Studying with us
Frequently asked questions on what it's like to study at the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.
Informatics is the study of the structure, the behaviour, and the interactions of natural and engineered computational systems. At its simplest, Informatics is Computer Science, but it is also a much wider discipline covering:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Computer Science
- Software Engineering
- Cognitive Science
By studying Informatics, you will look at how information is exchanged in its widest sense, both artificially; in computers, but also in nature through the human mind.
There is no difference in content between a BSc and a BEng and the British Computer Society accredits them both. Employers treat both degrees the same and a BSc or a BEng in Computer Science from University of Edinburgh should carry weight anywhere in the world. The choice of BEng is designed for students who come from countries where computer science is regarded as an engineering discipline rather than a science
We offer a unique five-year Master of Informatics (MInf) course that covers diverse topics such as computer science, artificial intelligence, linguistics, cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology and biology. The course offers students the chance to study these subjects at more depth than a BSc or BEng and allows students to enter into a PhD upon completion.
Scottish degree programmes are designed to include four years of study to give you a broader and more flexible education. They allow you to try a range of subjects before specialising. Even if you know exactly what you want to do, you can study additional subjects and add depth to your education. By the time you graduate your breadth of knowledge will be highly prized by employers, giving you the best chance of success in your chosen field.
For more information about the 4 year degree structure:
The Cognitive Science Programme is jointly organised by the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences (PPLS) and the School of Informatics. It is an interdisciplinary degree which attempts to understand the human mind. It focuses on abilities such as reasoning, perception, memory, awareness, emotion, attention, judgment, motor control and language use.
There are two degrees:
- BSc Cognitive Science - School of Informatics. Emphasising mathematical and computational approaches to the study of the human mind.
- MA Cognitive Science (Humanities) - School of PPLS. Emphasising theoretical and experimental approaches to the philosophical, linguistical and psychological nature of language and the mind.
Cognitive Science students may apply for the degree in either School and choose courses from both allowing them to combine the study of core computing and human science subjects of their choice of specialisation.
First year - 120 credits, 80 credits made up of Informatics and Maths courses plus another 40 credits to be used in other subject/subjects.
Second year - 120 credits, 100 credits made up of Informatics and Maths courses plus another 20 credits to be used in other subject/subjects.
Honours - lots of courses/projects. Half and half for combined degrees. In the first two years the other course can be virtually any subject anywhere within the University provided it fits your timetable, you have the required prerequisites and the class isn’t full.
In the two Honours years there are a large number of courses to choose from covering a range through philosophy, psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science and computer science.
You will have a Personal Tutor to advise and assist you in your course selection.
It is recommended that you explore course options using PATH before meeting with your personal tutor. You can also find links to the course content in the University virtual learning environment (Learn) as it becomes available.
All kinds, *including self-proposed*.
Here is a random selection of recent projects:
- Beautiful Timetables from Beautiful Soup
- The Importance of Being Android
- Developing Educational Games for Teaching Children with Autism
- Tracking and annotating a chess game
- Dynamic Route Planning for Rural TaxiBus Services
- Sentiment for Twitter
- Butterfly identification phone app
- Guided self-organisation of behaviour in autonomous robots
- An app for the game of sprouts
- Octopus Arm
- Toolbox for spike distances
- Detecting Errors in Human TranslationsF
For even more past projects:
In your first 2 years you will be taught two very different programming languages, Java and Haskell, from complete beginner level. In subsequent years various courses may introduce new languages/libraries/frameworks, but typically these will only be sketched and you will be expected to do further reading and pick up the details yourself.
There is a fair bit of Maths, both explicitly (in years 1 and 2) and implicitly. Informatics uses more "discrete" maths (e.g. logic, sets, graphs, algebra probability etc.) than many other disciplines. Continuous maths (analysis, calculus) has important applications too.
Discrete maths is important both because its specific content is sometimes needed in CS topics (e.g. analysing algorithms, proving things about programs, modelling real problems e.g. with graphs) *and* because good ability in and familiarity with careful manipulation of symbolic information is crucial.
You can explore our list of suggested resources to get ready for your courses with a basic knowledge in Mathematics:
No, we start from scratch, but we move at a fair pace, assuming that you are both intelligent and up for it.
You can explore our list of suggested resources to get ready for your courses with a basic knowledge in Computer Science:
Donald, an MInf Informatics student, also shares his guidance on learning to code
If you are considering buying a computer, your first decision is whether to buy a desktop, laptop or a tablet. A tablet is the most limited; you won’t be able to do much coursework on one. Most students find laptops the most versatile, but the decision is personal. You will type quite a lot and should choose a set-up that lets you do so comfortably. In laptops the trade-off between a large screen and the weight of a machine you will carry around needs careful consideration. For most purposes, any modern processor will be fine; amount of RAM tends to be more important and if you’re going to upgrade anything you might consider this first. Coursework is unlikely to require you to have more disk space than now comes as standard.
Informatics’ standard operating system is Linux (currently based on Scientific Linux 6). Most of the software used for courses is open source and cross platform, but you might find running Linux sometimes makes it easier for you to run the same version of the same software that is used in the labs. Note that computing staff don’t offer support for students’ machines, and problems with your own computer would never excuse losing work or missing a deadline; you need to be prepared to administer, secure and backup your own computer (good skills to acquire anyway).
This really depends upon the year that you are in, and the exact options that you take.
During one week of a typical first or second year you might attend 10-11 lectures, 3 tutorials, and a 1 or 3 hour laboratory session. You are also expected to work on lecture material and tutorials outside of these hours, plus any assignments that are set for the courses that you attend.
You can see a sample timetable for a first year on our student blog
In both cases, a qualified yes. There are various points in the programme at which you can change your direction. The decision to opt out of, or into, other combined or single honours courses must take place by the start of the third year.
It is good practice to discuss with the Student support team, what your interests are when you meet, so that they can keep your options open
Still have a query?
Please contact our staff who will be happy to help.