Computer Science is a field dominated and driven by techniques that are essentially founded in mathematics. Therefore, in studying Computer Science at university, especially at Oxford or Cambridge, there are some compulsory maths modules you must conquer first.
At both Oxford and Cambridge, there are pure mathematics modules in the first year, covering the essentials of university-level maths (calculus, probability, matrices, complex numbers, etc.). After first year, the mathematical content will be integrated into the Computer Science modules, rather than studied on its own.
In the first year of Oxford Computer Science, you will study linear algebra and probability alongside the pure mathematicians. As these modules are not integrated into the Computer Science course, but are entirely by the Maths Institute, these will be entirely mathematical, with no emphasis on computer science. However, other areas of your first year and later years will allow you to apply the skills from these courses to different and more applied disciplines.
As the course continues you do not have to do any more purely mathematical options. Many of the computer science courses will include new mathematical skills, but with a computational purpose. As the course progresses it will tend to move away from a focus on pure maths and into more complex and developed computer science instead.
In your first year at Cambridge, you will take one maths paper. This is the same maths paper taken by the Natural Science students. The aim is to bring you to an adequate level of understanding of university-level maths for the rest of your course. The course includes vector calculus, matrices, complex numbers, ordinary and partial differential equations, probability theory and some computational mathematical techniques.
You also will study a course in your first year called Discrete Mathematics, which is not covered by Natural Scientists. This covers how to construct mathematical proofs, and the logical language of mathematics. It also introduces the basic notions of set theory and how sets work.
From second year onward, as at Oxford, the maths becomes integrated into the Computer Science modules, and is not studied as a stand alone module.
At both universities, there is a larger emphasis on mathematics at the beginning of the course, and as you progress through the later years, you begin to apply the mathematics you have already been taught to subjects more firmly grounded in computer science. However, the beginning of a Computer Science course will always be fairly mathematical, so that you can accumulate the necessary skills to succeed in the later parts of the course.
If you’re getting ready to start an Oxbridge Computer Science degree, why not check out our guide to the summer before Oxbridge Computer Science?