Computer Systems Engineering

Computer Systems Engineering with a Year in Industry - BEng (Hons)

UCAS code H615

2019

Advances in electronics, computing and communications have made a huge impact on every aspect of modern life. This programme gives you the expertise needed to design the computer systems that shape the way we live and includes a year of professional experience to enhance your career prospects.

2019

Overview

The range of uses for computers is increasing all the time – from smartphones and tablets to aircraft flight control systems and global telecommunications. Our degree gives you up-to-date knowledge of computer hardware and software, and a background knowledge of electronics, communications systems and control theory.

The programme is accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), on behalf of the Engineering Council. This allows graduates to follow an approved process to gain Chartered Engineer status.

Our degree programme

Computer technology, telecommunications and consumer electronics are rapidly evolving, so experts in these fields are in great demand. This degree is based on leading-edge research and has been designed with strong industrial input.

In your first and second years, you are introduced to a wide range of computing and engineering modules. You can study the theoretical background of digital technologies, communications principles and object-oriented programming, and take modules in robotics, computer interfacing and engineering mathematics.

Your final year allows you to specialise in a particular topic of interest. This could include computer networks and communication, computer security and cryptography, digital signal processing, digital control, digital systems design and embedded computer systems.

All years include project work that replicates industrial practice to maximise the employability of our graduates.

Year in industry

You take a work placement between the second and third years of your degree. This provides valuable workplace experience and can increase your professional contacts. 

Study resources

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts offers cutting-edge equipment and facilities, including:

  • four air-conditioned computer suites with 150 high-end computers
  • 120-seat engineering laboratory
  • extensive professional CAD development software
  • PCB and surface-mount facilities
  • mechanical workshop
  • Matlab for system modelling
  • 3dMD 3D imaging scanner for general purpose capture and biometric research
  • VICON Infrared Motion Capture System
  • anechoic chamber for EMC (pre-compliance testing) and antenna characterisation.

Extra activities

Kent Union has a range of student-run clubs and societies to enable you to network, develop your skills and socialise with students from across the University.

Professional network

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts has a long history of collaboration with industry. We have a strong reputation for our placement year, matching dedicated students with a variety of organisations in the UK and overseas.

Independent rankings

Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Kent was ranked 11th for course satisfaction in The Guardian University Guide 2018.

For graduate prospects, Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Kent was ranked 13th in The Guardian University Guide 2018.

Teaching Excellence Framework

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

TEF Gold logo

Course structure

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  

On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘wild’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.

Stage 1

Modules may include Credits

This module introduces students to main electric components (i.e. resistors, capacitors, inductors, and voltage and current sources) and to operational amplifiers, which are the basic building blocks of many circuits; how do they work and what properties do they have; what are their main usages in circuits and systems; and how to practically perform simple measurements and tests. Also, fundamentals of analysis of electric circuits and the main circuit laws are taught. The teaching of this module makes an extensive use of a computer-aided electronic circuit design and simulation tools to assist in and to amplify traditional lecture-based learning, in addition to worked example and practical sessions. It also includes a mini-project in which students gain practical laboratory experience, including design, physical construction and testing of an example operational amplifier circuit. The module requires some elementary mathematical skills.

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15

This module is designed to provide experience in the practical and management aspects of project work. It is supported by a lecture course and weekly supervised laboratory sessions. After an initial hands-on introduction to use of bench equipment and the Computer Aided Design (CAD) and fabrication of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB), the project consists of constructing a robot that incorporates an additional PCB of your own construction and the development of software of your own design to enable your robot to address a specific set of tasks.

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15

This module provides an introduction to contemporary digital systems design. Starting with the fundamental building blocks of digital systems the module outlines both theoretical and practical issues for implementation. Practical work includes the use of digital simulation and analysis software for implementing real-world problems.

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15

Mathematics is the fundamental language of engineering, allowing complex ideas to be formulated and developed. This course provides the sound basis of mathematical techniques and methods required by almost all other modules in the department's engineering courses. Topics covered include functions, set theory, complex numbers, calculus, linear algebra, statistics and probability. The lectures are supported by assessed examples classes, taken in small groups.

