The CERN Schools of computing in a nutshel

Since the early seventies CERN has organized  the CERN Schools of Computing (CSCs), usually held in August/September. They are open to postgraduate students and research workers, working at CERN or at external institutes, with a few years of experience in elementary particle physics, in computing or in related fields.


The participants come mainly from the CERN Member States or from laboratories in countries associated with CERN. However, a fraction of the students come from outside the particle physics community, generally attracted by the advanced topics that are taught. Attendance ranges from 60 to 80 students, typically of 15 to 30 different nationalities.


The schools last two weeks, and are generally organized on the campus of a university or in a hotel with close networking connections to a university or laboratory.

CSC in a nutshell leaflet (PDF )

Overall objectives of the School 

The school aims at creating a common technical culture in scientific computing among young scientists and engineers involved in particle physics or in sister experimental disciplines, as a strategic direction to favour mobility and to facilitate the development of large computing-oriented transnational projects

A summer university

CSCs are not conferences. They are places to learn advanced academic topics, taught by a few high-quality lecturers, what ensures overall coherence. Attendance to the full programme is mandatory, examinations are organized and formal diplomas are awarded. The focus is on delivering knowledge rather than know-how, which can better be provided in the form of training at home institutes. Knowledge is by nature more persistent, transferable to new contexts, and requires related knowledge to pre-exist.. 

As a result, CSCs are true summer universities

Theory and Practice

The two-week programme of the CSC series is comprised of a series of lectures and hand-on exercises

The hands-on part is a central component of the school, and may include projects carried out by groups of students or contests. To this end, a computing infrastructure is created on the site of the school.

Examination and European Certificate

Since 2002, CSC offers a CSC diploma upon a successful completion of an optional exam.

In addition, since 2008, the university hosting the CSC, assures the quality of the syllabus and incorporates the CSC in its official teaching programme. As a result, a formal Certificate of 5 to 6 ECTS Credit Points (European Credit Transfer System) is awarded by the hosting University.
These may be used by students to obtain credits 

Sport programme

Introduced a few years ago, the sport programme offers two to three hours of sport every afternoon to those who are interested. Socialization and networking is the other goal of the school.

The sport programme not only provides a healthy work-life balance, but it also gives additional opportunities for interactions between students, lecturers and organizers. Several of the lecturers act as sport instructors or organizers.
Sports usually proposed include swimming, volleyball, basketball, floorball, climbing, squash, badminton, tennis, football, hiking, biking, and whenever possible canoeing, kayaking, sailing, or horseback riding. 

Specific objectives of the School

The CERN Schools of Computing have two specific objectives in terms of education and knowledge transfer:

  1. To train both theoretically and practically, young engineers and scientists from physics institutes collaborating in the CERN programme on the advanced technologies required to meet the very specific challenges that CERN is facing in computing, and which are generally not part of regular academic curricula (e.g. practical Grid technology, large scale software development and engineering).

  2. Beyond the particle physics community, to transfer to academic, institutional and industrial circles in Member States and other countries, CERN skills and know-how in computing and ICT. These skills and know-how, though developed for the needs of the particle physics community, find direct or potential applications in all spheres of the society (as exemplified with the Web, developed by CERN and now, the Grid). 

Format of the School


The Schools are attended by up to 80 participants, with the typical following distribution:

Students come from a wide range of countries (60 different nationalities over the past 10 years). About 80% of the students come from European Union countries.


The CSCs last two consecutive weeks (usually mid-August - early September).

They normally start a Monday and end the Friday of the following week.


Theory and Practice

The school comprises series of ex-cathedra lectures and hands-on exercise sessions. The total amount of hours is typically in the order of 50, generally equally divided between lectures and practical work.

For the practical work, students are usually organized in pairs.


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