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Where to Study a Computer Science Degree in the UK

By Yann, published on 04/08/2018 We Love Prof > Academia > Information Technology > Studying Computer Science at University

Computer science inverts the normal. In normal science, you’re given a world, and your job is to find out the rules. In computer science, you give the computer the rules, and it creates the world. Alan Kay

According to a government report on ICT in schools, the number of students who have chosen to apply for ‘vocational awards in ICT subjects has increased considerably’ over the past few years. However, in more than 40% of the secondary schools investigated as part of the report, nearly half the students had ‘reached the age of 16 without an adequate foundation for further study or training in ICT and related subjects’.

ICT in education is a subject area that has somehow fallen by the educational wayside. But it is highly valued by the government and is an area in which it is looking to invest considerably in the coming months and years.

This will certainly help budding IT enthusiasts on their quest to enter into some of the best IT learning institutions in the country.

Professionalisation, career opportunities in the IT industry, IT project management technologies, part-time training, computer engineering degrees – each IT training institution has its own specialisms and its own unique ways of teaching.

Before you begin looking at each individual institution, you may like to think about which subject areas you would like to focus on as part of your computer science program. This will help you to narrow down your search by seeing if the course curriculums match your ideal program of study.

Core and Optional Modules

These are some examples of key modules you may be asked to choose from when selecting your computer science program:

  • Information science
  • Software systems
  • Networking
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Data structures
  • Computer science engineering
  • Information technology
  • Robotics
  • Software development
  • Research project
  • Database systems
  • Calculus
  • Cybersecurity
  • Computer architecture
  • Information assurance
  • Software Design
  • Bioinformatics

To help you on your search, here are some of the best further education institutions for IT learning in the country…

Cambridge university is a real computer science university this year The stunning colleges of Cambridge University attract many a computer scientist each year! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Computer Science University Ranking No. 1: University of Cambridge

Founded more than 800 years ago, the University of Cambridge is one of the oldest and most prestigious further education learning institutions in the country.

Despite its long history and traditional values, it is actually a center for excellence for one of the most modern, high-tech and digitally based bachelor degrees there are – computer science.

The University of Cambridge is ranked first in the country for computer science according to university league tables published in the Complete University Guide detailing the best universities for computer science degrees in 2019.

Being an educative institution that places such strong emphasis on academia, computer science students will gain a strong academic and theoretical grounding in elements of science from chemistry and earth sciences, to physics and physiology depending on your strengths and interests.

The course curriculum will also cover such elements as Java and object-oriented programming, operating systems, and digital electronics. It also includes the opportunity to participate in an internship as part of the degree.F

A mark of high graduate employability rates, the institution boasts that over half of the university’s computer science graduates go on to continue work in the IT industry.

As you would probably expect, competition for admission and enrolment is high and the interview process is grueling, so if you are not particularly academically minded and up for a challenge then this may not be the ideal choice!

Computer Science University Ranking No. 2: Imperial College London

Imperial College London is another leading institution with a long history that also offers accredited computer science degrees. Founded in the Victorian era by Prince Albert himself as a part of a center for culture in the capital city, Imperial College has moved with the times and offers its computing students incredible resources both in terms of computing equipment and teaching staff.

If you are interested in computer science and a career in the IT and tech industry but do not have a specific background in the subject, then the 1-year course (MSc Computing Science) offered by Imperial College is probably a good option for you.

Suited not only to those with a background in computing, students from all disciplines with an interest in IT can enroll – so if you have an A in English, but a passion for programming, have a try and apply!

Equally, if you are looking to branch outside of the IT industry after graduation, then this course is also a good choice.

Computer Science University Ranking No. 3: University of Oxford

Founded 922 years ago, the University of Oxford is made up of self-governed colleges that are truly second to none in terms of architectural beauty.

Students can not only benefit from the beautiful surroundings but a state of the art computer science research hub investigating areas such as algorithms, complexity theory artificial intelligence and cyber-physical systems.

Ranked third for Computer Science according to the Complete University Guide 2019, in reality, there is not much of a difference in quality between the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. Their positions in the university league tables tend to fluctuate each year as they battle it out for the top spot.

If you are top of the class with straight As and a sharp mind, then this highly theoretical course will work for you!

Computer science at university may cause strain on your eyes due to staring at a computer all day. Studying computer science at university means spending hours in front of a computer screen! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Computer Science University Ranking No. 4: the University of St. Andrews

Founded in 1413, the University of St. Andrews is yet another example of an ancient further education institution with a long history, astounding architecture and yet still an impressive Computer Science Department – only this time in Scotland rather than England.

The university’s Computer Science Department is arguably the best of its kind in Scotland and belongs to SICSA – The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance. 

Computer Science Degree Types

There is a huge range of computer science degree programs including the following:

So, whether you are just starting out in computer science or already well-versed in the field, you should be able to find something to suit your level and requirements!

