Master's program in Computer Science: Algorithms & Theory

If you are a  very  strong  undergrad student in Math or Theoretical Computer Science, and if you consider doing a Master with focus on Algorithms & Theory, you should consider doing it in our group at the Computer Science Institute at the University of Tartu, Estonia.

Our 2-year Master's program offers the specialization module "Theoretical Computer Science and Cryptography", which comprises the research areas algorithms & theorycoding theory, and cryptography.

If you want to specialize in Algorithms / Theory, the advantage of U Tartu as your master's institution is that you'll also be trained in application areas of algorithmic and combinatorial research, such as bioinformatics and data mining.

The Language (English)

The de-facto language of the master program in Computer Science has been English for several years, but from 2015 on, the official language is English, too.

At the institute...
  • The Theoretical Computer Science group (to which Algorithm & Theory belongs) consists almost entirely of expatriates, so all communication is in English.
  • All courses in the CS Masters and PhD programs are in English
  • About 1/3 of the faculty in the CS Institute are expatriates, so most of the talking is being done in English anyway.
...and in the bars:
  • That's something I find genuinely surprising: Why do so many people speak to each other in English in the bar on Friday night? I suppose it's because of the hordes of ERASMUS students and foreign PhD students, expatriate university faculty, and whatnot, which Tartu harbors. And if you're sick of English, dust off your French in "Paris, Paris", the French cafe.

Our Courses

The following introductory Master-level courses are offered frequently (annually or biannually):
  • Discrete Math every fall (standard basic discrete math course, emphasizing algorithms)
  • Combinatorial Optimization in spring (basic introduction to the problems and techniques)
  • Graph Theory in spring, alternates with Comb. Opt. (basic introduction, emphasizing algorithms)
  • Complexity Theory
    These courses on advanced graduate level are offered annually:
    • Advanced Methods in Algorithms
    • One of Methods in TCS I-IV: Combinatorics, advanced randomness, advanced complexity, quantum computation
      • Introduction to Coding Theory
      The courses are offered infrequently.  Generally speaking, 1-2 of them are taught per year.
      • Randomness in Computer Science (introductory)
      • Advanced Techniques in Randomness (advanced graduate level)
      • Random Graphs (advanced graduate level)
      • Combinatorial Problem Solving (solving hard problems in groups)

      Example Course Plan

      The requirement for receiving a scholarship is that student completes courses worth 30 Credit Points. The following is an example of how you might spend (the working hours of) your 2-year masters study in Tartu. The choice of courses here is somewhat arbitrary.  In particular, you can replace any course without an asterisk * by something you find more interesting. You should take the Algorithms+Theory Seminar, though.

       Fall 1st year  Spring 1st year  Fall 2nd year Spring 2nd year 
       Discrete Mathematics *
       Advanced Algorithmics *
       Distributed Systems *
       Systems Modelling *

      Algorithms&Theory Seminar
       Graph Theory or Comb. Optim.
       Randomness in CS

       Software Project

      Algorithms&Theory Seminar
       One of Methods in TCS I-IV *
       Advanced Methods in Algorithms
       Complexity Theory

      Algorithms&Theory Seminar

       Master's Thesis

      Algorithms&Theory Seminar

      Continue to PhD?

      You might be considering to enter the PhD program, if, after two years, you'll have finished your Master's studies sufficiently successfully. The PhD program requires to take six courses (in your specialization Theoretical Computer Science). Continuing with the above example, three of those would be the remaining Methods in TCS I-IV courses, Random Graphs or Advanced techniques in Randomness, and maybe some Coding Theory or Cryptography--there's a lot to choose from.
      You could continue with your Master's research topic, or start a new one, depending on your interests.

      Why in Tartu?

      If you are interested in focusing on Algorithms & Theory research for you masters, the computer science institute at U Tartu offers you several advantages.

      If you are more interested in theory:
      • You get a solid foundation of modern combinatorics, covering not only graph- and hypergraph theory, but also enumerative, extremal, and probabilistic combinatorics, as well as random structures (random graphs).
      • You experience the mutually beneficial connection between combinatorics and algorithms.
      • The rest of theoretical computer science in Tartu (coding theory and cryptography) offers important applications of combinatorics. For example, for your master's project, you could work on hypergraph problems occurring in coding theory or in cryptography. (But you could also work on a conjecture in Graph Theory.)
      • You also learn about applications of combinatorics in other areas of computer science, most importantly Bioinformatics, where combinatorial objects occur naturally and frequently.
      If you are more interested in Algorithms:
      • There are several diverse courses on algorithms, taught by different people, and offering a broad view on the subject.
      • You are trained in the combinatorial foundations of algorithmic research.
      • You get the chance to study application areas of algorithms, most importantly Bioinformatics and Data Mining, but also Parallel and Distributed Computing, and Neuro-Computation.  For example, for your master's project, you could work on an algorithmic problem in Bioinformatics.

      About the University

      Venerable Universitas Tartuensis, the University of Tartu, is one of the oldest (founded 1632) in northern Europe. Being plunged into near oblivion during the Soviet occupation of Estonia (1944-1991), it has reclaimed its position among the world's top universities in the course of the last decade. For example, the QS world university rankings has U Tartu moving up through the ranks: 2012 501-550; 2013 461-470; currently, 2014, 379.


      Applicants for a slot in the Master's program will automatically be considered for a couple of scholarships. The basic scholarship is about Euro 295 per month. If you are accepted into the Master's program, together with you notification of acceptance, you'll be notified of whether you'll receive that scholarship (or, more accurately, which scholarships exactly you'll receive), if you accept the place in the program.
      In any case, you'll automatically receive a so-called "tuition-waiver" scholarship (= you don't have to pay tuition) for your first year, which is renewed for the second year if you successfully complete 30 European Credit Points worth of courses per term.

      See this page for more details about the scholarships.

      Get in touch and apply

      If you are interested, get in touch!
      • For informal inquiries contact Mozhgan.
      • If you want to discuss possible Master's research projects, contact DOT.
      This web page describes the online application process, and lists the required documents. You should contact us in sufficient time before submitting your application.

      Further Reading

      • This page, mentioned above, describes the admission procedure and requirements for the CS master program.