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Conversion Course Structure

The conversion course structure is two teaching blocks followwed by a summer project. The topics covered in each block are shown in the table below.

Note: for students who are not yet registered or cannot log into the web system, an archive of unit descriptions is available by clicking here (even though may not reflect all recent changes).

Teaching Block 1 (Sept-Dec; weeks 1-12)

Credit PointsUnit CodeUnit TitleReadingYear (if part-time)Assessment
Neill Campbell
Programming in C
  • C Programming in Easy Steps. M. McGrath. In Easy Steps Ltd, 2012. ISBN: 184078203X. Price: 8.79. (Background)
yr 1 onlyCoursework+Labtest
Kerstin Eder
Overview of Computer Architecture
  • Structured Computer Organization. A. Tanenbaum. Prentice Hall, 2005. ISBN: 0131485210. Price: 29.99 (Recommended)
yr 1 or 2Coursework+Viva
10 (of 20)COMSM2202
Oliver Ray
Research Skills
  • Writing for Computer Science. J. Zobel. Springer, 2009. ISBN-10: 1852338024. Price 18.95 (background)
yr 1 onlyCoursework only

Teaching Block 2 (Feb-May: weeks 13-24)

Credit PointsUnit CodeUnit TitleReadingYear (if part-time)Assessment
Ian Holyer
Object Oriented Programming with Java
  • Java Programming. Wikibooks (free, online, Java 7, Recommended)
  • Objects First with Java; A Practical Introduction using BlueJ . D.J. Barnes & M. Kolling. Prentice Hall, 2012. ISBN: 0136060862. Price: 37.99. (Background)
yr 1 or 2Coursework only
David Bernhard
  • Database Systems: A Practical Approach to design, Implementation, and Management. T. Connolly & C. Begg. Addison Wesley, 2009. ISBN: 0321210255. Price: 55.00. (Recommended)
  • A First Course in Database Systems. J.D. Ullman & J. Widom. Prentice Hall, 2007. ISBN: 013600637X. Price: 58.99. (Recommended)
yr 1 or 2Coursework+Exam
Ian Holyer
Web Technologies
  • n/a
yr 1 or 2Coursework only
10 (of 20)COMSM2202
Oliver Ray
Research Skills
  • see above
yr 1 onlyCoursework only
Ian Holyer
Software Engineering and Group Project
  • Software Engineering (7th edition). I. Sommerville. Addison-Wesley. 2004. ISBN: 0321210263. Price: 42.99. (Recommended)
yr 1 or 2Coursework only

Summer Project (June-Sept)

Credit PointsUnit CodeUnit TitleReadingYear (if part-time)Assessment
Oliver Ray
Individual project
  • n/a
yr 2 onlyposter+thesis

Sample Timetable

To give you a rough idea of how the course is laid out, a draft timetable is shown below (this is in fact for academic year 2016-7). Note that your actual timetable will only be avaiable when the course starts and you should check for last minute changes in Week 0. You should check your own timetable for further occasional sessions specific to yourself (e.g. Research Skills Sessions). You should consult these key dates for a list of term and important dates. The following gives a brief overview of the year:

Welcome week 0: During your first week at Bristol you will be given a general introduction to the course, the Department and the Faculty, along with an intensive introduction to C programming and a programme of social activities:

Teaching Block 1

Note: There will be additional research Skills sessions in weeks 10 and 12.

Christmas Holiday: After TB1 you are expected to take Christmas holiday. You should use this time wisely. A bit of relaxation is recommended, but you should also do a bit of revision and make sure your are on top of the material so far.

January Assessment period: You need to be back at University for the assessment period. Although you won't be taking exams, it is vital that you use this time for finding a project topic and supervisor (before the start of TB2 and the Research Skills unit).

Teaching Block 2

Note: There will be additional research Skills sessions in various weeks.

Easter Holiday: This happens towards the end of TB2.

Summer Assessment Period: This is when you do your exams.

Summer "Holiday": Although sonme students take a week off immediately after thir exams, you should really be working full time on your project. It is advisable to work on you project even before the exam results come out at the end of June.

Hours Expected

Note that there are typically ten hours work required per credit point and typically each course will have two or three lectures and one or two labs per week (each lasting one hour, scheduled on a regular weekly basis, and possibly supplemented with drop-in help-desk opportunities). The C programming unit software engineering group project units both have additional help scheduled in the form of optional labs where lecturers and/or teaching assistants are available to offer help on assignments. We don't recommend missing any of these but unit materials are usually put on-line in case you are ever in a position where you find yourself needing to catch up. Thus a 10 CP course will typically require 100 hours of effort. Any non-contact time is intended for homework and revision. Assessment is by a combination of coursework (throughout the year) and/or exam (usually in Jan and May/Jun). Project supervision arrangements are flexible and need to be agreed with your supervisor (but you'll normally meet your supervisor about fortnightly throughout TB2 and summer).

Part-time study

For part-time study the normal format is split over two years. In the first year, you MUST do Programming in C in TB1 and Research Skills in TB1 and TB2. You will start your project (which follows on from Research Skills) in the first year and finish it at the end of the second year. Other than that, you choose which year to study the other units in any sensible way (normally aiming to do about 60 credits of tuaght units in each year). This information should give you a good idea how to plan your study. In general our part-time students manage to split their units across the two years in such a way that lets them be at university only two or three (or two and a half) days a week. Although the graduate school does not officially provide any absolute guarantees on this point, it has always worked out in the past. But you should be aware that timetables only become available a couple of weeks before the beginning of term and have been known to change right up until the start of term. In practice it seems to work best by you negotiating a number of days on/off work per week and then selecting the particular days towards the beginning of term. It is worth noting that the C course is also taught intensively in week 0.

Pre-course Preparation

It is suggested you look at the recommended and background texts in the tables above. I would suggest generally skimming through but going into more detail on key topics, bits you don't initially get, or anything that takes your fancy. Writing a few C programs is probably going to help you the most.

In addition I strongly suggest you start thinking about (and reading up on) some potential topics for your project. There is some flexibility in choice (see below) so you can consider areas relating to your hobbies, work experience, undergrad degree, etc. Can you find which research groups or staff have related interests?


The research skills course will explain what is required in the project. In the meantime you could look at last year's project handbook and a list of recent MSc project titles.

Other Information

There is a Departmental handbook but (since this is primarily oriented at undergraduates) the information above is likely to be of more use.