Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

Cognitive Science

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/student-services/quality-assurance/teaching-accreditation
Final award: BSc Honours
Programme title:

BSc (Honours) Cognitive Science

UCAS code:


Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Computing, Psychology
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: John Longley
Date of production/revision: April 2012

External summary

Cognitive Science analyses and synthesises human and animal behaviour and mental processes, at many levels ranging from the social to the molecular. Social-level descriptions such as language grammars are understood as being implemented in the brain all the way down to the neural and molecular mechanisms of perception, action, thinking, learning and memory. Models of the mind are inspired by artificial intelligent systems, and vice versa.

Educational aims of programme

Both informatics and psychology involve constructing theories and testing them by building models and reasoning about their behaviour. Work in Cognitive Science is concerned with the problem of explaining and modelling cognitive functions in computational terms.

Researchers seek to improve their computational modelling techniques hand in hand with increasing understanding about the psychological and physiological processes at work in human and animal behaviour. The insights gained from computationally modelling natural systems can be used to provide increasingly sophisticated theories of cognitive processing

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

  • describe and explain the main theoretical, empirical and modelling approaches to understanding cognitive agents (both natural and artificial).
  • assess the scope, relevance and limitations of the disciplines that contribute to cognitive science.
  • critically evaluate formal and computational models of cognitive processes.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

The ability to:

  • conduct and analyse empirical studies of natural cognitive systems.
  • apply the methodologies (formal, empirical and computational modelling) employed by the disciplines that contribute to Cognitive Science.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

The ability to:

  • identify appropriate frameworks for analysing intelligent behaviour, and synthesise abstract representations of the behaviour within those frameworks.
  • Deploy logical, analytical, and problem solving skills.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

The ability to:

  • communicate the results of their work using the standards and conventions appropriate to research in the contributing disciplines of Cognitive Science.
  • work effectively as part of a team.
  • provide and accept peer evaluation.
  • communicate effectively through a variety of media, including oral, visual, written, diagrammatic and on-line communications.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

The ability to:

  • Show self-direction and time management skills when working independently.
  • Make effective use of learning materials and acquire and apply knowledge from a variety of sources

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

The ability to:

  • operate computing equipment and software systems effectively
  • specify and implement computer programs that model aspects of intelligent behaviour.

Programme structure and features

For formal definitions, including details of compulsory and optional course choices, consult the Degree Programme Table. Look at the list of Informatics courses to discover what courses belong to which subject area.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching contact through lectures, scheduled tutorials and laboratory sessions is supplemented with additional supervised drop-in laboratory time for several courses.  Formative exercises are often included in the delivery of a course to direct learning to meet learning outcomes. INFBase provides learning support for Informatics students where they can access course tutors out with scheduled tutorial times.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 135650
Year 226740
Year 317830
Year 420800

Assessment methods and strategies

Methods of assessment of intended learning outcomes include written examinations, online programming examinations and summative course work assignments.  Students complete individual and group projects as part of their degree programme, culminating in the honours project in the final year.

The final honours degree classification of the programme is based equally on performance in third and fourth years. Degrees are classified according to the University's standard marking scale with boundaries at 70%, 60%, 50% and40%. Students can be awarded an Ordinary Degree on the basis of their third year marks.

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 1701614
Year 2681022
Year 333067
Year 448052

Career opportunities

Computers are now ubiquitous in modern life. The most interesting opportunities in the future are open to those who really know about computing, software and information systems.  Our graduates can choose from a wide range of opportunities in industry, commerce, government and academia; the majority of Informatics graduates enter employment relating to their degree, while others decide to continue within academia to pursue their research interests.

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