Person looking at computer code on screen

Computer Science

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.

Karen Sparck Jones

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.

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. 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 previous job. – Matthew Toseland

Computer science department cambridge by Wikimedia

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.

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 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 & 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 & 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, Affiliated Lecturer in Computer Vision, Tutor, Fellow 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
computer code on screen

What we look for

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.

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 programming is recommended. The possession of analytical skills and the ability to evaluate critically material that you read are both vital.

See also the university entrance requirements for general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers. Note that Wolfson does not currently admit undergraduates for the 'Computer Science with Mathematics' course option.


Wolfson requires applicants who are invited to interview to sit the Computer Science Admissions Test (CSAT).

The CSAT will be taken by online via remote proctoring, typically with the help of a webcam/phone, microphone and access to the candidate's screen. You can take the test from home or any other location, provided it is suitable for you to concentrate, meets the minimum technical requirements, and it adheres to any local Covid19 measures. Please visit for updates and information on the CSAT 2020, and suitable preparation material. More information will be made available in due course to applicants shortlisted for interview.

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.

The Director of Studies is Wolfson Fellow and Tutor Dr Chris Town.

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