Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

BSc (Honours) Computer Science & Physics

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: see accreditation pages
Final award: BSc Honours
Programme title: BSc (Honours) Computer Science & Physics
UCAS code: GF43
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Computing; Physics, astronomy & astrophysics
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: John Longley
Date of production/revision: April 2012

External summary

In the study of physical systems, mathematical models are frequently used to explain and predict their behaviour. Even when these models are simple, their solutions are generally not. Usually, there is no analytical solution in terms of explicit mathematical formulas. In such circumstances one has to resort to numerical solution or computer simulation. The resulting calculations are some of the most computationally demanding ever conceived, running for days on powerful computers. The importance of efficient algorithms (i.e. recipes for computation) in these applications is clear. In the other direction, the physical basis for computation is under study by theoretical computer scientists, with "quantum computers" generating much interest of late.

Educational aims of programme

This joint programme addresses these issues by drawing on Edinburgh's strengths in computational physics and the design and analysis of algorithms to enable students to develop a strong interdisciplinary background covering relevant topics in both Computer Science and Physics.

In Computer Science students undertake a wide variety of practical exercises and projects which reinforce and build on lecture material. The Computer Science material all falls within the scope of the QAA Computing Benchmark. Communication skills, initiative, professionalism and the ability to work with others are developed as integral parts of the learning process. In their final year students undertake a major individual practical project which is normally interdisciplinary between the two subjects.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

  • have a knowledge and understanding of the principles of operation of computers from application programs down through system software to hardware
  • have a knowledge and understanding of the principles of operation of computer networks
  • understand the concept of abstraction and its importance in the design of computer based systems
  • understand the software development process
  • understand the underlying mathematical concepts which allow computer scientists to reason about computers and computer based systems
  • have an awareness of the social, professional, ethical and legal issues involved in the use of computing system

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

The ability to:

  • deploy analytical and problem solving skills and to synthesise solutions

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

The ability to:

  • specify and design computer based systems
  • apply formal design procedures to the design of computer based systems
  • derive an abstract representation of a problem from from its detailed description

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

The ability to:

  • work effectively as part of a development team
  • communicate effectively through a variety of media including oral, visual, written, diagrammatic and on-line

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

The ability to:

  • make effective use of learning materials and to acquire and apply knowledge from a variety of sources
  • deploy logical, analytical, and problem solving skills and to synthesise solutions
  • show self-direction and time management skills when working independently

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

The ability to:

  • develop and implement computer based systems
  • select an appropriate algorithm for the solution of a given problem
  • use appropriate support tools during the development process
  • operate computing equipment and software systems effectively

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 148520
Year 234660
Year 326740
Year 427730

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% and 40%. 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 1741214
Year 275025
Year 345055
Year 4301258

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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