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15

This module expands the introductory mathematics covered in EL318 and provides students with the appropriate mathematical tools necessary for the further study of electronic, mechanical and computer systems. The main emphasis of the course is in applied calculus, which isused to solve real-world engineering problems.. The lectures are supported by assessed examples classes, taken in small groups.

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15

This module provides an introduction to object-oriented software development. Software pervades many aspects of most professional fields and sciences, and an understanding of the development of software applications is useful as a basis for many disciplines. This module covers the development of simple software systems. Students will gain an understanding of the software development process, and learn to design and implement applications in a popular object-oriented programming language. Fundamentals of classes and objects are introduced, and key features of class descriptions: constructors, methods and fields. Method implementation through assignment, selection control structures, iterative control structures and other statements is introduced. Collection objects are also covered and the availability of library classes as building blocks. Throughout the course, the quality of class design and the need for a professional approach to software development is emphasized

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15

• An introduction to databases and SQL, focusing on their use as a source for content for websites

• Creating static content for websites using HTML(5) and controlling their appearance using CSS

• Using PHP to integrate static and dynamic content for web sites

• Securing dynamic websites

• Using Javascript to improve interactivity and maintainability in web content

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15

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the fundamental behaviour and components (hardware and software) of a typical computer system, and how they collaborate to manage resources and provide services in scales from small embedded devices up to the global internet. The module has two strands: 'Computer Architecture' and 'Operating Systems and Networks,' which form around 35% and 65% of the material respectively. Both strands contain material which is of general interest to computer users; quite apart from their academic value, they will be useful to anyone using any modern computer system:

[a] Computer Architecture

- Data representation: Bits, bytes and words. Numeric and non-numeric data. Number representation.

- Computer architecture: Fundamental building blocks (e.g. registers). The fetch/execute cycle. Instruction sets and types.

- Data storage: Memory hierarchies and associated technologies. Physical and virtual memory.

- Sustainability. Energy consumption of computer systems: ways that this can be reduced and methods to estimate use.

[b] Operating Systems and Networks

- Operating systems principles. Abstraction. Processes and resources. Security. UNIX-style operating system fundamentals.

- Device interfaces: Handshaking, buffering, programmed and interrupt-driven i/o. Direct Memory Access.

- File Systems: Physical structure. File and directory organisation, structure and contents. Naming hierarchies and access. Backup.

- Fundamentals of networking and the Internet.

- Networks and protocols: LANs and WANs, layered protocol design. The TCP/IP protocol stack; theory and practice. Connection-oriented and connectionless communication. Unicast, multicast and broadcast. Naming and addressing. Application protocols; worked examples (e.g. SMTP, HTTP).

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15

Stage 2

Modules may include Credits

This module builds on the foundation of object-oriented design and implementation found in module CO320 Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming to provide a deeper understanding of and facility with object-oriented program design and implementation. More advanced features of object-orientation, such as inheritance, abstract classes, nested classes, graphical-user interfaces (GUIs), exceptions, input-output are covered. These allow an application-level view of design and implementation to be explored. Throughout the module the quality of application design and the need for a professional approach to software development is emphasized.

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15

This is a highly practical module that starts with a typical programming language environment suitable for microcontrollers, looks at software engineering issues, methods for the programming of an 32-bit microcontroller and concludes with the input/output of data using polling and interrupts. There are supporting practicals.

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15

The module introduces fundamental techniques employed in image processing and pattern recognition providing an understanding of how practical pattern recognition systems may be developed able to address the inherent difficulties present in real world situations. The material is augmented with a study of biometric and security applications looking at the specific techniques employed to recognise biometric samples.

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15

The module consists of a practical group project involving both hardware and software. Also included is a series of supporting lectures. Students work in groups of typically four. The project provides an opportunity for students to gain experience not only in technical areas such as PC based data acquisition, computer interfacing, visual programming and hardware design and construction but also in transferable skills including team working, project management, technical presentations and report writing.

