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Portfolio of Modules


All of the teaching on the Programme is delivered through modules: a range of taught modules in more than 35 different subjects, and a project week that supports the project and dissertation component of the MSc degrees. In this section, we discuss the arrangements for the taught modules only: the project week is discussed in the next chapter.

We will usually call modules "courses". This makes perfect sense, as each is a one-week residential course in Oxford, and each could comprise a complete course of study. However, and particularly in this handbook, we'll often use the term "modules" to make it clear that we are not talking about the whole of a programme of study, such as the whole "MSc in Software Engineering".

Module Selection

The modules on the Programme are arranged into three themes,

  • Software Engineering Methods: conceptual modelling of software and systems, at a level above that of concrete architecture and design; methods and techniques for requirements engineering, and the organisation of development teams and activities.
  • Software Engineering Tools: designs, models, architectures, and the languages, tools, and techniques used to realise them: imperative and declarative programming languages, object-orientation, relational database design, testing, distributed, mobile, and pervasive computing.
  • Software and Systems Security: aspects of security at all levels, from technology platforms for trusted computing to social and organisational practices that provide a context for the secure development and operation of software; critical systems design, security risk analysis and management.

The current list of modules in each theme is posted on the Programme website at:

If a student wishes eventually to be examined for an award in Software and Systems Security, then they must choose a sufficient number of modules from the Security theme: enough to form the majority of the assignments considered by the examiners. If in doubt, students should consult the examination conventions and regulations, or discuss their proposed selection with their supervisor.

There is an additional, general provision in the formal examination regulations that the selection of modules should comprise an individual programme of study approved by the Supervisory Committee. The professional experience of the students, together with the range of previous education, makes it inappropriate to impose a rigid template upon selection, and the award regulations for Software and Systems Security already impose adequate constraints. For awards in Software Engineering, approval will be granted automatically where the selection presented by students includes modules from both the Methods and Tools themes; if this is not the case, then the Supervisory Committee may consult with the student, their supervisor, and the Director of the MSc before deciding whether to approve the selection.

Module expectations

Each module is delivered at Masters' level: that is, the nature of the subject matter, and the depth of knowledge and understanding expected, is accepted as appropriate for the award of the degree of Master of Science at the University of Oxford. Any of the modules should be suitable for students working towards any of the postgraduate awards.

However, some subjects assume a certain amount of prior knowledge: students are advised to consult the module description, the current version of which is published automatically on the Programme website, which will explain any requirements or expectations. In some cases, these expectations may be addressed in part through attendance at another module on the Programme: students are then advised that to get the greatest value out of attendance they might wish to take that module first.

These expectations are not presented as formal requisites, and students are not obliged to follow the advice of Programme staff in this respect. The Programme reserves the right to refuse or cancel module registration on the grounds that the individual's participation would detract significantly from the learning experience of other attendees; however, this right is unlikely to be exercised in respect of registered students except in connection with recommended withdrawal from the Programme.

Booking and availability

Modules may be booked via the Programme website, or by contacting the Programme Office. Full instructions for booking are presented at:

A fee is charged for each module attendance, and is payable strictly in advance. A set of terms and conditions for payment are published at

Class sizes are strictly limited, and the profile of demand across the modules and themes can change considerably during the course of a year. Modules are scheduled with the aim of ensuring that, for every subject in each of the three themes, there is at least one module scheduled on the Programme calendar for which places are, or will be, available.

There is no overbooking, but students may join a waitlist if the module is fully booked. Students book up to 18 months in advance, and other commitments will often cause them to change their plans; it is not unusual for a waitlist of up to 8 students to clear completely for a particular module. Nevertheless, where waitlists exist, the Programme will consider scheduling an additional module in the same subject. Student opinion is monitored constantly through the on-line forum to ensure that scheduling and availability is regarded as generally acceptable.