A close up of a computer server
A computing cluster at the University
(Image Credit: John Cairns / Oxford University Images)

MSc in Advanced Computer Science

About the course

The MSc in Advanced Computer Science at Oxford has been designed to teach a range of advanced topics to graduates of computer science and other mathematical disciplines.

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 MSc is designed to combine theory and practice. It teaches the advanced techniques and ideas that are being developed in application domains (such as machine learning, verification and computer security) and the rich and diverse theories that underpin them. These include models of computation and data, and mathematical analysis of programs and algorithms.

The course aims:

  • 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;
  • to provide the foundation for a professional career in the computing-based industries, including telecommunications, process control, business-, mission-, and safety-critical fields; and
  • to enhance the skills of a professional who is already working in one of these industries.

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.

Entrants to the course will come from either a computer science or mathematical background. 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 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.

Course outline

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. During the three terms of the course, you will choose from 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. In the third term (Trinity term) you will undertake a dissertation.

A typical week for a student taking three courses in each of the first two terms may be as follows:

  • Lectures - eight hours
  • Tutorial classes - three hours
  • Practicals - four hours
  • Self-directed study, including preparatory reading, problem sheets, revision of material - 20 hours

Total - 35 hours

The split of work may differ depending on whether a course has practicals associated. This should be taken as a guide only.

Examples of modules offered:

  • Advanced Security
  • Advanced Topics in Machine Learning
  • Quantum Computer Science
  • Categories, Proofs and Processes
  • Computational Complexity
  • Database Systems Implementation
  • Computational Learning Theory
  • Probabilistic Model Checking

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for the course 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.

Assessment

For the taught modules, the mode of assessment shall be either written assignment or written examination, dependent on the module you are taking.

A dissertation, completed independently under the guidance of an expert supervisor, on a topic of your choice and approved by the supervisor and MSc Course Director will be submitted by the end of Trinity Term.

Graduate destinations

Potential graduate destinations for the MSc include:

  • PhD/DPhil research
  • Software Developer or Software Architect

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Computer Science

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • a first-class undergraduate degree with honours in computer science or mathematics

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

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

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience 

  • It is vital that you possess the necessary background to cope with mathematical notation and basic skills in computer programming. Applicants should have carried out some programming projects either in employment or study, potentially including self-directed study. There are no specific programming languages that are prioritised but it is important that you have engaged with the task of coding and implementing algorithms.
  • You are not required to submit publications with your application, but if you do have publications please give details. 

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

References

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process and take place throughout the year. Of those that apply around a third are invited to interview. 

Candidates will be shortlisted based on academic ability and fit with the course. The interview will generally be by telephone or by Skype (preferably with video) by a member of the admissions committee. Interviews tend to last around 30 minutes and you can expect to be asked some technical questions. There will be opportunity for you to ask your own questions (although these questions are not taken into account when assessing interview performance).  

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

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

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

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

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

The Department of Computer Science's teaching network comprises 83 PCs located in the Department of Computer Science and the Practicals Laboratory of the Thom Building, the main building of the Department of Engineering 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, 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

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£14,410
Overseas£32,760

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

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

For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Advanced Computer Science:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

General enquiries should be made to the department's Graduate Studies Administrator via the contact details provided on this page. 

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Referees:
Three overall, academic preferred

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

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

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and the ability to work in a group.

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in, and any career plans you might have.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

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.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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