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 from worldwide laboratories and universities even 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 (60 different nationalities over the past 10 years). About 80% of the students come from European countries.
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. The two consecutive weeks are usually mid-August - early September starting Monday and ending on the Friday of the following week.
The School delivers a series of ex-cathedra lectures and hand-on exercises for a total of approximately 50 hours generally equally divided between lectures and practical work. 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 where students are usually organized in pairs.
The school also offers an optional sport programme with two to three hours of sport on several afternoons to those who are interested. The sport programme provides a healthy work-life balance offering additional opportunity to foster socialization and networking as it gives additional opportunities for interactions between students, lecturers and organizers. In the past schools the sports proposed have included swimming, volleyball, basketball, floorball, climbing, squash, badminton, tennis, football, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, scuba diving and horseback riding. The sports programme is obviously optional, and no student should feel embarrassed if not interested. It is however particularly appreciated and usually more than 90% of the students do participate. In particular, the possibility to discover new sport or to improve early skills through lessons given by school lecturers or by external instructors is appreciated.
The school delivers an official CERN School of Computing diploma upon a successful completion of the exam that takes place towards the end of the school. The exam is optional and the students who successfully pass the exams obtains the diploma. Depending on specific agreements with the local university, the students obtaining the diploma may also obtain some European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits. The exact number of credits which depends on the school programme and year can be found on the specific web site of every school and is awarded by the hosting University.