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MRes in Computer Science FAQ

Thinking of doing the Masters in Research in Computer Science at Birkbeck, University of London? Some questions answered.

Is the MRes in Computer Science suitable for me?

The programme has been designed to meet the needs of students wishing to advance their knowledge of an area of research interest in Computer Science and research methods before embarking on a research degree or applying the specialist knowledge gained on the MRes in their career.

Students who complete the MRes will have gained an in-depth theoretical and practical knowledge of their chosen area of study in Computer Science, which they will be able to use in analysis of research problems arising in that area, the evaluation and application of existing technologies, and research and development of new technologies. They will also have gained the necessary foundations for continuing into an MPhil/PhD programme.

What is covered on the programme?

Students undertake a one-year full-time or two-year part-time research project as well as following a module on research methods in computer science and information systems (RM). Students also take 3 specialist taught modules relevant to their research interests (described in detail in the Programme Handbook).

What's the difference between the MRes, MSc, MPhil and PhD degrees?

Students on both the MRes and MSc degrees undertake individual projects and also follow taught modules. However, the project work is much more extensive on the MRes degree and has a research area as its focus which is not necessarily the case on an MSc. Also, the project work is carried out throughout the period of the MRes programme whereas project work is typically carried out in the latter stages of an MSc. Conversely, more taught modules will be followed on an MSc compared to the MRes. It is expected that the balance between project work and taught modules will be two-thirds project work and one-third taught modules on the MRes compared to one-third project work and two-thirds taught modules on an MSc.

MPhil/PhD are research degrees involving individual study of a specific research problem. Taught modules are not followed as a requirement of the degree. A research student writes up the results of the research work in a thesis which is examined by independent examiners: the examiners first read the thesis in detail and then question the student in an oral "viva" examination. For a student to be awarded a PhD, the research work must have resulted in a significant original contribution to the field of study: this is not required for an MPhil.

How should I choose between the MRes, MSc, MPhil and PhD degrees?

If you have an area of research interest in Computer Science which you want to pursue in a significant project while at the same time following taught modules on research methods and specialist topics related to your research interests, then the MRes degree is likely to be most appropriate.

If you want to study advanced topics in Computer Science but do not already have an area of research interest in mind which could form the basis of a project, then the MSc degree is likely to be appropriate. You will be able to develop ideas for a project while following a larger number of taught modules than on an MRes.

If you have a clear idea of a specific research problem you wish to study, and also have the necessary knowledge of relevant areas of computer science to begin research work immediately, then an MPhil/PhD degree might be appropriate.

We do consider all applications for either MRes or MPhil/PhD with both programmes in mind, so it is not necessary to choose between the programmes when making an application. We would discuss with you which programme was more suitable when considering your application. If it seemed that an MSc programme might be more suitable than either MRes or MPhil/PhD we would ensure your application was also seen by the appropriate MSc admissions tutor.

Can I follow the MRes Computer Science programme as either a full-time or part-time student?

Yes, you can study either as a full-time or part-time student.

Can I start at any point in the year?

No, the MRes Computer Science programme can only be started in October each year.

What are the entrance requirements?

The minimum entry qualification is normally a good first degree or MSc in Computer Science from a UK university or an equivalent international qualification. Joint-honours computing graduates may also be eligible provided they have covered the necessary prerequisite material at the appropriate level. However, your academic qualification is only one factor taken into account when considering an MRes application. We would also want to consider your wider relevant background and experience and also the views of referees who have knowledge of your previous studies and are able to comment on your potential to be successful on the MRes degree.

Most importantly, we will want to consider your research interests and your outline ideas on an area of research you would like to pursue during your project. We would also need to identify potential supervisors who have expertise in your area of research interest and who are able to consider supervising a new MRes student. Potential supervisors would then discuss your areas of research interest with you at an interview.

I have an academic qualification from a non-UK institution. Is that OK?

The College will assess your qualifications to check their equivalence with UK qualifications - please submit photocopies of your degree transcript documents with your application. There is more advice on how to check the general equivalence of your qualifications on the Birkbeck entry requirements page.

English is not my first language. Are there special requirements for me?

The College has the guidelines on English language requirements page. However, we are happy to consider an application from you if you do not currently hold an English qualification - we would assess your command of English at interview in any case.

I'm thinking of applying from overseas. Does that make a difference to anything?

We welcome applications from international students. Your application would be considered in exactly the same way as for a student in the UK. We would still want to interview you before considering the offer of a place, but this can be done over the telephone. The tuition fees charged do depend on your nationality and residency over the past three years: see the information on tuition fees, money and scholarships for international students. Also, you will need to budget for additional expenses to cover your living costs.

Can you tell me if I will be offered a place if I give you details of my first degree and CV?

No. We would only be able to tell you whether we wanted to pursue offering you a place once we had considered a formal application from you with referees' reports, your CV and outline of your area of research interest for the project and discussed this with you at interview.

