Computer Science

Computer Science is interdisciplinary. It is firmly rooted in engineering and mathematics, with links to linguistics, psychology and various other fields. When concerned with hardware design it overlaps with electrical and electronic engineering. Between these extremes there is a large body of challenging and constantly evolving material relating to both theoretical and practical aspects of computer systems and applications.

Computer Science is a rapidly changing and exciting subject, extending from the physical principles upon which digital computers work to the mathematical understanding of the semantics of computation. The Cambridge course covers the principles of programming, operating systems, computer networks, artificial intelligence, security and numerous other topics. It is also concerned with understanding the theoretical basis of the subject. In consequence, the course is designed to provide not only advanced practical experience but also to give an understanding of fundamental principles which will outlast today's technology.

The course is constantly updated to include cutting-edge topics: in the last few years Quantum Computing and Bioinformatics have been introduced alongside existing coverage of emerging topics in Artificial Intelligence, electronic security, and very high speed networking.

It is possible to apply to continue studying Computer Science into a fourth year, provided a sufficiently high standard is achieved in the third year examination. The course then leads to the MEng degree in addition to the BA achieved in the three year course. 

Academic Requirements:

A very strong background in Mathematics is required. Mathematics A Level is essential to apply to Computer Science and Further Mathematics is preferred. 

Computer Science may be approached from a variety of backgrounds. The Cambridge course rapidly teaches a broad range of practical and theoretical computer science topics. It is assumed that students will have a sound mathematical background but other topics (e.g. electronics) will be taught from their foundation. A physical science is also beneficial, particularly if choosing the Natural Sciences option in the first year. 

See also Entrance requirements for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

Wolfson does not currently admit undergraduates for the 'Computer Science with Mathematics' course option.

What we are looking for:

We are looking for individuals who have a clear grasp of mathematics and can apply it to the sort of tasks that are found in Computer Science. Some previous experience of computing would be an advantage, but none is required. The possession of analytical skills and the ability to evaluate critically material that you read are both vital.


Candidates will be asked to sit the Computer Science Admissions Test (CSAT) when they come to Wolfson for their interviews. More information on the CSAT can be found here.
Interviews provide us an opportunity to explore your motivation, intellectual curiosity and aptitude for computer science. To help us do this, we normally ask you to tackle a number of problems to test your problem solving and analytical reasoning skills. We try to conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner, and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them. 

Director of Studies: Dr Chris Town

Full details of the Computer Science course can be found on the department website and the University Undergraduate Prospectus.

Student Profile:

Matthew Toseland.

Matthew Toseland"It's been obvious since the summer school that Wolfson is the friendliest and most helpful of the mature colleges. Coming back into education after over a decade, with a previously undiagnosed disability and not being sure exactly what I wanted, people here have been really helpful. After two years of worry, occasional difficult choices and really hard work, I'm getting the most out of my education, and have a better idea what I want out of university and career - starting with this good result! I've met lots of new people too - you're always running into graduate students at lunch, often with their own stories and interests. Being part of the community here, and the department, is a refreshing change from the brilliant but sometimes insular volunteer-geek world of my last job."

In 2015 Matthew was awarded a prize and a year's membership from the British Computer Society (BCS). The Computer Science Tripos Examiners had nominated Matthew for the BCS Annual Student Prize for an outstanding second year student.

Manfredas Zabarauskas

Manfred Zabarauskas

"The Computer Science course at Cambridge is a unique opportunity to gain a broad and comprehensive knowledge of the subject, learning from leading experts in the field. To be successful in the Tripos you have to be prepared to get your head around the theory and get your hands dirty with the practical aspects of Computer Science. In order to do so you need to be passionate about the subject and if you are, you will find the course highly rewarding. Supervisions will help you to stay afloat, but expect hard and challenging work every step of the way.

You will learn the theoretical concepts that underpin most of the Computer Science, rather than technologies that will disappear in a few years' time. You will not focus on mastering some particular programming languages (even though you will be taught some programming), but you will learn the paradigms and principles which will allow you to pick up a piece of new technology and make something cool with it in a couple of days. That's also what the industry is after. 

In terms of the facilities provided, the College library has a very good selection of Computer Science textbooks and a computer room with PWF machines available 24/7, including all the required tools for software development installed. Furthermore, College is equidistant from the New Museums Site (where most of the 1st year lectures take place) and the Computer Laboratory (2nd and 3rd year lectures). On top of that, add a good gym, full kitchens, beautiful gardens, TV, newspaper and table tennis rooms, a bar and an outside tennis/basketball court, and you will get an incredible place, where you can both excel at what you do and feel at home."

Manfredas has since successfully completed his degree and is currently working as a product manager for Google. 

Computer Science at Wolfson

Wolfson has the largest number of Fellows in Computer Science of any Cambridge College. The history of Computer Science at Wolfson goes back to two of our most distinguished members:

Professor Roger Needham had been a Fellow at Wolfson since 1967 and headed the Cambridge Computer Laboratory from 1980 to 1995. He went on to become founding Managing Director of Microsoft Research Europe in Cambridge from 1997 until his death in 2003. He made numerous contributions to the fields of security, operating systems, computer architecture, and networking research.

Professor Karen Spärck Jones, who sadly passed away in 2007, made ground breaking advances in the fields of information retrieval and natural language processing, including many techniques (such as inverse document frequency and relevance weighting) that form the foundation for all modern web search engines.

List of current Computer Science Fellows at Wolfson College:

  • Professor Ann Copestake, Head of the Department of Computer Science and Technology and Professor of Computational Linguistics
  • Professor Jon Crowcroft, Marconi Professor of Communications Systems and Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute
  • Dr Andrew Herbert, Distinguished Engineer and former Chairman, Microsoft Research EMEA
  • Dr Markus Kuhn, Senior Lecturer in Computer Security and Statistical Signal Processing
  • Professor Peter Sewell, Professor in Computer Science and EPSRC Leadership Fellow
  • Dr Zohreh Shams, Junior Research Fellow and Research Associate working on Diagrammatic Logic
  • Dr Chris Town, Research Fellow in Computer Vision and Director of Studies in Computer Science
  • Dr Noa Zilberman, Junior Research Fellow and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Networks and Operating Systems Group