The Best University for Computer Science

Published: Nov 23, 2017

Best Computer Science - Square [square]The perfect university for computer science will be different for different people - if you’re looking to launch a tech company you might be attracted by the 25,800 companies founded by MIT graduates; whereas if you’re hoping to land a job at Google then Stanford’s reputation as their top feeder school might be of more interest. The key facets of a top university are a stellar reputation both academically and with recruiters and a challenging and cutting edge curriculum that will prepare you to enter the technology industry. We’ve listed the top universities for computer science from the US, UK and worldwide and provided some insight into what makes them the best institutions in the world.

Here are a few top tips to help you navigate the list:

Don’t just go for the big names

A good number of the universities on this list are not well known outside the tech sector. Just because a university has an amazing reputation, doesn’t mean that it’s a top university for computer science.

Look at graduate destinations

Comp Sci departments are delighted to boast about how successful and amazing their alumni are. Look at destinations – if you want to win a Nobel prize then you ought to be looking at ETH Zurich, Google’s top feeder school is Stanford, and MIT graduates have formed 25,800 companies, employing more than three million people including about a quarter of the workforce of Silicon Valley. Look for a university with a history of success in the areas you’re interested in.

Don’t worry about languages

It’s very easy to get side-tracked by whether courses are taught in a cutting-edge brand new language, or a language that most software developers dismiss as outdated and pointless. However, with a strong grounding in computer science and theory, picking up a new programming language will be relatively simple – you will have the groundwork and adaptability to learn very quickly. It is far more important to find out whether a university can cater to your interests and support your career ambitions than whether their introductory course is taught in Python or JavaScript.

United States

A big advantage of US universities is the opportunity to take courses from lots of different disciplines. In fact, most universities have a requirement that students take a certain number of courses from each department. Depending on your preferences, this might be exactly what you’re looking for or a needless distraction from computer science.

Best US Universities for Computer Science:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. Graduates and professors have founded companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Dropbox, and have developed HDTV, Ethernet and the first video game and joystick. The computer science curriculum is intensive and immersive and has quite a heavy emphasis on theory, but is also flexible enough to let students explore and deepen their own interests. MIT graduates are in huge demand, and the wide range of content covered by the major allows graduates to quickly learn and adapt to different languages and machinery across the industry.

Stanford

Stanford University is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, so it’s not really surprising that its computer science/engineering major attracts one in five undergraduates. However, this location is also beneficial in other ways as the department’s connections provide help with both summer internships and job seeking after graduation. Moreover, it has an average retention rate of 98%, suggesting that the course meets with student approval. Stanford graduates have founded some of the most influential technology companies in the world – including Google, Snapchat and Instagram. Not only does it produce excellent entrepreneurs, but it is also reputedly the top feeder school for Google – in 2012, 5% of Google employees were Stanford graduates and its estimated this percentage has increased.

Carnegie Mellon

Carnegie Mellon may not have the same international reputation as Stanford and MIT but it is renowned for offering students fantastic opportunities for research or summer fellowships in the technology sector. Its curriculum is focussed on equipping students to solve real world problems, and its robotics department is considered one of the best in the USA. Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science department claims to be one of the oldest in the world and its undergraduate class in 2016 was nearly 50% women. Moreover, in 2010 the Wall Street Journal’s survey of recruiters ranked Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Graduates No.1 in the United States. Moreover, there was a big stir in 2015 when Uber poached 40 of Carnegie Mellon’s robotics researchers – proof that their research and recruitment are top notch!

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley is just across the water from San Francisco, which rivals Silicon Valley for its tech scene and the city is regarded as providing a far quality of life for employees. Berkeley is also the #2 university for venture capitalist backed undergraduate entrepreneurs in the world. Computer science courses at Berkeley are renowned for being fast and challenging – quickly building from basic level to advanced concepts and maths. The courses focus quite heavily on theoretical content, however there is also a lot of opportunities to build projects and opportunities for undergraduate research. Berkeley is also conscious that computer scientists often work in teams, so there is an emphasis on collaborative work and communication skills.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech is known for its innovative approach to the curriculum, with its ‘threads’ curriculum, which allows students to tailor their degree very closely to their interests by combining traditional computer science courses with classes related to particular areas of application. Threads include devices, intelligence, modelling and systems and architecture, amongst other topics. By targeting their study, graduates can make themselves very marketable in their chosen area. There is a strong emphasis on academic rigour, to ensure no matter what threads students choose they are fully equipped to enter the industry of their choice. As of Spring 2016 the median reported salary for Georgia Tech Computer Science graduates was $93,000. Moreover, faculty member Professor Mary Jean Harrold was ranked No.1 software engineering scholar in the world in 2007.

