20 November 2019 Minutes

Minutes for the Informatics Board of Studies Meeting at 14:00hrs-16:00hrs, Wednesday 20th November 2019, Appleton Tower, Room G:05


 Welcome to all members 

Present - Stuart Anderson (Convener), Anne MacKenzie (Administrative Secretary), Alan Smaill, Sharon Goldwater, Kobi Gal,  Pavlos Andreadis, Rik Sarkar, Valerio Restocchi, Iain Murray, Paul Jackson, James Garforth, Tiejun Ma (via Skype), Jane Hillston, Qais Patankar, Tim Loderhose, Vicky Mactaggart, Gillian Bell 

Apologies  -Heather Yorston, Angela Nicholson, Boris Grot, Aurora Constantin, Simon Tomlinson


Draft Minutes of Previous Meeting  - 16th October 2019 minutes approved 


Matters Arising

20112019_BoS Item 1) Approval of UNISTATS LT&A Data , and Programme Accreditation Data

Outcome: Accepted as checked.


The order of items 2 and 3 were switched to provide background context to item 2

20112019_BoS Item 3) MSc - Advanced Technology for Financial Computing  - Tiejun Ma

Tiejun Ma (TM) updated the BoS with the actions taken since the last meeting. He confirmed the whole curriculum for the programme is now clear. Written agreement  in place from Head of the Business School to Head of Informatics (letter attached to agenda). Stage 2 Documents have been revised and aligned with the amendments to stage 1 proposal. A workload assessment has been created (attached to agenda). Jane Hillston (JH) confirmed her support for the proposal to go to CCAB. CCAB are happy to accept this proposal if Item 2 is approved by this BoS.

Gillian Bell (GB) questioned whether there would be a cap on student numbers for this programme given the BS class size restrictions. It was agreed that admissions would be monitored carefully, but an over-subscription was unlikely in year 1 given the late start of the programme. 

Requested actions from previous BoS have been completed and no additional objections were raised.

OUTCOME: Stage 1 and Stage 2 proposals approved. UPDATE :Proposal submitted to November CCAB


20112019_BoS Item 2) New Course Proposal - Data-driven Business and Behaviour Analytics - Valerio Restocchi 

Valerio Restocchi (VR) presented the rationale for this new course and confirmed he had already incorporated feedback from Sharon Goldwater (SG), Stuart Anderson (SA) and Iain Murray (IM). He invited comments and suggestions from the BoS

TM explained that the course was originally proposed for Semester 2, but as it has no pre-requisites and since IAML is in Semester 2, the course will run in Semester 1. Students will be given recommendations regarding the programming skill level required. IM commented that both Maths and Programming skills level should be specified.

SA recommended that the course should be run as proposed for Yr 1 and then review/change if pre-requisite skills are identified.

No objections were raised to the overall content or learning outcomes of the course.

JH noted an inconsistency between the breakdown of teaching and learning activities (listing workshops only) and the narrative description of the course (mentioning tutorials and labs). VR clarified that students would complete different types of tasks, but all would take place in teaching studios. VR confirmed that the resource would be 15 hours of workshops (students using own laptops - so no computer labs required) and these would be Tutor supported.

GB noted that the title of the MSc programme was stated incorrectly in one place. The status of the mentioned Business School MSc programme is also unclear.

OUTCOME: Course proposal for Data-driven Business and Behaviour Analytics approved conditional on the following minor updates: 1. Update all mentions of 'tutorial' or 'lab' to 'workshop'. 2. Update references to the MSc degree title to ensure consistency with Stage 1/Stage 2 forms and clarify that the Business School degree does not exist yet.


20112019_BoS Item 4) Foundations of Data Science - Sharon Goldwater, Heather Yorston and Kobi Gal

SG reminded the BoS that the response to FDS had been positive and the main issue for the course is the availability of rooms and lab space. Following the action from the 16 Oct meeting, SG had checked suitable room availability with Timetabling and whilst there was no precise answer, it does seem feasible that 8/9 suitable rooms with (Jupiter not DICE) facilities could be made available.

