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Advanced Digital Systems Engineering (Communications) - MSc

2018

An understanding of Advanced Digital Systems Engineering is vital to the design of most modern electronic devices and systems. The Advanced Digital Systems Engineering MSc enables you to develop advanced skills in the major aspects of modern embedded systems design at hardware, software and firmware levels.

2018

Overview

Recent advances in chip fabrication technologies now mean that it is possible to use embedded system technology in an increasing number of technically demanding applications and engineers with skills in embedded system design are in high demand. In the EU it has been estimated that over 600,000 new jobs in embedded systems will be created over the next 10 years.

Advanced Digital Systems Engineering has a central role in computer systems, mobile and wireless communications, consumer electronics and automotive engineering and is important in the design of modern instrumentation and measurement systems used for industrial automation and manufacturing processes.

The MSc programme uses practical examples in instrumentation, monitoring, control, computing and communication to illustrate the evolving technology. Graduates are able to develop embedded systems using a variety of technology platforms in a wide range of applications including communications, consumer electronics, automotive electronics, industrial control, instrumentation and measurement.

About the School of Engineering and Digital Arts

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts successfully combines modern engineering and technology with the exciting field of digital media.

Established over 40 years ago, the School has developed a top-quality teaching and research base, receiving excellent ratings in both research and teaching assessments.

The School undertakes high-quality research that has had significant national and international impact, and our spread of expertise allows us to respond rapidly to new developments. Our 30 academic staff and over 130 postgraduate students and research staff provide an ideal focus to effectively support a high level of research activity. There is a thriving student population studying for postgraduate degrees in a friendly and supportive teaching and research environment.

We have research funding from the Research Councils UK, European research programmes, a number of industrial and commercial companies and government agencies including the Ministry of Defence. Our Electronic Systems Design Centre and Digital Media Hub provide training and consultancy for a wide range of companies. Many of our research projects are collaborative, and we have well-developed links with institutions worldwide.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Engineering and Digital Arts was ranked 21st in the UK for research intensity.

An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.

Course structure

An understanding of Advanced Digital Systems Engineering is vital to the design of most modern electronic devices and systems. Advanced Digital Systems Engineering has a central role in computer systems, mobile and wireless communications, consumer electronics and automotive engineering and is important in the design of modern instrumentation and measurement systems used for industrial automation and manufacturing processes.

The MSc in Advanced Digital Systems Engineering at the University of Kent is designed to produce well qualified, competent engineers able to develop embedded systems using a variety of technology platforms in a wide range of applications including communications, consumer electronics, automotive electronics, industrial control, instrumentation and measurement.

The School has a world class reputation for research in embedded systems and instrumentation and has strong links with other research institutions and industrial organisations in the UK, Europe and the Far East which have helped the department apply its research to a range of  industrial projects including using microcontroller, FPGA, DSP and Custom Chip technologies.

It has developed novel solutions to a range of challenging engineering problems in image acquisition and processing, signal analysis, measurement and condition monitoring at high speeds and in harsh environments.

Activities have recently been broadened with the establishment of a control strand which is involved with the development of practically realisable control strategies that yield high levels of performance even in harsh and uncertain industrial settings. Such control strategies are often implemented in embedded systems.

Peter Lee
MSc Programme Chair
Advanced Digital Systems Engineering

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may include Credits

EMBEDDED REAL TIME OPERATING SYSTEMS (RTOS)

Operating Systems (OS) and Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS). Embedded RTOS. Software development methods and tools: Run-time libraries. Writing a library. Porting kernels. Concurrent Programming and Concurrent Programming Constructs. Task Scheduling and Task Interaction. Basic Scheduling methods, scheduling algorithms. Tasks, threads and processes. Context switching. Multitasking. Communication, Synchronisation. Semaphores and critical sections. Example RTOS systems. (e.g. Embedded Linux, Windows CE, Micrium, VxWorks etc). Programming and debugging Embedded Systems. Practical examples and case studies.