United Kingdom

UK bachelor degrees are typically focussed on a single subject, which is chosen when you apply to the university, meaning that students are not required to study outside their chosen area. Most degrees will include some flexibility, with core modules and electives. However, the level of choice is generally more restricted than in the US. There are typically less examinations in UK courses, but they tend to be more significant.

Top Universities for Computer Science in the UK:

Cambridge

Cambridge is one of the biggest technology hubs in the UK, which can probably be mainly attributed to the university, which has an international reputation and often tops global rankings. Cambridge, alongside Oxford, is well known for its teaching methods – involving weekly small group tuition, giving students the opportunity to converse with and learn from experts. Cambridge focuses on equipping students with skills and knowledge that will stand the test of time, but also ensure that students gain industry relevant experience – with multiple group projects, which are delivered to an external client. These regularly lead to commercialisation, licensing and employment.

Oxford

In 2014 a Sunday Times report found that Oxford Computer Science graduates were the top earners out of any UK computer science graduates. The Oxford Computer Science degree involves two tutorials per week, which typically involve a tutor and one or two students, giving an impressive level of personal tuition. There are also practical classes and lectures to supplement the tutorials. The course involves a lot of project work, with an industry-sponsored group design practical in second year and an extended individual project in years three and four. Oxford has strong industry connections with faculty members taking part in research with partner institutions such as Intel, Microsoft and BT.

Imperial

Imperial University in London focuses not just on core computing skills but also on preparing its graduates to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of technology, overcoming the challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities. As with all universities on this list it has excellent connections with industry, but also works closely with cutting edge start-ups. Its course is ranked 3rd in Europe by the Times, and designed to give students a strong fundamental understanding of computing principles but also allow students to select options tailored their interests. There are 3 year and 4 year course options and the 4 year course involves a period of time spent in an industrial placement or a European University.

UCL

University College London has built its computer science curriculum around using core computer science principles to solve real world problems. Nearly 40% of its students are from outside the UK, partly due to its worldwide reputation. After six months, the average salary for graduates is £35,000 with recent destinations including Microsoft, IBM and Google. It has cutting edge facilities, including the largest educational Stock-Trading Floor in London and 3-D Immersive Virtual Environments Lab. UCL has particularly strong connections with industry – they deliver real world projects to industry clients, have been awarded industry prizes and have the opportunity to attend guest lectures delivered by industry experts. It boasts the largest industry exchange programme in the world and offers students the chance to win start-up funding.

Worldwide

This is a selection of other remarkable universities around the world. These universities may have an additional language requirement and the application process and dates are varied. If you are interested in applying to one of these universities the best first step would be to contact their admissions department.

Best universities for Computer Science worldwide:

ETH Zurich

One of ETH Zurich’s claims to fame is that twenty-one Nobel Prizes have been awarded to its students and professors. A strength of its computer department is its collaborations with other disciplines including physics, mechanical engineering, and the life sciences – applying computer science to a huge range of real world problems. The curriculum is both challenging and relevant, and the university maintains long term research collaborations with tech giants such as Google, IBM and Microsoft. You will need a strong grasp of German as many introductory courses are taught in it, however from the second year most courses are taught in English.

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

EPFL is a Swiss university that specialises in engineering and physical sciences. Its computer science has a strong emphasis on mathematics and physics to help deepen and facilitate understanding of computer science. It also reserves a significant amount of time for project work, and students are offered the opportunity to deploy their project within a company to experience the full product cycle. EFPL also develops students’ employability with courses in human and social sciences including topics such as legislation, management and finance. The level of academic rigour in the EFPL degree opens the doors to numerous specialized Masters programmes.

National University of Singapore

One of the things that stands out at National University of Singapore is the quality of research – faculty members have recently won papers best papers awards at conferences in 4 key fields (theory and algorithms, networking, multimedia and natural language processing). They offer around 100 modules and have satellite campuses in Beijing, Shanghai, India, Israel, Stockholm, Bio Valley and Silicon Valley. Recent graduate destinations include Lucasfilm, Microsoft, Google, HP and a long list of industry leaders. A key part of the NUS is a portfolio of projects that will act as a showcase to employers, demonstrating both your knowledge and your practical application.

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