Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford Skip to main content

Frequently asked questions

Contents


 The Courses

What topics are covered in your degree courses?

See the overviews of the Computer Science, the Mathematics and Computer Science and Computer Science and Philosophy degrees, and click on the links in the chart to discover more about the topics in each year.

What programming languages do you teach?

In your first year, you will learn Haskell, a 'purely functional' language that makes it simpler to reason mathematically about programs, and Scala, a modern object-oriented language. We believe that by sticking to a small number of languages at first, students are better able to master the underlying principles.

In later years of the course, you will continue to use these languages, but you also might learn other languages including Java, Prolog, C, C++, and Objective CAML, as part of studying a particular area of Computer Science. You will also have opportunities to study the princples behind programming languages and compilers. In your project, you have an almost free choice of language in which to program or to implement.

However, as explained in the open days talks on this site, a particular programming language provides no more than a vehicle for expressing deeper Computer Science ideas. By the time you leave Oxford, you will be able to pick up a new language in half a day and (with a good manual) begin to use it productively straight away.

Can I undertake an undergraduate Oxford Computer Science degree via distance learning?

Oxford University requires all of its undergraduate students to live in or near Oxford, and so does not offer any undergraduate degrees by distance learning. However, you may be interested to know that the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education offers a wide range of courses, including part-time study, online learning and foundation certificates. For further details please see its website at www.conted.ox.ac.uk.

Do you offer joint honours courses? What subjects can I study with Computer Science?

We offer degrees in Computer Science & Philosophy and Maths & Computer Science, as well as the straight Computer Science degree. In the first two years of both joint honours degrees you will study 50% of each subject. In the third, and optional fourth year you can choose to focus your degree one way or the other, or if you prefer, keep a 50:50 mix.

I want to study just Computer Science. Will you make me take other subjects?

The Oxford degree in Computer Science allows you to concentrate on studying Computer Science from the start of the course. Naturally, some of the lectures during the first year are designed to lay the mathematical foundations for the work you will do later in the course, but we don't require you to spend 50% or more of your first year on other subjects outside Computer Science. If you do want to blend Maths and Computer Science, or Computer Science & Philosophy then there's a joint course that allows you to do precisely that.

Can I study a foreign language alongside my degree, just for fun?

The University has a Language Centre which is open to all University members, whatever their degree subject. Courses are available in a number of languages and are intended primarily but not exclusively for those students who need foreign languages for their study or research. Certificated evening courses are also offered in a more limited range of languages for highly motivated language learners. In addition, English language support is available for international students. Please see www.lang.ox.ac.uk for further details.

Why do you award a BA degree rather than a BSc?

That's just the way it is in Oxford: all three-year first degree courses lead to a BA, even in science, and there are no BSc degrees awarded in Oxford. Employers of our graduates all know this, so it never causes any practical difficulty.

What do the current students think of the courses?

We consistently receive positive feedback from our students and they tell us we're improving all the time. But don't just take our word for it. The National Student Survey is an independent census of students in the final year of a course leading to undergraduate credits or qualifications at universities across the UK. These are some of the latest scores from Oxford Computer Science students:

  • Overall score for course teaching of 96% - up from 92% last year.
  • 96% of students felt the staff made the subject interesting and are enthusiastic about what they are teaching.
  • 100% found the course intellectually stimulating.
  • 96% received sufficient advice and support with their studies, and had been able to contact staff when they needed to.
  • 100% said the library resource and services were enough for their needs, and that they had been able to access IT resources and specialised equipment, facilities and rooms when they needed to.

I'd like to find out a bit more about Computer Science. Can you suggest anything?

We encourage you to read any relevant materials that you find interesting. Some suggestions are provided to get you started.

 Pre-Application Questions: School Qualifications and Subject Choice

What is your standard conditional offer? What qualifications and grades do I need to apply?

Please see the webpage on Standard Conditional Offers.

I am not doing A-levels but instead the EB / French Bac / German Abitur/ something else. Can I still get a conditional offer?

Yes, of course. Please see the webpage on Standard Conditional Offers.

I'm doing a vocational qualification, such as a BTEC National Diploma. Can I still get a conditional offer?

Please see the guidance on Standard Conditional Offers.

Do you use STEP papers when making offers?

No. More information is given in the What do Admissions Tutors Look For section of the website.

Do I need to have taken Computer Studies or Information Technology at A-level? Is Physics useful?

Please see the guidance on subject choice.

Do I need to have studied Further Maths? Do you think of Maths and Further Maths as two separate A-levels?

Please see the section on subject choice on the Standard Conditional Offers section of the website.

I haven't previously studied Philosophy or Computer Science. Do I stand a chance of getting onto the joint degree?

Computer Science & Philosophy can be studied at Oxford without requiring any previous qualifications in either subject. Students who like the idea of doing Philosophy with a broadly scientific focus can apply, even if they have never previously studied either discipline. Candidates do need to have a proven flair for Mathematics. Further Mathematics and/or a science would also be highly recommended. Recent experience of writing essays, though by no means essential, would be helpful. See further information on conditional offers, and the Faculty of Philosophy's admissions information.

I've already completed an A/AS-level with A/A* grade a year early. Can I use it towards meeting any conditional offer you give me?

We talk about this in the A-levels taken early, moule marks (UMSs) and resits section of the website.

I've messed up a module and need to resit. Are my changes of admission ruined?

Please refer to the A-levels taken early, moule marks (UMSs) and resits section of the website.

Where can I find out about the cost of doing a degree, any scholarships available, etc?

Despite what you may have heard, it's no more expensive to study at Oxford than at any other university. In fact, our world-class resources and college provision actually keep living costs down. Oxford is committed to ensuring that UK students with the academic ability to achieve a place here are not held back by their financial circumstances.

Oxford offers some of the most generous no-strings-attached financial support package of any UK university. The University's main website provides information and advice to prospective students from both the UK and overseas about fees payable for University tuition and to the college, living costs, and sources of funding at the University of Oxford.

If you have any questions about funding that aren't answered in these pages please contact student.funding@admin.ox.ac.uk. You can also find details of student funding arrangements on the government website.

Do you have any resources for international students thinking about applying?

The University's main website contains lots of useful information specifically for international students covering everything from visas to finance.

I'm a mature student (I'll be over 21 when I start the course) thinking of applying. Do you have any advice?

The University's main website has information specifically for mature students.

I have a disability/SpLD. Do you have any resources to help me?

The University welcomes applications from disabled students and makes reasonable adjustments to facilitate their access to courses. Colleges and departments view applications from students with disabilities on the same academic grounds as those from other candidates. Please see the university's web pages for disabled students, and advice on accessing support for dyslexia, dyspraxia and other SpLDs. Please also refer to our advice on filling out the UCAS form.

I'm at an FE college: can I apply?

Yes! We don't mind what kind of school or college you are attending when you apply. Oxford tutors tend to talk about 'schools' when they should say 'schools or colleges' – that's just because the majority of our applications do (as it happens) come from people attending schools rather than colleges, so it's easy for us to slip into that way of talking. Also, the word 'college' means something different to us, because we so often talk about the colleges that make up the university here. Please don't be offended, or think that we're trying to exclude you.

All that matters to us in assessing an application is whether the candidate would do well if they came to Oxford. That means we're looking for highly motivated, able people with a lot of potential. Ability has to be developed by having studied in a way that is a suitable preparation for university-level academic work, but it encompasses the ability to work in an organised and independent way just as much as narrow ability in specific subjects.

What is your deferred entry policy for Computer Science? Is it ok if I take a gap year?

We talk about this in the What do Tutors look for section.

Can I apply via 'clearing' or 'adjustment'?

Oxford University does not have any places available through UCAS Extra, UCAS Clearing or UCAS Adjustment. We make all our admissions decisions in January, and make slightly more offers than we have available places, in the anticipation that some candidates will not meet the conditions of their offers. This means that after the application deadline, it will no longer be possible to apply for a place for entrance the following year. If applications are now closed, and you wish to apply for a place for the next admissions round, please follow the five-step guide here. Further information about places at other institutions, which commonly have a January application deadline found on the UCAS website at www.ucas.com.

Can I transfer to Oxford from another university? Can I do a second undergraduate degree at Oxford?

Our undergraduate courses last three or four years, and we normally only admit new students into the first year. Direct entry into the second year is possible only in exceptional circumstances, for example, when the candidate has already completed a degree from another university. This is referred to as senior status. Application procedures and deadlines for second undergraduate degree applicants are the same as for candidates for their first degree. Information on second undergraduate degrees is available on the main university website.

I missed the application deadline. Is it really too late to apply?

Unfortunately our application deadlines are not flexible. Our deadline for application, and for registering for the Mathematics Admissions Test, is 18:00 GMT on October 15, the year prior to starting the course. Please look at the UCAS website www.ucas.com for details of courses at other UK universities, who may still have places available, including via UCAS Clearing, UCAS Extra, or UCAS Adjustment. You may also like to consider applying for admission to Oxford next year. A guide about how to apply can be found at www.ox.ac.uk/apply

What is the application deadline this year?

Our deadline for application is 18:00 GMT on October 15th, the year prior to starting the course. You must submit your UCAS form and register separately for the Mathematics Admissions Test by this deadline.

How does Oxford view the proposed A-level reforms? Will candidates have an advantage if they go to schools that still certificate the AS-levels?

Please see the FAQ page on curriculum reform on the main university website.

 The Application Process

What are tutors looking for? How do you shortlist for interview, and then decide who to offer places too?

Please see the section on what admissions tutors look for.

Which colleges offer Computer Science? Which should I choose?

See our list of colleges and Computer Science tutors, and our advice on choosing a college.

