About the course
The MSc in Computer Science at Oxford has been designed to teach a range of advanced topics and a carefully-selected core of foundational subjects to graduates of computer science and other numerate 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 graphics, visualisation, 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 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:
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.
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.
Potential graduate destinations for the MSc include:
- PhD/DPhil research
- games developer
- information systems manager
- IT consultant
- multimedia programmer
- network engineer
- systems developer.
- DPhil in Computer Science
- MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science
- MSc in Software Engineering
- MSc in Software and Systems Security
- Cyber Security (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
- Oxford 1+1 MBA
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 2018-19
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.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.55 out of 4.0.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
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.
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:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
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).
You are not required to submit publications with your application, but if you do have publications please give details.
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.
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.
There are over 1,100 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
For students applying to programmes within the MPLS Division at Oxford, Research Council and other funding opportunities available, subject to eligibility. These opportunities are included in the Fees, funding and scholarship search.
You may also be interested in departmental funding opportunities. Further details can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2018-19
Total annual fees
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 this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
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.
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 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 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.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Computer Science:
- Balliol College
- Campion Hall
- Exeter College
- Green Templeton College
- Hertford College
- Jesus College
- Keble College
- Kellogg College
- Linacre College
- Magdalen College
- Merton College
- New College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- St Anne's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- St John's College
- Somerville College
- Trinity College
- University College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
How to apply
You are not required to contact academic members of staff prior to submitting an application.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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.
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:
Up to two pages
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
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.
MSc in Computer Science admissions exercise answers with signed disclaimer
You must submit solutions to the MSc in Computer Science admissions exercise as part of your application:
This will be assessed to determine whether your mathematical and computational/programming background is adequate, particularly in algorithm design and analysis, logic and formal reasoning, probability, and linear algebra.
You should upload this to your application as written work.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic
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.