University of Cambridge



Computer Science

Computer science is a fast-moving field that brings together many disciplines, including mathematics, programming, engineering, the natural sciences, psychology and linguistics. Our course provides you with a skill set that's highly prized in industry and for academic research.

UCAS code G400 BA/CS

Duration Three or four years

Colleges Available at all Colleges

2013 entry Applications per place: 6
Number accepted: 86

Open days and events 2014 College open days (sciences)
Cambridge Open Days - 3 July, 4 July 2014

Related courses
Contact details 01223 763505


Computer Science at Cambridge

Cambridge was a pioneer of computer science and continues to lead its development. There are more than 1,000 specialist computing and advanced technology companies and commercial laboratories in the area (known as 'Silicon Fen'), and many support our teaching and employ our students.

Our course is broad and deep – giving skills to create future technology. All aspects of modern computer science are covered, along with the underlying theory and foundations in economics, law and business. You also develop practical skills, such as programming (in various languages, eg ML, Java, C/C++, Prolog) and hardware systems (eg chip design using Verilog).

Facilities and work experience

Our students benefit from the Computer Laboratory's cutting-edge research and the extensive facilities. The purpose-built Computer Laboratory is packed with the latest technology, advanced lecture theatres, dedicated practical rooms, a well-stocked library, and even a café.

Group projects during the course, where small teams of students deliver a product to an external client, ensure relevant industrial experience. Projects often lead to commercialisation, licensing or employment.


Our course is accredited by the British Computer Society (BCS) and by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), and contributes towards professional membership (MBCS, MIET) and chartered status (CEng, CSci, CITP).

Changing course

It's possible to change from Computer Science to another course, such as Natural Sciences (although options available to you will be limited), at the end of the first year. Following their second year, a small number of Computer Science students opt to do Part II in another subject, notably Management Studies.


Our graduates' knowledge and skills embody principles which will outlast today's technology, making them highly sought after by industry and commerce alike. For example, companies at our annual recruitment fair collectively seek to recruit more than our entire annual number of graduates.

About half of our students go on to work in the computer industry, while a fifth pursue further study and careers in teaching and research. Many graduates have founded successful companies while others have easily found employment in banking, consultancy and business.

To get an idea of what's currently on offer to our graduates, visit:

Course outline

Teaching is provided through lectures, practical classes and supervisions.

In Year 1, you can typically expect 20 hours of teaching every week, including up to 12 lectures and practical classes.

Assessment is by three-hour examinations taken in the final term each year. Practical work is also assessed, and is equal to one written paper in the second and third years. You submit a 12,000 word dissertation on your third year project.

Year 1 (Part IA)


You take four papers, including two Computer Science papers and at least one Mathematics paper.

The Computer Science papers cover topics including foundations of computer science (taught in ML), Java and object-oriented programming, operating systems, discrete mathematics, algorithms, and digital electronics. The algorithms, ML, Java and digital electronics topics involve laboratory work

Most students choose to take the Part IA Mathematics paper from Natural Sciences and either a social psychology paper from Psychological and Behavioural Sciences or a further Natural Sciences paper from the following:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Evolution and Behaviour
  • Earth Sciences
  • Physiology of Organisms

Alternatively, you may take the first year Computer Science papers alongside two of the first year papers of the Mathematics course. This is known as Computer Science with Mathematics. You should indicate which option you wish to take (eg Computer Science with Natural Sciences, Computer Science with Social Psychology) on your SAQ.

Those wishing to follow the Computer Science with mathematics first year must also take STEP examinations.

Year 2 (Part IB)

Core technologies and theories

You take four papers, spanning the core disciplines:

  • Theory - including logic and proof, computation theory
  • Systems - including computer design, computer networking
  • Programming - including compiler construction, advanced algorithms
  • Applications and Professionalism - including artificial intelligence, graphics, security

You also work on assessed laboratory work, programming assignments, and a group project which reflects current industrial practice.

