Computer Science

Close-up of circuit board

Computer Science at Cambridge

Computer Science is a rapidly changing and exciting field where systems can develop from research ideas to global deployments in a matter of months. The course is constantly updated to include cutting-edge topics: in the last few years quantum computing and bioinformatics have been introduced alongside existing coverage of emerging topics in artificial intelligence, electronic security, and very high speed networking.

Cambridge was a pioneer of Computer Science and continues to lead its development. There are over 1,000 specialist computing and advanced technology companies and commercial laboratories in the area (known as 'Silicon Fen'). Many support teaching at the University and employ its students.

Full details are provided on the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology website, and summarised in the University Undergraduate Prospectus.

Computer Science at Churchill

Churchill is the biggest college for Computer Science in Cambridge, in terms of numbers of current undergraduates. We aim to offer 12 to 16 places each year to students who will thrive on a combination of teaching in the Computer Laboratory and within the College. Churchill consistently ranks very highly in the exams and its graduates can be found leading research and industry around the world.

Teaching at Churchill is supported by the broad experience and expertise of Computer Laboratory staff, Fellows of the College, PhD students and graduates. This would give you the opportunity to discuss topics in Computer Science with the researchers defining the subject and with those practicing it every day in industry at companies (such as Google and Microsoft). You could develop this into summer internships with one of the Cambridge- or London-based companies with which Churchill maintains close contact, especially since such opportunities often lead to gainful employment after graduation.

There are three current teaching Fellows in Computer Science at Churchill: individuals whose experience in academia and industry has been recognised by the College. Their areas of specialisation cover most of the Tripos and, between them, they provide a substantial proportion of the College's teaching. As a student here, you would benefit from this regular contact with the College's Fellowship and the opportunities this provides. You would likely have three to five supervisions per week. Supervisions in Churchill are also given by senior PhD students and graduates now working in local industry.


Admissions

We like Computer Scientists at Churchill! We've always admitted lots of students to study the Computer Science Tripos and it's among the biggest subjects at Churchill. Churchill's Computer Scientists are reliably among our best performing students in the exams each year, so we want more.

We don't have a fixed quota of places for Computer Science versus other subjects. We will respond to every good application and good interview with an offer. Typically this results in 12-16 new undergraduates reading Computer Science each year -- naturally highest in exciting years when we met lots of intelligent and enthusiastic people at interview, so they all get a place. Our typical applications-per-place ratio is approximately 7:1.

Churchill usually makes offers requiring A*A*A at A Level, depending on the subjects you are taking and the first year options you are applying for. If you are taking an equivalent international qualification, we can phrase offers in terms of the overall result and/or the per-subject components.

Subject pre-requisites

Essential Highly desirable/useful
A Level/IB Higher Level Mathematics A Levels: Further Mathematics and/or a physical science are highly desirable.
IB: Higher Level physical science subjects are highly desirable.

Standard entry requirements

Computing and ICT

If your school has a timetable clash between Further Maths and Computing/ICT, please choose Further Maths! Computing and ICT are non-essential but one of them would be fine as a fourth A Level (with a preference for Computing), provided you have a solid grounding in Maths and physical sciences.

Not taking A Levels?

If you're offering Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers, IB, or qualifications obtained overseas, you're especially welcome to apply to Churchill. Our community benefits greatly from its international make-up. The College has, for many years, encouraged international applications and has substantial experience of schooling and examining schemes from around the world. We can make offers in terms of virtually any country's examination system so please don't ever be put off by your lack of familiarity with Cambridge, or fear that we might be unfamiliar with your school system.

EU & International qualifications

No STEP or AEA

At Churchill, we will not ask you to take STEP or AEA, unless you apply for Computer Science with Mathematics (for which STEP is a University requirement).

Churchill offers for the with Mathematics option are typically set at  grades 1/2 among STEP papers II and III, in addition to our standard entry requirements. However, if you're a with Mathematics applicant and you narrowly miss your STEP grades but satisfy the other academic conditions of your offer, we might consider offering you a place to read Computer Science with other subjects, e.g., Natural Sciences.

Written assessments

Cambridge University uses a system of common format written assessments, specifically tailored to each subject. These give us valuable additional evidence of your academic ability, knowledge base, and potential to succeed at Cambridge. If you are interviewed at Churchill, your assessment in Computer Science will be sat in the College during your interview visit. For more information about written assessments, click on:

Written assessments

Written work

No written work is required.

Interviews

If called, you will normally receive a single interview. The questions will be in the nature of mathematical or logic puzzles. No Computer Science experience, ability to write programs, or knowledge of any data structures and algorithms is ever required. In addition:

The interview is our opportunity to learn more about you by working through some puzzles together. We don't expect anyone to solve the puzzles entirely unaided and that helps us get a glimpse of how effectively we will be able to teach you advanced Computer Science over the next three or four years. In general, there isn't a 'right' way to solve any of the puzzles, and it doesn't matter whether or not you get a solution (so do not feel that you must impress us or tell us what you think we might want to hear!). Instead, enjoy the logic puzzles and think out loud as you try to solve them. As you proceed, we will ask you questions that will guide your thoughts in a useful direction, or check that you have considered all possibilities for a situation. Just keep thinking out loud and you'll give a great interview.

Please note: a small number of interviews, conducted overseas, may use another format.

Taking a gap year?

We don't mind. About a third of Computer Science students take a gap year between school and coming up to Churchill, and find it a valuable experience. It is important to use the year constructively and Churchill might be able to help put you in touch with computer software or hardware companies for a gap year placement. Churchill maintains close contact with several companies that offer pre-university placements suited to Computer Science applicants. If you're intereted, please contact the Director of Studies, Dr John Fawcett, in the first instance. to talk about the placements on offer this year.


Resources


Contact

For more information and for all admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office.

Admissions Office

Director of Studies

Dr John Fawcett

Director of Studies

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