Computer Science is a rapidly changing and exciting subject, extending from the physical principles upon which digital computers work to the mathematical understanding of the semantics of computation.
The Cambridge course covers the principles of programming, operating systems, computer networks, artificial intelligence, security and numerous other topics. It is also concerned with understanding the theoretical basis of the subject.
The course is designed to provide not only advanced practical experience but also to give an understanding of fundamental principles which will outlast today's technology.
Students in their first year spend half their time studying Computer Science, a quarter studying Mathematics and a quarter studying either a science subject, or further Mathematics, or social psychology.
In the second year we build on the foundations laid in the first year, teaching core material in theory, systems, mathematics, applications, and professionalism. There is practical work in hardware design, programming (C, C++, Java, Prolog), and a substantial group project where students are given the chance to work in a team, as in a commercial software house.
In the third year, students are allowed considerable choice of subjects to focus their study on. The teaching ranges widely across the whole discipline with particular concentration on Cambridge’s research strengths, computer systems and the theory of computation. Students undertake a substantial personal project which may be on any topic within Computer Science.
Career prospects for Computer Scientists are excellent; there are now more vacancies in Britain than ever before. At least half of our graduates go into jobs directly related to the subject area. Another popular destination for our graduates is banking and investment. Many of our students go on to a Master’s or PhD Degree in Cambridge and elsewhere.
The Director of Studies in Computer Science is Dr Robert Harle.
Entry requirements and interviews
The standard conditional offer for candidates in Computer Science at Downing is A*A*A at A2 Level, preferably all in scientific or mathematical subjects.
A very strong background in Mathematics is required: a good, recent, A2 Level (or equivalent) qualification in Mathematics, preferably with Further Mathematics at A2 or AS Level is essential.
For many of the first-year science options an A2 in a related science subject is also required. For a summary please see the Computer Science Faculty website. Some experience of programming would be extremely helpful, but an A-Level in Computer Studies is not required.
Over the previous three years, the ratio of the average number of applicants to the average number of offers made in Computer Science has been 12:2.
At present, Computer Science applicants receive two 20-30 minute interviews on the same day, each with one or two interviewers. Both interviews are largely subject-based, although more general questions may also be asked.
The conduct of the interview itself is informal, and the types of topic covered are flexible. Background scientific or mathematical knowledge will be useful, but questions may range over a broad spectrum of topics relevant to Computer Science, many of which are not commonly covered at school.
While you are here for interview, candidates for Computer Science will be asked to take the Computer Science Admissions Test (CSAT).
Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.
Further details about the Computer Science course can be found at the University of Cambridge site.