Open Units For 1st Year CS Students

In years 1 and 2, CS students have 30CP and 20CP, respectively, of optional units. In both cases, options are available within the CS department, but students can also take open units from another department. This page outlines some of the units that may be of interest to CS students. Please note that there is no guarantee that it will be possible to take a given optional unit - it depends partly on timetabling in any given year. They can also become full (but the CS options will always be available to you). So please, when you are considering options, think about alternative choices should your preferred options not work in the timetable.

Please note that, for G401 (Computer Science with Study Abroad) students, your language component takes 20CP of your option allowance and you should therefore choose one of the 10 credit Computer Science options.

In 2013/14, we know the following options are almost certain to be available to 1st year CS students given the current timetable:

Big Ideas in Science; Biological Psychology; Film and TV Form and Analysis; Cognitive Psychology; Philosophy of Science; Number Theory and Group Theory; Principles of Economics; Sustainable Development

Here is a guide to choosing optional units which gives details of how 1st year CS students register for their options, and a form for you to use to help you plan your choices.

Here is an A-Z table which summarises recommended options and how to register for them.

The full open unit catalog is available at:

Business And Economics

Principles of Economics (20 credits)
Consider if you are interested in a career in the finance sector. Also a good, but not essential, background for those wishing to take the 4th year unit Algorithmic and Economic Aspects of the Internet, and/or in carrying out projects related to trading agents or agent-based computational economics.

Introduction to Accounting (20 credits)
May be of interest to those wishing to develop accountancy skills.

Analysis in Management (20 credits)
Provides an overview and practical experience of non-quantitative analytical techniques used in making decisions in management.

Creative Media

Film and Television Forms and Analysis (20 credits)  Consider if you are interested in media and a possible career in the creative industries, including animation and game design.


Language options offered include Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, French and Russian, at a number of different skill levels. These are taught by different departments within the Faculty of Arts. (If you are interested in Japanese, it appears in the Hispanic Studies department.)


The Mathematics department allows CS students who have an A at A level maths to join Number Theory and Group Theory. This branch of mathematics underpins much work on cryptography, so this option would be particularly suitable for those interested in focusing on cryptography in the future.


Philosophy provides excellent training in how think clearly and broadly about issues and to structure arguments for others. Introduction to Metaphysics (20 credits) includes study of possible world semantics, causation and time, all relevant in the representation of knowledge in computer science. They also offer an Introduction to Formal Logic (10 credits) [These are not listed as open, but the Philosophy dept is happy to accept CS students.] Second years may take Logic 2 (20 credits), though they should check that they are familiar with the concepts introduced in Intro to Formal Logic. This unit covers modal logic, which has been important in branches of computer science. Other units of potential interest include Intro to Philosophy of Science (10 credits) and Introduction to Philosophy A (20 credits)


Computer Science and psychology have long had relations between the two disciplines. Students interested in Artificial Intelligence may consider exploring how our higher cognitive functions work through Cognitive Psychology (10 credits).
Those interested in the 'lower level' architecture of the brain, which has inspired the neural network approach to computation, may consider learning more about this through Biological Psychology (10 credits). This also provides good, but not essential, background for the fourth year CS unit on Computational Neuroscience.
Other psychology options available are Developmental Psychology(10 credits) and Social Psychology(10 credits).
Psychological understanding may also provide useful background knowledge for the 4th year unit on Interaction Design and/or project work on a Human-Computer Interaction theme.

Sustainability, The Environment and Development

Consider the following open units if you are interested in social and environmental issues;

Sustainable Development (20 credits) - An interdisciplinary unit providing an overview of issues and perspectives relating to sustainability. Useful, but not essential, background for the 3rd year unit on Sustainability Technology and Business.
Environment Earth (20 credits) - An overview of the natural environment, its impact on us and our impact on it.
World in Crisis? (20 credits) - An overview of the problems facing the modern world and tools and techniques geographers use to analyse them.
Globalisation and Development (20 credits) - This unit provides an overview of the economics of globalisation and development.

Other Topics

The open unit catalog contains information on many other options for study, including Buddhism, drug policy, ghosts, poetry, art, archaeology, Dante and marine ecology. Any of these are possible if it is something you are really interested in, but we would recommend discussing your options with your personal tutor if you are considering something more unusual. Here are a few 'overview' units which give insights from and overviews of other disciplines:

Big Ideas in Science
(20 credits)
Stars and Planets (20 credits)
Engineering Physics (20 credits)
Introduction to Social Anthropology (20 credits)
Thinking Sociologically (20 credits)