Year 3 (Part II)


You select freely from around 20 specialist courses. These are examined across three papers to allow you to concentrate more on systems, theory or applications. The advanced topics are wide-ranging and usually include:

  • mobile and sensor networks, principles of communication
  • specification and verification of hardware and software, semantics
  • quantum computing, bioinformatics, digital signal processing
  • human-computer interaction, natural language processing, e-commerce
  • advanced artificial intelligence, advanced graphics, computer vision

You also work on a substantial project that demonstrates your computer science skills, writing a 12,000 word dissertation on it. Projects are often connected with current Cambridge research and many utilise cutting-edge technology.

Year 4 (Part III, optional integrated Masters)

Research preparation

The fourth year is designed for students considering a career in academic or industrial research. You explore issues at the very forefront of computer science and undertake a substantial research project.

Progression onto Part III is dependent on Part II examination achievement. Successful completion of Part III leads to the MEng qualification, as well as the BA degree attained at the end of Part II.

Entry requirements

Typical offers require
A Level:
IB: 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level
All Colleges require STEP Mathematics for Computer Science with Mathematics.
For other qualifications, see our main Entrance requirements pages.

Course requirements

Essential A Level/IB Higher Level Mathematics
Highly desirable AS or A Level/IB Higher Level Further Mathematics and/or a physical science

No prior knowledge of programming required.

The table below relates to A Level (or equivalent) subject preferences of individual Colleges for admission to study Computer Science. See also Entrance requirements and our Subject Matters leaflet for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

Essential It is likely that you will be rejected without interview if you do not have this subject
Preferred Qualifications in these subjects are preferred for admission but they are not essential
Useful If you don't have this subject your application will not be disadvantaged, but it may affect your ability to cope with the course and limit the options available to you

C = Chemistry, CS = Computer Science, El = Electronics, FM = Further Mathematics, Ge = Geology, M = Mathematics, P = Physics, Ac = Accounting, BS = Business Studies

College Essential Preferred Useful Comments
Christ's M FM, P CS Three science/mathematics subjects required. Ac and BS not considered suitable.
Churchill M FM    
Clare M FM, P    
Corpus Christi M FM    
Downing M FM, P   Not essential to take CS
Emmanuel M FM, P   Not essential to take CS
Fitzwilliam M FM, P   Not essential to take CS
Girton M FM P, C, CS  
Gonville & Caius M FM P, C, Ge, El  
Homerton M FM, P    
Hughes Hall M FM P, CS, El  
Jesus M FM, P CS, C  
King's M FM, P CS, C  
Lucy Cavendish M FM CS, P, C Electronics also considered desirable
Magdalene M FM P, C  
Murray Edwards M FM, P or C    
Newnham M FM CS, P  
Pembroke M FM or P CS  
Peterhouse M FM    
Queens' M FM Another science subject  
Robinson M   FM, P Strong mathematical ability required
St Catharine's M, FM      
St Edmund's M      
St John's M FM, P CS Further A Level requirements will depend on the first-year option to be studied. See College website.
Selwyn M FM Another science subject  
Sidney Sussex M FM P, CS  
Trinity Please consult the College website
Trinity Hall M P or FM CS  
Wolfson M FM    
Admissions tests and written work

The table below sets out the ways in which each College assesses applicants for this subject. For more information about these methods of assessment and why we use them, see the main Admissions tests and written work page.

College Assessment of applicant for this subject
Christ's Interview only
Churchill Test at interview
Clare Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA); Preparatory study at interview
Corpus Christi Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Downing Test at interview
Emmanuel Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Fitzwilliam Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Girton Interview only
Gonville & Caius Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA); Reading preparation before interview
Homerton Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Hughes Hall Maths test at interview for Computer Science with Maths applicants
Jesus Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
King's Preparatory study at interview; Test at interview (Computer Science with Mathematics applicants only)
Lucy Cavendish Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)

Problem solving at interview

Murray Edwards Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Newnham Interview only
Pembroke Maths preparation before interview
Peterhouse TBC, please contact College
Queens' Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Robinson Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA); Reading preparation before interview; Preparatory study at interview
St Catharine's Interview only
St Edmund's Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
St John's May require Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA); Problem solving at interview
Selwyn Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Sidney Sussex Interview only
Trinity Test at interview
Trinity Hall Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Wolfson Test at interview
How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course, please see our Applying section for more details.

