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Computer Science and Philosophy

Computer Science and Philosophy is excellent educationally for those whose interests lie in this direction, and who are prepared to work hard to take advantage of the opportunities available.

The Computer Science Department is one of the largest in the UK and contains within it many world-class research groups. The Philosophy Faculty is the largest philosophy department in the UK, and one of the largest in the world, with more than 70 full-time members, admitting more than 500 undergraduates annually to read the various degrees involving philosophy. Many Faculty members have a worldwide reputation, and the library and other facilities are acknowledged as among the best in the country. The large number of undergraduates and graduates reading philosophy with a variety of other disciplines affords the opportunity to participate in a diverse and lively philosophical community.

Computer Science and Philosophy can be studied for three years (BA) or four years (Master of Computer Science and Philosophy). The fourth year allows the study of advanced topics and an in-depth research project. Everyone applies for the four-year course. Exit points are not decided until the third year.

Computer Science is about understanding computer systems at a deep level. Computers and the programs they run are among the most complex products ever created by humans; designing and using them effectively presents immense challenges. Facing these challenges is the aim of Computer Science as a practical discipline.

The study of Philosophy develops analytical, critical and logical rigour, and the ability to think through the consequences of novel ideas and speculations. It opens and stretches the mind by considering a wide range of thought and thinkers, on subjects as fundamental as the limits of knowledge, the nature of reality and our place in it, and the basis of morality.

Teaching in Computer Science and Philosophy, as in most other subjects, has two main components: University lectures and classes, and college tutorials. The lectures and classes are provided and held in the Department of Computer Science and in the Faculty of Philosophy.

The tutorials are held in college and cover all first-year courses and roughly half of the second-year courses. More details on the structure of the degree can be found here and here.

Computer Science and Philosophy at Jesus College

The teaching provision at Jesus College is generous in relation to the number of Computer Science and Philosophy students. While many Oxford colleges have only on tutor in Computer Science, Jesus College has several tutors who are committed to research in computer science as well as to teaching, and who together will cover a wide range of subjects. There is a vibrant community of Fellows in Computer Science at Jesus, which includes, in addition to the two tutors, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt (Principal and Professorial Research Fellow), Professor Sam Staton (Hugh Prize Fellow and Associate Professor), and Dr Oiwi Parker Jones (Hugh Prize Fellow and Postdoctoral Researcher). There is also a strong community of Fellows in Philosophy at Jesus, which includes, in addition to the tutors, Professor Dominic Wilkinson (Senior Research Fellow) and Dr Tom Douglas (Hugh Prize Fellow).

In a total College entry of about 100 undergraduates, 2 places are offered in a typical year to read Computer Science, 2 places are offered to read Computer Science and Philosophy, and 2 places are offered to read Mathematics and Computer Science.

Academic requirements

Offers made to candidates will be conditional upon A-level results (normally A*AA, including at least an A in Mathematics, with the A* in Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Computing/Computer Science. Those taking Further Mathematics A-level or AS-level are expected to achieve at least Grade A). We expect you to have taken and passed any practical component in your chosen science subjects.

Written test

All candidates must take the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) on 3 November 2021. The MAT is administered by the Admissions Testing Service, and the registration deadline is 15 October 2021. Further details about the MAT can be found here.

Written work

No submitted written work is required for this course.

Interviews 

Interviews are held in mid-December. If you are interviewed at Jesus you can typically expect two separate interviews with different tutors. The interviews will involve some general questions, but most of the time will be spent discussing logical and mathematical topics.

Deferred Entry

Applications for deferred entry to Jesus College are accepted. You must apply for deferred entry at the time of application to Oxford: you cannot change your mind after an offer has been made. Please refer to departmental web sites for subject-specific advice. You should be aware that applicants who are offered places for deferred entry will generally be among the strongest of the cohort for their subject. We would not usually offer more than one deferred place per subject in order not to disadvantage the following year’s candidates.

In some cases, an applicant for deferred entry may be offered a place for non-deferred entry instead. If you require any further advice, please contact the Admissions Officer via admissions.officer@jesus.ox.ac.uk

Tutorial Fellows

Professor Seth Flaxman is a Fellow and an Associate Professor of Artificial Intelligence. His research is in machine learning, public health, and public policy. He teaches programming computer science courses.

Professor Standa Živný is a Fellow and an Associate Professor of Theoretical Computer Science. His research is in algorithms and complexity theory. He teaches theoretical computer science courses.

Professor Jean Baccelli is a Fellow and an Associate Professor of Philosophy. His research is in philosophy of science, philosophy of economics and decision theory.

Professor Milo Phillips-Brown is a Fellow and an Associate Professor of Philosophy. His research is in ethical, social, and political implications of technology.

Non-Tutorial Fellows

Dr Oiwi Parker Jones is a Hugh Prize Fellow and a Postdoctoral Researcher.

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt is Principal of Jesus College and a Professorial Research Fellow.

Professor Sam Staton is a Hugh Prize Fellow and an Associate Professor.

Lecturers

Dr Matthias Lanzinger is a senior research associate in the Department of Computer Science.

The Department of Computer Science at Oxford enjoys a high reputation, both nationally and internationally, for the excellence of its teaching and research, and is among the largest in the country. Research at Oxford covers a very wide range in both theoretical and applied Computer Science. It attracts generous research funding and draws students and visiting faculty from all parts of the world. The following degrees are available at postgraduate level:

  • DPhil in Computer Science
  • MSc in Computer Science
  • MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science
  • MSc Software and Systems Security
  • MSc Software Engineering

Philosophy Graduate students will find themselves members of a large graduate community, together with others with shared interests who are at an equivalent stage in their intellectual development. The following degrees are offered at postgraduate level:

  • BPhil or DPhil in Philosophy
  • MSt in Ancient Philosophy or Philosophy of Physics

Common roles for graduates include computer programmer, software designer and engineer, financial analyst and scientific researcher.

Further information about Computer Science at Oxford can be found on the Department website here.

If you are contemplating a course involving Philosophy, or wondering whether such a course would suit you, you might wish to read some of the following:

  • Thomas Nagel What Does It All Mean? (Oxford)
  • Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford)
  • M Hollis Invitation to Philosophy (Blackwell)
  • Nigel Warburton Philosophy: The Basics (Routledge)
  • Julia Driver Ethics: the Fundamentals (Blackwell)
  • Simon Blackburn Think (Oxford)
  • Roger Scruton An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy (Duckworth)

Further information about Philosophy at Oxford can be found on the faculty website here.

Information about Admissions is available here.

If you have any questions about our entrance requirements, or about applying to study at Jesus College, please contact the Admissions Officer:
Tel: 01865 279721
Email: admissions.officer@jesus.ox.ac.uk