Maybe you’ve been thinking about an Computer Science degree. You might find the idea of understanding the fundamental principles underlying our technology-driven world fascinating. Algorithms might appeal – and so might the graduate employment statistics. But a degree is a big investment of time and money, and it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into. So – what’s an Oxbridge Computer Science degree really like?
How many contact hours are there for a Oxbridge Computer Science degree?
A Computer Science degree is an intense workload, and like many STEM courses, has a lot of contact hours.
In your first year, at both Oxford and Cambridge you will likely have around 10 lectures a week. Some of these will be a lecturer talking through mathematical concepts and skills, and others will present information about the key topics of the course. You will also have guided lectures going through programming languages, and teaching you the basics required for university programming.
Although the lectures are not interactive, they are crucial. They provide you with a step-by-step walk-through of the programming skills you will require, and show you how to construct algorithms and analyse them. These lectures are essential for teaching you the languages with which you programme: at Cambridge, this is OCaml, and at Oxford, this is Haskell.
In the first year of computer science you will also have compulsory computer lab hours, where you must complete assignments in programming and designing algorithms. After these labs, you will be expected to write short reports of your work, and the skills involved. These reports along with the finished product will count towards the grade you achieve at the end of your first year.
What can you study in a Computer Science degree?
At both Oxford and Cambridge, the Computer Science course is extremely diverse, and as you progress through your degree you have many options in the style of modules you study.
For example, in your second year you can pick up modules in:
- Artificial Intelligence: The study of the simulation of human intelligence using programmed machines, and its economic, philosophical and ethical implications of this.
- Databases: In this option you study database design, and the different models of databases in use. You learn what makes a database efficient and useful, and the principles behind essential databases.
- Logic and Proof: Logic is a crucial part of computer science. This course allows you to explore logical languages, and the proofs that operate within the system in more depth.
- Bioinformatics: This combines computer science and biology, to construct accurate models that predict biological behaviour, and explain past biological phenomena.
- Natural Language Processing: This course explores the application of computer science techniques to natural language. Through natural language processing technology, computers can understand human language.
In Oxford, you start to make choices in second year, whereas in Cambridge, you begin choosing your own options in third year. In the Cambridge second year, you are not just graded on examinations. You also have a group project, where you get assigned an industrial client with a specification, and you have to create and present a finished product to them.
Additionally, in third year at both Oxford and Cambridge you get assessed on a personal project, which allows you to exemplify all the skills you have gained over the three years.
“Computer Science is not just sitting around programming all day. It is very mathematical and logical, and you have to be interested in the structure behind the programmes and technology, not just manipulating them.”David, Cambridge, Computer Science
A Computer Science degree is a heavy workload, like any Oxbridge degree. Like all STEM degrees, it has a hefty number of contact hours. However, the variety of subjects you can cover is unparalleled. With Computer Science, you’ll be contributing to the future of the world. That certainly sounds worth it! You might still be worried about the maths content – so why not take a look at our guide to the maths in an Oxbridge Computer Science degree?