I am currently studying a bachelor's in (joint honours) Mathematics and Computer Science in the UK. I am intrigued by the sorts of problems present in theoretical computer science and I want to entertain the possibility of pursuing a PhD. However, I must first of course pursue a master's degree. The issue is I cannot find a master's degree with a focus in theoretical computer science in the UK (if you accept the notion of a master's degree being a specialist degree). In turn, I am not sure what sort of courses I should be looking for that would adequately prepare me for this field.

After browsing this forum for some time, I have found a mathematics background is paramount to theory. I will have what one may consider a formal background in mathematics by the time of graduation but I am not sure as to what exactly I should be doing. Would a pure mathematics master's be the best route?

Any insight or clarification into this would be appreciated greatly!

  • $\begingroup$ I will have covered 60% of each subject as if you were to have taken a single honours route so I will definitely have at least all the basic CS courses as well as mathematics courses. In the UK, top universities like Imperial, Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh require a master's degree (or undergraduate integrated master's which would equate to the same). $\endgroup$
    – someone111
    Nov 30, 2018 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ imperial.ac.uk/computing/prospective-students/courses/phd/… "Applicants are expected to have a First Class/Distinction Masters level degree, or equivalent, in a relevant scientific or technical discipline, such as computer science or mathematics. Candidates who have only a Bachelors degree will not normally be considered.." $\endgroup$
    – someone111
    Nov 30, 2018 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ Try looking for MPhil programs. MPhil courses at many British schools, like Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Birmingham, etc. certain allow you to do coursework and research in theory. $\endgroup$
    – xrq
    Nov 30, 2018 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ The ones at Oxbridge and Edinburgh appeal the most to me but they're also the most competitive. Going abroad is something I am willing to explore but that's an entirely new domain. $\endgroup$
    – someone111
    Nov 30, 2018 at 22:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Have a look at the French MPRI. Loads of courses to choose from, and I believe English is always available. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2018 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


In many places (certainly most of USA and Canada) a master's is not required before a PhD. There it is fine, and probably recommended, to just apply directly to PhD programs from undergrad. I am not sure if the situation is the same in the U.K. or elsewhere in Europe. In any case, it's a good idea to meet with one of your math/CS professors to ask for advice on this process.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. That's probably what I should have tried out first. It just made sense to me since I've spent a considerable amount of time on this forum and so I thought I should probably ask those that have gone down the route I'm intending to. Please see my comments in regards to the situation in the UK. $\endgroup$
    – someone111
    Nov 30, 2018 at 21:18

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