Research excellence at the University of Kent

School of Computing

The Research Excellence Framework also assesses the impact that the research has outside academia. The case studies below are a selection of the research submitted by the School of Computing.

The future for computer systems

Professor Peter Welch

Society’s expectation of ever more complex computer applications requires fluent mastery of ‘concurrency’ (where many computations are happening at the same time). For instance, Big Bee Consultants used Kent’s research on concurrency within the control centre for the London Congestion Charge. Researchers at Kent were among the first to argue that concurrency is a necessary element in the way computer systems are designed, verified, implemented and maintained.

Research by many academics, including Peter Welch, has been used within chip design, large-scale real-time systems, formal interfaces and testing, and the space industry. Companies using the research include: Big Bee Consultants, NXP Semiconductors, Philips Healthcare, 4Links and Microsoft Research Cambridge.

Congestion charging sign

Open source security software

Professor David Chadwick

David Chadwick and other researchers at Kent have developed a suite of open source security software. Freely available, it gives all software developers the chance to include authorisation functionality within their systems. It has therefore helped to create better security for a large number of end users.

Known as PERMIS (PrivilEge and Role Management Infrastructure Standards), the state-of-the-art software is compatible with environments such as grids, clouds and more specialised domains. It has been used in a variety of sectors including military, commercial and governmental. For example, the Swiss Ministry of Defence adapted PERMIS for its own use in an air force application. Thousands of users continue to download the software every year

Improved programming practice

Professor Simon Thompson

Refactoring is the process of improving the design of a system without changing what it does. It can go hand in hand with program development, or can be performed as a part of program maintenance.

The functional programming team at Kent, led by Simon Thompson, built the first comprehensive tools for refactoring functional programs. Programmers in both open source and commercial projects use the tools to improve their programming practices and to restructure existing systems. This improves the quality of the software, reducing problems for end users and costs for companies. As a result, the tools are increasingly used by mainstream developers.

Since the projects are open source, others can support them by contributing their own code; contributions have come from the UK, Europe and internationally.


Transforming teenagers’ learning experience

Professor Michael Kölling, Neil Brown, Davin McCall, Ian Utting

Led by Michael Kölling, the Greenfoot project has transformed the way that teenagers learn how to program – beginners can learn new programming skills by developing games and simulations. Greenfoot allows learners to experiment while developing their skills and, thanks to immediate feedback, it motivates them and helps them to engage in the process. Greenfoot's user community and discussion group also has a major influence on the learning experience.

Greenfoot has more than 600,000 new users each year – in schools, in after-school clubs and at home. It is one of the very few systems, internationally, to achieve this level of impact on programming education.

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Last Updated: 11/02/2015

Banner photo (c) Simon Tollington, DICE