HARDWARE/SOFTWARE CO-DESIGN

Embedded Processors; Hard and Soft Processor Macros (e.g. Altera Nios and Xilinx Microblaze, ARM). A brief overview of peripherals. Architectural Models. HW/SW Partitioning and partitioning algorithms. Distributed systems. Memory architectures, architectures for control-dominated systems. Architectures for data-dominated systems. Compilation techniques for embedded processor architectures. Modern embedded architectures. Architecture examples in multimedia, wireless and telecommunications. Examples of emerging architectures. Multiprocessor and multicore systems.

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15

An Introduction to reconfigurable systems. PLDs, PLAs, FPGAs. Fine grain architectures, Coarse grain architectures, Heterogeneous device Architectures. Case studies. Configuration of FPGA's. Run-time configuration, partial configuration, dynamic reconfiguration. Partitioning systems onto a reconfigurable fabric. Synthesis tools. Timing issues. Verification and Test strategies.

An introduction to Hardware Description Languages. VHDL will be used to illustrate a typical HDL (but this may change to or include Verilog in future). The lectures will define the architectural aspects of a VHDL : entity, architecture, process, package, types, operators, libraries, hierarchy, test benches and synthesisable VHDL. Workshops and laboratories will be used to illustrate how VHDL code is synthesised on to physical hardware devices and a number of challenging practical design examples will be used to illustrate the process.

Basic computer arithmetic and its implementation on reconfigurable logic architectures. Fixed-point and Floating point number representations. The IEEE-754 FP standard. Redundant Number Systems. Residue Number Systems. Methods for Addition and Subtraction. Fast adder architectures. Multi-operand addition. Multiplication: Multiplier architectures; Constant coefficient multipliers; Distributed arithmetic; LUT methods. Special methods: division, square root, the CORDIC algorithm. High-throughput arithmetic. Low-power arithmetic.

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15

This module focuses on the basic principles of modern computer architecture and how they are mapped onto modern (32-bit) microcontrollers. The course uses the ARM processor core as an exemplar of a modern processor architecture that is now ubiquitous in embedded systems. The course will cover classic topics in architecture (CPU and ALU structure, Instruction sets, memory and memory) and performance metrics for evaluating the relative performance of different architectures such as RISC vs CISC and also VLIW, SIMD, MIMD, ASSP and DSP devices.

The NXP 1786 (mbed) microcontroller is used as an example microcontroller development platform and industry standard IDE's from Keil/IAR are used to program, test and debug them. The course includes a comprehensive presentation of typical microcontroller peripherals: ADCs and DACs, Timers and Input Capture, communication using IIC, SPI, UART. Displays. Interrupts and Interrupt Service Routines (ISRs).

The course also provides an introduction to the C and C++ programming languages and their use with microcontroller based systems. This material will include: Variables, data-types and arithmetic expressions. Strings, Loops, Arrays. Functions, Structures, Pointers, bit operators. The pre-processor. I/O operations in C. Debugging Programs. Object-Oriented Programming. The Standard C Library.

Issues such as software testing and testing strategies are discussed. Compiling and downloading code onto the mbed using commercial Integrated Development Environments such as Keil® and IAR®. GNU based toolchains for Microcontroller development.

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15

Local Area Networks

Ethernet technologies and standards; switched Ethernet and STP; virtual LANs; wireless LANs and WiFi. Personal area network technologies and standards for the Internet of Things: Bluetooth, ZigBee, LoWPAN.

IP Networks

IP Networks: IPv4 and IPv6 addressing, operation; routing protocols; Mobile IP; transport layer (TCP/UDP) and application layer protocols, including real-time protocols.

Network security and encryption mechanisms

IPSec and other security protocols. Network performance analysis, queuing theory, and network simulation.

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15

Lecture Syllabus

Digital Communication

Optimal receivers design and their performances of QPSK, MSK and QAM; Signal design for bandlimited channels; Carrier and symbol synchronization; Multichannel and multicarrier communications (e.g. OFDM); Filterbank based Muticarrier Transmission (FBMC); Spread spectrum and CDMA signals for digital communications; Multiuser communications; multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology.

Information Theory and Coding

Channel capacity and coding. Block codes, convolutional codes and Turbo codes.

Coursework

Digital Signals and Communication

Six examples classes.

Information Theory and Coding

Five examples classes.

