Student Handbook/FAQ 2012/13
[Changes since the start of the academic year are marked in bold red.]
This handbook is intended to provide you with some basic information about the School of Computer Science, about teaching and learning at university level, about help facilities that we provide, and a few other things. Please read through this document carefully, as we will expect you to have read and understood its contents.
Think of the School as a `community of scholars', whose members may differ in expertise but share the same values. From your first day with us, we want you to see yourself as part of this community. In practical terms, this means that we will not `manage' or `control' you, but will expect that pursue your studies independently. We provide learning opportunities, advice, feedback, and guidance, but only you can decide how best to make use of them for your own education.
You will find us a friendly and approachable School - most people are on `first name terms', and usually we are not too hassled if you want to stop us for a quick word in the corridor. Remember, though, that staff also have other duties besides teaching (most notably research), and this can mean that you find them absent from their office, or that your email is not being immediately answered, or that your coursework is not returned as quickly as you hoped.
It is important that you stay informed. For this you must check your School email account at least once every day. If we send out an announcement via email, we assume that all students concerned have been informed. For last-minute announcements we use a notice board in the lobby of the Computer Science building. From time to time, the University will also contact you via your University email account, but for single-honours students all messages sent there are automatically forwarded to the School account. If you are a joint-honours student, it is the other way round: messages sent to your School account are forwarded to the University email account.
Note also that members of staff will not send messages to a private email account that you may also have; make sure, therefore, that you only use the School account to contact staff, so that they know who you are and how to reply to your message. Please provide your University ID number if you are enquiring about any aspect of your academic record.
Not all communications from the University or the School are sent out electronically, for example your examination schedule. To make sure such crucial letters reach you, report all changes of address (term time and permanent) to the School Office without delay.
When sending a message to staff make sure you adhere to the conventions of polite and professional communication. Begin your message with `Dear Dr so-and-so' and finish it with your full name. Email is not text-messaging, so be sure to avoid the abbreviations that are common for mobile phones.
Teaching takes place in various modes. Be sure to make best use of all that is offered and understand what is expected of you in each case.
A bit of terminology for what follows: By a programme we mean the whole degree programme, for example `BSc in Computer Science'; by module we mean one of the four to six individual topics you study each semester, for example, `Foundations of Computer Science'. By class we usually mean the group of students enrolled for a particular module.
Almost all modules use lectures to present the module content. Typically, these are given by a lecturer or professor to the whole class, which can mean that you sit together with more than 100 students. It is important for you to realise the nature of these events: Material is presented only once and often at great speed; there is little time for fully worked examples; handouts may or may not be provided; where there are handouts, they usually only give you an overview and rarely cover the material in any depth. Attendance in lectures is not monitored but you would be foolish to assume that you can understand the content of the module from written sources only.
Many modules have exercise classes to support the lectures. There you have the opportunity to work through examples and problems with a demonstrator at hand to assist you if you are stuck. In our experience, it is only in the exercise classes when students discover that they do not understand the course material as well as they thought. Working on small assignments is the only way to turn passive knowledge absorbed in the lectures into active knowledge, that is, into knowledge that will allow you to do well in the exams and in your later workplace.
As part of the Java Workshop module we offer workshop tutorials, where a small group of students meet with a tutor to discuss the weekly programming assignments. Your attendance at these events is monitored, and reported to the Senior Tutor.
The School runs an academic advisor scheme which assigns every new student to a permanent member of staff. There is more information on this below, but in this section we note that in the first semester you will meet your personal advisor once every week in an advisorial. It will give you the opportunity to discuss any academic aspect of your course with a small group of fellow students and a senior member of staff. While the School makes some suggestions to advisors regarding content, the idea is that you can raise any topic that you feel you didn't fully understand in any of the modules. The School monitors your attendance at these events.
In order to be successful at university, you must understand the difference between the different scheduled events and how to use them most effectively. In each case, you must understand what it means to be an active learner in that situation; without active involvement, you will achieve very little.
You will find lectures to be the experience that is most radically different from life in a sixth form or a college. It is very easy to mistake them for a form of entertainment that requires little of you other than your presence. Instead, we very strongly recommend the following:
- Take notes, especially of any examples that the lecturer may present on the board.
- Ask questions when your understanding begins to lag. Most lecturers are grateful when challenged in this way; it livens up the delivery and often leads to new insights for them, too.
- Don't be late or you may miss some important information that sets the whole lecture in context.
- Don't sit in the back if there are still places further to the front.
- Set aside time every week to work through the handouts and your own notes; amend your notes, using a text book or the internet as an additional resource on the material presented.
Don't waste time in exercise classes by reading handouts. This you can do at home in your free time; the whole point of exercise classes is to make use of the demonstrators that lead the class. Ideally, you should try the assignments before the exercise class so that you have some questions ready to ask. We recommend that you work in small groups, and that you spend about half the time available on discussing assignments. In the other half you should try to work out solutions for yourself. Don't reduce your involvement to copying other students' work - it's not going to help you in the longer run.
Attempt all homework assignments. If you are stuck, discuss them with friends, but always formulate the answer in your own words. Not only will you avoid the dangers of plagiarism, you will also be forced to think the material through in your own head.
Use the School Library. There you will find all the recommended textbooks for each module, and often collections of handouts and model solutions. If you can keep your voice down, then it is also a great place to meet with a small group of friends to attempt assignments together.
Develop your personal timetable with fixed and scheduled periods for lecture revision and work on assignments. Remember that we expect you to invest 7 hours per week for each module, and twice this amount for the programming workshop. This adds up to 42 hours each week - if you work less, then you can be sure that you are doing something wrong! Don't forget to schedule time for relaxation; not only does it give you something to look forward to while you are stuck in front of the computer, it has also been proven to be necessary for your brain for absorbing and properly organising new information.
