MSc in Computer Science | University of Oxford
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MSc in Computer Science

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:

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.

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.

Graduate destinations

Potential graduate destinations for the MSc include:

  • PhD/DPhil research
  • games developer
  • information systems manager
  • IT consultant
  • multimedia programmer
  • network engineer
  • systems developer.

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • a first-class undergraduate degree with honours 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 3.7 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 requirement

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

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

Supporting documents 

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

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).  

Approximate timescales for interview dates are as follows - please note that these dates are not inclusive of weekends:

  • January deadline: Wednesday 26 February - Wednesday 11 March
  • March deadline: Monday 23 March - Thursday 2 April

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will 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. 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 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£11,605
Overseas£26,405

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 likely increases 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 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.

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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:

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:
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, the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in, and any career plans you might have.

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.

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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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