High-level view of Informatics year 4 Programmes
In the final year of undergraduate study, students have the opportunity to specialise, having covered much core material in previous years. Specialisation is available in the form of a wide range of course options and through the project/dissertation/thesis, which is undertaken on an individual's preferred topic, agreed with a supervisor. This project, plus the advanced course options available, allow the students to build on their practical and foundational skills and even to apply those skills towards research.
The common feature of 4th year for all degrees based in the School of Informatics is the 40-point 4th year project (also known as the ug4 project). Students on joint degrees such as BSc CS/Physics or BEng Electronics/SE may take their 4th year project in the partner department (Physics or Electronics in the examples above), but all the same those students will have some 40-point 4th year project (if taking the project in the Physics department, this would be split as two 20-point projects). MInf students in their 4th year also have a 40-point project. The distinguishing feature of the 4th year project is that it is an individual piece of work on a research topic specific to the individual student. To ensure successful progress on the project, the student will have to manage the available time carefully; the project work and the final writing-up of the dissertation will require a certain amount of creativity and self-direction.
Typical Structure of 4th year for Informatics Degrees
Degrees are specified via Degree Programme Tables(DPTs) which appear on the Edinburgh DRPS site. A subpage of the DRPS with links to the DPT entries for all Informatics degrees is here (alternatively you could look at this similar page owned by Informatics, which gives a high-level summary of each individual degree as well as a pointer to its DPT). Click on the link for your individual degree - clearly the details of interest to you this academic year (as a final year student) are those under year 4.
Details of the 4th year DPT differ according to the particular degree. As a guideline, most single-honours degree programmes have a 4th-year structure consisting of the 4th year project (40 points) and a selection of courses from a listed main collection of 4th year suggestions (about 50-80 points usually). There may also be a sub-collection of 4th year suggestions with a smaller number of points allowed, such as in the BSc CS DPT (this particular sub-collection allows one option (10 points) to be chosen from core postgraduate CS courses). If the student's course choices do not comprise 120 points in total (this depends on how many are selected from the main collection), the student may take one 10-point course from among all Informatics level-10 courses, or one 10-point course from among all level-10 courses across the University, or both if necessary. Note this description is just an overall rough description, and details vary across degrees - for example joint honours degrees (including the MA in Cognitive Science) will have more than one "main collection" of courses, corresponding to the different subjects of the degree.
We now discuss "main collections of 4th year suggestions" in the DRPS (from which most options should be chosen) and mention some counterexamples to the typical structure described above.
In the paragraphs below "normal year taken (nyt)" refers to the "Year" listed against that course in the sortable list of courses on the Informatics site. This year is also listed in the DRPS alongside the "level" entry for the course.
- ''main collection of 4th year suggestions": The ''main collection of 4th year suggestions" will vary depending on the degree. For example, the main collection for 4th year of the BSc CS is different to that 4th year of the BSc AI, with some (but by no means all) courses belonging to both collections.
- levels/normal-year-taken: every course in the DRPS has both a level and a normal year taken value. In a "main collection of 4th year suggestions" of Informatics courses in the DPT, the individual courses listed may either have level 10 or level 11 (level 11 is probably slightly more common). The level 11 Informatics courses listed in these "main collections" will usually have normal year taken (nyt) = 4 where they are listed in the sortable list of courses in Informatics (and "Year 4 undergraduate" written in the DPT entry).
- sub-collections: As well as the "main collection" of course options inn a 4th year DPT, most degrees also have a smaller sub-collection of postgraduate courses (these are level 11, nyt=5) from which a student is permitted to select 10 points (ie, one course).
- Joint degrees: For joint degrees such as BSc CS/Maths, there is likely to be two "main collections of 4th year suggestions" to consider, one for CS courses, and one for Maths courses. The DPT will require students to approximately balance their choices from the two Subjects of the joint degree. Usually the constraint is a bit stricter on the number of required points from the School where the student does not take the ug4 project.
- compulsory courses: For most Informatics degrees, single or joint, the only compulsory course in 4th year is the 4th year project. Two exceptions to this are the BSc in CS/MS (having a compulsory course from the Management side), as well as the BSc in AI/Maths (the Informatics course AR is compulsory).
- CT (Credit Total): each course (including the project which officially is a course) is allocated a number of points (10, 20 or 40 in this university). Roughly speaking 1 point corresponds to 10 hours of effort (naturally this is a guide only). Note that the points (and implied effort) cover all aspects of a course including practicals, private study, revision and even exam time. Our nyt=4 taught courses are all rated at 10 points; the project by contrast is rated at 40 points. The credit total is simply the sum of the points of the courses taken. The total number of points you must take adds up to 120 (this applies to all degrees). Thus a typical final year student will take 8 courses each at 10 points and the project (giving 8×10+40=120 points).
- non-Informatics courses: As described above most DPTs allow the opportunity to enrol in a 10-point course (of level 10 or greater) anywhere in the University. If you are to take this opportunity, you must ensure that you satisfy any pre-requisites for the course, and should ask permission from the Course Lecturer to be admitted to the course.
Deviating from the Rules of the Degree Program Table
From time-to-time students will want to deviate from the precise structure of the DPT for year 4 of their degree. This can be permitted (subject to permission from the School Concessions Officer (SCAO)) if there are good reasons to allow flexibility. Typical types of deviations requested tend to be:
- extra courses outside "main collection": A request to take extra courses belonging to Informatics (with nyt=4) but not belonging to the "main collection of suggested ug4 courses" for your particular degree. This may be agreed by the SCAO officer if there are special reasons (eg, preparation for the ug4 project) to deviate from the main collection; however, you must get your PT to submit a concession form if you want to do this.
- extra postgraduate courses: A second likely deviation would be a request to take extra nyt=5, level=11 courses, apart from the number (usually just one 10 point course) allowed by the DPT. In certain cases a student may be permitted to take extra nyt=5 courses, but it depends on having special reasons for the request, and on getting permission via a concession form submitted by your PT. You should really try NOT to take more than 1 or 2 nyt=5 courses, because these courses (as well as being slightly more difficult) might have deadlines late in the semester which may interfere with project work/dissertation-writing. Late deadlines are not permitted for Informatics nyt=4 courses (except coursework-only courses).
- Some other requests might be to take extra courses outside Informatics (and not in your "main collection" group(s)), or to take courses which have "levels" below level 10. Both these kinds of requests are likely to be refused due to the particular constraints which govern the award of Honours degrees.