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15

This module consists of a series of coherent lectures, laboratory sessions and examples classes. Technical topics covered in the module include basic error analysis, general principles of measurement and instrumentation, sensors and transducers, signal conditioning and data presentation elements, power supplies, and noise and screening. The students are taught to understand the role of the various elements of a measurement system and to specify and evaluate a measurement system for a given application. In practical laboratory sessions the students construct and test basic measurement systems using common sensors and electronic components. There is also a practical laboratory session on power supplies. Real-world case studies are provided to illustrate the applications and significance of measurement systems in industry.

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15

This module provides an overview of modern digital system implementation. It includes an introduction to CMOS circuit design, fabrication technologies, memory technologies, memory interfacing and an introduction to VHDL/Xilinx.

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15

This module introduces basic concepts and techniques for describing and analysing continuous and discrete time signals and systems. It also introduces the fundamentals of feedback control systems, covering techniques for the analysis and design of such systems.

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15

This module introduces fundamental concepts of communication systems and communications networks, including baseband signals and noise, analogue modulation/demodulation, sampling and digitisation, digital modulation/demodulation, network architecture and topologies, link layer, local area network and Internet protocols. Extensive practical work is included. Examples classes also support student learning.

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15

Year in industry

Students on a Year in Industry degree spend a year working in industry between Stages 2 and 3. The School has excellent industrial links, providing students with many placement opportunities. We have a dedicated Employability Officer who helps you apply for placements but please note that it is your responsibility to secure a placement, which cannot always be guaranteed. 

Students taking the Year in Industry programme are eligible to apply for a placement offered through the School's exchange agreement with Hong Kong City University.

There are many benefits to taking the Year in Industry. Information specific to this programme can be found in the Year in industry Engineering and Digital Arts leaflet.

Modules may include Credits

Students spend a year (minimum 30 weeks) working in an industrial or commercial setting, applying and enhancing the skills and techniques they have developed and studied in the earlier stages of their degree programme. The work they do is entirely under the direction of their industrial supervisor, but support is provided via a dedicated Placement Support Officer and Placement Tutor within the School. This support includes ensuring that the work they are being expected to do is such that they can meet the learning outcomes of the module.

Note that participation in this module is dependent on students obtaining an appropriate placement, for which guidance is provided through the School in the years leading up to the placement. Students who do not obtain a placement will be required to transfer to the appropriate programme without a Year in Industry.

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90

Students spend a year (minimum 30 weeks) working in an industrial or commercial setting, applying and enhancing the skills and techniques they have developed and studied in the earlier stages of their degree programme. The work they do is entirely under the direction of their industrial supervisor, but support is provided via a dedicated Placement Support Officer and Placement Tutor within the School. This support includes ensuring that the work they are being expected to do is such that they can meet the learning outcomes of the module.

Note that participation in this module is dependent on students obtaining an appropriate placement, for which guidance is provided through the School in the years leading up to the placement. Students who do not obtain a placement will be required to transfer to the appropriate programme without a Year in Industry.

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30

Stage 3

Modules may include Credits

Introduction to the project, research techniques, poster design, report structure and writing.

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45

This module introduces the theory and practice of employing computers as the control and organisational centre of an electronic or mechanical system, and examines issues related to time critical systems. It also provides exposure to practical embedded systems design through practical work, with one assignment exploring the ideas of real-time operating systems introduced in the lectures and a second using a microcomputer programmed in 'C' to control the ignition timing of a simulated petrol engine.

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15

This module introduces the issues relating to the development of commercial electronic products. Topics include design, production techniques, the commercial background of a company, quality, safety and electromagnetic compatibility standards, electromagnetic compatibility issues and product reliability, ethical and environmental issues.

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15

This module looks at the methodology of designing and implementing large digital systems. Students taking this module will learn how to design reliable digital systems using synchronous design techniques, will learn how to design digital systems which are easily testable and will be able to use a range of software tools which synthesize digital systems using VHDL.

