With companies like Facebook, Apple and Google dominating the world, it’s only natural that computer science is becoming ever more popular. With everything from entertainment, media and gaming to shopping, banking and even work moving online, it’s no surprise that software engineers are in such high demand.
Long gone are the days when computer science was considered a geeky subject, too. Not only is coding chic, but it will also bag you a considerable paycheque – especially if you’ve studied at a top university or college.
Therefore, to help you out, we’ve averaged the latest rankings to bring you the best computer science schools in the world. If you’re a talented programmer with ambition, creativity and drive, these are the top places to realise your potential.
10. University of Toronto
Average ranking: 13.7
Location: Toronto, Canada
Originally founded in 1827 under colonial rule, the University of Toronto has a strong tradition of STEM innovation and discovery. As a result of its contributions to science, the university now receives the highest amount of scientific research funding in Canada.
Computer science undergraduates at the University of Toronto explore topics well beyond the scope of basic programming and have access to state-of-the-art facilities. Those with an entrepreneurial streak also have access to the school’s customised network and resources.
The school is affiliated with five Turing Award winners, while influential computer scientists William Kahan, Eric Hehner and Calvin Gotlieb are all among its alumni.
9. National University of Singapore
Average ranking: 13.3
Location: Singapore, Singapore
Originally a medical school, the National University of Singapore (NUS) was founded in 1905 and is noted for its extensive research output, particularly in the STEM fields. Having undergone numerous aesthetic changes since its inception, the university’s computer science department formally opened in 1998.
With a diverse curriculum, the school hosts several notable societies, including the Greyhats, Hackers and Computing clubs. There are also opportunities to explore joint or concurrent programmes with other departments and educational institutions, such as Brown University, Cambridge University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Notable computing alumni include cybersecurity expert Aloysius Cheang, internet pioneer James Seng and tech visionary Min-Liang Tan.
8. University of California, Los Angeles
Average ranking: 10.3
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Following the creation of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1919, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science – or UCLA Engineering, for short – was established some 26 years later. Since then, the school has cemented its place in STEM history as the birthplace of the internet, under the guidance of Professor Leonard Kleinrock in 1969.
The school offers computer science programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level, while undergraduates are also able to combine their degree with engineering. Generally speaking, computer science students make up the majority of the school’s population, with just under 900 students enrolled in 2018.
The school is affiliated with five Turing Award winners and boasts Bayesian networks pioneer Judea Pearl, programming pioneer Alan Kay and, of course, Kleinrock, among its alumni.
7. Princeton University
Average ranking: 8.7
Location: Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Despite its reputation for tradition and its standing as one of the oldest universities in the country, Princeton University is a renowned innovator in computer science and engineering – the school is currently affiliated with 13 Turing Award winners.
As with many Ivy League colleges, there is also a great deal of flexibility for undergraduates, with students encouraged to build their own study programme around a small core of mandatory modules.
Perhaps Princeton’s biggest selling point for prospective students, though, is its people. Renowned computer scientists Robert Sedgewick, Robert J Vanderbei and Brian Kernighan are all professors at the school, while legendary programmer Hal Abelson, TCP/IP cocreator Bob Kahn and AI pioneer John McCarthy are among its alumni.
6. Harvard University
Average ranking: 7.7
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Another Ivy League institution with centuries of tradition and history, Harvard University – in association with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer – significantly increased funding into its computer science programme in 2014, with additional plans for the implementation of state-of-the-art facilities in the coming years.
The school boasts 14 Turing Award winners, while notable computer scientists who studied at Harvard include Andrew Yao, An Wang, Richard Stallman and Dennis Ritchie (the creator of the widely used C programming language). Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, both dropped out of Harvard in order to focus on building Microsoft and Facebook, respectively.
5. University of Oxford
Average ranking: 7.0
Location: Oxford, UK
Although the University of Oxford’s existence can be traced all the way back to the 11th Century, the University’s computer science department didn’t start life until 1957 as a computing laboratory. Since then, it has – like its parent university – evolved into one of the most influential in the world.
As with other subjects at Oxford, students benefit from one-to-one tuition and small tutorial groups, with strong industry links to key players. The basics are taught from the start, too, meaning it’s the perfect course if you have no prior knowledge or experience of programming.
There are six Turing Award winners affiliated with Oxford, while notable alumni include Stephen Wolfram, Tony Hoare and the inventor of the World Wide Web himself, Tim Berners-Lee.
4. ETH Zürich
Average ranking: 5.0
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Often ranked as one of the best universities in Europe, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich – or ETH Zürich, for short – is an influential institution within the STEM world, with Albert Einstein among its alumni.
It’s not just science and medicine where the university is making its mark, though. The school’s computer science programme gives a strong grounding in electrical engineering and mathematics, as well as additional electives tailored to the student’s interest. While the first year is taught entirely in German, many of the modules in the second and third years are in English.
The school is affiliated with one Turing Award winner, while notable computer science alumni include IEEE director and Harvard professor Hanspeter Pfister, software engineering pioneer and ETH Zürich professor Niklaus Wirth, and legendary mathematician John von Neumann.
3. Carnegie Mellon University
Average ranking: 4.0
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
A private college located in downtown Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University has an entire school dedicated to computer science, with its research output in the last 15 years responsible for advancement in a number of technical fields.
Since its inception in 1988, the school has also consistently ranked as among the best in the US, with a particular emphasis on its teaching and research into artificial intelligence. Indeed, from 2018, the school offers a separate Bachelor of Science programme in AI. Meanwhile, the $98 million Gates and Hillman Centers house some of the best learning facilities in the world.
Carnegie Mellon is affiliated with 13 Turing Award winners, among them AI pioneers Edward Feigenbaum and Raj Reddy, as well as cryptographer Shafi Goldwasser and the ‘father of computer graphics’ Ivan Sutherland.
1. Stanford University (tie)
Average ranking: 2.3
Location: Palo Alto, California, USA
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley – one of the most influential tech hubs in the world – Stanford University’s computer science department has been consistently ranked as one of the best in the world since its creation in 1965.
Housed in the Gates Computer Science Building (named, unsurprisingly, after the Microsoft founder), undergraduates are encouraged to get involved early in research and even teaching, while the industry opportunities in such a prime location are obvious.
Stanford is also affiliated with 27 Turing Award winners (more than any other university in the world), while its alumni include Netflix founder Reed Hastings, Microsoft Word creator Charles Simonyi and Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. WhatsApp, YouTube, Mozilla Firefox and Instagram were also all either founded or cofounded by Stanford graduates.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie)
Average ranking: 2.3
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Tying with Stanford for first place, however, is its cross-country rival, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which has been responsible for some of the most significant computer science breakthroughs in modern history. These include pioneering advancements in public-key cryptosystems, internet standards and artificial intelligence, while radar, electronic ink and the Black Box (now used in all commercial aircraft) were all also developed at MIT.
Undergraduate students can pursue computer science in conjunction with either engineering, electrical engineering, molecular biology or economics and data science. There is a particular emphasis within the curriculum on circuit design, robotics and communication theory.
In terms of Turing Awards, meanwhile, MIT falls one short of Stanford with 26, although notable computer science alumni include Uber CTO Thuan Pham, LeapPad creator Jim Marggraff and professional poker player Robert Varkonyi.
As some of the alumni on this list prove, an education at one of these universities can put you in a great position, either to succeed on your own or with a top company. Ultimately, though, it’s all about your own dedication and motivation to grow.
Where do you want to study computer science? Let us know in the comments below.