Use feedback pro-actively. It's no good to moan about a low mark and to bin the assignment. Read the tutor's/demonstrator's comments on your work. Where did you go wrong? What could you have done better? Remember that most assignments are meant to get you used to the style of exam questions. So you should ask yourself whether you could now do the same assignment to a much higher standard. If not, then go back to the staff involved and ask for more help!
Finally, be organised! Have paper and pen ready at the start of each lecture. Get yourself a folder, subdivide it into sections and file all handouts in chronological order. Have a light-weight puncher with you to get this done immediately at the end of each lecture.
The basic unit of assessment is the module. The overall Year Mark is the weighted average of the module marks. The weight of a module is directly related to its credit value. A module with 20 credits has twice the weight of a 10 credit module.
To progress from one year to another, students must normally have accumulated a certain number of credits and have passed the necessary modules listed in the degree regulations. The minimum number of credits for progression is 100 (out of 120) credits. This is a number that is set centrally for the whole of the University. You can find the central regulations at https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/registry/legislation/regulations.aspx
Assignments set and marked during the semester make up what we call continuous assessment. This not only allows you to monitor your performance on the course, but most of the time, the marks you obtain count towards a percentage of your final module mark. This is a good thing because by keeping up with your coursework you can substantially lower the threshold required for passing the summer exam. The downside is that by not completing continuously assessed work, you are actually raising the exam threshold.
Continuously assessed work is submitted electronically via https://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/students/submission or handed in to the School Office. In the latter case, you must sign the declaration on the cover sheet regarding plagiarism. You will receive a receipt for your submission - keep your receipt safe in case you suspect that your submission got lost.
The online system will send a digitally signed email, which will include details and hashes of the files you have submitted.
Lecturers will always publish the deadline for submission with each assignment that is given out, and will state the penalties that are applied for late submission. For small pieces of work the penalty is usually that you don't receive any credit at all.
Once a piece of assessed work has been submitted to the school, no part of it may be withdrawn or replaced for any reason.
In the programming workshop and various team projects you will have to attend a viva (that is, a life interview with a tutor) in which to present and explain your work. Take them seriously and be prepared for the examiner's questions. Think about presentation as well as content. Not only will this help you get a better mark, it also exercises and develops your presentation skills.
At the end of the academic year, around the beginning of May, you will sit final exam papers. These typically count for 80-100% of your final module mark. You will have the four weeks of the Easter Break and the first two weeks of the Summer Term to revise for them. For each module there is at least one scheduled Revision Lecture at the beginning of the Summer Term. In our experience, though, these come too late for students with serious gaps in their understanding. This is yet another way of saying that there is no alternative to working continuously in each module as it is presented. Past papers to some modules are available from the University's Examinations Office at http://www.exampapers.bham.ac.uk/ but please note that a change of lecturer from one year to the next can make these quite irrelevant.
Students who fail to achieve credit in First or Second Year modules at the first attempt, have the right to one further opportunity for assessment - typically (but not always) in the same form as the main assessment. Note that you are strictly limited to one opportunity to retrieve a failure. Resit examinations take place in late August / early September of each year. The maximum recorded mark for a module following successful re-assessment is limited to 40%.
It also possible that the School will ask you to repeat a module. In this case you have to take the module again in the next academic year, including continuous assessment and examination. Again, the maximum recorded mark is 40%. If you fail a significant number of modules you may want to explore the possibility of repeating the module in the following academic year (rather than resitting it in August/September). If you want to do that then you have to ask for it in writing (with a dated and signed letter; e-mail is not sufficient).
The School strives to return marked work to you as quickly as possible. For weekly assignments this usually means that you get your work back within one week. Where there are only a few assignments per semester, and where the lecturer has no assistance in marking them, you should expect the results within two weeks.
Recall what was said at the beginning about the School being a `community of scholars'. We want you to be an active member of this community right from the beginning. There are many ways in which you can get involved and which will contribute to the well-being of this community.
By being an active learner, asking questions, and seeking advice you give us lecturers useful feedback on the quality of our teaching. Only when we are aware of students' difficulties can we improve our lectures as the semester progresses. The School has an established system for formal feedback on all modules: Twice each semester you will be asked by the module provider to fill in a module questionnaire. We collate and analyse this information to see where improvements are necessary.
More recently, the Government has introduced a National Student Survey, http://www.thestudentsurvey.com Again, this is an excellent source of information for us, allowing us to see how well we do across the whole range of teaching provision. Since the questionnaires are the same for everyone, we can compare ourselves with other departments of the University and other Computer Science departments in the country. Please take part in these surveys and give us your honest opinion.
Get involved with CSS, our Computer Science Student society. CSS provide help, support and fun, and aim to make your time with the School a more enjoyable and productive experience. They produce a regular newsletter and organise social events in and outside the School such as gaming tournaments, pub crawls and paint-balling.
At the beginning of each year you will be invited to vote for the student representatives of your degree programme. Please consider standing yourself and definitely take part in the elections. Many School committees have statutory student representation, and the opinion of students is taken very seriously in the decision process. If you have forgotten who your representative is, you can check the page http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/staff/handbook/Posts.html#Heading9
All student representatives meet twice a term with members of staff in the Student-Staff Consultative Committee. It is a forum where we can discuss all matters that affect you as a group of students. Discussions are minuted and at the next meeting there is an opportunity to review the progress that has been made on the issues raised. Note, though, that going via the SSCC would usually be too slow and roundabout a process for resolving issues with individual modules. For these you should seek a discussion with the member of staff responsible as soon as the issue becomes apparent.
Wish as we may, life does not always go according to plan, and you may develop serious worries about your situation. In this section we describe some of the help facilities that the School and the University offer to students.
The most difficult step, often, is for you to realise that you are in trouble, and to speak to someone else about it. If you have read up to here, you will know that we monitor your participation in the course to some extent, and we will try to spot any early signs of distress. In this case, we will approach you and ask you for a meeting. If you haven't sought help already, then this is your chance to open your heart and get advice.