SA suggested that the logistics issues might warrant restricting the course to Informatics only students, but questioned whether Maths would want to take the course. Iain Murray (IM) confirmed that INF2B has 2 Mathematics students in 19/20. JG proposed that if we do not allow non-Informatics students to take FDS and INF2-IADS then we must allow student on joint degree programmes It was agreed that any joint degree students (Maths or Engineering) would be eligible.

James Garforth (JG) pointed out that with this course in place 100 credits are accounted for in 2nd Yr. JG asked whether having the course run 10 credits in each semester would cause problems for joint degree students because 10 credit courses are disappearing. SG confirmed that in the original curriculum proposal, all joint degrees were mapped out and this wasn't a problem. Things have been complicated because Maths and PPLS are both undergoing their own curriculum changes, but it should be possible to incorporate these and SG will bring updated DPT proposals for all Informatics degrees once all new UG2 courses are approved. SG has also spoken to Engineering and advised on updates to their joint degrees with Informatics in light of the new courses.

Outcome: Approved

Action: SG to bring proposal for updated DPTs for all Informatics UG single and joint degrees to January BoS, following expected approval of SEPP in December.


20112019_BoS Item 5) Update to System Design Project Course Descriptor - Paul Jackson

Paul Jackson (PJ) explained that given increasing student numbers and the consequent strain on specialist facilities - his paper was planning ahead to enable more flexibility in meeting these challenges. The core suggestion is to allow practical exercises to be set that are not dependent on using custom hardware - to allow more venues to be used. JH confirmed that no additional specialised lab space would be forthcoming next year or even in the following year. SG pointed out that there was also limited capacity for technician support.

SA confirmed that the paper represented a first move action from the 'Bulge Planning Group' to address the Robotics resource limits and that depending on the capacity we need to start exploring alternatives. The subsequent discussion aired pros and cons to this objective - the cons focussing on perceived reduced student experience, learning outcomes, assessment level and the involvement of external industrial assessors. JH commented that the autonomous racing car society - Formula Students - had a similar objective to SDP - perhaps some ideas could transfer and to look at the student led individually created courses SLICCs. There are currently about 100 formula students across all years. PJ to talk to head of Formula Student, Ignat Georgio.

SA advised that PJ had loosened up the SDP specification in order to achieve some 'wriggle room' and asked the BoS if we are happy to change the SDP Course descriptor if we are not changing the delivery of practical tasks?  (BW, JH, JG all against although JH commented that some of the assumptions were not accurate and this did not help to sell the changes). Questions and suggestions were asked re alternative solutions such as running the course twice a year, or moving the course to Semester 1 (SA commented that the PI lecture in Semester 1 is a starting point). JH re-affirmed that having a fallback option is a good idea and SA thought the dscussion useful. PJ to re-draft taking comments into consideration and noting it would not become a student choice re hardware options. The paper is to be brought back to the December BoS.

Outcome: Not Approved

Actions: PJ to consult further with JG and others involved in the course. Revise and resubmit to Dec BoS, or report back with alternative solution if changes to descriptor are not needed. UPDATE: Nothing submitted in time for 11/12/2019 BoS. Chase in January 2020


20112019_BoS Item 6) New Course Proposal - Graduate Apprentice in Data Science Project - Heather Yorston

SG presented this discussion paper on behalf of Heather Yorston (HY)

SG explained that the Graduate Apprentice Degree students are sponsored by their employer and in the workplace part of the time. They are full-time students on campus then full-time in workplace. The first and second year students are here now. The 3rd and 4th year DPT is still not sorted out.  Work placements will be second semester for 4th year and they will conduct some kind of Hons project. Normally Hons projects are 40 credits over the whole year, and students also take courses in both semesters. But these students will not be on campus in Sem 2, so the proposal asks whether to make theirs into a 60 credit project for the entire 2nd semester?

SG reported that Helen Pain (HP) had yet to consider the document and requested that it not be approved until she had done so. There needs to be a process and mechanism for supervision and marking of these projects.

