Study Computer Science – A Comprehensive Subject Guide

A computer science degree provides students with a comprehensive understanding of computer systems, software development, and computational problem-solving. Computer science degrees can vary in terms of their specific courses and offerings, depending on the institution and the level of the degree (e.g., bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D.). Graduates with computer science degrees have a wide range of career opportunities in software development, data analysis, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and more, given the ubiquitous role of technology in modern society.

computer science

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What is Computer Science?

Computer Science is a multifaceted field that encompasses the study of computers and computing systems, including their design, development, operation, and applications. It deals with the theory and practical aspects of how computers work, how they can be programmed to perform specific tasks, and how they can be used to solve a wide range of problems.

Some key aspects and areas of Computer Science include:

  • Algorithms: Algorithms are step-by-step instructions for solving problems. Computer scientists design and analyse algorithms to improve the efficiency and performance of computer programmes.
  • Data structures: Data structures are ways of organising data in a computer so that it can be accessed and manipulated efficiently. Computer scientists design and implement data structures to support a wide variety of applications, such as databases, search engines, and operating systems.
  • Programming languages: Programming languages are used to write computer programmes. Computer scientists design and develop programming languages to make it easier for programmers to express their ideas and write efficient and reliable code.
  • Software engineering: Software engineering is the discipline of designing, developing, testing, and maintaining software systems. Software engineers use a variety of tools and techniques to create high-quality software that meets the needs of users.
  • Computer architecture: Computer architecture is the design of computer hardware and software systems. Computer architects work to develop new technologies and improve the performance of existing systems.

Why Study Computer Science?

Studying computer science offers a multitude of compelling reasons, as it is a versatile and highly relevant field in today’s world. Here are some key reasons why you might consider pursuing a degree in computer science:

  • A versatile field with many job opportunities. Computer scientists are in high demand in a wide range of industries, including technology, finance, healthcare, and education. They develop new products and services, solve complex problems, and improve the way we live and work.
  • A rapidly growing field. The demand for computer scientists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations over the next decade. This is due to the increasing reliance on technology in all aspects of our lives.
  • A creative field. Computer scientists use their creativity to design new algorithms, develop innovative software, and build cutting-edge hardware.
  • A challenging field. Computer scientists are constantly being challenged to solve new problems and develop new technologies. This makes the field exciting and rewarding for those who are up for the challenge.

Best Universities for Computer Science in the UK

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the latest QS World University Rankings:

RankInstitutionEntry StandardsStudent SatisfactionResearch QualityContinuationGraduate prospects outcomesGraduate prospects on trackOverall Score
1University of Cambridge2223.5998.597.088.0100.0
2University of Oxford2144.033.81100.
3Imperial College London2273.773.9393.8100.090.096.1
4Durham University2003.883.4496.497.091.093.2
5UCL (University College London)2083.853.7595.
6University of Bath1964.053.3596.693.090.092.6
7University of Birmingham1693.823.7797.798.093.092.2
8The University of Edinburgh2203.593.7398.496.087.092.1
9University of Southampton1784.103.5998.
10University of St Andrews2164.063.1599.389.077.091.5
11University of Sheffield1654.013.5999.
12University of Warwick2043.183.7596.
13University of Manchester1923.673.6195.690.088.090.8
14King's College London, University of London1823.703.5696.
15University of Bristol1863.643.6895.890.085.090.3
16University of Glasgow2143.673.6197.592.085.089.7
17Loughborough University1604.113.2496.695.083.089.0
18University of York1553.723.6296.997.083.088.9
19University of Exeter1643.973.0097.394.081.088.0
20University of Nottingham1643.843.5092.693.085.087.8
21Queen's University Belfast1543.763.3296.
22Lancaster University1493.853.4997.691.078.087.3
23University of Leeds1733.333.6296.482.085.087.0
24University of Surrey1353.943.2695.1100.088.086.9
25Royal Holloway, University of London1403.673.5097.
26Cardiff University1523.693.4192.596.082.086.0
27Newcastle University1463.743.4496.688.081.085.9
28University of Dundee1773.743.38100.
29Aberystwyth University1314.123.1795.
30University of Strathclyde2043.893.2193.589.084.085.7
31Queen Mary University of London1513.803.6595.
32University of East Anglia UEA1323.843.1793.597.094.085.6
33Heriot-Watt University1783.773.1493.591.089.084.6
34University of Liverpool1433.813.2895.979.085.084.3
35University of Kent1313.883.3994.386.083.084.1
36University of Reading1314.293.0792.
37Swansea University1343.813.2296.784.076.083.6
38University of Leicester1333.853.1193.486.089.083.5
39City, University of London1343.693.2695.885.080.083.4
40Aston University, Birmingham1453.862.8492.388.085.083.2
41University of Sussex1353.983.4392.981.074.083.0
42Liverpool Hope University1234.152.3792.
43University of Aberdeen1673.763.2091.982.4
44University of Lincoln1263.713.1594.381.080.081.3
45Ulster University1343.763.1288.985.081.080.8
46University of Essex1343.663.3289.
47Bristol, University of the West of England1333.852.8691.
48Manchester Metropolitan University1383.902.7591.980.075.079.3
49University of Huddersfield1323.812.7489.485.078.079.2
50Edge Hill University1223.822.5096.
51Oxford Brookes University1143.752.7291.691.083.079.1
52Bangor University1173.813.0293.375.078.079.1
53University of Plymouth1254.042.7486.683.084.078.9
54University of Stirling1513.562.8695.
55Nottingham Trent University1313.772.8893.
56University of Hull1283.992.8984.682.083.078.5
57Brunel University London1313.732.8290.475.078.078.3
58Northumbria University, Newcastle1433.832.8184.879.080.078.3
59Edinburgh Napier University1533.843.1286.583.079.078.3
60Abertay University1693.942.7490.477.073.078.3
61University of Portsmouth1303.852.8992.476.071.078.2
62University of Hertfordshire1253.753.1592.470.079.078.1
63Keele University1173.482.6794.584.076.078.1
64Canterbury Christ Church University1064.052.4087.495.088.077.9
65Leeds Beckett University1244.082.4691.675.086.077.8
66Liverpool John Moores University1313.702.8290.378.074.077.8
67Falmouth University1354.103.1763.071.077.5
68University of Chichester1234.6892.776.9
69Bournemouth University1253.602.5191.678.078.076.8
70University of Brighton1123.832.9289.
71Kingston University1193.792.8088.885.067.076.6
72Birmingham City University1273.992.5189.878.073.076.6
73University of Bradford1263.922.6991.968.071.076.5
74Staffordshire University1294.032.8487.669.066.076.4
75University of Winchester1203.292.5893.576.1
76Robert Gordon University1443.972.6491.378.076.076.1
77University of the Arts London1354.163.1880.073.076.0
78Bath Spa University1173.973.0692.961.068.076.0
79Glasgow Caledonian University1583.862.4290.676.080.075.7
80Coventry University1243.922.7484.781.073.075.6
81Goldsmiths, University of London1263.572.8583.679.077.075.5
82Sheffield Hallam University1203.632.5791.
83University of Salford1313.732.7686.971.072.075.2
84University of Derby1203.922.4892.569.065.074.9
85University of East London1044.312.8093.
86University of South Wales1264.092.5489.367.068.074.8
87University of Westminster, London1123.722.7088.375.080.074.7
88University of Greenwich1234.072.7091.
89University of Worcester1083.982.2483.
90De Montfort University1113.602.5788.775.072.073.6
91Teesside University, Middlesbrough1274.082.6085.465.064.073.4
92University of Chester1313.512.2384.
93University of Central Lancashire1243.762.5083.
94Cardiff Metropolitan University1203.552.4387.577.070.072.8
95London South Bank University1023.482.8088.371.067.072.6
96University of West London1204.192.2888.462.057.072.4
97Solent University (Southampton)1253.8388.477.073.072.3
98University of Gloucestershire1183.411.8787.779.074.072.1
99University of Sunderland1133.812.5283.667.086.072.0
100University of the West of Scotland1504.062.6383.560.066.071.0
101University of Buckingham1133.8490.570.7
102University of Northampton1103.892.0382.771.070.070.5
103Norwich University of the Arts1373.6785.
104University for the Creative Arts1383.2587.369.8
105University of Suffolk1213.8483.968.070.068.8
106Glyndwr University, Wrexham1233.401.6788.463.074.068.8
107York St John University1063.8588.868.064.068.7
108Middlesex University1103.942.6179.963.054.068.6
109University of Bolton1154.1983.858.066.067.7
110Buckinghamshire New University1123.8782.
111Anglia Ruskin University1133.642.3180.
112University of Bedfordshire1083.552.2083.765.059.067.4
113University of Wales Trinity Saint David1573.7075.359.065.066.7
114London Metropolitan University884.371.9081.553.060.066.0
115University of Wolverhampton843.792.0185.