What areas of research project supervision are supported?

Members of staff supervise MRes students in a wide range of topics in Computer Science and Information Systems with interests ranging from formal foundations to applications in challenging real-world scenarios. Some areas of research which match the expertise and interests of staff include:

How can I find out more about a suitable research area for the project?

Detailed information about the Department's research can be found on the Department's research pages. In particular, you will find information about the research interests of members of each research group and projects which they are already working on. You might like to read about this current work to see whether any topics being pursued are related to your own areas of interest. In identifying a suitable research area for the project, the most important thing is that it is an area which is of real interest to you and you are motivated to study the area in depth. Potential applicants are welcome to contact academic staff about their research interests before making a formal application. The MRes Computer Science Admissions Tutor, Andrea Cali, can also be contacted with general enquiries about research activities.

What time do I need to devote to the MRes degree?

You will agree an individual plan and timetable for your research project with your supervisors. You will also need to attend the lectures for the module in research methods in computer science and information systems (RM) together with your chosen 3 specialist taught modules. Note that, in any one year, some modules are offered either only during the day or only in the evening (see the Programme booklet). In addition to attending the lectures, you will need to spend time doing associated exercises, assimilating lecture notes, reading books and research papers and so on. As a full-time MRes student you can expect to work the same number of hours in a week as you would in a full-time job. As a part-time MRes student, the times of module lectures are fixed, but the times you devote to research project work will depend on the constraints of your job or other commitments: some part-time MRes students are able to work on their projects during the same periods each week, for example on particular evenings or times at the weekend. Others have commitments which do not enable such a fixed pattern. For them, project work is pursued more intensively in some periods than others depending on their job or other responsibilities. If you are thinking of pursuing a part-time MRes degree, it is important to plan how the project work can be combined with job demands and other responsibilites: this is something we would discuss at interview.

What computing facilities will I have access to as an MRes student?

Students have access to computing labs in the Department with platforms including Unix, Windows and Linux. A wide range of software is available including programming languages C++, C#, C, Java, AspectJ; database management systems: Oracle, DB2, SQLserver, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and many other packages for systems design, office productivity and web-page design. The College provides remote access to facilities via an Internet connection from home or work. The computing facilities are available to students on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week. Computing facilities.

Do I have to sit exams to get the MRes Computer Science degree?

Yes. The programme is modular, and students will be assessed in each of their 4 modules and in their research project.

The Research Methods module is assessed by an interim project report of 8000-10000 words and a seminar presentation.

For each specialist taught module there will be a 2-hour written exam in late May or early June. Note that examinations are held during the daytime, so part-time students will have to make arrangements with their employers to take leave of absence. In addition, some modules have a compulsory coursework component that must be passed in order to pass the module. For other modules, the coursework and exam marks are combined according to a given weighting, without each component having to be passed separately.

The project is assessed by a project report of about 20,000 words (maximum 30,000 words) plus related technical submissions, and a seminar presentation..

The arrangements for assessment and examinations are described in detail in the Programme booklet.

What are the fees for the course?

The fees for the current academic year are shown on the Fees page.

Some increase for subsequent years is to be expected.

"International" status is a question of residency rather than nationality; British nationals who have been abroad for some years may find themselves assessed at the international rate. If you are a prospective international student, or think you might be, consult the College information for international students.

Students may pay the fees at the beginning of each term, or by an initial payment followed by direct debit monthly payments over eight months.

What financial support is available to help with fees and living expenses?

There is only limited financial support. Postgraduate students are expected to have made realistic provision at the start of their course to fund their tuition fees, course costs and living costs.

Further information about financial support for postgraduate students.

An MRes degree programme sounds like a big commitment. Will I be able to cope?

It is a very big commitment and you need to be quite honest with yourself whether you are prepared and able to make that commitment. You certainly need to be strong academically to be a succesful MRes student, but you also need to be self-motivated, determined, and able to organise yourself to work on your project in your chosen research area. Choosing an area which really interests you will help you work towards your goal.

I'm looking at a number of universities. Why should I choose Birkbeck?

As an MRes student, perhaps the most important factor is pursuing your research interests with guidance and teaching from supervisors and other teaching staff who are experts in their field. The Department is a leading centre of expertise in information and knowledge management, intelligent systems and computational intelligence. (see Department's research pages). In addition, its location, resources, and support facilities are just some of the reasons to be an MRes student at Birkbeck.

How do I make an application?

See "Apply now" on the programme page

Please include the following with your application:

What happens after I make an application?

Your application will first be considered by the College Registry who will check your eligibility and fee status. They will then pass the application to the Department where it will be considered by the Admissions Tutor and potential supervisors. The Admissions Tutor will contact you with news of the outcome. If we do have potential supervisors who would like to discuss your application in detail with you, we will arrange an interview.

I have a question not covered by the above.

If you require further information please contact the programme administrator.