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Projects and Dissertations: the new arrangements

All new students on the Programme–anyone starting after October 2007–will be required to complete a project module and a dissertation module as part of the MSc in Software Engineering. It's now time for us to discuss these new arrangements in detail, and explain the implications for students who registered before this date.

What does the project module involve?
It involves a period of pre-study, a week of intensive tuition, and an assignment, rather like the other modules, but the nature of each component is quite different:
  • pre-study: you submit a project proposal three weeks in advance; this will be assessed, and a written report will be ready for you when you arrive.
  • teaching week: the morning sessions will be classes and workshops, on topics including research skills, report writing, and ethical and organisational issues, focussed upon your project work and the preparation of an academic dissertation; the afternoon sessions will be dedicated to exercises, actual research and scheduled, individual tuition.
  • assignment: six weeks after the course, you submit a detailed progress report–ideally, in the form of an outline dissertation. This is assessed as a formal dissertation proposal: detailed feedback will be provided, within a few weeks, along with a pass or fail grade.

What happens next?
If the progress report gets a pass grade, then the dissertation proposal has been accepted. You then work on the project and dissertation until you are ready to submit a draft version for review–you can do this whenever we are running a dissertation module. If the report is rejected, then you need to submit a revised version, or a completely new report, for assessment after a subsequent project week (you need not re-attend)

What does a dissertation module involve?
It follows the same 3 weeks–1 week–6 weeks pattern as the other modules, but the week in the middle is not the ordinary kind of intensive teaching week:
  • pre-study: you submit a draft dissertation three weeks in advance; this will be assessed, and a written report will be provided at the start of the interview week.
  • interview week: a meeting, or tutorial, will be arranged, at a mutually-convenient time during the week, in which you can discuss the contribution of your project and the proposed contents of your dissertation. This gives you an additional opportunity to explain what you've done, and helps the team in providing guidance on how to take your draft and turn it into a finished dissertation, ready for consideration by the examiners. The meeting can be in person, by telephone, or by video-conference.
  • assignment: six weeks after the course, you submit a finished dissertation. This is assessed as part of the examination for the MSc: detailed feedback will be provided, along with a grade on the usual marking scale.

What about my supervisor?
Your supervisor will provide advice, guidance, and support for all aspects of your study, but is not expected to provide detailed, technical input–this is work that you are going to be assessed on, and the input from the academic staff should be properly managed and reported, through the project and dissertation modules. Of course, your supervisor will be happy to give advice in general terms on the project and dissertation, particularly when it comes to preparing the initial proposal, and deciding whether a draft dissertation is ready to submit. They'll also be helping to keep things moving before and between the project and dissertation modules.

Do I have a designated project tutor as well as a supervisor?
Each student will have individual tuition, but–depending upon your choice of topic–you may have input from more than member of the team. To ensure that you get the guidance that you need, when you need it, several lecturers will be available to act as project tutors during each module.

Is there a module fee payable for the project and dissertation modules?
No, the cost will be included in the MSc award fee (these modules will be available only to students who have progressed to MSc status).

Can a student registered before October 2007 switch to the new arrangements?
Yes, you can choose to stay on the old system, or switch to the new system: the choice is yours. We're not charging for the project or dissertation modules, so the only additional cost would be that of spending a week in Oxford. If you've already done PSE, or if you still want to do it, then we'll count it as one of your ten subjects required under the new arrangements. All that you need to do is to confirm in writing that you'd like to switch, and we'll move you over.

If I'm one of these students, how long do I have to make up my mind?
Nobody on the old arrangements needs to switch, but if you want to switch, you'll need to do so in time to complete a project module and a dissertation module before the end of your allowed period of study. If you need an extension, then we may be able to arrange this, provided that you make the request in good time.

If you have a question about the project and dissertation modules that is not addressed above, then please get in touch–any member of staff should be able to help you.