Simulink

Two 4-hour laboratory sessions introducing Simulink and its application to digital communications. An assessed assignment on a digital communications link.

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15

Lecture Syllabus

SIGNALS

Introduction to signals and signal analysis. Frequency and time domain representations of signals. A review of the Fourier Series, Fourier Transform and Laplace Transforms. Noise: definitions and sources of noise in signal analysis.

DIGITAL SIGNAL PROCESSING

The sampling theorem, Aliasing, Anti-Aliasing and Anti-Imaging Filters, ADCs and DACs. The Fourier Transform (FT). The Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) and The Fast Fourier Transform (FFT).The Z-transform. Pole-Zero placement methods for signal analysis. Transfer functions in S and Z domains. Theory, design and performance of Finite Impulse-Response (FIR) and Infinite-Impulse-Response (IIR) Filters. Multirate DSP. Architectures and devices for digital signal processing. Effects of Finite Precision.

APPLICATIONS OF DSP

Processing and filtering of signals for Instrumentation and measurement, Processing and filtering of images: DSP in modern communication systems.

Coursework

ASSIGNMENTS

The six workshop assignments use MATLAB and SIMULINK to develop and explore concepts that have been introduced in the lectures.

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15

Lecture Syllabus

Overview of wireless communications; path loss, shadowing, and fading models; capacity of wireless channels; cellular concept; handoff; adjacent cell interference; adaptive modulation; diversity; MIMO systems, wireless multiple access techniques; resource allocation; cross layer optimization; Ad-hoc networks; wireless sensor networks; ultra-wideband (UWB) communications; third generation (3G) and super 3G mobile communications.

Coursework

Eight examples classes - not assessed.

The final class will be for assessed student group presentations on case studies.

COLLOQUIA - ADVANCED MOBILE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS

One/two colloquia. An assessed short report (<1000 words) on the subject of one of the colloquia will be required.

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15

High-speed access networks: ADSL,VDSL, G.fast; PONs and point-to-point Ethernet; cable networks (DOCSIS and MoCA). Fixed wireless access. High-speed transport networks: SDH, OTN and WDM technology. Quality of Service in the Internet, and multimedia networking. Multicast routing. Differentiated services, queuing disciplines and queue management. Multi-protocol label switching. Wavelength routing and MP?S. Software-defined networking and virtualised network functions. X-as-a-Service concepts. Industry "hot-topic" seminars.

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15

A major practical system will be developed either in an industrial context or within the department. There are no formal lectures - students will undertake the work in their own time under the regular supervision of a member of the academic staff and, where appropriate, industrial collaborators.

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60

Teaching and Assessment

The project module is examined by a presentation and dissertation. The Research Methods and Project Design module is examined by several components of continuous assessment. The other modules are assessed by examinations and smaller components of continuous assessment. MSc students must gain credit from all the modules. For the PDip, you must gain at least 120 credits in total, and pass certain modules to meet the learning outcomes of the PDip programme.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • educate graduate engineers and equip them with advanced knowledge of embedded systems and electronic instrumentation for careers in research and development in industry or academia
  • produce high-calibre engineers with experience in specialist and complex problem-solving skills and techniques needed for embedded and advanced instrumentation systems in a number of application areas including (but not exclusive to) communications, real-time embedded computer systems, image processing, instrumentation and control
  • provide you with proper academic guidance and welfare support
  • create an atmosphere of co-operation and partnership between staff and students, and offer you an environment where you can develop your potential
  • strengthen and expand opportunities for industrial collaboration with the School of Engineering and Digital Arts.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • methodologies of research which are essential to engineers involved in research and development projects. Such methods also form an essential part of the individual project undertaken on the MSc programmes, which is itself research-based
  • embedded electronic and instrumentation systems and an awareness of developing technologies in this field
  • mathematical and computer models for analysis of embedded systems and instrumentation
  • design processes relevant to embedded electronic and instrumentation systems
  • extensive knowledge of characteristics of materials, equipment, processes and products such as microcontrollers, FPGAs, real-time operating systems, image processing architectures and device, and digital communication systems and networks processes.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the ability to use fundamental knowledge to explore new and emerging technologies
  • the ability to understand the limitations of mathematical and computer-based problem-solving and assess the impact in particular cases
  • the ability to extract data pertinent to an unfamiliar problem and apply it in the solution
  • the ability to analyse a problem and to independently develop a system-level specification of a solution, based on a sound conceptual understanding of the component parts of the system and how they may best be implemented
  • the ability to apply engineering techniques, taking account of commercial and industrial constraints.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the ability to apply knowledge of design processes in unfamiliar situations and to generate innovative designs to fulfil new needs, particularly in the fields of embedded systems and instrumentation
  • the ability to design, debug and test hardware/software systems through experiment and simulation. To be able to critically evaluate the results
  • to be able to use a range of CAD tools to analyse problems and develop original/innovative solutions
  • an ability to search and obtain technical information, critically evaluate it and apply it to a design
  • an ability to act independently in the planning, resource allocation and execution of a project
  • an ability to prepare and present technical and non-technical reports and presentations.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to generate, analyse, present and interpret data
  • use of information and communications technology, project management and presentation tools
  • personal and interpersonal skills, the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility as an individual and work as a member of a team
  • an ability to communicate effectively, in writing, verbally and through drawings
  • the ability to make decisions in complex situations using critical thinking, reasoning and reflection
  • an ability to communicate effectively to different audiences using a range of digital media techniques and to present complex data clearly, using good written English
  • the ability to learn independently for the purpose of continuing professional development
  • the ability to manage time and resources within an individual and group project.