Further Resources

Find out more about Computer Science at Cambridge

  • Course website - Explore Computer Science in more detail on the course website.
  • Course FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions about the Computer Science course.
  • Course guide - A detailed guide to the Computer Science degree.
  • First Year Options - We believe it’s important not to narrow your studies too fast and the first year of our course allows you to choose what you study in addition to Computer Science.

Improve your knowledge of Computer Science

Tools to help you with your Computer Science application

  • A-level requirements - Information on the entry requirements for the different subject paths in the Computer Science course.
  • Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) Preparation - Resources to help prepare for the TSA (required for Computer Science at some Colleges). Includes practice tests, suggested textbooks and further reading.

Computer Science and your future

  • Course accreditation - Information on the accreditation of the Computer Science degree by professional bodies.

Unistats info

Contextual Information

From September 2012, every undergraduate course of more than one year's duration will have a Key Information Set (KIS). The KIS allows you to compare 17 pieces of information about individual courses at different higher education institutions.

However, please note that superficially similar courses often have very different structures and objectives, and that the teaching, support and learning environment that best suits you can only be determined by identifying your own interests, needs, expectations and goals, and comparing them with detailed institution- and course-specific information.

We recommend that you look thoroughly at the course and University information contained on these webpages and consider coming to visit us on an Open Day, rather than relying solely on statistical comparison.

You may find the following notes helpful when considering information presented by the KIS.

  1. The KIS relies on superficially similar courses being coded in the same way. Whilst this works on one level, it leads to some anomalies. For example, Music courses and Music Technology courses can have exactly the same code despite being very different programmes with quite distinct educational and career outcomes.

    Any course which combines several disciplines (as many courses at Cambridge do) tends to be compared nationally with courses in just one of those disciplines, and in such cases a KIS comparison may not be an accurate or fair reflection of the reality of either. For example, you may find that when considering a degree which embraces a range of disciplines such as biology, physics, chemistry and geology (for instance, Natural Sciences at Cambridge), the comparison provided is with courses at other institutions that primarily focus on just one (or a smaller combination) of those subjects.

  2. Whilst the KIS makes reference to some broad types of financial support offered by institutions, it cannot compare packages offered by different institutions. Different students have different circumstances and requirements, and you should weigh up what matters to you most: level of fee; fee waivers; means-tested support such as bursaries; non-means-tested support such as academic scholarships and study grants; and living costs such as accommodation, travel.

  3. The KIS provides a typical cost of private (ie non-university) accommodation. This is very difficult to estimate as prices and properties vary. University accommodation can be substantially cheaper, and if you are likely to live in College for much or all of the duration of your course (as is the case at Cambridge), then the cost of private accommodation will be of less or no relevance for you. The KIS also provides the typical annual cost of university accommodation and the number of beds available. Note that since most universities offer a range of residential accommodation, you should check with institutions about the likelihood of securing a room at a price that suits your budget. Knowing the number of beds available is not necessarily useful: it may be much more important to find out if all students are guaranteed accommodation.

  4. Time in lectures, seminars and similar can vary enormously by institution depending on the structure of the course, and the quality of such contact time should be the primary consideration.

  5. Whilst starting salaries can be a useful measure, they do not give any sense of career trajectory or take account of the voluntary/low paid work that many graduates undertake initially in order to gain valuable experience necessary/advantageous for later career progression.

The above list is not exhaustive and there may be other important factors that are relevant to the choices that you are making, but we hope that this will be a useful starting point to help you delve deeper than the face value of the KIS data.