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15

This module continues the study of classical control and signal processing and further takes the classical control and signal processing developed in module EL569 into the digital domain. Tools are developed for analysis in the digital environment and there is a strong emphasis on design and evaluation.

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15

This modules contains two main components. It starts with a comprehensive and detailed study of current computer networks and communications technologies. You learn how the various hardware and software components are organised and how they actually work . A selection of key topics are then looked at in even greater depth to reveal the state-of-the-art and issues (problems) that remain to be solved.

Network Architectures and Protocols: This component provides a comprehensive study of network architecture and individual protocol layers, including details of the technologies, algorithms and protocols currently used.

The Advanced Topics component takes an in-depth look at a number of advanced topics in the area of computer communications, including details of the current practice and outstanding issues in a number of state-of-the-art areas.

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15

Security has always been an important aspect of computing systems but its importance has increased greatly in recent years. In this module you learn about areas where security is of major importance and the techniques used to secure them. The areas you look at include computer operating systems (and increasingly, distributed operating systems), distributed applications (such as electronic commerce over the Internet) and embedded systems (ranging from smart cards and pay-TV to large industrial plant and telecommunications systems).

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15

The scope of the module is outlined below. Note that topics will not necessarily be delivered in this order

Professional issues and professional organisations.

Data privacy legislation, and other UK laws relating to the professional use of computer systems

Criminal law relating to networked computer use, including new Anti-Terrorism legislation; and their application

Intellectual Property Rights, including Copyright, Patent and Contract Laws

Health & Safety issues.

Computer-based Projects, including the vendor-client relationship and professional responsibilities

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15

Teaching and assessment

Teaching includes lectures, coursework and laboratory assignments, examples classes where you develop your problem-solving skills and regular staff ‘surgeries’. Practical work is carried out in air-conditioned laboratories, with state-of-the-art equipment and outstanding IT infrastructure.

Stage 1 modules are assessed by coursework and examination at the end of the year. Stage 2 and 3 modules, with the exception of the final-year project, are assessed by a combination of coursework and examination. All years include project work to replicate industrial practice and develop skills to maximise employability.

Please note that progression thresholds apply. In particular, in order to be considered for a placement, students are required to achieve an overall mark at Stage 1 of at least 60%.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • educate students to become engineers, well-equipped for professional careers in development, research and production in industry and universities, and capable of meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing subject
  • produce computer systems engineers with specialist skills in hardware and software engineering, prepared for the complexities of modern computer system design
  • enable students to satisfy the professional requirements of the IET
  • provide academic guidance and welfare support for all students
  • create an atmosphere of co-operation and partnership between staff and students, and offer students an environment where they can develop their potential.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • mathematical principles relevant to computer systems engineering
  • scientific principles and methodology relevant to computer systems engineering
  • advanced concepts of embedded systems, signals and image processing, control, computer communications and operating systems
  • the value of intellectual property and contractual issues
  • business and management techniques which may be used to achieve engineering objectives
  • the need for a high level of professional and ethical conduct in computer systems engineering
  • current manufacturing practice with particular emphasis on product safety and EMC standards and directives
  • characteristics of materials, equipment, processes and products
  • appropriate codes of practice, industry standards and quality issues
  • contexts in which engineering knowledge can be applied.

Intellectual skills

You develop the following intellectual abilities:

  • analysis and solution of hardware and software engineering problems using appropriate mathematical methods
  • the ability to apply and integrate knowledge and understanding of other engineering disciplines to support study of computer systems engineering
  • the use of engineering principles and how to apply them to analyse key computer systems engineering processes
  • the ability to identify, classify and describe the performance of systems and components through the use of analytical methods and modelling techniques
  • the ability to apply and understand a systems approach to computer systems engineering problems
  • the ability to investigate and define a problem and identify constraints including cost drivers, economic, environmental, health and safety and risk assessment issues
  • the ability to use creativity to establish innovative, aesthetic solutions while understanding customer and user needs, and ensuring fitness for purpose of all aspects of the problem including production, operation, maintenance and disposal
  • the ability to demonstrate the economic and environmental context of the engineering solution.

