The best UK universities for computer science and IT degrees

Interested in a tech career, and still struggling over which university to attend? Here are 10 of the best British universities offering computer science and IT related degrees.

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In the UK, decisions on higher education for British students interested in tech careers revolve around which schools would be the best choice. With costs pegged at £9,250 a year, those considering university often feel pressure to make sure they get their money’s worth.

With the technical skills gap continuing to grow and tech specialists finding themselves much in demand, computer science and related degree courses are, not surprisingly, growing in popularity. In 2019-20, more than 131,000 students studied for a computer science degree in the UK.

This list, while by no means definitive, provides an overview of some of the top-ranked universities in the UK for computer science and IT-related degree courses. It was drawn up by averaging scores from The Guardian and The Times university rankings for 2021, after the rankings were filtered by the course title "computer science."

Oxford and Cambridge

It’s rare to find a university listing that doesn’t have Oxford or Cambridge university ranked first — and when it comes to computer science and IT courses, there’s no change at the top.

Cambridge university offers just one undergraduate computer science course, whilst Oxford allows applicants to take a three-year undergraduate course or a four-year Masters course, both of which can be taken in combination with mathematics or philosophy. Acceptance onto the Masters course is subject to achieving a 2:1 at the end of the third year.

According to the Guardian league table, 95% of students who studied computer science at Cambridge had a job within 15 months of graduation. The same statistic wasn’t available for Oxford, but the university claims that “six months after graduation, our students had achieved a median salary of £45,000, higher than graduates of all other UK undergraduate degree courses.”

Outside of university life, Cambridge is home to two unicorns worth more than $1 billion, whilst both cities boast 5 companies in the Fast-Track Tech Track 100 list.

Entry requirements:

  • Oxford: A*AA including at least an A in mathematics, with the A* in mathematics, further mathematics or computing/computer science.
  • Cambridge: A*A*A. Mathematics is a requirement for all colleges, but other A Level subject requirements differ depending on which college students apply for. Details can be found online.

Course cost: £9,250 per year for students who are designated as having "Home fee status" by the UK government. At Oxford, international students can expect to pay fees of £37,510 per year, whilst at Cambridge, overseas students looking to study computer science will need to pay £33,825 a year.

Imperial College London

Imperial College offers prospective students 10 different computer science courses to choose from, each specialising in a different area and available up to Masters level. These include computing alongside management and finance, software engineering, security and reliability, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and visual computing and robotics.

At the end of the course, students are awarded with either a BEng or a MEng (Bachelor of Engineering or Masters of Engineering), depending on whether they opt to study the three- or four-year course. This means students who undertake a computer science degree at Imperial College will study the engineering of computer hardware and software alongside the mathematical principles of computing.

Imperial College is also attractive because London tech companies attracted around £7.6 billion in Venture Capital funding in 2020 and has 60 companies in the Fast-Track Tech Track 100 list. There are also 16 unicorns — startups valued at $1 billion or more — based in the city.

Entry requirements: A*A*A including at least an A* in mathematics. Further maths is preferred but not essential.

Course cost: £9,250 per year for students who have "Home fee status" by the UK government, £33,750 per year for international students.

Edinburgh

Like Imperial College, Edinburgh university also offers students a wealth of computer science courses. All come with an optional study abroad year and classifications range from BScs or BEngs to MAs, MEngs, and MInfs (Master of Informatics).

In addition to the wide range of degree classifications, Edinburgh also allows students to specialise and combine the institution’s base-level computer science degree with artificial intelligence, cognitive science, informatics, physics, software engineering mathematics, electronics, and even linguistics.

Those who do decide to study at a Scottish university should be aware that all these degree courses will be studied full-time over a four-year period for undergraduates and five-years for those who opt to do an undergraduate and Masters degree. This differs from degree courses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland where undergraduate degrees typically last three years with an extra year added for the full-time study of a Masters.

Entry requirements: For those taking Scottish Highers, AAAA or AAAB by end of S5, with mathematics at grade A. For students in England and Wales, A*A*A* - AAB, again with an A in mathematics. Higher maths is recommended but not required.

Course cost: £1,820 per year for Scottish students, £9,250 for students from the rest of the UK, and £28,950 for international students.

University of Southampton

Although the University of Southampton didn’t place as highly as some other institutions in The Guardian and The Times rankings, it was recently placed seventh in the UK for STEM subjects by QS World University rankings.