Entry Requirements for a Computer Science Degree

The entry requirements for a computer science degree in the UK vary depending on the university, but most universities require students to have a minimum of two A-levels, including one in mathematics. Some universities also require students to have an A-level in a science subject, such as physics or chemistry.

In addition to A-levels, some universities also require students to submit a portfolio of their work. This portfolio could include examples of the student’s programming skills, web development skills, or other relevant skills.

Some universities also require students to sit for an interview. The interview is an opportunity for the university to learn more about the student’s motivation for studying computer science and their future career plans.

Here is a summary of the typical entry requirements for a computer science degree in the UK:

  • Minimum of two A-levels, including one in mathematics. Some universities also require an A-level in a science subject.
  • Portfolio of work, such as examples of the student’s programming skills, web development skills, or other relevant skills (may be required by some universities).
  • Interview (may be required by some universities).

Some of the top universities in the UK for computer science include the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Edinburgh. These universities have very competitive entry requirements, and students typically need to achieve A* or A grades in their A-levels to gain admission.

Other universities in the UK also offer excellent computer science degrees, with less competitive entry requirements. These universities may be a good option for students who are still interested in studying computer science, but who do not meet the entry requirements for the top universities.

Jobs for Computer Science Graduates

Here are the career prospects for graduates in this field:

  • Software Developer/Engineer: Software developers design, code, test, and maintain software applications and systems. They work in a variety of domains, including web development, mobile app development, and backend systems.
  • Data Scientist/Analyst: Data scientists and analysts analyse large datasets to extract meaningful insights. They use statistical techniques, machine learning, and data visualisation to inform business decisions.
  • Cybersecurity Analyst/Engineer: Cybersecurity professionals protect computer systems and networks from cyber threats. They monitor for security breaches, develop security policies, and implement measures to safeguard data and systems.
  • Systems Administrator/Engineer: Systems administrators manage an organisation’s IT infrastructure, including servers, networks, and hardware. They ensure the smooth operation of computer systems and troubleshoot issues.
  • Database Administrator (DBA): DBAs are responsible for the design, implementation, and maintenance of databases. They optimise database performance, ensure data integrity, and manage backups.

Salary for Computer Science Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £18,000

Medium-skilled: £20,000

High-skilled: £28,000

Topics for Computer Science Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of computer science and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  1. Machine Learning for Healthcare: Explore the application of machine learning algorithms to analyse medical data, predict diseases, or optimise treatment plans.

  2. Natural Language Processing (NLP): Investigate advanced NLP techniques, such as sentiment analysis, language generation, or machine translation, and their impact on various industries.

  3. Cybersecurity: Research different aspects of cybersecurity, such as network security, threat detection, or encryption algorithms, to enhance the security of digital systems.

  4. Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies: Analyse the use of blockchain in various domains like finance, supply chain management, or healthcare, focusing on scalability and security.

  5. Artificial Intelligence Ethics and Fairness: Investigate the ethical implications of AI systems and develop methods to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI algorithms.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

  • Biomedical Informatics: Combine computer science with biology and healthcare to develop computational solutions for medical data analysis, patient records management, or drug discovery.

  • Environmental Science and Geospatial Analysis: Use computer science to analyse environmental data, model climate change, or develop geospatial applications for mapping and resource management.

  • Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence: Investigate how human cognition can inspire the design of more intelligent and human-like AI systems, or explore natural language understanding and human-computer interaction.

  • Finance and Computational Finance: Apply computer science techniques to financial modelling, risk assessment, algorithmic trading, and portfolio optimisation.

  • Digital Humanities: Combine computer science with humanities disciplines to analyse historical texts, cultural trends, or develop digital archives and preservation methods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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