Mary Cryan had similar comments to Helen and SG said HY had also suggested it might be possible to keep the 40 credit project element and to add a 20 credit reflective element. She also noted that the students will get some credits for a report on summer work placement from 3rd Yr.

The projects will be supervised in the workplace - the primary supervisor will be work-based and part of the mark awarded will be based on an oral presentation - the employer expects this and provides practice.

SA commented that the employers direct the optional courses taken by the student. He confirmed that this presentation was a consultation and that the BoS has to await comments from HP. The paper should be re-submitted and note that the course will not run until 2022

Alan Smaill - questioned the assessment side of this. SG  asked what happens if the workplace employers insist on a different format and questioned how much the UoE can push back on this? The suggestion was if 40/20 credit model is adopted, then the employer has input on 20 credits and UoE retains control of 40 credits which would be the same as the standard Hons project and could probably use the same processes for allocation and marking.


Outcome: To be resubmitted to January BoS UPDATE: Duty discussions ongoing - need additional GA admin & academic support. Item on hold for now.

Action: HP to provide comments, HY and Mary Cryan (Graduate Apprentice co-ordinator) to consider 60 credit proposal vs 40/20 model and consult with employers as needed. 

Action:  HY/MC to bring it back to BoS with either a 60 credit proposal or a 40/20 credit model.  


20112019_BoS Item 7) New Course Proposal - Theoretical Foundations of Machine Learning (TFML) - Rik Sarkar 

Rik Sarkar (RS) introduced his new course proposal which he said is widely available in other HEI. IAML or MLPR are pre-requisites but if this is made a strict pre-requisite then Maths students or students coming from other university courses might be excluded.

The proposal is to run the course in Semester 2 so that students may undertake preparatory work in Semester 1

RS believes the course is likely to be popular as similar courses run in Oxford is oversubscribed.

Anticipated Resources are 1 lecturer, 1 TA, 1 Marker (C/W) and 4 Tutors (3 weeks in middle of semester)

Recommended book identified - intent to cover recent concerns in ML

Amos Storkey has reviewed proposal and commented there are other ways to capture ML and it would be good to include others. RS proposed sticking largely to the recommended text. IM reflected these address current interests. Both IM and AS agree the word foundations in the course title is confusing and should be removed. Suggestion - Topics in Machine Learning Theory.

Paul Patras (written comments) questioned whether 1 TA would be sufficient - SA questioned if the full skill mix would be found in 1TA

KG said the first paragraph of motivation sounds very good but the topics and learning outcomes don’t seem to relate to it well enough.

RS confirmed he was still undecided on the full topic list for inclusion. SA confirmed that the core issues and the learning outcomes that the course will target need to be made clearer. SG advised that he start with being clear about a few topics that will be covered, and a selection from several others, rather than leaving all of them as possibly covered. Topics could be revised after feedback from a couple of years running.


Outcome: RS to present a full course proposal to the BoS UPDATE: Resubmitted and added to agenda for 11/12/2019

Action: To draw up full DRPS descriptors etc for next BoS


AOCB (Any Other Current Business) 

Informatics PGR and PGT Approval Processes drawn up by Lindsey Fox and Vicky Mactaggart were presented to BoS for comments:

The BoS commended the approach and welcomed the clear process diagrams. The following recommendations were made:

  • Add in pre-stage 1 consultation phase – liaise with School Deputy Director of Teaching Curriculum (DDoTC), DoT & CAM.
  • Add SG to contacts on FAQ page (as DDoTC).
  • Add link to Strategy Committee minutes to FAQ page (where all programmes PGR/Taught) will initially be discussed).
  • Add link to CCAB minutes to FAQ page (note: we do NOT have access to the papers as these are closed to non-members, only the minutes
  • Inform Chris Williams (Research Director) about the process
  • Bring revised docs to December meeting for approval.

UPDATE: VM will resubmit to January BoS

In relation to this and the set-up of programme exemplars for e.g. future CDTs, Vicky  checked and we do NOT have access to the papers as these are closed to non-members, only the minutes. This means Stuart will need to access the papers and come up with a draft exemplar locally for Informatics –  we should not distribute the closed papers and delegate this to someone else without College’s permission.