Computer Science

The course

Computer Science underpins the exciting information revolution we’ve been living through in the past few years: the Internet and the web, mobile phones, wireless networks, digital audio and video, social networking, massively multiplayer games, 3D films, online banking.

What these widely disparate activities have in common is the central role that Computer Science plays in their invention and continued development. The Computer Science course at Cambridge provides a mixture of theory and practical aspects of the subject, with the aim of giving graduates an understanding of principles that will outlast today’s technology, and help them invent tomorrow’s. The subject, after 50 years of rapid advance, remains interdisciplinary, with links to linguistics and psychology as well as the more obvious mathematics and engineering.

There are several ways to study Computer Science at Cambridge, which are well described on the department’s admissions web page. There are particular A-level entry requirements for each option, which you should consider carefully.

The College

Pembroke is a pleasant leafy college, very close to the central lecture theatres and a short bus or cycle ride from the Computer Lab. The college is well equipped with networked computers for student use: the spacious computer room is equipped with PCs and printers, and all student rooms are connected to the University-wide high speed data network for fast access to email and the web. Thus if you wish to bring your own computer you may do so, but there are plenty of computers for communal use if you do not have your own.

Through our  Director of Studies, Dr Anil Madhavapeddy, we are able to fully support our students.  In common with other colleges this includes arranging supervisions to augment the lecture courses, normally given by PhD students who are experts in the relevant subject area.

Pembroke is a medium-sized college, and we hope this makes for a welcoming, personal learning experience. We also maintain contact with other colleges, so gaining the study and social benefits of being in a larger group.

Here’s what two of our recent final-year students have to say about the course, and Pembroke:
“When I was applying to Cambridge, I chose Computer Science because I liked programming and studying algorithms. I soon found out that there are a lot more exciting aspects to Computer Science than I thought. The course is challenging and rewarding; in three years, I have had the experience of studying different programming languages, designing hardware, writing substantial software in a group as well as individually. I was taken on a journey from the electronics of logic gates all the way to building complex operating systems. Besides the practical aspects, the course also provides in depth discussion of the theoretical fundamentals of Computer Science from the aspect of logic and mathematics, which I enjoy very much. I like Pembroke College for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere, and the food in Pembroke is among the best in Cambridge. There are a lot of sports and society events going on throughout the term, which is a great way to take the academic pressure off.” — Niangjun

“The best thing about studying Computer Science at Pembroke is the 30 second walk to lectures in the first year. Of course, there’s the people, the beautiful College, the (very) tasty food and the opportunity to try out life drawing on Monday nights… But really, when it’s 9.57am, knowing that you can still brush your teeth without being late for your Discrete Mathematics lecture trumps all of that. Yes, the material is great and the courses are varied: there’s something for everyone and it’s difficult to get bored. As someone who didn’t have much experience in programming when I arrived, I advise anyone in my situation not to worry about it too much; the course is designed so that you don’t need prior experience. If you ever get stuck on something, there’s plenty of help available.” — Karoliina

Interviews and Assessment

We are looking for students who are highly motivated and enthusiastic about Computer Science and have the academic ability, particularly in mathematics, to learn very fast in a demanding course.

Pembroke usually admits two Computer Science students a year. A-level Maths is essential. Further Maths and/ or Computer Science (note: not ICT) are preferred but not essential, and a science subject is useful. For the Computer Science with Maths option we require A-level Physics and STEP Maths. For Computer Science 50% we require a benchmark science. Physics is not required for Computer Science 75%.

We will, at interview, be interested in your experience with computers and in your ability to apply the mathematics that you have learnt to problems which are relevant to computing. All Computer Science applicants called to Cambridge for interview will be required to do a 100 minute computer science-based test the evening before their interviews which will then be used as part of the interview process.  Please note that the 100-minute test is not the TSA.

Gap Year

We are happy to make offers to computer scientists who wish to take a gap year, and we encourage those who are very young (i.e. would be coming up to Pembroke under 18) to defer. It is often possible to obtain useful experience and sponsorship with computer firms such as IBM, Altera and ARM.

More information

If you have any questions about admissions to Pembroke, please contact the admissions office. Please see the page about Computer Science on the University website for further information.

The College holds open days where Directors of Studies and current students are happy to take your questions.

You may also email to the Student Administration Secretary of the Computer Laboratory