Why study Computing?
Computing is a creative and wide-ranging subject. It's about combining theoretical understanding, sound engineering practices and clear logical thinking to build systems that really work and are fit for purpose.
Computing is a relatively new profession within a fast-changing industry. It retains an informality and an openness to fresh ideas and practices. There are fewer barriers of age and gender, and the industry is leading the way in flexible working practices and career planning. Constant updating of knowledge is essential. A good computer scientist does not just have core technical and transferable skills but is also able to adapt to technological change, with its challenges and opportunities.
At Imperial, students learn through problem-solving where the emphasis is on putting mathematical and engineering principles into practice.
In the first-year, there is a carefully planned programme of laboratory-based work centred around programming problems of gradually increasing size and complexity. Each problem is designed to teach a specific aspect of programming and, at the same time, expose you to a range of software and hardware platforms and tools appropriate to the problem. The emphasis is very much on the development of adaptable problem-solving skills, rather than the teaching of specific technologies.
The second-year laboratory programme is centred around three major projects: an operating system, a compiler and a web application. Each project is undertaken in small groups.
You will also undertake a major group project, which will exercise your ability to work as part of a larger software development team. This may also involve working with an industrial partner, as many of the group projects are proposed by our industry collaborators.
If you are enrolled in the MEng programme then you will spend half the year (between 5 and 6 months) on an industrial placement. Whilst on placement you will be assigned one or more technical projects and will be expected to work as part of a team in an approved organisation. The placement gives you the opportunity to apply what you have learned in the degree so far to real-world engineering problems. It also gives you invaluable experience of industry working practices. You also get to earn money and many students use the income to help fund their final year of study.
In the final year (third year for BEng, fourth year for MEng) you will undertake a major individual project spanning around eight months. This presents an exciting opportunity for you to apply the technical skills you have learnt throughout the course, including also research, project management and presentation skills, under the supervision of an academic adviser. The topics covered by individual projects vary enormously, from the very theoretical to the very practical. Many projects address topical research problems and involve working closely with one of the Department’s research groups.
The best student projects from Imperial are among the most impressive of any academic institution in the world. It is quite common for project work to be presented at top international research conferences and/or published in academic journals.
Is Imperial right for you?
Imperial’s engineering focus means that you will be expected to work closely with fellow students at certain times, particularly when undertaking the group work outlined above. The programme is also more intensive than most, so you will need to be well organized and able to adapt to fluctuating demands on your time.
We do not require you to know how to program in advance, but programming forms the core of all of Imperial’s Computing programmes and is an important skill that you will need to master early on. If you’ve not programmed before you are advised to try teaching yourself some of the basics before applying, for example by following one of the many free introductory programming courses or tutorials available on-line. If you find that you enjoy programming, regardless of your level of experience, and problem-solving more generally, then Imperial may be a good choice for you.
You are also advised to read the Department’s Competence standards when considering whether to apply.