Subject-specific skills

You develop subject-specific skills including:

  • the use of mathematical techniques to analyse and solve hardware and software problems
  • the ability to work in an engineering laboratory environment and to use electronic and workshop equipment, and CAD tools to create electronic circuits
  • the ability to work with technical uncertainty
  • the ability to apply quantitative methods and computer software relevant to computer systems engineering in order to solve engineering problems
  • the ability to implement software solutions using a range of structural and object- oriented languages
  • the ability to design hardware or software systems to fulfil a product specification and devise tests to appraise performance
  • awareness of the nature of intellectual property and contractual issues and an understanding of appropriate codes of practice and industry standards
  • the ability to use technical literature and other information sources and apply it to a design
  • the ability to apply management techniques to the planning, resource allocation and execution of a design project and evaluate outcomes
  • the ability to prepare technical reports and presentations.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills including:

  • the ability to generate, analyse, present and interpret data
  • the use of information and communications technology
  • personal and interpersonal skills and working as a member of a team
  • effective communication (in writing, verbally and through drawings)
  • effective learning for the purpose of continuing professional development
  • critical thinking, reasoning and reflection
  • how to manage time and resources within an individual project and a group project

Careers

Graduate destinations

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts has an excellent record of student employability. Previous graduates have gone on to careers in:

  • design of electronic and computer systems
  • software engineering
  • real-time industrial control systems
  • computer communications networks.

Other graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:

  • BAE Systems
  • RAF
  • CISCO
  • Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (MOD).

Help finding a job

Employers are always keen to employ graduates with knowledge of the work environment and some students receive job offers from their placement company.

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts holds an annual Employability and Careers Day where you can meet local and national employers and discuss career opportunities. Ongoing support is provided by the School's dedicated Employability Officer.

The University also has a friendly Careers and Employability Service which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Career-enhancing skills

Alongside specialist skills, you also develop the transferable skills graduate employers look for, including the ability to:

  • think critically 
  • communicate your ideas and opinions 
  • work independently and as part of a team.

You can gain extra skills by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.

Professional recognition

Our programme is accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), which enables fast-track career progression as a professional engineer.

Independent rankings

Of Electronic and Electrical Engineering students who graduated from Kent in 2016, over 95% were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).

For graduate prospects, Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Kent was ranked 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2017.

According to Which? University (2017), the average starting salary for graduates of this degree is £25,000.

Entry requirements

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
A level

BBB including B in Mathematics and a science/techology subject (Physics, Computing or Electronics)

Access to HE Diploma

The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

Engineering: Distinction, Distinction, Merit including Further Mathematics for Technicians

International Baccalaureate

34 points overall or 15 at HL including Mathematics (not Mathematics Studies) and a science subject 5 at HL or 6 at SL

International students

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.

If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

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. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £9250 £19000

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.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Fees for Year in Industry

For 2019/20 entrants, the standard year in industry fee for home, EU and international students is £1,385

Fees for Year Abroad

UK, EU and international students on an approved year abroad for the full 2019/20 academic year pay £1,385 for that year. 

Students studying abroad for less than one academic year will pay full fees according to their fee status. 

General additional costs

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

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages

The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either Mathematics or a Modern Foreign Language. Please review the eligibility criteria.

The Key Information Set (KIS) data is compiled by UNISTATS and draws from a variety of sources which includes the National Student Survey and the Higher Education Statistical Agency. The data for assessment and contact hours is compiled from the most populous modules (to the total of 120 credits for an academic session) for this particular degree programme. 

Depending on module selection, there may be some variation between the KIS data and an individual's experience. For further information on how the KIS data is compiled please see the UNISTATS website.

If you have any queries about a particular programme, please contact information@kent.ac.uk.