Computer Science and Philosophy | University of Oxford
computer science student
Computer Science students.
(Credit: Paul Tait)

Computer Science and Philosophy

UCAS codeIV15Duration

3 years (BA)
4 years (MCompPhil)

Entrance requirements

A*AA with the A* in Maths, Further Maths or Computing/Computer Science

Subject requirements  Maths
  Further Maths
Admissions test(s)ox.ac.uk/matWritten workNone
Admissions statistics*

Interviewed: 36%
Successful: 13%
Intake: 12
*3-year average 2016-18

Contact+44 (0) 1865 273821 / 283507
Email Computer Science

Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

Artificial intelligence (AI), logic, robotics, virtual reality: fascinating areas where Computer Science and Philosophy meet. The two disciplines share a broad focus on the representation of information and rational inference, embracing common interests in algorithms, cognition, intelligence, language, models, proof and verification. Computer scientists need to be able to reflect critically and philosophically as they push forward into novel domains, while philosophers need to understand a world increasingly shaped by technology in which a whole new range of enquiry has opened up, from the philosophy of AI, to the ethics of privacy and intellectual property.


Some of the greatest thinkers of the past – including Aristotle, Hobbes and Turing – dreamed of automating reasoning and what this might achieve; the computer has now made it a reality, providing a wonderful tool for extending our speculation and understanding.

The study of Philosophy develops analytical, critical and logical rigour, and the ability to think through the consequences of novel ideas and speculations. It stretches the mind by considering a wide range of thought on subjects as fundamental as the limits of knowledge, the nature of reality and our place in it, and the basis of morality. Computer Science is about understanding computer systems at a deep level. Computers and the programs they run are among the most complex products ever created. Designing and using them effectively presents immense challenges. Facing these challenges is the aim of Computer Science as a practical discipline.

Both subjects are intellectually exciting and creative. The degree combines analytical and technical knowledge with rhetorical and literary skills, and the chance to study within two internationally acclaimed academic departments.

Computer Science and Philosophy can be studied for three years (BA) or four years (Master of Computer Science and Philosophy). Students do not need to choose between the three-year and four-year options when applying. Instead all students apply for the four-year course, and then decide at the start of the third year whether they wish to continue to the fourth year (which is subject to achieving a 2:1 at the end of the third year).

The first year covers core material in both subjects, including a bridging course studying Turing’s pioneering work on computability and artificial intelligence. Later years include a wide range of options, with an emphasis on courses near the interface between the two subjects. The fourth year enables students to study a variety of advanced topics and complete an in-depth research project.

A typical week

For the first two years, your work is divided between about ten lectures and two to three college-based tutorials each week, alongside Computer Science practical classes – usually one session a week. In the second year you will take part in a Computer Science group design practical, many of which are sponsored by industry. In your third and fourth years, Philosophy continues to be taught through tutorials, while there are classes in the department for most Computer Science courses.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postdoctoral researchers or postgraduate students who are studying at doctorate level. 

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

Course structure

YEAR 1

COURSES

  • Computer Science:
    • Functional programming
    • Design and analysis of algorithms
    • Imperative programming
    • Discrete mathematics
    • Probability
  • Philosophy:
    • General philosophy
    • Elements of deductive logic
    • Turing on computability and intelligence

ASSESSMENT

Five written papers

YEAR 2

COURSES

  • Computer Science core courses (25%):
    • Models of computation
    • Algorithms
    • Group design practical
  • Computer Science options (25%):
    Current options include:
    • Compilers
    • Databases
    • Artificial intelligence
  • Philosophy (50%):
    Current options include:
    • Knowledge and reality
    • Early modern philosophy
    • Philosophy of science
    • Philosophy of mind
    • Ethics

ASSESSMENT

Two Computer Science papers

YEAR 3

COURSES

  • Computer Science (25–75%):
    Current options include:
    • Computational complexity
    • Machine learning
    • Computer-aided formal verification
    • Computers in society
    • Knowledge representation and reasoning
  • Philosophy (25–75%):
    Current options include:
    • Philosophical logic
    • Philosophy of cognitive science
    • Philosophy of mathematics
    • Philosophy of logic and language and many others

ASSESSMENT

Between nine and eleven three-hour written papers, including at least two in Computer Science and at least three in Philosophy

YEAR 4

COURSES

  • Computer Science:
    Current advanced options include:
    • Advanced security
    • Automata, logic and games
    • Computational game theory
    • Computational learning theory
    • Concurrent algorithms and data structures
    • Quantum Computer Science
    • Optional Computer Science project
  • Philosophy:
    • Advanced options in Philosophy
    • Optional Philosophy thesis

The courses listed above are illustrative and may change. A full list of current options is available on the Computer Science website.

ASSESSMENT

Computer Science: written paper or take-home exam; Philosophy: three-hour written paper and 5,000-
word essay

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

Academic requirements 

A-levels:A*AA including at least an A in Mathematics, with the A* in Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Computing/Computer Science. Those taking Further Mathematics A-level or AS-level are expected to achieve at least Grade A.
Advanced Highers:AA/AAB with an A in Mathematics
IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL (the 7 must be in HL Mathematics)
Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

Subject requirements

  Essential: Candidates are expected to have Mathematics to A-level (A* or A grade), Advanced Higher (A grade), Higher Level in the IB (score 7) or another equivalent. 
  Recommended:Further Mathematics is highly recommended. Those taking Further Mathematics A-level or AS-level are expected to achieve at least Grade A.

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Applying

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course. For more information on how to apply, including advice on interviews, specimen MAT papers, and sample questions, please see the Computer Science department website.

Admissions test

Test: MAT
Test date:30 October 2019            
Registration deadline:                   6pm 15 October 2019                                                                                                      

All candidates must take the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) as part of their application. Separate registration for each test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for these tests. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.

Everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, can be found on the MAT page

Written work

You do not need to submit any written work when you apply for this course.

What are tutors looking for?

For Computer Science: strong mathematical aptitude, the ability to think and work independently, the capacity to absorb and use new ideas, and enthusiasm. For Philosophy: a critical and analytical approach to abstract questions, the ability to defend a viewpoint by reasoned argument, and a desire to delve deeper into the way we think about things. You do not need to have previously studied either subject.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Computer Science and Philosophy websites.

Careers

Graduates will have highly marketable skills. Computer Science teaches you how to program, to design processes that are effective and efficient, to reason logically and formally. Philosophy teaches how to analyse complex concepts and the interconnections between them and – crucially – how to express this analysis, elegantly and precisely, in written form. This ability to analyse complex issues, both technically and discursively, provides the intellectual equipment needed for technical leadership and high-level positions in today’s world.

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Latest information for UK and EU undergraduates who will begin their course in 2020 can be found here. Further information for EU students starting in 2020 is available here.

The fees and funding information below relates to those who will start at Oxford in 2019.

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£9,250
Overseas£34,678

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support

Home/EU

A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

Islands
(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Computer Science and Philosophy

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.

More about Oxford colleges and how you choose