Careers

Kent has an excellent record of postgraduate employment: over 96% of our postgraduate students who graduated in 2015 found a job or further study opportunity within six months.

We have developed the programme with a number of industrial organisations, which means that successful students will be in a strong position to build long-term careers in this important discipline.

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts has an excellent record of student employability. We are committed to enhancing the employability of all our students, to equip you with the skills and knowledge to succeed in a competitive, fast-moving, knowledge-based economy.

Graduates who can show that they have developed transferable skills and valuable experience are better prepared to start their careers and are more attractive to potential employers. Within the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, you can develop the skills and capabilities that employers seek. These include problem solving, independent thought, report-writing, time management, leadership skills, team-working and good communication.

Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we offer many opportunities for you to gain worthwhile experience and develop the specific skills and aptitudes that employers value.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School is well equipped with a wide range of laboratory and computing facilities and software packages for teaching and research support. There is a variety of hardware and software for image acquisition and processing, as well as extensive multimedia computing resources. The School has facilities for designing embedded systems using programmable logic and ASIC technology, supported by CAD tools and development software from international companies, including Cadence™, Xilinx™, Synopsys™, Altera™, National Instruments® and Mentor Graphics™. The SMT laboratory can be used for prototyping and small-volume PCB manufacture. A well-equipped instrumentation research laboratory is also available.

Students also have access to commercial and in-house software tools for designing microwave, RF, optoelectronics and antenna systems (such as ADS™, CST™, HFSS™) and subsequent testing with network and spectrum analysers up to 110 GHz, an on-wafer prober, and high-quality anechoic chambers.

Support

As a postgraduate student, you are part of a thriving research community and receive support through a wide-ranging programme of individual supervision, specialised research seminars, general skills training programmes, and general departmental colloquia, usually with external speakers. We encourage you to attend and present your work at major conferences, as well as taking part in our internal conference and seminar programmes.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Recent contributions include: IEEE Transactions; IET Journals; Electronics Letters; Applied Physics; Computers in Human Behaviour.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A 2.2 or higher honours degree in Electronics, Computer Engineering (not Computer Science) or a related electronics discipline, Physics or Mathematics (especially Applied).

Computer Science degrees with sufficient mathematical content may be considered on an individual basis (pre-sessional Maths may be required).