Computer Science University Ranking No. 5: University of Warwick

Founded in 1965, the University of Warwick is definitely one of the younger universities providing research opportunities and teaching excellence in the field of computer science.

If you are not so hot on theory, then the University of Warwick is probably a sound choice as the computer science courses are probably the least theoretical of all those mentioned so far.

Course Pathways

Specific course content will depend on whether you are entering at graduate or post-graduate level and the exact course pathway that you choose. If you want to branch out from the standard core modules giving an introduction to mathematics, algorithms and programming then you could always choose a course similar to the single honours in Computer Science course.

A number of course pathways are available:

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Systems Engineering
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Data Science
  • Computer Science with Business Studies

Computer science university is a great choice for many students Computer science university courses show you there is more to computer science than just Apple Macs – it really is a science! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Computer Science University Ranking No. 6: University of Durham

Founded in 1832, the University of Durham has almost 200 years history and is still one of the most highly regarded universities in the country.

The Computer Science Department is the university’s newest addition to its eclectic mix of faculties, however, that is not to say that it is particularly lacking in any way – as any piece of artificial intelligence machinery could probably tell you – new does not mean sub-standard!

In fact, ranking 6th in the Complete University Guide 2019 league tables for computer science, it still a reliable choice in terms of a university degree.

Unlike the wide range of courses on offer at the University of St. Andrews, as the department is relatively new, the university only offers two forms of undergraduate degree (BSc and MEng).

You can check the Computer Science Department’s website to see if the course content matches with the subjects you are looking to learn more about.

Computer Science University Ranking No. 7: University of Southampton

Gaining university status in 1952, the University of Southampton is a research university that successfully managed to crawl up the university league tables in recent years.

The university offers a good range of facilities to its computer science students having invested £4 million in its facilities for computing and electrical and electronic engineering in 2015.

Core Subject Areas

You can choose your course subject according to your own personal strengths and interests, the university offers courses in the following subject areas:

  • Aerospace Electronic Engineering
  • Biomedical Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechatronic Engineering
  • Computer Science and Software Engineering

If after trawling through websites and brochures of several universities you are still torn between which university to choose then you could always make a start by trying out some of the free online courses offered by the University of Southampton.

Computer Science University Ranking No. 8: University College London

Established in 1826, University College London – or UCL as it is more commonly known – is another of the top universities that the UK has to offer.

The Computer Science Department is proud of its status as an Academic Centre of Excellence for Computer Security Research and its website boasts the sought-after job prospects of its prospective graduates citing the average salary of £35,000 a year enjoyed by its alumni 6 months after graduation.

The course is structured so that students are able to have more control over their course as time goes on – from little to no optional modules in the first year to the number of optional/elective modules available increasing as time goes on.

The departments BSc Computer Science course generally covers subject matter such as algorithms, mathematics for computer scientists, programming and the theory of computation.

Where can you get a degree in computer science? From rockets to radial basis function networks (RBF Network)- no matter the computer science university ranking of your institution, you can attend a computing course that might just change the world! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Computer Science University Ranking No. 9: Manchester University

Established in 2004, the university has just over a decade of history and is the youngest university listed as being in the top ten for Computer Science by the Complete University Guide 2019. With an income of approximately £1 billion in the year 2016-2017, the university is certainly not short of funding and its facilities reflect that.

A Nanotechnology Centre and Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) are among some of the university’s accolades in terms of student facilities and is one of the reasons so many students apply each year. Whilst it may not have quite the academic excellence of Oxbridge universities, it has a lot to offer in terms of equipment and student support.

Computer Science University Ranking No. 10: Bristol University

Bristol University was first founded in the 16th century in 1595 and is a red brick research university. The university is compromised of six faculties, including the Faculty of Engineering, which provides degree courses in computer science and has a reputation for excellence in research and academia both nationally and internationally.

Undergraduate Computer Science Degree Course Content

The university’s website explains that undergraduate degrees in computer science will focus on the following key areas;

  • How computers work
  • Computational theory
  • Programming languages;
  • Concurrent systems
  • Networks
  • Machine learning
  • Pattern recognition

A top ten university for computer science, the University of Bristol is a good fit for many budding computer scientists.

If you think you like the idea of living in Bristol and studying at a red brick university then you could always try 0ut an open day to see if it matches your expectations. Prospective students can apply and find more information online.

Online Computer Science University Degree

If you are really not tempted by any of the universities above then perhaps a traditional university computer science course is just not for you.

Given that computer science is all about moving with the times, then perhaps the format of the course you choose should reflect that and should be taken online.

The University of London is now offering online BSc Computer Science courses with course content created by Goldsmiths academic and teaching staff. With courses starting at £5,650 that allow flexible learning hours so that you can keep down a part-time job at the same time, it certainly is a more cost-effective option than attending brick and mortar universities in the UK whose fees can be as high as £9,000 a year.

However, if you are not one to keep yourself motivated easily and often find yourself distracted and unable to keep to deadlines and targets without teachers pressuring you then perhaps you should reconsider.

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