Frequently Asked Questions


"By shifting a large focus of curriculum on mathematics, this course will present students with the skills for rigorous reasoning, which is one of the key components for high-end software engineers. Microsoft is very supportive of this type of course and the graduates it will produce will be highly sought after in industry."

- Microsoft Ireland


What exactly is Computational Thinking?

Computational thinking is about combining human creativity with the power of machines to solve problems across a range of disciplines. Humans do some things better than computers and computers do some things better than humans - the trick is understanding how best to get them working together. To do this we need to dig deep and explore the very essence of knowledge itself.

Computational thinkers need to understand the foundations of logic and have strong mathematical abilities. They need to understand how information can be most efficiently processed by an automated computational process to yield a solution. They need to be versatile in order to apply theoretical knowledge to novel real-world problems.

Cheap access to computing power means that computers have now infiltrated many aspects of human activity, with diverse fields such as telecommunications, financial trading, satellite navigation and biotechnology all reliant on underlying computational processing. As a result, it is nearly impossible to do research in any scientific or engineering discipline without the ability to think computationally. A dedicated Centre for Computational Thinking has been established at Carnegie Mellon University .


Is Computational Thinking for people who like using computers?

A famous computer scientist called E.W. Dijkstra once said that "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes". The skills students will develop on the BSc in Computational Thinking are far deeper than simply knowing how to use computers. Thinking computationally is about knowing how to structure a problem so that it can be most effectively attacked by an automated computational process. It involves reformulating seemingly difficult questions into ones that have existing solutions. It involves exploiting abstraction, identifying patterns and developing innovative strategies to find solutions in the presence of uncertainty. 


What’s the difference between Computational Thinking and ordinary Computer Science?

There has been a proliferation of computing degrees in Ireland over the last decade, with topics ranging from core computer science, to mutimedia, to more business-oriented topics such as information systems. Our BSc in Computational Thinking takes the "science" part of Computer Science seriously, and we focus on the core elements of CS, such as computability, complexity, logic, and formal language theory. The pure mathematics stream enhances this considerably by providing the necessary theoretical background, and the philosophy stream helps to put this information into its historical and intellectual context.  


Is there a placement offered as part of the course or the chance to travel abroad?

Students have the option to undertake a paid industrial placement with a software company in the third year, thereby extending the programme to four years. In the past we have placed our computer science students with companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Amazon, Ericsson, Accenture, Bank of America / Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, MasterCard, Waratek, Cisco, Oracle, Xilinx and Intel. There is also the opportunity to spend a third year studying or working abroad as part of the Erasmus programme. Previously students have travelled to the U.S., U.K., France and China.


How many points will I need to get on this course?

Students must achieve a minimum of a B1 in Honours Leaving Cert Maths. This high standard has been set to ensure that students will be well equipped to deal with mathematical concepts encountered over the three years. The class will be relatively small, so that students receive greater interaction time from lecturers and can profit from discussion-based learning in an intimate learning environment consisting of similarly high-achieving students.


What job will I get from studying Computational Thinking?

Many existing degrees focus on very specific skills and knowledge which tie students into a particular niche area. In contrast, the BSc in computational thinking develops students’ abilities to think logically and to solve real-world problems, which are fundamental to many disciplines and thus highly transferable. These skills are in strong demand from major international companies in areas such as software development and analysis, mathematical and financial modelling, bioinformatics, cryptography and security. High-tech multinationals in Ireland are currently struggling to find the skilled graduates they need, forcing them to recruit from abroad. As the only mathematically-oriented computer science degree in Ireland, the BSc in Computational Thinking has been purposely developed to fill this gap in the market. Graduates will also be eligible for Masters and PhD positions across a wide range of analytical and scientific disciplines.


How is the BSc in Computational Thinking ‘accelerated’?

Typically a BSc takes 4 years to complete. However, many of the modules studied in the first year cover material that students have already encountered on the Leaving Cert. Given that the BSc in Computational Thinking is aimed at high-achieving students, many of the first-year modules have been stripped out, so that the degree is streamlined. Students will graduate after three years, meaning that they can complete an additional taught Masters in the same time that it would usually take to earn a BSc qualification.


What will I learn on this course?

In this degree you will acquire hands-on programming skills and advanced problem-solving techniques. You will learn to think logically and analytically when approaching complex issues. You will also develop your creativity and communication skills. As a student, you will have access to NUI Maynooth's state-of-the-art computer labs as you acquire these skills.


How do I know if I would like to study Computational Thinking?

Are you motivated to succeed? Do you feel confident working with mathematical problems? Do you enjoy the challenge of a good puzzle? Can you think critically about the information you encounter? Are you curious about probing the limits of knowledge itself? Do you want to be in a class of people who are also interested in these things? If this is the case, then Computational Thinking is the degree for you.