It is also important to go to the right person depending on the nature of your difficulties. We give you some orientation about this in this section, but you can always contact the Senior Tutor, or any other member of staff. Note that your initial contact may not be able to solve your specific problem but you can expect them to point you in the right direction. Another resource is the list of frequently asked questions that is part of the on-line version of this handbook. Over the years, it has grown to cover most commonly encountered problems that students run into.
With academic worries we mean anything to do with your learning. This is the area where we can help most easily, but it is also the area, unfortunately, where students tend to deceive themselves until it is too late. Here are some early warning signs as they appear to you, together with an explanation of what they really mean:
- You stop attending exercise classes because `they are a waste of your time'. In reality, you find them frustrating because you can't solve any of the assignments.
- You stop attending certain lectures because `they are boring'. In reality, you can't follow what the lecturer is trying to explain.
- You stop submitting course work because `they are not worth much for the final mark'. In reality, you have fallen behind and have difficulty understanding even the questions.
- You stop coming to the weekly advisorials because `not much is happening there anyway'. In reality, you can't take part in the group discussions because you don't understand enough, and you are embarrassed to be found out.
- You stop reading your email because `none of the messages are of any importance'. In reality, you are afraid of receiving a message that asks you for a meeting with the Senior Tutor.
- You stop working for a module because `there is still time to work through this in detail during revision time'. In reality, revision time is too short even for a bright student to pick up completely new material.
What should you do in any of these situations? If you have trouble with a particular module, then you should first speak to one of the demonstrators or the lecturer responsible. Try to see them during their office hour. The more you have fallen behind, the harder it will be to get you back on track, but only the lecturer is able to suggest a strategy for recovering. Often, a module has several relatively independent parts, and the lecturer is then able to suggest a point where you can make a fresh start. In the Programming Workshop, the tutors offer remedial tutorials for those who have fallen behind; in other modules it may be possible to arrange for additional support.
It may be that you are not the only one who finds a particular module hard. Talk to your friends about it and involve the representative for your course. It is very difficult for a lecturer to get a sense for the level of understanding in a large class. Usually she or he will be grateful if the class points out that delivery is too fast or at too high a level.
You will be assigned to a member of staff who will be your academic advisor for the whole time of your studies. Ideally, this will be the person who you get to know best. In order for this relationship to develop, and in order to provide additional help with the academic content of the course, the School organises weekly meetings between you and your advisor in the two terms. These are sometimes referred to as advisorials. Most advisors see their advisees as a (small) group, and they will attempt to encourage a group discussion on a question arising from the various modules. The academic advisor will review your progress in a one-to-one meeting in week 6 of the Autumn Term.
For more information on the advisorial sessions, see http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/students/advisorials.html
All academic advisors have scheduled office hours during which they are available to see advisees outside scheduled advisorials. You find the timetable of your advisor on his/her door and usually also on a web page called timetable.html which is linked from the staff list on the School's main web page. Final year students often find it more natural to discuss academic matters with their project supervisors rather than their academic advisors.
During your second year you will be required to meet your advisor once in each of Terms 1 and 2. You will use self assessment forms as the basis for progress meetings with your advisor. You will fill these in midway through each term. For all students there will be a Progress Review Tutorial in the last week of each academic year to receive advice on the outcome of the examinations.
Student/advisor lists and advisor/student lists can be found linked from the webpage on advisorials mentioned before.
We use the term `welfare matters' to cover all extenuating circumstances of a non-academic nature that interfere with your academic work, for example, illness, bereavement, family crises or financial problems. The School has a team of trained Welfare Tutors to give advice in such cases. It is important to note that only very rarely will they be able to address the cause of a welfare problem (they are not medical doctors, for example); instead their role is to recommend professional help services and, most importantly, to limit the damage that the problem could have on your studies. Thus they can arrange for a deadline to be extended for you, or for a particularly serious issue to be brought to the attention of the examination board.
It is your responsibility to inform the Welfare Team in a timely fashion of any welfare matter that might affect your studies. The Welfare Tutors will generally not be able to help you if informed too late.
To contact the Welfare Team begin by sending an e-mail to email@example.com. Alternatively, attend the Welfare Hour of a member of the Welfare Team, which you will find on their office door. Up-to-date information is available at http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/students/welfare/
Our School's Welfare Team follows the University's Code of Practice on Extenuating Circumstances and Fit to Sit Procedure: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/legal/extenuating-circumstances.pdf
Requesting a deadline extension
This has to be authorised by a member of the Welfare Team. Inform the Welfare Team either by email or by seeing one of the Welfare Tutors. In general, to be granted a deadline extension you need to present contemporaneous supporting evidence from an independent third party, such as a note by a GP, a letter from a counsellor, or a death certificate. However, we allow for one self-certified illness per term, provided the illness only lasts up to 5 consecutive days and no major assessment is affected. You need to fill in and submit a medical self-certification which can be found at http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/sca/documents/ec_medical_form.pdf together with the University guidelines for medical certificates http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/sca/documents/ec_medical_guidelines.pdf.
The Welfare Team will advise relevant members of staff whether or not your claim can be accepted. The final decision on what action to take - whether to grant an extension up to a specified length of time or whether to take some other action - will be taken by the module lecturer, since it depends on further factors such as whether solutions have already been published.
All required supporting evidence or medical self-certification has to be received within 2 working days of a given extension, unless otherwise specified by a Welfare Tutor. We will not issue a reminder if no evidence has been submitted in time. We can also not make enquiries to obtain evidence on your behalf.
Some circumstances that will not normally be considered as Extenuating Circumstances and are therefore not welfare matters include:
- minor illnesses (such as coughs and colds);
- computer problems (we expect you to make adequate provisions for backing up your work) or inadequate planning preventing completion or submission of coursework;
- stress and panic attacks caused by examinations that are not diagnosed as an illness or documented in a Student Support Agreement;
- assessments or examinations scheduled close together;
- personal or domestic events, such as moving house or attending a wedding;
- holidays or travel arrangements;
- consequences of paid employment;
- sports activities.
