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General information

Here you will find general information regarding the Master of Science in Applied Sciences and Engineering: Computer Science programme at the VUB.

Learning outcomes

For more information regarding the learning outcomes of the programme, click here

Numbers

To proceed to the ‘Opleiding in cijfers' (page only available in Dutch) page of the Flemish government, department of Education & Training, click here

QUALITY OF THE PROGRAMME MASTER OF SCIENCE IN APPLIED SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING: COMPUTER SCIENCE

In the Dutch-language Master of Science in de ingenieurswetenschappen: computerwetenschappen and the English variant Master of Science in Applied Sciences and Engineering: Computer Science, fundamental knowledge of computer sciences is combined with practical and research-oriented skills. Students specialise in one of four domains:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Multimedia
  • Software Languages and Software Engineering
  • Web and Information Systems

Since these specialisations are strongly linked to ongoing research within the department’s research groups, the latest developments and research questions are studied in the programme. Students appreciate the wide freedom of choice in the programme.

Both the lecturers and Study Guidance staff guide students during their study. Lecturers and assistants are very approachable.

Students are given several opportunities to get to know the business world and gain some experience in it. Moreover, students can easily complete a part of their study abroad, thanks to the mobility window. Graduates have a wide array of professional opportunities.

the Master consists of an up-to-date programme focusing on the latest developments and research questions

Learning outcomes and profiling

The Dutch and English-language Master of Science in Applied Sciences and Engineering: Computer Science offer a fundamental approach to computer sciences, combined with practical and research-oriented skills. The Master consists of an up-to-date programme focusing on the latest developments and research questions and students are given the chance to take part in the research in specialised research groups. The study programme leads to an engineering diploma.

Four specialisations are offered: Artificial Intelligence, Multimedia, Software Languages and Software Engineering and Web and Information Systems. Within the Artificial Intelligence profile, subjects such as learning and adaptive systems, learning multi-agent systems and the development of language are studied. The Multimedia profile aims to deepen knowledge of techniques and systems for signal processing and communication of multimedia content. In the Software Languages and Software Engineering profile, subjects such as designing programming language, compilers, software distribution and mobility and methods of software development are studied. Lastly, in the Web and Information Systems profile, management and the accessibility of multimedia information, both through databases and the web, are central to the study.

The programme-specific learning outcomes are divided into four clusters: knowledge and insight, application and engineering, research and general competences. In setting the learning outcomes, the various sub-domains of the wider field of computer sciences as defined by the 'Association for Computing Machinery’ (ACM) and the ‘Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society’ (IEEE CS), were taken into consideration.  The course council explicitly chose the scientific variant of computer sciences from the various sub-domains. The domain-specific learning outcomes shared by all engineering programmes in Flanders were also taken into account. The programme-specific learning outcomes are in line with the level descriptors as defined in the Flemish Qualifications Framework and in Article II.141 of the Higher Education Codex. Moreover, the learning outcomes are in line with the VUB’s vision on education.

there is a strong link between education and research in the programme

Curriculum

The two-year master's programme consists of 120 ECTS credits. In the first year, 30 ECTS credits are allocated to compulsory course units and 30 ECTS credits come from the chosen profile (Artificial Intelligence, Multimedia, Software Languages and Software Engineering or Web and Information Systems). The second year of the master's programme consists of a block of profile and/or elective course units (24 ECTS credits), free choice course units (6 ECTS credits), a block of 'Research Training' (6 ECTS credits) and a master's thesis (24 ECTS credits). Students appreciate the wide freedom of choice: they can compose their programme to a large extent according to their personal interests. The specialisations on offer stem from the research carried out within the department. This creates a strong link between education and research in the programme.

The Master is available in both Dutch and English. The English-language variant has the same learning outcomes and structure and uses the same forms of assessment as the Dutch-language variant.

The course council has at its disposal a programme matrix. With the help of this tool, the course units are linked to the programme-specific learning outcomes, teaching methods and forms of assessment.

Assessment policy

Guidelines for the master's thesis are available. The course council also organises an information session about the master's thesis and supervisors are always available to answer questions. Potential master's thesis subjects are published on the website. On an open-door day, students can ask extra questions before making their final choice. In order to assess the master's theses as objectively as possible, a detailed assessment form is used. Together, the chair and secretary of the examination committee follow the entire defence to minimise the risk of contextual factors influencing the assessment. There are also guidelines and an assessment form for the optional internship and the course council has determined programme-specific guidelines with regard to evaluation.

Student satisfaction

Students evaluate their education in the student feedback. Below are the results for the previous two semesters for which results were available at the time of compiling this report.

Master Computer Science (Dutch)

Participation:

2018-2019 semester 1: 13,16% (5/38)

No results were available for the second semester of 2017-2018 because the participation rate was too low.

