MSc in Computer Science | University of Oxford
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A computing cluster at the University

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MSc in Computer Science

About the course

The MSc in Computer Science at Oxford has been designed to teach the mathematical principles of specification, design and efficient implementation of both software and hardware. This course is intended for graduates in computer science as well as graduates in other numerate disciplines who have some training or experience in programming.

As in other branches of applied mathematics and engineering, improvements in the practice of programming require determined and meticulous application of methods of mathematical understanding, calculation and proof.

Recognising this, this full-time, twelve-month MSc has been designed to teach the mathematical principles of specification, design and efficient implementation of both software and hardware.

The course aims:

  • to provide the foundation for a professional career in the computing-based industries, including telecommunications, process control, business-, mission-, and safety-critical fields;
  • to enhance the skills of a professional who is already working in one of these industries;
  • to provide a foundation for research into the theory and practice of programming and the design of computer-based systems;
  • to present knowledge, experience, reasoning methods and design and implementation techniques that are robust and forward-looking.

The Department of Computer Science is committed to the development and application of effective theory based on realistic practice, and some of the modules were developed through consultation and collaboration with industry. The department believes that only by the interplay of theory and practice can you be trained properly in such a rapidly advancing subject. Practice alerts us to real contemporary problems - theory is a shield against professional obsolescence.

You and other entrants to the course will come from a variety of backgrounds. If you are an experienced programmer in industry and commerce, you are motivated by the need for formal methods to overcome the problems of unreliable and inadequate software, or wish to extend your understanding by studying new programming and development paradigms. You may be a recent graduate in computer science and will supplement your knowledge with the kind of sound mathematical basis which is not always found in undergraduate courses. If you are a graduate in mathematics, science or engineering, you will apply your training in the context of a rigorous application of the fundamental techniques of computer science.

You will develop knowledge and understanding of a formal disciplined approach to computer science, a range of relevant concepts, tools and techniques, the principles underpinning these techniques and the ability to apply them in novel situations. On subsequent employment, you will be able to select techniques most appropriate to your working environment, adapt and improve them as necessary, establish appropriate design standards for both hardware and software, train colleagues and subordinates in the observance of sound practices, and keep abreast of research and development.

The academic year is split into three terms of eight weeks but work on the MSc course continues throughout the year and is not restricted just to term time.

The academic content of this course is as follows:

Taught modules

During the three terms of the course, you will choose from a group of modules on various aspects of computer science. Most modules will last for one term and will be between 16 to 24 lectures. In addition, all modules will have problem classes and some may also have practical sessions associated with them, and the mode of assessment shall be either written assignment or written examination.

Dissertation

In Trinity term you should undertake a dissertation of up to 30,000 words, completed independently under the guidance of an expert supervisor, on a topic of your choice and approved by the supervisor and MSc Course Director.

Graduate destinations

Potential graduate destinations for the MSc include:

  • games developer
  • information systems manager
  • IT consultant
  • multimedia programmer
  • network engineer
  • systems developer.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2016-17

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a subject with a significant component of mathematics and/or computing.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

If you have substantial programming experience in employment you may also be considered provided that you possess an honours degree in a mathematical, scientific, or engineering subject.

It is vital that you possess the necessary background to cope with mathematical notation and basic skills in computer programming.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.55 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

References/letters of recommendation 

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and the ability to work in a group. Academic references are usually expected though you may submit professional references if these are relevant to the course.

Statement of purpose/personal statement

Your statement of purpose should be in English only and should be no more than two pages of typewritten A4.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace. 

Your statement should focus on why you think this course is the right one for you rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process and take place throughout the year. 

Candidates will be shortlisted based on academic ability and the interview will generally be by telephone by a member of the admissions committee. You can expect to be asked some technical questions. 

Publications

You are not required to submit publications with your application, but if you do have publications please give details. 

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Working experience in programming may be an advantage.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Department of Computer Science to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Computer Science and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Computer Science.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course, however it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

The Department of Computer Science's teaching network comprises 83 PCs. 35 of these are located in room 379 of the Department of Computer Science, where most of your practical sessions will take place. There are also 48 PCs in the Practicals Laboratory of the Thom Building, the main building of the Department of Engineering Science, located to the north-west of the Department of Computer Science. The machines in the Thom Building are mostly used for undergraduate practical sessions, though you may occasionally have a practical session scheduled here.

Additionally there is a server-based remote access service available at all times from anywhere, such as personal laptop at home or through networked computers in college computer rooms. 

Linux is used throughout the teaching network.

The Department of Computer Science Library contains books, monographic series, journals, technical reports and past theses covering the main research interests of the Department. It is principally for use by graduate students and staff.  You will also be able to access other relevant libraries elsewhere in the University such as the Radcliffe Science Library, the Whitehead Library (at the Mathematical Institute for numerical analysts and formal mathematicians), and the Engineering Science Library (especially for those interested in robotics and machine vision).

The Department of Computer Science houses lecture theatres and seminar rooms in which most of the University lectures in Computer Science take place. It also runs a network of computers and other facilities devoted to the teaching requirements, and administers lectures, practicals, projects and some University-wide classes in Computer Science.

The department has kitchens on each floor and a central common room where you can meet informally.  There is an active social committee organising events for staff, students and families.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. Information about the full range of funding available can be found in the Fees and funding section.

For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria and apply by the relevant January deadline, you will be automatically considered. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

Divisional funding opportunities

There are many different funding opportunities for students studying in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division at Oxford. Funding covering fees and living costs is available for a substantial number of doctoral training programmes. Research Council and other funding opportunities are also available for doctoral programmes in MPLS subjects.

Departmental funding opportunities

Additional funding opportunities may also be offered by your department. Department scholarships are included in the funding search tool, with links to further information. More details on funding opportunities may also be available on the department’s website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£7,185£2,933£10,118
Overseas£18,770£2,933£21,703

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of the website.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2016-17 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £970 and £1433 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

You are not required to contact academic members of staff prior to submitting an application.

The set of materials you should send with an application to the MSC comprises:

  • a statement of purpose, of no more than two pages
  • a CV/resumé
  • three academic and/or professional references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date.

Academic references are usually expected though you may submit professional references if these are relevant to the course.