See also the University's Code of Practice on Extenuating Circumstances and Fit to Sit Procedure for more detail: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/legal/extenuating-circumstances.pdf
Extensions or deferral of projects
Final year or summer projects can only be extended or deferred in very exceptional circumstances. Your project plan should be flexible enough to allow for short periods that keep you from working due to welfare matters. Should you nevertheless have a welfare matter that seriously interferes with your project, it is your responsibility to inform the Welfare Team as soon as possible and provide appropriate evidence. The Welfare Team will generally not extend or defer a project if informed retrospectively only.
Serious conditions that may interfere with your exam performance
In serious cases you may ask before the exams take place to postpone exams to the next possible resit opportunity. These requests have to be received by a nominated member of the Welfare Team either in person or in writing before the exams take place together with contemporaneous supporting evidence from an independent third party. The School's welfare tutor will then make a decision whether to accept or reject your application, or if additional evidence is required.
By being present at an examination you declare yourself 'Fit to Sit'. A subsequent request for deferral or other action by reason of Extenuating Circumstances will not normally be accepted.
Only in exceptional circumstances you can submit a case for consideration by the Extenuating Circumstances Panel. You must then provide reasoning for not applying for an extension during the term or a deferral of your exam at the appropriate time. The submission must be made known to the School in writing. A form for this purpose is available at http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/sca/documents/ec_Notification_of_Extenuating_Circumstances_Form_26_Sept_2011.pdf which you should submit to the School together with any supporting documentation. Note that it is not enough to have spoken to someone (be it your academic advisor or a member of the Welfare Team). The deadline for the submission to Extenuating Circumstances Panel will be announced via email and on the School's welfare pages: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/students/welfare/.
The Extenuating Circumstances Panel will decide whether your application can be accepted. If accepted the panel will make a suggestion to the exam board how to handle you application and it is at the discretion of the exam board whether or not to follow this suggestion. It is also at the discretion of the exam board to allow you to take an examination again but as a `first sit' (rather than a resit). For deriving the degree classification it is at the discretion of the exam board to disregard some results. However, please note that marks themselves will not be adjusted on the basis of extenuating circumstances.
After the examiners meeting has taken place, the School cannot take into consideration any additional new evidence that you may have. The only possibility then is to appeal against a decision. However, be advised that the regulations only allow truly exceptional circumstances to be admitted in an appeal. The message is that if you think that extenuating circumstances apply to you, you must not wait until the exam results are out, but have to submit them to the School before the examiners meeting.
More information on the University's extenuating circumstances and fit to sit procedure can be found at http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/sca/extcirc/index.shtml.
Students with certain special needs are able to access a variety of support within the school and within the wider University. For example, you may be entitled to extra time (or other special arrangements) for examinations. If you believe you have special needs of any kind, then you should contact both the Senior Welfare Tutor and the University's student support team: https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/studentservices/projects/support/index.aspx. The normal process is that you will be assessed by student support, in conjunction with appropriate health professionals, and they will write a Student Support Agreement that describes what special measures should be taken to support you in your studies. The Senior Welfare Tutor is then responsible for implementing this.
You should let us know of any special needs as soon as possible (and certainly well before the exams) so that we can make sure the appropriate measures are in place in good time. Ideally, you will inform us as soon as you arrive.
Student Accommodation - http://www.has.bham.ac.uk/studentaccom/
This office provides a comprehensive service for students, including allocation and management of the University's self-catering accommodation. In addition, information on current vacancies in the halls of residence is available. Lists of available properties in the private sector are produced on a daily basis and displayed on notice boards within the Housing Services office in University Centre, where there are also members of staff available to answer queries and discuss any problems concerning tenancy agreements, etc.
Careers and Employability Centre - http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/careers/
The School of Computer Science is part of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS). There is a dedicated Careers Team for the College which offers the following services:
- Advice Desk with Caroline Egan, Careers Adviser (based in office in CS library) on Thursdays 10am-12pm, in term time:
Discussion with a careers adviser that lasts 20 minutes. Book online via www.as.bham.ac.uk/careers up to seven days in advance. At the advice desk you may request a longer more private appointment or a mock interview, if appropriate.
- CV and applications advice with Carl Jukes, Applications Support Adviser (based in careers unit on 1st Floor of Civil/Mechanical Engineering building) Mondays 2-3pm and Tuesdays 2-3pm:
Discussion with an applications support adviser that lasts 20 minutes. Book online via www.as.bham.ac.uk/careers up to seven days in advance. Bring a printed copy of your CV, covering letter or application with you to the appointment.
- Internships and work experience drop-ins with Brendan Bacon, Internship Officer:
Come along to talk through your ideas and options for gaining work experience and accessing bursaries, with Brendan Bacon, Internship Officer. Appointments last 20 minutes; book online via www.as.bham.ac.uk/careers up to seven days in advance.
If you are interested in attending careers workshops, employer presentations, or talks that have been tailored to students in EPS, take a look at the EPS careers events page on www.as.bham.ac.uk/careers/eps.
You can find details of positions advertised through the Careers and Employability Centre on our interactive careers service. All types of jobs are advertised here, across a wide range of sectors.
- Career Planning:
For help with making careers choices and researching occupations, please go to our Choosing a career section: http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/careers/choosing/index.shtml.
Counselling and Guidance Service - https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/studentservices/counselling/index.aspx
The above provides short term counselling for all registered students in order to help you engage more effectively in your academic and social environment and to be sufficiently free from psychological distress to achieve your potential. They also offer workshops and groups to help you manage your well-being in a supportive group environment. The service also has an Educational Resource Centre. They are based in 3 Elms Road off Pritchatts Road.
