cscsmpacs
Reply 17
Two years later but I had the just had same decision to make and ended up firming St Andrews. Its student satisfaction is great, and I keep finding people coming out of the woodwork to complain about the teaching of Compsci at Durham.
For me also the value of the student golf deal is amazing (even though I'm relatively new) - £125 pa for 5/7 courses.

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