Is there anything my headteacher should mention in his or her reference?

Yes! Please see the guidance given in the section on filling out the UCAS form.

Are extra-curricular activities important?

Please see the section on what admissions tutors look for.

Is the Maths Admissions Test (MAT) important?

Yes. We talk about how the MAT is used on this page.

What kind of questions do you ask at the interview? How can I prepare?

Our interviews are always a kind of mini-tutorial, where the tutor and (potential) student discuss a problem and try together to find a way of solving it. There's a list of sample interview problems on this site, together with a sample interview that shows the kind of dialogue we hope to have with you.

Why do I have interviews in two different colleges? I'm applying for a joint degree - will I get separate interviews for Computer Science and Philosophy/Maths?

Please see the our advice on what happens during the interview period.

I've been offered a place. Is there any preparatory work I can do over the summer?

Yes, we've got some recommended reading that you could do during the summer break, before starting an Oxford Computer Science course. You do not necessarily need to purchase these — your local library can probably help, and there will be copies available in your College library once you get to Oxford.

 Reputation and Size

How does Oxford perform in the league tables?

Oxford consistently scores amongst the very best Computer Science departments in the world, for both teaching and research.

  • The Complete University Guide (formerly known as The Good University Guide) places Oxford first (100/100) for Computer Science in 2018.
  • The 2017 Sunday Times University Guide puts Oxford second out of 104 UK universities for Computer Science. (The data is behind a paywall.)
  • The 2017 QS University rankings put us second in Europe, and seventh in the world for Computer Science and Information Systems.

How big is the Department?

We currently have around 200 undergraduates: there are roughly equal numbers of students on the Computer Science and the Mathematics & Computer Science degrees, and a smaller cohort taking the new degree in Computer Science & Philosophy.

We offer a full-time taught postgraduate course: the MSc in Computer Science (approx 50 students). Additionally, around 15 students per year take an MSc in Mathematics and the Foundations of Computer Science (which is administered by the Maths Institute). Two part-time postgraduate programmes for professionals are also offered: the MSc in Software Engineering (approx 220 students) and the MSc in Software and Systems Security (approx 90 students).

The Department's doctoral programme has over 150 research students (studying for a DPhil - the Oxford term for a PhD) working across a wide range of subjects in Computer Science and Software Engineering. The Department is also home to around 160 academic and research staff. You can find out more about our people and our history on the main Department website.

 Employment Prospects and Industry Experience

Where do Oxford University Computer Science Graduates go after completing a degree?

After graduating from the department, over 55% of our students go into the IT and Computing sector. Just under a fifth go into banking and investment, with the remaining quarter going into areas such as management consultancy, government and policy organisations and financial services.

Very few employers take more than one or two of our Computer Science graduates. There is such a rich variety of companies who are looking to employ Oxford Computer Science graduates, meaning there is competition between them to attract our students. Some recent destinations of our leavers include: IBM, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Google, Amazon, Deutsch Bank, Ocado, Palantir Technologies. Some of our graduates go on to found their own companies. Others continue their studies, going on to do PhDs - either in the UK or abroad - before moving into academia and research.

Will I get industry experience and make useful contacts?

We don't offer an industrial placement year as part of an Oxford Computer Science degree. However, if you're looking to get experience of industry or to make industry contacts, than you are exceptionally well-placed to do so at Oxford. For example:

  • As a student here, you will regularly hear about all sorts of job and internship opportunities and many of our students spend the summer vacation in industrial placements, including overseas ones. The Careers Service is happy to help you set this up. We have a dedicated Industry Liaison website where companies post their relevant vacancies. Read about some of our current students' internship experiences here.
  • The Careers Service offers events throughout the year featuring relevant companies. In conjunction with the Careers Service, the Department hosts an annual IT careers fair. The event has previously attracted around 30-40 employers per year (we can't physically fit in more than that), all wanting to recruit our students for internships or graduate opportunities. Past exhibitors have included Amazon and Google, plus big names from finance, the media and games industries, as well as start-ups and charities. We also regularly host career and IT-related talks by industrial representatives - Sophos and Google are recent examples.
  • Various companies sponsor our annual student prizes. Our 2nd year students have the opportunity to work on a practical group project, which have been supported by companies including IBM, Microsoft, Samsung, Frontier Games and Ocado. (Support ranges from lending kit to the teams, to offering cash prizes, as well as mentoring groups.)
  • The Computer Science Department is home to a wide variety of research projects - many of them being carried out in conjunction with industry partners. Examples of collaboration partners include: Intel, BT, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Boeing, Fujitsu, Philips, NASA and Airbus.
  • We run an annual "industry event" where industry representatives come in to meet staff and students and find out what areas the Department is working on.

Still Got Questions?

Please don't be shy. Send your questions regarding applying to our undergraduate Computer Science courses to undergraduate.admissions@cs.ox.ac.uk