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Programme Specification

This is the programme specification for the Software Engineering Programme at Oxford; it should be read in conjunction with the admissions policy, the examination conventions, and the award regulations.

1. Awarding Institution

University of Oxford.

2. Teaching Institution

University of Oxford.

3. Additional Accreditation

The MSc in Software Engineering is accredited by the British Computer Society; it can be used to gain exemption from the Society's Part II Examination.

4. Final Awards

MSc in Software Engineering and MSc in Software and Systems Security. Exit awards at Postgraduate Diploma and Postgraduate Certificate level in Software Engineering, Object Technology, and Software and Systems Security.

5. Programme Title

Software Engineering Programme.

6. OSAC Code

Not applicable.

7. QAA Benchmarking Group

Not applicable.

8. Date of Production or Revision

February 2013.

9. Aims

The Programme was devised with the aim of providing effective postgraduate-level education in software engineering: on a part-time basis—it should be possible to participate fully in the Programme while remaining in full-time employment; to working professionals—the design of the Programme should take into account that some students may have significant experience of industrial software development. The effect of the education may extend beyond an individual student: there may be changes to the way in which software is designed, developed, and managed within the student's company.

The aim is to provide students with an understanding of software engineering principles and techniques, enabling them: to choose the most appropriate technique to apply in a software design, development, or management situation; to apply that technique, or to identify the resources (intellectual or material) necessary for its application; to explain their choice in terms that can be understood by anyone with a basic knowledge of the field.

10. Learning Outcomes

All graduates will be able to: explain the importance of a formal, disciplined approach to software engineering; demonstrate knowledge of, and the ability to evaluate, a range of software engineering concepts, tools, and techniques; understand the principles behind these techniques, and be able to apply them in novel situations.

Graduates in Object Technology will be able to: explain the characteristics of object-oriented approaches to software design and development; read, interpret, and analyse object models of software components; read, write, and modify programs in an object-oriented programming language.

Graduates in Software and Systems Security will be able to: evaluate the security risks and threats associated with a proposed software development; explain the technologies used to achieve a suitable level of security in a given situation; and design security solutions that are both technically sound and usable in practice.

MSc graduates will be able to: assess the likely value of adopting different methodologies at various points in the development lifecycle; read, interpret, and analyse models of actual software components written using a rigorous notation; read, write, and modify programs in a modern programming language.

They will also have demonstrated: the discipline required for successful software development; a knowledge of practical tools and techniques; an understanding of professional, social, and ethical responsibilities; the writing skills required to produce a technical report. The skills associated with the above outcomes—abstraction, modelling, problem-solving, analysis, argument, reporting—are transferable across disciplines.

The outcomes are achieved by means of taught modules, each of which consists in three parts: a three-week period of preliminary study and self-assessment that ensures that students are ready to participate; an intensive, residential teaching week, of classes, workshops, and practical sessions; a written assignment completed over the following six weeks, allowing students to develop and demonstrate their understanding. For the MSc, the project and dissertation allow students to explore professional issues, to apply combinations of software engineering techniques in a development context, to report upon the results of this activity, and to reflect upon their experiences and achievements.

Each student is assigned a supervisor upon registration: a member of academic staff who will monitor their progress, assist them in selecting courses, and provide advice on other matters. Additional support is afforded by the Director of Studies, the Programme Director, and the administrative staff, all of whom are available throughout the year. Each MSc student is also associated with a college, which provides a focus for study and participation in student life beyond the taught courses; it may also provide advice and practical support.

The written assignments are assessed as University examinations, and detailed assessment reports are provided to the student approximately 12 weeks after the teaching week for that module. The project is assessed in terms of participation in a project week, perhaps a formal presentation and interview, and the submitted dissertation.

Further information on assessment is provided in the examination conventions.

11. Programme structure

Up to four years are allowed for the completion of an MSc. A fifth year is available for writing up the MSc dissertation, subject to approval from the Board of Studies. Intermissions and extensions are allowed, subject to approval, up to a maximum of six terms in total.

As an exit award, each certificate requires attendance at modules in at least four different subjects, and the submission of at least four corresponding assignments; for the Certificate in Object Technology, a majority of the assignments considered by the examiners must be in the area of object technology; for the Certificate in Software and Systems Security, a majority must be in the area of software and systems security.

As an exit award, the Diploma requires attendance at modules in at least eight different subjects, and the submission of at least eight corresponding requirements. For the Diploma in Software and Systems Security, a majority of the subjects considered by the examiers must be in the area of software and systems security.

The MSc requires attendance at modules in at least ten different subjects, and submission of at least ten corresponding assignments, together with participation in the project and dissertation modules. For the MSc in Software and Systems Security, a majority of the assignments considered by the examiners, and the project and dissertation, must be in the area of software and systems security.

When a candidate changes status from one award to another—directly, or by graduating and returning—any accumulated credit is transferred, and the actual time spent studying is deducted from the minimum and maximum periods allowed for the new award, subject to the additional requirement that a candidate for the MSc must spend at least one year at that status before they can be examined.

Modules are also available to those who are not studying towards any academic award. Attendance, and any corresponding assignment, may be used as credit, provided that the module date is within one year of the date of any subsequent admission. Modules taken earlier than this may also be used as credit, subject to approval from the Admissions and Progressions Committee, in one subject (for the Certificate) and up to two subjects (for the Diploma or MSc).

12. Support for learning

Modules are delivered in a dedicated teaching facility, with class sizes of no more than 20. Academic and administrative staff work exclusively for the Programme, and students are able to contact members of the staff by telephone, by email, or through the messaging system of a web-based administration system. Any member of the team will be ready and able to answer questions and provide advice.

If there is a set text for a taught course, it is sent to every participant as part of the pre-study material. Other course materials are distributed at the start of the week; the course assignment, and model answers to all exercises and practicals, are distributed at the end of the week. All students can use the facilities of the Computing Laboratory. Students are also offered full, free access to the library and computing facilities of the University.

13. Criteria for admission

These are set out in the admissions policy.

14. Evaluation and improvement of quality and standards

The Advisory Panel for the Programme includes representatives from different industry sectors, and provides comments and feedback on proposed developments. All academic developments are subject to the approval of the University's Education Committee. The Board of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Division has responsibility for the Programme; they receive reports, and approve recommendations.

At the end of each module, attending students complete questionnaires assessing the quality and relevance of teaching materials, performance of staff, and the adequacy of teaching facilities. A longer questionnaire is issued annually, seeking responses to questions on the wider issues of programme design and delivery. In each case, the responses are anonymised, summarised, and discussed—together with any comments from staff—at the next meeting of the Standing Committee.

Most of the students have significant industrial experience, often at a management level, and are happy to offer constructive criticism and feedback directly. Many are in regular email contact, discussing operational matters and future developments. The student body includes senior architects, developers, engineers, and managers from a variety of leading organisations; they are often willing to provide advice on the role and development of the Programme.

15. Regulation of assessment

The University appoints a board of examiners to oversee all assessment activities on the Programme; one of these examiners is external to the University. Questions of conduct and discipline may be referred to the University Proctors.

Further information on assessment is provided in the examination conventions.

16. Indicators of programme quality

The MSc in Software Engineering is reviewed and accredited by the British Computer Society: graduates from the Programme are able to use the MSc to gain exemption from Part II of the Society's examination. The individual courses can be used as credit in the IEE and BCS continuing professional development schemes. Figures for applications, admissions, and successful completion are available, as are the reports of external examiners.

17. Assessment criteria

Detailed assessment criteria are published for each of the subjects taught in the programme, and for the project and dissertation.