Computer Science

Welcome to the Computer Science page at King's! Here you will find an overview of studying Computer Science, the people who teach and research in Computer Science at King’s, plus information about making an application.

The History of Computer Science at Cambridge

William Gates Building

The William Gates Faculty Building on the West Cambridge Site.

Computer Science in Cambridge has always been practised as an engineering discipline as well as being founded in mathematics. A team led by Maurice Wilkes designed and built one of the earliest digital computers, EDSAC, in the late 1940s. This tradition was continued with the appointment of the first established Professor of Computer Science. Robin Milner (King's, 1954), a world leader in the theory and practice of computing, was in 1991 awarded the prestigious ACM Turing Award for his work on the theory of communicating processes, together with the design of the successful programming language ML. This language is used in a number of universities (including Cambridge) to introduce students to the principles of program and data structure design: the language is functional, and its syntax and semantics lend themselves to proofs of correctness.

The Computer Science Course

Computer Science at Cambridge is designed to equip you for a broad and exciting industry moving at a fast pace. The course emphasises the core principles of Computer Science, taught through specific examples, that will enable you to grasp any new programming language or innovation. Students come to Cambridge with a wide range of backgrounds and experience, but whether you are a beginner or experienced in some aspect of Computer Science, you will work on material that is both accessible and challenging in the best way.

In first year, you are taught the fundamentals of Computer Science for half of your time. In the other half, you take a course to extend your maths plus one further option which you choose from more maths, a range of sciences or psychology.

Second year is devoted to the core principles of Computer Science, and to the syllabus specified by industry bodies who set standards. You will have covered the specified industry core syllabus by the end of the year, helping you with your future employment options as well as furthering your knowledge. There's also a popular group project this year, in which students work in small teams on products for an industry 'customer'.

In third year there is a wide range of courses and you are free to choose what interests you most to work on in more depth. You also have a personal project this year, which lasts for two thirds of the year: you can choose or propose a project and you then receive one-to-one support from a supervisor. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your skills to future employers.

Full details of the course and options are available on the faculty admissions website and you may like to see details of how you are taught.

Computer Science at King's

Alan Turing

Alan Turing's rooms were by the river, in Bodley's Court

 

King's has a long tradition in Computer Science, indeed one of the seminal papers of modern computing theory was published by Alan Turing (King's 1931) in 1937. Former students of King's now occupy senior posts in academic Computer Science throughout the world, as well as positions of influence in the computer industry.

The College has a well-equipped 24/7 Computer Room (the Turing Room on E staircase in the Gibbs Building), with a variety of networked computers and workstations. College rooms have high-speed internet connections and there is wi-fi accessible to College members in public areas such as the bar and coffee shop. The college library is available 24/7, is well stocked for Computer Science, and provides many pleasant spaces to work as well as a second small computer room (see the virtual tour). The King's Archive Centre holds a collection of Turing's personal papers.

King's is well located for Computer Scientists. It is a central College on the river, so students are very close indeed to the first year lectures on the New Museums Site (see the red marker on this map) as well as shops, facilities and evening events in town. Yet King's also has the advantage of being on the right side of Cambridge for the Computer Laboratory on the West Cambridge Site, where the second and third year teaching takes place. This is a pleasant twenty minute walk or an eight-minute cycle ride away from King's (see the map).

A student perspective

Profir has written a detailed account about his experiences of studying Computer Science at King's, including Freshers' Week, the teaching and timetable, living in the College community, and the application process. This account is well worth reading to get a sense of what studying Computer Science at King's is really like. 

King's Fellows in Computer Science

Felix Fischer

Felix Fischer is a member of the Statistical Laboratory. He is interested in game theory, social choice theory, and mechanism design, including their computational aspects and application to computational systems.

Tim Griffin

Tim Griffin did fourteen years of industrial research at Bell Laboratories, AT&T Research and Intel Labs before joining the Computer Laboratory in 2005. He is interested in developing mathematical models of Internet routing.