Offering prospective students a choice of 15 courses, including specialisms in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and the opportunity to spend a year in industry, the university says its students learn to develop technologies in topic areas including algorithmics, data management, software design, and modeling and interaction design.

Entry requirements: A*AA, including minimum grade A mathematics, or A*A*B including minimum grade A* mathematics. The university will also accept AAAA, with one of those subjects being mathematics. Students with an International Baccalaureate Diploma or a BTEC in a relevant course can also apply.

Course cost: £9,250 per year for UK students, £22,760 a year for EU and international students.

Manchester

Manchester university offers 24 different computer science courses for those who wish to study an undergraduate or Masters degree at the Russell Group institution. All courses come with the option of taking a foundation year before embarking on the degree, helping to fill in any potential knowledge gaps for students who don’t have the appropriate subject background for direct entry to first year.

Unlike other universities that offer computer science in combination with a specialism, Manchester university provides single-discipline degrees in artificial intelligence, software engineering, computer systems engineering, and IT management for business. Students can also combine a computer science course with mathematics or human computer interaction — and most courses allow students to undertake a "sandwich" year in industry.

Entry requirements: A*AA including A* in mathematics. For some of the specialist courses, other subjects are required; these can be checked in the course catalogue.

Course cost: £9,250 per year for students with "Home fee status." (The university estimates that approximately a third of its undergraduate students will receive bursaries of up to £2,000 per year.) International students should expect to pay a minimum of £25,000 per year.

Bristol

Bristol university offers 13 different courses at undergraduate and Masters levels, most of which can be taken with either a study abroad year or a year in industry. While Bristol doesn’t offer students the chance to specialise in specific areas of computing from the outset, it does offer its computer science course in combination with physics, chemistry, electronics, or innovation.

In addition to the university scoring highly for STEM education, £339m in venture capital funding went to Bristol tech firms in 2020, the third highest amount behind Oxford and London. The city also boasts two tech hubs and is the home of a billion-dollar company.

Entry requirements: A*AA including A* in mathematics. Those looking to study a course in combination with physics or chemistry must achieve an A in the subject. Bristol also makes contextual offers to students from backgrounds who are generally less likely to attend university. A contextual offer comes with a grade reduction of up to two grades below the standard entry requirements.

Course cost: £9,250 per year for "Home fee status" students, £24,700 per year for international students.

Glasgow

When it comes the number of computer science course combinations, Glasgow is the clear winner. The Guardian lists 57 variations of the Scottish university’s computer science course, with students able to study it alongside everything from statistics and mathematics to English language or literature, Greek, theology, philosophy, theatre studies and politics.

The university also offers joint degree options for its digital media and information studies course, which falls under the computer science umbrella and provides teaching on database development, artificial intelligence, and information systems throughout the four-year course. There are also software engineering and electronic software engineering courses for those who want to specialise from the outset.

As with Edinburgh university, undergraduate courses at Glasgow university run for four years, whilst those who elect to study a Masters will be at the university for five years.

Entry requirements: For those taking Scottish Highers, AAAA/AAABB, with mathematics at grade A. For students in England and Wales, AAB again with an A in mathematics.

Due to the large number of course options available, students will need to check the individual courses for other, subject-specific requirements.

Course cost: £1,820 for Scottish students, £9,250 for students from the rest of the UK, and £23,000 for international students.

Birmingham

Like most cities in the UK, Birmingham has two universities. For this list, the University of Birmingham made the cut, with The Guardian giving the university a score of 84/100 when it comes to course satisfaction.

The university offers single-discipline, undergraduate and Masters degree courses in computer science and joint computer science and artificial intelligence, software engineering and mathematics degrees. Most of these subjects allow students to undertake a year of studying abroad or a year in industry, and foundation years are available for those lacking the necessary entry requirements.

Although London is often regarded as the UK’s best technology hub, a recent study by the Carphone Warehouse found that Birmingham ranked second in accessibility to the tech industry, with investments in the West Midlands tech sector tripling in 2020.

Entry requirements: AAA including at least an A in mathematics. The university says that it is desirable, but not essential, for students to have some experience of writing computer programs

Course cost: £9,250 per year for students with "Home fee status" by the UK government. International students pay £23,400 per year.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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