Master Computer Science (English)

students are satisfied with the education

Participation:

2017-2018 semester 2: 25,45% (14/55)
2018-2019 semester 1: 19,18% (14/73)

The results of the student feedback show that students are satisfied with the education.

students are very satisfied with the accessibility of the lecturers and assistant staff

Lecturers

The master's programme is mainly taught by the Computer Sciences Department which is joined by the Electronics and Information Technology Department for the Multimedia specialisation. The Department of Computer Sciences has a head count of 14.1 FTE professors, 8 assistants, around 15 post-graduate researchers and approximately 60 PhD students. Students are very satisfied with the availability of the lecturers. Assistant staff are also very approachable. Since autumn of 2015, independent academic staff must meet the requirements described in the competence test.

The premise is three professors per profile. So no extra specialisations can be organised with the current capacity. Students interested in another specialisation can often find it through an exchange, national or international. By attracting new teaching staff specialised in those areas, the latest trends within the specialisations are covered.

there is focus on the guidance of students both at the central level and by the course council

Facilities and study guidance

There is focus on the guidance of students both at a central level and by the course council. There is close collaboration with Study Guidance; students can always reach the study guidance and learning path counsellors. The lecturers and assistant staff are very accessible to the students, who do not hesitate to approach them with any questions they might have. The course council has set programme-specific guidelines for course materials.

Enrolment

The number of students enrolled in the master's programme has fluctuated between 91 and 108 students since 2011-2012. The norm defined by the Soete report is amply met in terms both of numbers of students and the number of credits taken (4023 in 2016-2017). 

Almost all students who take the Bachelor of Computer Sciences at VUB go on to take the master's programme of Computer Sciences. For the small number of students who do not, the reason is generally that they choose to take a specific specialisation that is only offered at another university. The enrolment of the university's bachelor students is augmented by lateral entry of students completing the bridging programme and by international students.

an assessment tool has been developed to chart the prior knowledge of potential international students

Study sucess

In the academic year 2015-2016, the study success rate was 85.9%. That is in line with the average across VUB master programmes (85.7%) and similar study programmes in Flanders (85%). The completion time is however longer in the English-language master's programme than in the Dutch-language equivalent, which can be explained by significant lateral entries of international students, less accustomed to the VUB and to the exact prior knowledge needed.

In order to improve the quality of international student entries, an assessment tool has now been developed to chart the prior knowledge of the potential students and refer them to the correct course materials with which to update prior knowledge where necessary. A prototype of this tool was presented to the course council and it will be further refined. Intake interviews will also be conducted with first-year international students in the initial weeks of the academic year. Following these intake interviews, each student will receive an individually tailored plan for dealing with any shortcomings signalled. At present, screening of the enrolment applications takes place at departmental level. The course council is endeavouring to optimise this screening process. For example, criteria have been set up to check whether international degrees can be regarded as academic or professional degrees. This distinction does not exist in all countries outside Europe.

graduates can start work in several sectors

Outflow, alumni and relation to the professional field

In 2015-2016, 27 students obtained their degrees. A non-exhaustive list of professions for university-educated computer scientists can be found on the faculty website. Graduates can start work in several sectors, ranging from the software industry to healthcare or government services. Starting up their own business is also an option. Students indicate that they receive good support from the VUB when they start up their own businesses.

Students have the opportunity of doing a business internship. This is a good way to make contact with the sector.  They can find a list of possible internship places on the faculty website, including names of contacts and a description of the companies. International students in particular seem to do this internship.  The university is also considering developing a 'Fablab' (as already exists in the VUB's Faculty of Engineering Sciences) in which students work on a problem signalled in the industry.  There is already often collaboration with the industry in the master’s theses. Students feel they are given sufficient opportunity to get to know, and experience, the corporate world.

the course council has committed to agreements with excellent institutions for student exchanges

Internationalisation

The course council has grouped elective course units for 24 ECTS credits in the first semester of the second master's year, to encourage students to go on exchanges (in that period). Finding an equivalent in the guest institution is made easier by the package of elective course units and thanks to the specific timing, information about this can be communicated to the students on time. This mobility window is an asset which the course council would like to highlight more. The course council has committed to agreements with excellent institutions for student exchanges and personally organises an information session for outgoing Erasmus students. These initiatives have resulted in more students actually going abroad. Students are satisfied with the possibilities of going on an exchange and also about the information provided.

The English-language variant of the programme attracts many international students. Consequently, there are many opportunities to implement Internationalisation@home and the course council intends to work out a strategy for its realisation. At present, many of the students in the Dutch-language programme write their master's theses in English. Students are integrated into an international environment when they do their master's thesis at the research groups.

Communication

The course council strives towards making the mobility window explicit in all communications, both for outgoing and incoming mobility. It will also investigate how students can be better informed about the multimedia profile.

The course council will ensure that students are informed on time about assignments, projects and deadlines and about the expectations involved in the master's thesis and internship.

the course council has a clear vision for the study programme

Course council

The course council promotes and safeguards the quality of the study programmes. It maps out the vision and formulates proposals for content, design, cohesion and feasibility of the study programmes. There is a joint course council for the Dutch and English-language variants. The course council works on all relevant themes with regard to quality assurance and has a clear vision for the study programme. Both alumni and current students and the professional field are involved in the decision-making through their participation in course council meetings.

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This report is based on the results of the quality assessment which took place on 1 March 2017.  Representatives of the course council were present, as were students, internal and external peers and experts.

Text approved by the Academic Board on September 2nd 2019.