Cambridge University and computer science

The University of Cambridge Computer Laborator...
The University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in West Cambridge, south of the Madingley Road. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cambridge University has a stellar reputation for Computer Science in the UK.

The Computer Laboratory can trace its history back over more than 75 years (to a time when ‘computers’ where humans making calculations), while the wider University can claim Alan Turing for one of its own. And Sinclair Research, ARM, the Cambridge Ring – the list of companies and technical innovations associated with the University is a long one: they even had what was possibly the world’s first webcam.

But, according to today’s Guardian, they might need to work a bit harder with their undergraduates – the Guardian’s 2014 University Guide rates Cambridge as the best University in Britain overall but slots it in only at 8th in computer science and conspicuously gives it the worst rating (1/10) for “value added” – namely the improvement from entry to degree for students.

Now, possibly this is because it is the toughest computer science course in the country to get a place in – the average student needs more than 3 A* grades at A level (and 3 As at AS) to get a place, compared to Imperial, the next place down where 3 A*s would probably set you right – but there has to be more to it than that. It is even harder to get into biosciences at Cambridge and yet they are rated 8/10 in the value added score.

Don’t get me wrong – I am sure Cambridge is fantastic at teaching computer science, but it is also given a lot of money on the basis that it is an elite institution and so it seems reasonable to ask for an explanation (from the Guardian too of course!)

(Incidentally, it seems that Oxford teaches so few undergraduates computer science it cannot be rated at all.)