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Machine Learning:  2015-2016



Schedule C1 (CS&P)Computer Science and Philosophy

Schedule C1Computer Science

Schedule C1Mathematics and Computer Science

Schedule CMSc in Advanced Computer Science



Machine learning techniques enable us to automatically extract features from data so as to solve predictive tasks, such as speech recognition, object recognition, machine translation, question-answering, anomaly detection, medical diagnosis and prognosis, automatic algorithm configuration, personalisation, robot control, time series forecasting, and much more. Learning systems adapt so that they can solve new tasks, related to previously encountered tasks, more efficiently.

This course will introduce the field of Machine Learning, in particular focusing on the core concepts of supervised and unsupervised learning. In supervised learning we will discuss algorithms which are trained on input data labelled with a desired output, for instance an image of a face and the name of the person whose face it is, and learn a function mapping from the input to the output. Unsupervised learning aims to discover latent structure in an input signal where no output labels are available, an example of which is grouping web-pages based on the topics they discuss. Students will learn the algorithms which underpin many popular Machine Learning techniques, as well as developing an understanding of the theoretical relationships between these algorithms. The practicals will concern the application of machine learning to a range of real-world problems.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course students will be expected to:

  • Have a good understanding of the fundamental issues and challenges of machine learning: data, model selection, model complexity, etc.
  • Have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of many popular machine learning approaches.
  • Appreciate the underlying mathematical relationships within and across Machine Learning algorithms and the paradigms of supervised and un-supervised learning.
  • Be able to design and implement various machine learning algorithms in a range of real-world applications.


Machine Learning is a mathematical discipline, and students will benefit from a good background in probability, linear algebra and calculus. Programming experience is essential.


  • 1. Introduction to machine learning
  • 2. Linear prediction: Regression
  • 3. Maximum likelihood
  • 4. Regularizers, cross-validation, learning curves
  • 5. Optimisation
  • 6. Classification: Linear classification, logistic regression
  • 7. Classification: Support vector machines
  • 8. Kernels
  • 9. Feed-forward neural networks
  • 10. Backpropagation
  • 11. Convolutional neural networks
  • 12. Unsupervised learning: Clustering
  • 13. Probabilistic modelling: EM Algorithm
  • 14. Principal component analysis
  • 15. Recommendation systems, collaborative filtering
  • 16. Reinforcement learning


Mathematics of machine learning. Overview of supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning; and important notions such as maximum likelihood, regularization, cross-validation.

Reading list

Recommended texts

  • T. Hastie, R. Tibshirani, and J. Friedman. The Elements of Statistical Learning. Springer 2011. (Available for download on the authors' web-page:
  • Kevin P. Murphy. Machine Learning: A Probabilistic Perspective, MIT Press 2012. (Electronic copy available through the Bodleian library.)
  • Christopher M. Bishop. Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning, Springer 2007.
  • S. Haykin. Neural networks and learning machines. Pearson 2008.

Copies of all textbooks are available for short loan in the department library. Further copies may also be available in the RSL and college libraries.


Students are formally asked for feedback at the end of the course. Students can also submit feedback at any point here. Feedback received here will go to the Head of Academic Administration, and will be dealt with confidentially when being passed on further. All feedback is welcome.

Taking our courses

This form is not to be used by students studying for a degree in the Department of Computer Science, or for Visiting Students who are registered for Computer Science courses

Other matriculated University of Oxford students who are interested in taking this, or other, courses in the Department of Computer Science, must complete this online form by 17.00 on Friday of 0th week of term in which the course is taught. Late requests, and requests sent by email, will not be considered. All requests must be approved by the relevant Computer Science departmental committee and can only be submitted using this form.