Ken Moody

Ken Moody supervises mainly on probability and databases. His research interests include distributed database systems, information retrieval, active applications and access control.

Simone Teufel

Simone Teufel is interested in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Information Retrieval (IR). Her current work concentrates on generation techniques for robust summarisation, and on task-based experiments of human text processing. She has also worked on multilingual summarisation and medical information extraction.

Applying to study Computer Science at King's

King's welcomes applications for Computer Science. Computer Scientists studying at King's come from all kinds of schools and we accept a range of qualifications from countries around the world. Our most common standard offers are listed on the entrance requirements page. Women are underrepresented in university Computer Science courses. We therefore actively encourage applications from women to study Computer Science at King's.

It is essential for all applicants to be studying for an A level or equivalent in Mathematics: candidates who can take Further Mathematics as well should do so (though we recognise that not all schools /qualifications offer it) and Physics is also preferred though not essential. Chemistry can be useful. Familiarity with computers is a great help, but no real advantage is gained by following an A-level or equivalent Computing course, and we don't require any prior knowledge of programming. Further advice on subject choices is available in our Subject Matters leaflet and on the Computer Lab website.

The application process is explained in detail on our how to apply page, which we advise you to read thoroughly. All candidates apply for Computer Science on the UCAS form. On the SAQ (or the COPA, if you are an overseas student), you will be asked to enter option preferences for your first year (see details). You must choose one out of:

  • Computer Science with Natural Sciences
  • Computer Science with Psychology
  • Computer Science with Mathematics


a) Computer Science with Natural Sciences or with Psychology

Candidates invited to King's for interviews in Computer Science with Natural Sciences or with Psychology will have two interviews, one about Computer Science, the other involving maths. Before the Computer Science interview you will be asked to arrive early to collect a short article to read for an hour. You will then discuss the article with the interviewers.  NB. Candidates applying in October 2014 will not be asked to sit a Thinking Skills Assessment.

b) Computer Science with Mathematics

Candidates invited to King's for interviews in Computer Science with Mathematics have two interviews (one about Computer Science, the other involving maths) plus a one hour Mathematics written test. No specific preparation is required for the Mathematics test. Before the Computer Science interview you will be asked to arrive early to collect a short article to read for an hour. You will then discuss the article with the interviewers. We believe that the STEP papers in Mathematics and Further Mathematics are extremely useful preparation for Computer Science with Mathematics and so most of our conditional offers for this option will be based on both our standard entrance requirements and the relevant STEP paper(s). Computer Science with Mathematics candidates may find parts of the Mathematics page useful as well as the information on this page. NB. Candidates applying in October 2014 will not be asked to sit a Thinking Skills Assessment.

King's usually makes about 4 offers in Computer Science each year though this number is not fixed. We have no preference for which option candidates have applied for.

What are we looking for?

Raspberry Pi

A Raspberry Pi. Photo credit: Teardown Central

The most important criteria are enthusiasm, dedication and potential and we consider each case on an individual basis. This course requires a considerable commitment in terms of time and energy, as it is one of the most challenging computer sciences undergraduate courses in the UK. But, as our many successful previous students will tell you, it is well worth the effort!

We will be interested in:

  • your existing examination results which we consider carefully, taking into account your personal and educational background;
  • your academic interests and motivation as explained in your UCAS personal statement and explored further in interviews;
  • your school reference and predicted grades for any exams you have yet to take;
  • your performance in the written test (Computer Science with Mathematics candidates only);
  • how you approach questions designed to make you think in interviews - our interviewers will work closely with you to assess your suitability for the challenges of Cambridge Computer Science.

At King's, we are looking for promise and potential. So although existing and predicted grades form a central criterion for admissions, we are careful to interpret grades in light of your personal and educational background. We assess each application individually. We are interested to learn about your existing knowledge and skills, but we endeavour also to find out how you would deal with the new materials and ideas you would encounter at Cambridge.

Resources and events

Further information

Subjects | Undergraduate study