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Computer Science and Philosophy

The Computer Science and Philosophy (P&P) degree course in Oxford is a brand new course, with the first students starting in October 2012. The two disciplines overlap and interrelate in a remarkable number of places, from artificial intelligence to virtual reality; from language and truth to the concept of proof; just as important, both disciplines share a crucial requirement for clarity, rigour and structured argument, for all that the detailed ways in which those skills are applied may differ.

This page gives only some very brief information about the course; follow the links to the University and College pages for much more.

The course

The capsule summary: You study about half the main computer science course, concentrating on the more theoretical aspects of the subject. At the same time, you study a range of topics from Philosophy. In the first year, you also do a linking paper, on Alan Turing and the nature of computability and intelligence. In subsequent years, you can choose to study options which link the two subjects, or to pursue them separately. You have fairly little choice of topics in the first two years, quite a lot of choice in the third year, and a completely free choice in the fourth year. You can stop doing one or other subject in the fourth year (but not before).

For lots more information, see the course pages and the frequently asked questions.

Computer Science & Philosophy at Balliol

My college, Balliol, is one of nine colleges who are admitting students for the Computer Science & Philosophy course, and one of thirteen who admit for Computer Science. We already have lots of experience with science/philosophy joint courses: in Physics & Philosophy and Maths & Philosophy, courses whose structure is closely related to the CS & P course, we have a larger student body than any college in Oxford. We also have long-established strengths in Computer Science, in Maths and in Philosophy more broadly. I hope that Balliol succeeds in creating a genuinely integrated atmosphere for courses like CS & P, where the two parts of the degree course are each taught by people who understand and are sympathetic to the other half, and where you find it easy to get into interesting and helpful academic discussions with P&P students, physicists and philosophers in your and other years. To find out more about Balliol, see here.

That said, there are eight other colleges who admit students for CS & P, and their similarities outweigh their differences - college choice is much less important than your choice of university or subject. In particular, it's very important to realise that your choice of college doesn't affect your chance of getting into Oxford (see below for more). The list of colleges you can apply to may be found here

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Applying

Official details about the application process can be found here. Since the course is so new (the first round of admissions hasn't yet happened, at time of writing), I don't have anything to add to them - except to stress that the admissions process operates a robust system for second-interviewing all shortlisted candidates, and for sharing information about candidates' relative strengths across all colleges. This means that your choice of college should have no effect on your chances of success.