Faculty and Academic Board Program Revision Issues/Requirements

Faculty/AB Perspective Possible CSE Perspective

A flexible first year for the whole of engineering is desirable for students, who, on entering our programs, know that they do not know which type of engineering they want to specialise in.

In most cases, CSE students would be tossing up between CS, SE, BI, CE, EE, and Telecommunications.

At present, transferring between programs within Engineering is only possible by applying through UAC. At the end of first year, such a student's application is considered on the basis of a 50% mix of their original UAI and their UNSW GPA. Students who flunked first year because the found they hated the program they were in thus end up on the garbage heap of life.

Transfers between UNSW Engineering programs used to be at the discretion of the Schools involved. UNSW Central canned this arrangement a few years ago on equity grounds - they believe that this arrangement was unfair to Uni students from outside UNSW wishing to transfer into later years of UNSW Engineering courses, who had to go via UAC. In other words, they considered the possible inequity for such non-UNSW transfer applicants to be more important (legally) than the waste of human talent involved in locking UNSW students into programs they cannot pass.

Many of the problems could be addressed by assessing UAC transfer applicants on the basis of max(original UAI, Uni GPA) rather than average(original UAI, Uni GPA). CSE has proposed this, but the outgoing Faculty Associate Dean (Education), A/Prof. Tim Hesketh, has responded (as I (BillW) understand him) that this is not one of the dozens of UAC admission criteria options, and that he is not prepared to pursue the possibility of proposing such a criterion as a new UAC criterion.

The same arrangement applies with respect to transfers between CS, CE, BI, and SE, and EE, Telecommunications, and IS. The proposed Faculty scheme, whereby students may enrol in a common program code in first year, and then elect which flavour of Engineering they will continue with at the end of first year, fixes this for such students (but not for IS students). However, in fact, they are likely to see much less of any particular brand of Engineering in first year, and thus are not in a very much better position to choose than at the end of secondary school. Students who don't hit the wall until part-way through second or third year - when they find a course they just cannot cope with - are no better off.

The Dean wishes there to be a design stream in every Engineering degree, and has proposed that this will take the form of a designated design stream in each year.

CSE courses almost all include a significant amount of design. We could deal with this requirement by:

  • designating particular existing core COMP courses as "design" courses: e.g. COMP3121 - Design 3: Design and Analysis of Algorithms;
  • arguing that we meet the requirement by dint of having widely distributed design material in our existing courses;
  • in the case of BI and SE, designating BINFx001 and SENGx0x0 and SENG1031 as the "design" courses in years 1 to 3. This still leaves fourth year design courses.

CS is probably not affected by this requirement, except in first year if it is to be part of the flexible engineering first year scheme.

The Dean wishes to eliminate the wasted effort involved where Engineering Schools each teach versions of courses like Mechanics, Numerical Methods, and Computing. These courses would be taught centrally.

CSE has proposed that a modified version of COMP1081 should be the Computing courses. Thanks to Ashesh for work on this re-design in conjunction with computing folk in other Engineering Schools. The current proposal includes the concept that each participating Engineering School would contribute a tutorial/lab stream using problems and assignments relevant to the needs of the particular School. This will, of course, lead to issues with equitable assessment of the different assignments, but is better than having students (and Schools) discontented by irrelevant assignment content.

The Dean wants all courses to be 6 UoC. This won't work for GenEd courses, and may not be achievable for courses taught outside the Faculty (e.g. Mathematics, Physics).

No written reason has been given for this requirement, but it is believed to be aimed at some Engineering programs that consist of lots of 4 and 3 UoC courses, which are alleged to course examination overload for students.

BI and CE can comply, at the cost of modifying Professional Issues and Ethics courses. CS can comply in first year, as far as potential CS students enrolled in the flexible engineering first year are concerned, and after first year, if they in fact elect to take CS, they are no longer in a BE degree, so presumably the requirement no longer applies. The only 3 UoC course in CS at present is COMP2920 Professional Issues and Ethics.

SE has more problems. Again, compliance in first year is possible, by folding the material in INFS1611 into SENG1031. The later SENG workshops are 3 UoC, though they could be viewed as 6 UoC full-year courses that are implemented as 2 × 3 UoC courses because NSS cannot cope with full-year courses. This is not historically accurate, but we could take the view that we would fold them into 6 UoC full-year courses and so comply, except NSS won't let us.

The extra examination load (per se) imposed by this requirement is negligible, as SENG workshops are assessed by project, not by examination. Note that students normally take a 3 UoC GenEd course in the sessions in which they take SENG workshop courses in second and third years.

SE Program Director and creator of the SE program, Ken Robinson, points out that students need a full academic year to go through the learning experience that is involved in the second and third year SENG workshops, and that it would be invidious to accept imposed changes that compromised the academic goals of the program without strong reasons that actually apply in the case of this particular program.

The timing of the revision requirements is driven by the advent of UNSW Singapore (= UNSW Asia), which starts up in 2007. A/Prof. Hesketh has informed the Flexible First Year working group that appointees to UNSW Asia will start work with a semester at UNSW Kensington, absorbing the UNSW ethos. The contract with the Singapore government requires that students be able to transfer between UNSW campuses without loss of credit. Because of limited staff resources at UNSW Asia, the programs there must be designed carefully to allow such transfers, and it is claimed that the programs here need to be revised to facilitate such transfers too. The best sequence is to revise our programs for 2006, so that (a) they can be debugged in 2006; and (b) the UNSW Asia staff in training can work with the revised programs.

In fact the UNSW Asia academic year will begin in September or thereabouts, so UNSW Asia will start up in September 2007. This means UNSW Asia staff could start training at UNSW Kensington in early 2007, and so we wouldn't need to revise for 2006, just for 2007.

A recent academic board requirement mandates 12 UoC of free electives in every program. There is an out-clause which says that professional programs may apply for exemption from this requirement on a program-by- program basis, if it will make it infeasible to meet accreditation requirements.

SE & CS already comply. We may seek exemption for BI and CE.

There is an academic board requirement that at most 75% of any program's core requirements may be source within the program's home Faculty.

This is a problem for some Engineering programs but not for us.

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