University Chaplaincy - http://www.chaplaincy.bham.ac.uk/
The Chaplaincy is based in St Francis Hall, next to the Guild of Students. A team of four full time and many part-time Chaplains represent all the major world faiths on the campus, and are available to students for advice and counselling.
Advice and Representation Centre - http://www.guildofstudents.com/content/index.php?page=29295
The Advice and Representation Centre is run by the Guild of Students and offers information and support on a wide range of legal, educational, and welfare topics.
Medical Services - http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/students/support/health/medical.aspx
The University has its own Medical Practice and University Dental & Implant Centre.
The University and the School take offences against the academic code of intellectual honesty extremely seriously. All cases of cheating are recorded and investigated, and may lead to the non-award of a degree or the immediate expulsion from the university.
What is Wrong with Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is a form of cheating. Copying the ideas or writings of others and presenting them as our own ideas and writings amounts to stealing some of the credit for another person's work and dishonestly obtaining credit for ourselves. Any form of cheating is to be condemned, and plagiarism is no exception. Theft of intellectual work by copying that work is still theft, and should be treated as such.
In a commercial or business context, the laws of copyright and patent are designed to help protect companies or individuals from the plagiarism of their work by others for commercial gain. In an academic context, there are no formal laws beyond those of copyright and patent, but the academic community works within very strong conventions that regard all forms of plagiarism as totally unacceptable and strongly to be condemned. Academics who are found guilty of plagiarism have their reputations and careers damaged or destroyed.
In a University undergraduate context, plagiarism is most serious when it occurs in work done for assessment. In assessing essays, project reports, computer programs, and all the other forms in which work can be presented, it is normally assumed that the work is entirely the student's own (except where the student has clearly stated otherwise), and the work is marked accordingly. If the submitted work is not entirely the student's own, then the credit obtained for it is not fully deserved.
Students are always expected to clearly acknowledge any use of other people's work in anything submitted for assessment. Unacknowledged use of the work of others is plagiarism. It is treated by the University as a very serious disciplinary offence, as for any other form of cheating.
We recommend very strongly that you read the School's policy on plagiarism at http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/students/plag-policy.html
The University has a Code of Practice on Student Attendance and Reasonable Diligence: http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/code/rd.pdf
The School must check that every single student shows reasonable diligence. You are obliged to:
- Submit all your coursework. (If you can't finish it, submit what you have finished by the deadline. If you have not finished anything, submit a note saying so.)
- Attend all compulsory tutorials and laboratory sessions, etc.
- Attend all advisorial sessions (currently this mainly concerns first year students), likewise progress tutorials.
- Attend all meetings with your final year project supervisor (at least every second week in person, other meetings may be replaced by other forms of contact such as email or phone call).
- Attend all other compulsory events.
- Register with the School Office at the start of the autumn and the spring term. There will be a tight deadline for doing so. This will be specified at the Office and it will be only a few days after the first day of term.
The School has mechanisms in place to monitor your attendance. This includes taking registers of attendance at advisorial sessions, meetings with your project supervisor, and certain modules. As part of this, we will also monitor your attendance at 10 contact points over the academic year, as part of the University's obligations to monitor the attendance of non-EEA students in accordance with the Points-Based System.
If you do not show reasonable diligence as outlined in the Code of Practice, we will initiate the procedures set out in the Code of Practice, which might result in your being required to withdraw from your programme. For this reason, please:
- If you miss an assignment deadline or a compulsory event with good reason, then contact the school's welfare team for advice. If possible, please do this in advance so that alternative arrangements can be made for you. If you are ill, then please contact the welfare team as soon as you are able to do so. For more information, please refer to the information about Welfare Matters
- Read your email on a daily basis and keep your postal addresses (term time and home address) up-to-date on my.bham.ac.uk.
For international students, the UK Border Agency stipulates that all educational institutions who are licensed to sponsor students that require a visa must monitor their students' engagement with their programmes of study. As such, the University has a legal duty to report international students with a visa who do not fully engage with their programme of study. Being reported to the UK Border Agency would have serious implications for a student's immigration status and their ability to remain in the UK. It is therefore essential that regular attendance and active engagement (as outlined above) is maintained throughout your programme of study.
If you are an international student, you are strongly advised to contact the International Students Advisory Service (ISAS) in the Aston Webb Building if you have any concerns about your visa or your immigration status. ISAS can be contacted at +44 (0)121 414 8464, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have to pay fees to the University (for example, if you are an Overseas Student) then you must make sure all your fees are paid on time. You should arrange a payment schedule with the Student Finance Office. If you have problems paying, you should talk to Student Finance as soon as possible. You should also talk to the Senior Tutor about how this may affect your studies.
If you owe the University money, then you will receive a letter saying that you have been excluded from the University. Excluded students are not allowed to take exams or get any results until the situation is resolved ( http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/legal/regulations-part5.pdf (§ 5.3.1). You should immediately contact the Senior Tutor to discuss the situation if this happens to you. You can also contact the School Welfare team (http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/students/welfare/) if you have medical, family or other personal problems affecting your ability to pay.
Members of the School come from a wide range of religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds. We are committed to provide an environment devoted to learning and scholarship, free of prejudice of any kind. The School will not tolerate any harassment, bullying, abuse, or discrimination against its members from individuals inside or outside the School. The strongest possible disciplinary and/or legal action will be taken against anyone found to have behaved in such a way. If you become aware of any such case immediately contact the Senior Tutor or another member of staff.
Computer equipment offers many opportunities for dubious activities. Don't be tempted - neither School, University, or Police will look kindly on misdemeanours. If you are in doubt about what is ethical use of computing facilities and what is not, read the policies listed at http://supportweb.cs.bham.ac.uk/policies/
In case of major accidents and illness:
- Check safety - do not put yourself at risk.
- Maintain clear airway.
- Summon help - see first aiders listed below or dial 44444 (Security).
- Control bleeding.
- Move the casualty as little as possible unless in immediate danger.
- NEW QUEEN ELIZABETH HOSPITAL, Mindelson Way, Edgbaston. Tel 0121 627 2000 (for all casualties).
- CITY HOSPITAL, Dudley Road, Winson Green. Tel 0121 554 3801, University short code: 1-041 (eye injuries).
If you sustain any minor injury, the correct procedure is for you to see a recognised First Aider in order that appropriate action can be taken and the necessary records made. The nearest first aiders are:
- Mr Keith Marlow (Room 141)
- Ms Sharon Powell (Room UG44)
- Mr Mark Robbins (Room 142)
- Outbreak of Fire: If you discover a fire you must
- OPERATE the nearest fire alarm.
- DIAL 44444 on any telephone and give details to University Control.
- ATTEMPT to extinguish the fire with the appliances available (but do not put yourself at risk).
- LEAVE the building.
- Assembly Point: When you hear the fire alarm you must
- Leave the building by the shortest safe route.
DO NOT USE LIFTS.
DO NOT STOP TO COLLECT PERSONAL BELONGINGS.
DO NOT RE-ENTER THE BUILDINGS.
- Assemble between the Genetics Building and Chemistry West Building - bottom of the ramp.
- Follow instructions of Safety Officers.
- Leave the building by the shortest safe route.
- Safety Officers and/or Fire Wardens will, in so far as these duties do
not endanger their own safety
- Supervise the evacuation of their section.
- Ensure that fire doors are closed.
- Post assistants to all exits to stop re-entry until the Fire/Emergency services arrive.
- Report details to University Control.
Short, intermittent ringing of the fire alarm is a test.
Long continuous ringing is an emergency.
- Autumn Term:
- 24 September 2012 - 7 December 2012
- Spring Term:
- 7 January 2013 - 22 March 2013
- Summer Term:
- 22 April 2013 - 14 June 2013
- 29 April 2013 - 31 May 2013
- Supplementary Examinations (Resits):
- 19 - 30 August 2013
- 44444 (from internal phones)
- School Office:
- 0121 414 3744
These frequently asked questions (FAQ) are set up to provide you with information that goes beyond the student handbook. In particular with information where to find information/help/advice when things go wrong.
Details of Academic staff and their office locations.
Details of Computing Support Staff.
Computer Officers should be preferably contacted via the IT Service Desk (https://universityofbirmingham.service-now.com/). Alternatively you can contact them in room UG46.
Details of other staff.
For any telephone enquiries use: 0121 414 3744
The School Reference Library supplements the Main Library computing stock and also holds items unique to the School. There are over 1500 books including recommended texts and research material, as well as conference proceedings, reports, student dissertations and certain lecture notes. Please note that all items are for reference only. Other facilities include photocopying, self-service ring binding, colour printing, flatbed scanning and CD writing, and there is a quiet area for private study.
The aim of the Students' Charter is to demonstrate the University's commitment to providing a high quality environment in which scholarship and learning can flourish; set out the general principles of the partnership between the University and its students; outline students' entitlements; outline students' responsibilities; provide a framework for the University to develop and improve, where appropriate, its services. It can be found in full on the www http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/students/birmingham/student-charter.aspx.
The following is an important section from the charter on Equal Opportunities
The University of Birmingham is committed to the principles of equal opportunities in employment and education.
You can expect the University to:
- provide an environment in which academic goals may be pursued without fear of intimidation;
- provide guidelines on racial and sexual harassment;
- provide advisers on matters of racial and sexual harassment.
You are expected to:
- respect and uphold the rights of all members of the University to work and study without fear of harassment;
- comply with the University's Equal Opportunities policy;
- be familiar with the University's Guidelines on Sexual and Racial Harassment.
Unfortunately we had in the past some cases where some students, or groups of students, behaved badly towards other students. For this reason we want to clarify the following points.
Friendships, expressions of sympathy, support, cooperation and so forth are very important features of a healthy social learning environment. These behaviours are also voluntary, but rather naturally expected of members of a friendly School such as ours.
However, decent behaviour is not voluntary and what is completely unacceptable is any offensive or disrespectful or intolerant behaviour. For example we do not want insults or comments or harassment of any kind (e.g. racial, sexual, political, sexual orientation, religious, handedness).
The charter protects you from any form of bullying, in particular from racial or sexual harassment. In case any member of this School, be it a member of staff or a student, does not obey this, report the matter immediately to a member of staff (typically the Senior Tutor).
Questions like `What do I need in order to proceed to the next academic year?', `Which modules do I need to take this year?', `How is module 06-xxxxx assessed?' are answered by the regulations of the undergraduate study programmes and the detailed descriptions of the single modules. The relevant information for students of this School can be found online as http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/programmes/.
To be eligible for progression to Year 3 of the MEng Computer Science and Software Engineering programme, students must have acquired at least 100 credits in Year 2, at least 220 credits altogether, and an average of at least 55% in Year 2 modules. Students who do not meet these criteria but meet the progression criteria for the BSc Computer Science will be transferred to this programme after Year 2.
This rule only applies to students who entered the first year from 2011/12 onwards, and direct entry students to the second year from 2012/13 onwards.
The University will publish information about your resit on the student portal my.bham.ac.uk soon after the end of the main examination period.
Yes. All students have to go through Disability and Learning Support Service (DLSS) or Mental Health Advisory Service (MHAS) if they wish to receive additional examination time allowance. DLSS or MHAS will produce a list of all approved dyslexic students for the exams office.
There is a lot of on-line information on dyslexia. The following links and comments were obtained from the Student Support and Counselling Services:
- http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ - Practical help (including worksheets) with grammar, punctuation and so on.
- http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/studentlife/disability/learningsupport/ - The University Academic Services' site for dyslexics.
- http://www.dyslexia.com - explores dyslexia as a gift rather than a weakness, a good morale booster. Good links to computer support pages.
- http://www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk - the Dyslexia Action web site.
- http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/ - the British Dyslexia Association's web site.
Detailed information about the degree programmes and the regulations can be found on http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/programmes/. You can find there information how the final degree classification is determined, how many credits you need to progress to the next phase, information about resits and so forth. The exact regulations depend on the year when you start your degree programme. If you are in any doubt after reading the regulations contact your academic advisor or a member of the welfare team.
Should you have special questions about a degree programme, which go beyond the information provided on the web, for instance, if you want to deviate from the standard degree programme, you have to see your Programme director.
Finding Vacation Work, Placements and Post-Graduation Jobs
Many companies advertise specific positions they wish to fill. Others may be open to unsolicited letters of application from students for Summer work.
Essentially the process is to find such advertisements and apply or to identify companies that you would like to work for and who might be willing to hire you, and then to write application letters to them. It is critical to spend some considerable effort on researching the companies you apply to and getting your application letter and CV tuned to a very high standard before applying.
The school does not have the resources to help students find placements or summer jobs. We do occasionally receive advertising from companies for situations available. All such we post on notice boards in the student study room on the lower ground floor of the Computer Science building.
The EPS careers team http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/careers/college/eps.shtml can provide some help in the form of lists of companies that you can write application letters to, information about sources of job adverts, what kinds of things you should say in your letter, advice on writing your CV and some insight into the job market. You should make an appointment to see them (their offices are over the Barclay Bank on campus).
One of the best ways to find jobs, whether summer, placement or permanent, is to attend as many as possible of the job fairs that take place during the "Milk Round"; the period between November and December when lots of companies visit the University to find suitable future employees. Details of the events in this period (and other events outside the period) are available on the careers centre web site.
For details see our page on the Programmes with an Industrial Year at http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/programmes/current/IndustrialYear.html. You can also contact the Industrial Placements Tutors, Dr Behzad Bordbar and Dr Mirco Musolesi.
See also the web site of the "Year in Industry" charity at http://www.yini.org.uk.
After your second year you can spend for most of our degree programmes an extra year with one of our partners abroad. Our partners in continental Europe are currently Avignon, Darmstadt, Dresden, Gothenburg, Lyon, Osnabrück, and Pisa. If you plan to do so, you must tell us early in your second year (15 November of the corresponding year). For details see http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/programmes/current/StudyAbroad.html. You can also contact the Exchanges Tutor, Dr Bernd Bohnet.
Look at the Overseas Students' page at http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/students/overseas.html. You can also contact the International Students Tutor, Dr Hamid Dehghani.
Ultimately you have to see the admissions tutor(s) of the programmes involved. For our programmes you find the admissions tutors in the section on Officers of the School. You may, however, wish to discuss the matter first with your academic advisor before you see the admissions tutor(s). Some departments in the university require you to get a signature from your academic tutor (this would read for our School, from your academic advisor), from the admissions tutor and/or the Programme Director.
- Obtain a module change form from the School Office.
- Fill it in.
- Do NOT ask lecturers to sign; ignore the instructions to this effect on the form.
- If you are changing modules in the first two weeks of term, hand all copies of the form in to the Computer Science School Office via reception: the Office will arrange for the necessary signature, and will then send a copy over to Student Records and return a copy to you via the pigeonholes.
- If you are changing modules after the first three weeks of term, you must get the form signed by your Programme Director, the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Director of Postgraduate Studies as appropriate, before you hand it in to the Computer Science School Office.
Since the role of the personal tutor led to confusion in the past, it has been split into different roles, namely of that of an academic advisor, who advises you on academic matters, and the welfare support by the welfare team.
In and following meetings with the welfare team and the academic advisors matters of a confidential nature will not be disclosed to anyone else unless you agree. Confidentiality is, however, not unlimited. We have to take action if we get the impression that you are a danger to yourself or others.
The Banner Code system is used in the central administration of student records. See also http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/internal/modules/.
If you think that the School has made a mistake in the progress decision, decisions about resits etc, your first contact is the School office email@example.com.
The University will not require students to withdraw, or debar them from further examination or assessment, without giving them the opportunity to make representations. In addition, all students affected by adverse decisions on their future (for example, students required to repeat a year of study) may make representations.
The University will assume that students will normally have brought to the attention of their academic advisor or supervisor, in the normal course of events, mitigating circumstances which they consider might affect their future examination performance, and made appropriate submission in mitigation to their School prior to meetings of the relevant Board of Examiners, so that the Board of Examiners may take such circumstances into account in formulating results, decisions and recommendations to the Progress Board about their progress. The Appeals Committee will not normally therefore consider as new evidence information which the student could have brought to the attention of his or her School.
The University will consider appeals from students against progress decisions following examination made on the following grounds:
- that there were circumstances unknown to the examiners which contributed to a student's academic performance and consequently to the decision against which appeal is being made and the student can present good reason for these circumstances not having been made known in mitigation prior to the meeting of the Board of Examiners (e.g., to have been in intensive care in hospital, to have been held hostage).
- that there was an administrative irregularity or failure in procedure giving raise to a reasonable doubt as to whether the decision would have been different if it had not occurred (e.g., a significant difference in a provisional mark and a final mark, a mistake in calculating the average, in presenting a module as zero absent, although the student took part in the exam).
- in the case of postgraduate research students only that there has been bias or inadequacy in the assessment of their work on the part of one or more of the examiners.
Authoritative information about appeals is at http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/sca/appeals/index.shtml
If things go wrong, you have the right to complain. If possible this should be done on an informal level as early as possible before things create a big problem. For instance, if it is about a particular lecture, contact the lecturer in charge. If you are not satisfied by the action taken or if the nature of the problem is broader you can contact your representative on the Staff/Student Consultative Committee or discuss it with either your academic advisor or a member of the welfare team. If you are still not satisfied you can follow a formal complaints procedure. The full procedure as well as pointers to the forms to be filled in can be found on the world wide web under http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/study/support/governance/complaints.shtml.
There is a possibility for students to take a resit in the country, in which they are normally residents. Students wishing to do so, have to contact the University examinations office in due time and pay the cost of this procedure.
Mathematics and statistics are relevant to many discipline areas, however, many students experience difficulties with these subjects as they begin their university studies. From October 2012, the University of Birmingham will be opening a university-wide mathematics support centre where all students can receive additional help with the mathematical and statistical content of their programmes. This is in addition to the support you will receive as part of your undergraduate programme.
You can drop-in to the mathematics support centre anytime during its hours of opening (please check the website for details) and receive one-to-one help with any mathematics or statistics based problem; there is no need to make an appointment. The support centre provides a relaxed and friendly environment where experienced mathematicians will help you with any mathematical difficulties you may have, and help develop your mathematical confidence. The drop-in support is particularly targeted at foundation and first-year undergraduate students from all disciplines and programmes of study within the University, and at students from other year groups identified as having particular difficulties with basic mathematical and statistical techniques.
For further details on the centre, including its location and opening times or to find out more about the support on offer, please visit: http://www.intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/asc.
Additionally, there are a range of mathematics and statistics resources freely available online that you might find helpful if you need to revise or revisit a particular topic: www.mathcentre.ac.uk and www.mathtutor.ac.uk.
Contact the Student Enquiry Services Counter in the Aston Webb Building. Simply drop by at any point during their opening hours, and as long as you are a fully registered student, they can print the statement while you wait. You can also submit a request online using the student help pages: https://universityofbirmingham.service-now.com/ASStudent/.
Students will receive one official transcript per year of study free of charge. Further official transcripts can be ordered via the University's Online Shop and will be subject to a charge. Students can also request unofficial transcripts via the University web site. You can find further information on all this on the Transcript Information web page at http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/faq/transcripts.shtml
You must make an appointment to see one of the International Office's Advisers. For further information, contact the International Students Advisory Service: International Relations Office, First Floor, C Block, Aston Webb Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT, Fax: 0121 414 3850, Tel: 0121 414 2894. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information on the regulation of immigration advice and services, please see: http://www.oisc.gov.uk.
Students may withdraw from their studies for a period which is typically to the end of the academic year. This is called Leave of Absence. They can do this for a variety of reasons. Normally a student who is ill or who has serious financial or personal difficulties will make their situation known to the welfare team who will discuss with them the advisability of taking temporary withdrawal. The student should see the Senior Tutor and has to submit to the School a written statement of intention giving appropriate reasons. If approved, the School will forward this to the University authorities which in turn normally inform the LEA. If temporary withdrawal is taken during an academic year any questions about continuous assessment should be resolved with the lecturers concerned beforehand.
Overseas students who are considering to take Leave of Absence should contact the International Student Advisory Service (ISAS) so that they can conduct a full assessment of the impact the break will have on the student's immigration status.
For information on the Programmes with an Industrial Year see also the section on "Year in Industry".
Follow the web pages of the Student Funding Office at https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/studentservices/funding/index.aspx
If you withdraw from your programme of study the Student Loans Company (SLC) will stop paying your Tuition Fee Loan to the University.
The date that you withdraw (as reported to Student Records) will determine the amount of Tuition Fee Loan (and interest) that you will be liable to repay to the SLC:
|Withdrawal date reported to the SLC||Percentage to repay||Amount you will be charged|
|On or before 28th September 2012||0%||Interest only|
|On or before 6th January 2013||25%||£2,250 *|
|On or before 21st April 2013||50%||£4,500 *|
|On or after 22nd April 2013||100%||£9,000 *|
* plus interest
An External Examiner is normally a senior academic from another university whose role it is to assist in monitoring the quality of the education we provide to you. They help to ensure that the awards you receive at Birmingham are comparable to similar awards at other universities.
The External Examiners for your programmes are listed in the printed version of this handbook. You should note that External Examiners are required to remain impartial at all times and they do not participate in determining marks for individual students. Our School is required to publish their names, but students should not attempt to contact any External Examiner, and External Examiners are not permitted to respond to contacts made by students or anyone on behalf of a student.
Oops, you are in the wrong FAQ list. Questions of this kind are answered in the on-line system documentation on http://supportweb.cs.bham.ac.uk/.
There have been complaints about people using mobile phones in our labs, and disturbing others in the room by talking loudly. Please be cooperative and keep the noise down in direct conversation. When you want to use your mobile phone, please leave the lab. If you feel disturbed by loud conservation ask people to lower their voice. If this fails, ask a demonstrator or member of staff to intervene. If no-one appropriate is present, and the problem persists, don't hesitate to look for a member of staff outside the lab. Similar rules apply for the library. In lectures and exams you have to switch off your mobile phones.
It is important that you know the symptoms of meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia. As the illness develops extremely rapidly you should contact your Birmingham GP immediately when you notice some of the symptoms. Information about meningitis, in particular about the symptoms, can be found from the web page of the Meningitis Research Foundation at http://www.meningitis.org/
RSI stands for Repetitive Strain Injury - a medical condition you have a significant risk of getting from typewriting, in particular from bad practice of typewriting. Further information can be found on the web, see for instance, http://eeshop.unl.edu/rsi.html, http://www.tifaq.org/, http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu/, http://www.rsihelp.com/, and http://www.rsi-uk.org.uk/.
No. The University's smoking policy states that smoking is prohibited within all academic, administrative and commercial buildings, within residential buildings, service areas and University vehicles. For details and exceptions see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/documents/public/hsu/hsupolicy/25fsp.pdf.
Copyright is a complicated legal matter and regulated by copyright law and the Copyright Licensing Agency, CLA. Detailed information about the matter can be found following the home page of CLA: http://www.cla.co.uk.
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