This page (which you can edit) is part of The Student Room's information and advice about Oxford and Cambridge (known collectively as Oxbridge). Whilst the two universities have have much in common, they also have many differences. Our information on the application procedure and interviews applies to both.
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There are three first degree courses/undergraduate at Oxford (suitable for those coming directly from school or college) that involve a substantial Computer Science component:
- BA or Masters in Computer Science (three or four years).
- BA or Masters in Mathematics and Computer Science (three or four years).
- BA or Masters in Computer Science and Philosophy (three or four years).
The Maths and Computer Science joint degree gives you the chance to combine Computer Science with advanced study of Pure Mathematics, and will suit you if you are interested in using computers to solve mathematical or scientific problems, or in the deeper mathematical basis of Computer Science itself.
The Computer Science and Philosophy degree allows you to study fascinating areas – most obviously artificial intelligence, information ethics, logic, robotics and virtual reality – where the two disciplines meet in fruitful ways. Both Computer Science and Philosophy are intellectually exciting and creative right from the start: in Computer Science, through the design of computer programs, and in Philosophy, through the working out of arguments and systems of thought.
All undergraduate level programmes are offered as three-year (BA) and four-year (Master's) degrees.
Oxford has one of the longest-established Computer Science departments in the country. Today it is home to a community of world-class research and teaching. Research activities encompass core Computer Science, as well as computational biology, quantum computing, computational linguistics, information systems, software verification and software engineering. The department is home to undergraduates, full-time and part-time Master’s students, and has a strong doctoral programme.
Why Computer Science at Oxford?
Computer Science is about learning and understanding the mathematical, scientific and engineering principles underlying every kind of computing system, from smart phones and games consoles to cloud servers and supercomputers. Practical applications of Computer Science include fighting cancer, protecting endangered species, and automatically translating from one language to another.
- Knowledge that endures because our courses teach the principles behind whatever technology you are using, rather than just the rules of a particular programming language. By the time you leave Oxford, you will be able to pick up a new language in half a day – skills that will support you throughout your career, no matter what language is fashionable.
- One-to-one tuition from internationally-recognised subject experts, through the world famous Oxford tutorial system. Our tutorials are largely given by members of academic staff, not graduate students.
- The outstanding mix of people you will meet. Join a community where you live and study alongside people who are as passionate about your subject as you. Learning and debate doesn’t stop when you leave the lecture theatre.
- Computer Science from the start. You don’t have to study another subject alongside. Or you could undertake a joint degree with either Mathematics or Philosophy.
- Cutting-edge science in a historic setting. Join the top-ranked Computer Science institution in Europe, according to the latest Academic Ranking of World Universities, and become part of the oldest university in the English speaking world that has been educating world-changing leaders for over 800 years.
- Excellent facilities both for academic work and for sporting, artistic, creative and social activities.
- Generous financial support. Oxford offers some of the country’s most generous financial assistance (that’s money you don’t pay back) to UK students from lower income households to help with the cost of undergraduate study. A variety of scholarships and prizes are available during the course of the degree.
- Strong industry links and our reputation for excellence means our graduates are extremely sought after.
The Computer Science Course Year By Year
The first year lays the mathematical foundations for the work you will do later in the degree. Start by studying the basics of Computer Science, beginning with how to write a good computer program. Though you may have written programs at school, you will find that the approach we take to programming is quite different, because the emphasis is on explaining why it is that programs work correctly.
You will continue to study the core of Computer Science, but will start to choose optional courses in the areas that interest you most, whether in Computer Architecture, Compilers, Computer Graphics, Advanced Data Structures & Algorithms, or a range of other specialised subjects. Also in the second year you will take part in a group design practical, working with a group of fellow students to design a solution to a practical problem with the support of industry partners such as Ocado and IBM.
You will choose from a range of more advanced options, perhaps also choosing some additional options that you missed in the second year. For example, Intelligent Systems, Computer Security, Knowledge Representation & Reasoning, and Lambda Calculus and Types. You will also undertake an extended project, usually with the aim of developing a substantial computer program.
Some students choose to leave after three years, but others stay on to do more advanced work that leads to a Master’s degree in Computer Science. If you stay for the fourth year, you will take about four advanced research-orientated options, bringing you to the forefront of Computer Science, and preparing you to work in advanced development or research. You will also do a more advanced and extensive project that may lead on to a subsequent research degree.
Lectures bring together students from all colleges to hear about some aspect of Computer Science, often from a world expert on that part of the subject. The lectures naturally concentrate on the principles behind how computer systems work, so that what you learn will continue to be useful long after you have graduated. Our students typically attend eight to twelve lectures a week.
Tutorials are based in colleges, and are an opportunity for you and a fellow student to spend an hour discussing some aspect of Computer Science with a tutor. In your own time, you will write solutions to a set of problems, and your tutor will mark your work and then discuss it with you for an hour. Students typically have two or three tutorials or classes each week.
Practicals give you an opportunity to work on real programs that reflect the principles you have learned, and are a way to become familiar with up-to-date computing and programming technology. One week you might be creating interactive computer graphics, and another week you might be building a compiler for your own programming language, guided by a member of staff. Practical work might occupy two afternoons a week.
Problem classes: In later years of the course, you will also take part in small classes for the specialised topics that you have chosen to study as options in your degree. These small classes allow students to be taught by tutors with special knowledge in the topic, including experts with a world-wide reputation and enthusiastic young researchers
Project work: In the third year, and again in the optional fourth year, you will have the opportunity to make a more extensive exploration of some of the ideas from your course by doing a project that counts for about a quarter of the exam marks in the year. You will have a project supervisor to guide your work, and might meet with them once a week.
The application process and standard offers
To be a successful Computer Science student, you will need a curiosity about how things work, and the ability to use mathematics to solve problems creatively. Computer Science at Oxford starts with the fundamentals of computers and programming, so it is not necessary to have studied Computing or ICT as a formal subject.
The tutors do however expect to see evidence of genuine interest and engagement with the subject. (Computer Science & Philosophy students don’t need to have studied either subject.)
To apply, first choose which of the three Computer Science courses you wish to study, and select a college offering this course. Fill in a UCAS form by mid-October. In late October or early November, you will sit an aptitude test for Computer Science. (Contrary to what has previously been stated: prospective Computer Science & Philosophy students will not submit written work). Based on all this information we invite most applicants to come for an interview in December.
The tutors will normally make an offer of A*AA on three A-levels including at least an A in Maths. For Computer Science, and Computer Science & Philosophy the A* must be in Maths, Further Maths, Physics or Computing. For Maths & Computer Science the A* must be in Maths or Further Maths. Offers are made in December, and you start your course the following October having met the conditions of your offer.
For further information visit: www.cs.ox.ac.uk/undergradcourses