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Instrumentation, Control and Embedded Systems

The Instrumentation, Control and Embedded Systems Research Group comprises a mixture of highly experienced, young and vibrant academics working in three complementary research themes – embedded systems, instrumentation and control. The Group has established a major reputation in recent years for solving challenging scientific and technical problems across a range of industrial sectors, and has strong links with many European countries through EU-funded research programmes. The Group also has a history of industrial collaboration in the UK through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

The Group’s main expertise lies primarily in image processing, signal processing, embedded systems, optical sensors, neural networks, and systems on chip and advanced control. It is currently working in the following areas:

  • monitoring and characterisation of combustion flames
  • flow measurement of particulate solids
  • medical instrumentation
  • control of autonomous vehicles
  • control of time-delay systems
  • high-speed architectures for real-time image processing
  • novel signal processing architectures based on logarithmic arithmetic.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Professor John Batchelor: Professor of Antenna Technology

Design and modelling of multi-band antennas for personal, on-body and mobile communication systems; passive RFID tagging/sensing and skin mounted transfer tattoo tags; reduced-size frequency selective structures (FSS and EBG) for incorporation into smart buildings for control of radio spectrum.

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Professor Farzin Deravi: Professor in Information Engineering, Head of School

Pattern recognition; information fusion; computer vision; image processing: image coding; fractals and self-similarity; biometrics; bio-signals; assistive technologies.

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Professor Michael Fairhurst: Professor of Computer Vision

Image analysis; computer vision; handwriting analysis; biometrics and security; novel classifier architectures; medical image analysis and diagnostics; document processing.

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Professor Steven Gao: Professor of RF/Microwave Engineering

Space antennas; smart antennas; microwave circuit and systems.

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Professor Nathan Gomes: Professor of Optical Fibre Communications

Optical-microwave interactions, especially fibreradio networks; optoelectronic devices and optical networks.

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Dr Richard Guest: Reader in Biometric Systems Engineering, Deputy Head of School

Image processing; biometrics technologies including usability, cybermetric linkages and standardisation; automated analysis of handwritten data; document processing.

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Dr Sanaul Hoque: Lecturer in Secure Systems Engineering

Computer vision; OCR; biometrics; security and encryption; multi-expert fusion and document modelling.

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Professor Gareth Howells: Professor in Secure Electronic Systems

Biometric security and pattern classification techniques especially deriving encryption keys from operating characteristics of electronic circuits and systems.

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Dr Benito Sanz-Izquierdo: Lecturer in Electronic Systems

Antennas and microwaves.

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Dr Peter Lee: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Embedded systems; programmable architectures; high-speed signal processing; VLSI/ASIC design; neural networks; optical sensor systems and applications; image processing using VLSI.

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Dr Gang Lu: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Instrumentation

Advanced combustion instrumentation; visionbased instrumentation systems; digital image processing; condition monitoring.

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Dr Gianluca Marcelli: Lecturer in Engineering

The understanding of complex systems, in particular, biological and financial systems; using mathematical modelling such as molecular simulation, Brownian dynamics and network theory.

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Mr Robert Oven: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Modelling of ion implantation processes and ion diffusion into glass for integrated optic applications.

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Dr Konstantinos Sirlantzis: Senior Lecturer in Intelligent Systems

Pattern recognition; multiple classifier systems; artificial intelligence techniques; neural networks, genetic algorithms, and other biologically inspired computing paradigms; image processing; multimodal biometric models; handwriting recognition; numerical stochastic optimisation algorithms; nonlinear dynamics and chaos theory; Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods for sensor data fusion.

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Dr Les Walczowski: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

The development of dynamic web applications, mobile applications and e-learning technology.

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Winston Waller: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Design for test; analogue and digital VLSI design; medical applications of VLSI and low power voltage circuit design.

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Dr Chao Wang: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Systems

Optical communications; microwave photonics; biophotonics.

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Professor Jiangzhou Wang: Professor of Telecommunications

Modulation; coding; MIMO; mobile communications; wireless sensor networks. 

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Dr Xinggang Yan: Senior Lecturer in Control Engineering

Nonlinear control; sliding mode control; decentralised control; fault detection and isolation.

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Professor Yong Yan: Professor of Electronic Instrumentation; Director of Research

Sensors; instrumentation; measurement; condition monitoring; digital signal processing; digital image processing; applications of artificial intelligence.

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Dr Paul Young: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Design and modelling of microwave and millimetrewave devices and antennas, especially substrate integrated waveguides and smart antennas.

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Advanced Digital Systems Engineering (Communications) - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7750 £18400
Part-time £3890 £9200

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: