Undergraduate Course

BEng Computer Systems Engineering

BEng Computer Systems Engineering

Overview

The details
Computer Systems Engineering
H650
October 2024
Full-time
3 years
Colchester Campus

Computer systems can be found everywhere: inside a mobile phone, at a hospital bedside, and inside your TV, washing machine and games consoles. Computer systems engineers explore how this works – what is needed to convert machines and machinery into useful computing. We're for people who want to figure out what goes on inside the box.

Our course gives you a thorough introduction to computer science before focussing on systems engineering. You study areas including:

  • Writing programs, programming embedded microprocessors and designing embedded microprocessor systems in C
  • The design and function of modern operating systems
  • The functionality hardware needs to provide for an operating system

We emphasise the importance of practical learning, and you also have the opportunity to undertake a major project or product development specified either by a member of academic staff or a partner company.

In addition to these topics, you also have the flexibility to explore other areas our department specialises in, such as computer security, Big Data, and robotics.

Programming at Essex

Teaching someone to programme is about opening a door. In your first year at Essex you will study a module that introduces you to programming using C. We assess your ability to think in a programmatic way in the very first week of term and if you require additional support, we offer classes which will boost your skills and confidence with programming.

Professional accreditation

Accredited by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT for the purposes of fully meeting the academic requirement for registration as a Chartered IT Professional.

Accredited by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT on behalf of the Engineering Council for the purposes of fully meeting the academic requirement for Incorporated Engineer and partially meeting the academic requirement for a Chartered Engineer.

Accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) on behalf of the Engineering Council for the purposes of fully meeting the academic requirement for registration as an Incorporated Engineer and partially meeting the academic requirement for registration as a Chartered Engineer.

Why we're great.
  • You'll join a community of scholars leading the way in technological research and development.
  • 94% of our School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering graduates are in employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes 2023).
  • We are ranked 6th in the UK for research power in computer science (Times Higher Education research power measure, Research Excellence Framework 2021).

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

Placement year

Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement with an external organisation, as part of one of our placement year degrees. The learning outcomes associated with this programme focus on using the specialist technical skills acquired in the first two years of the course and developing communications skills with customers.

Students are provided with support to secure a placement. Recent placements undertaken by our students have been with ARM, Microsoft, Intel, Nestlé, British Aerospace, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, as well a range of SME software and hardware companies.

Our expert staff

Our original Department of Computer Science was founded by Professor Tony Brooker, who came to Essex from Manchester where he had worked with Alan Turing. Professor Brooker invented the compiler-compiler, one of the earliest applications of a formal understanding of the nature of programming languages.

In recent years we have attracted many highly active research staff and we are conducting world-leading research in areas such as evolutionary computation, brain-computer interfacing, intelligent inhabited environments and financial forecasting.

Specialist facilities

  • We have six laboratories that are exclusively for computer science and electronic engineering students. Three are open 24/7, and you have free access to the labs except when there is a scheduled practical class in progress
  • All computers are dual boot Windows 10 and Linux. Apple Mac Computers are dual boot MacOS and Windows 10
  • Software includes Java, Prolog, C++, Perl, Mysql, Matlab, DB2, Microsoft Office, Visual Studio, and Project
  • Students have access to CAD tools and simulators for chip design (Xilinx) and computer networks (OMNet++)
  • We also have specialist facilities for research into areas including non-invasive brain-computer interfaces, intelligent environments, robotics, optoelectronics, video, RF and MW, printed circuit milling, and semiconductors.

Your future

Demand for computer scientists and engineers is high; the IT and engineering sectors are growing at a rate that outstrips the supply of fresh talent.

We have many graduates in senior positions in the computer communications industry, as well recent graduates working in IT and computer companies. Many occupy positions in the retail and services sectors, where computer expertise is in high demand, particularly in developing and managing computer servers and communications networks.

Our department has a large pool of external contacts, ranging from companies providing robots for the media industry, through vehicle diagnostics, to virtualisation of networks, and network security, who work with us and our students to help provide advice, placements and eventually graduate opportunities. Read more about computer science and electronic engineering career destinations here.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:

  • IBM
  • BT
  • EDS
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Accenture
  • Google
  • Force India F1

We also work with our University's Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

“Essex is a fantastic place to study for people interested in telecommunications, computer networking, robotics or artificial intelligence, and my School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering has strong partnerships within the industry. I now work for Google, fighting spam and improving the quality of search results in emerging European markets.”

Bogdan Suvar, BEng Computer Networks, 2011

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

  • GCSE: Mathematics C/4.
  • A-levels: BBB - BBC or 120 - 112 UCAS tariff points from a minimum of 2 full A-levels.
  • BTEC: DDM - DMM or 120 - 112 UCAS tariff points from a minimum of the equivalent of 2 full A-levels. The acceptability of BTECs is dependent on subject studied and optional units taken - email ugquery@essex.ac.uk for advice.
  • Combined qualifications on the UCAS tariff: 120 - 112 UCAS tariff points from a minimum of 2 full A levels or equivalent. Tariff point offers may be made if you are taking a qualification, or mixture of qualifications, from the list on our undergraduate application information page.
  • IB: 30 - 29 points or three Higher Level certificates with 555-554. Our Maths requirement can be met with either: 4 in Standard level Maths; 3 in Higher level Maths; or 4 in IB Middle Years Maths.
  • IB Career-related Programme: We consider combinations of IB Diploma Programme courses with BTECs or other qualifications. Advice on acceptability can be provided, email Undergraduate Admissions.
  • QAA-approved Access to HE Diploma: 6 level 3 credits at Distinction and 39 level 3 credits at Merit, depending on subject studied - advice on acceptability can be provided, email Undergraduate Admissions.
  • T-levels: We consider T-levels on a case-by-case basis, depending on subject studied. The offer for most courses is Distinction overall. Depending on the course applied for there may be additional requirements, which may include a specific grade in the Core.

Contextual Offers:

We are committed to ensuring that all students with the merit and potential to benefit from an Essex education are supported to do so. For October 2024 entry, if you are a home fee paying student residing in the UK you may be eligible for a Contextual Offer of up to two A-level grades, or equivalent, below our standard conditional offer.
Factors we consider:

  • Applicants from underrepresented groups
  • Applicants progressing from University of Essex Schools Membership schools/colleges
  • Applicants who attend a compulsory admissions interview
  • Applicants who attend an Offer Holder Day at our Colchester or Southend campus

Our contextual offers policy outlines additional circumstances and eligibility criteria.

For further information about what a contextual offer may look like for your specific qualification profile, email ugquery@essex.ac.uk.

If you haven't got the grades you hoped for, have a non-traditional academic background, are a mature student, or have any questions about eligibility for your course, more information can be found on our undergraduate application information page. or get in touch with our Undergraduate Admissions Team.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall, or specified score in another equivalent test that we accept.

Details of English language requirements, including UK Visas and Immigration minimum component scores, and the tests we accept for applicants who require a Student visa (excluding Nationals of Majority English Speaking Countries) can be found here

If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above for the relevant countries.

Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

If you are an international student requiring a Student visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

What if my IELTS does not meet your requirements?

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Do I need to have achieved an acceptable English language qualification before I apply?

You don’t need to achieve the required level before making your application, but it will be one of the conditions of your offer.

What if the English language qualification I hold, or am taking, is not listed?

If you cannot find the qualification that you have achieved or are pending, then please contact Admissions on ugquery@essex.ac.uk for advice.

What are the requirements for second and final year entry?

Different requirements apply for second and final year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a visa to study in the UK. Details of English language requirements, including UK Visas and Immigration minimum component scores, and the tests we accept for applicants who require a Student visa (excluding Nationals of Majority English Speaking Countries) can be found here

Additional Notes

If you’re an international student, but do not meet the English language or academic requirements for direct admission to this degree, you could prepare and gain entry through a pathway course. Find out more about opportunities available to you at the University of Essex International College

Structure

Course structure

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We'll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we'll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained

Components

Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
Core
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Compulsory
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Optional
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.

Modules

Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms

COMPONENT 01: CORE

Team Project Challenge
(15 CREDITS)

Our Team Project Challenge gives you the opportunity to develop a range of professional skills by working as part of a small student team on a specific project. The projects are research-based and incorporate the concepts of specifications, design, and implementation. You’ll learn about sustainability, project and time management, design, legal issues, health and safety, data analysis and presentation, team reporting, and self-evaluation. You’ll also develop skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, agility, leadership, collaboration across networks, and effective oral and written communication, as well as curiosity and imagination, all of which will enhance your knowledge, confidence and social skills necessary to innovate and succeed in a competitive global environment.

View Team Project Challenge on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: CORE

Mathematics for Computing
(15 CREDITS)

The aim of this module is to cover fundamental mathematics for Computer Scientists. It does not assume A-level mathematics, and the emphasis and delivery will be on understanding the key concepts as they apply to Computer Science.

View Mathematics for Computing on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 03: CORE

Intro to Programming with C
(15 CREDITS)

This module will provide you with an introduction to fundamental concepts of computer programming in the C language, which is particularly relevant to programming embedded systems and for electronic engineers.

View Intro to Programming with C on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 04: CORE

Object-Oriented Programming
(15 CREDITS)

Want to become a Java programmer? Topics covered in this module include control structures, classes, objects, inheritance, polymorphism, interfaces, file I/O, event handling, graphical components, and more. You will develop your programming skills in supervised lab sessions where help will be at hand should you require it.

View Object-Oriented Programming on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 05: CORE

Introduction to Databases
(15 CREDITS)

Databases are everywhere. They are employed in banking, production control and the stock market, as well as in scientific and engineering applications. For example, the Human Genome Project had the goal of mapping the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up human DNA. The result is a genome database. This module introduces the underlying principles of databases, database design and database systems. It covers the fundamental concepts of databases, and prepares the student for their use in commerce, science and engineering.

View Introduction to Databases on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 06: CORE

Network Fundamentals
(15 CREDITS)

This module introduces the fundamentals of networking including wiring and configuration of switches and routers and associated subnetting. Laboratory sessions give practical hands on experience in our purpose built networking lab. The module uses the Cisco CCNA exploration Network Fundamentals course which is the first of four Cisco courses that can be used to obtain a Cisco CCNA qualification and participants will gain the CCNA1 qualification whilst on this course.

View Network Fundamentals on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 07: CORE

Fundamentals of Digital Systems
(15 CREDITS)

Computers, embedded systems, and digital systems in general have become an essential part of most people's lives, whether directly or indirectly. The aim of this module is to introduce the software and hardware underpinnings of such systems at an introductory yet challenging level suitable for future computer scientists and engineers. Topics covered in the module include both top-view as well as bottom-view approaches to understanding digital computers. They range from the more theoretical (e.g., state machines, logic circuits, and von Neumann's architecture) to the more practical (e.g., how transistors produce binary signals, operating system functions, memory management, and common hardware devices). The module also includes problem solving classes in which a guided discussion of weekly exercises is aimed at giving the student an opportunity to consolidate his/her understanding of the topics involved. Upon completion of this module, students should have a good conceptual and practical understanding of the nature and architecture of digital computer systems and their components.

View Fundamentals of Digital Systems on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 08: CORE

Digital Electronic Systems
(15 CREDITS)

This module develops the fundamental concepts introduced in the Digital Systems Architecture. We examine how data are represented within digital systems, including floating point, 'text' and 'data' files, and how the conversions between internal and human-readable forms are performed. The design and applications of higher-level logic elements such as counters, registers and multiplexers are discussed, as well as the more general concept of the finite state machine and its design. Transmission of digital data between systems is introduced by examination of the RS232 protocol. Further, fundamental decisions on how such sources should be represented in digital format include sample rates and quantization accuracy are discussed. In the case of audio and video especially, the possibilities for signal processing and data compression are investigated

View Digital Electronic Systems on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 01: CORE

Operating Systems
(15 CREDITS)

A bare computer is just a complex pile of electronics. What a programmer needs is much higher-level: a human-usable interface; a file system; communication with other computers. The system should be able to share itself between many users, but stop them from interfering with each other's work. It should be secure. In short, what a bare computer needs is an operating system. This module studies the functionality an operating system must provide, and the principles of how that is done.

View Operating Systems on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: CORE

C Programming and Embedded Systems
(15 CREDITS)

The overall goal of this module is to provide you with an understanding of how programs are written in C (a computer programming language) to solve engineering problems. Learn how to program an embedded microprocessor in C and how to design embedded mircroprocessor systems as solutions to various problems. Explore the design input and output modules for an embedded system.

View C Programming and Embedded Systems on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 03: CORE

Team Project Challenge
(15 CREDITS)

This course covers the principles of project management, team working, communication, legal issues, finance, and company organisation. Working in small teams, students will go through the full project life-cycle of design, development and implementation, for a bespoke software requirement. In this course, students gain vital experience to enable them to enter the computer science/Electrical engineering workforce, with a degree backed by the British Computer Society, and by the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

View Team Project Challenge on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 04: CORE WITH OPTIONS

Option from list
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 05: CORE WITH OPTIONS

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 06: CORE WITH OPTIONS

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 01: CORE

Individual Capstone Project Challenge
(45 CREDITS)

The highlight of our undergraduate degree courses is the individual capstone project. This project module provides students with the opportunity to bring together all the skills they have gained during their degree and demonstrate that they can develop a product from the starting point of a single 1/2 page description, provided either by an academic member of staff or an external company. In all the student spends 450 hours throughout the academic year, reporting to their academic tutor, and in the case of company projects, to a company mentor. All projects are demonstrated to external companies on our Project Open Day.

View Individual Capstone Project Challenge on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: CORE WITH OPTIONS

Option from list
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 03: CORE WITH OPTIONS

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 04: CORE WITH OPTIONS

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

Placement

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Teaching

  • Courses are taught by a combination of lectures, laboratory work, assignments, and individual and group project activities
  • Undergraduate students in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering typically attend a two-hour lecture and a two-hour lab for each 15 credit module
  • A significant amount of practical lab work will need to be undertaken for written assignments and as part of your learning

Assessment

  • In your first year, you will have exams before the start of term in January
  • You are assessed through a combination of written examinations and coursework
  • All our modules include a significant coursework element
  • You receive regular feedback on your progress through in-term tests

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee

£9,250 per year

International fee

£22,750 per year

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

Home/UK fees and funding information

International fees and funding information

What's next

Open Days

Our events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. We run a number of Open Days throughout the year which enable you to discover what our campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to book a campus tour here.

2024 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Applying

Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Full details on how to apply can be found on the filling in your UCAS undergraduate application web page.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are 'L' and 'S' respectively.

You can find further information on how to apply, including information on transferring from another university, applying if you are not currently at a school or college, and applying for readmission on our How to apply and entry requirements page.

Offer Holder Days

If you receive an undergraduate offer to study with us in October 2024 and live in the UK, you will receive an email invitation to book onto one of our Offer Holder Days. Our Colchester Campus Offer Holder Days run from February to May 2024 on various Wednesdays and Saturdays, and our Southend Campus events run in April and May. These events provide the opportunity to meet your department, tour our campus and accommodation, and chat to current students. To support your attendance, we are offering a travel bursary, allowing you to claim up to £150 as reimbursement for travel expenses. For further information about Offer Holder Days, including terms and conditions and eligibility criteria for our travel bursary, please visit our webpage.

If you are an overseas offer-holder, you will be invited to attend one of our virtual events. However, you are more than welcome to join us at one of our in-person Offer Holder Days if you are able to - we will let you know in your invite email how you can do this.

A sunny day with banners flying on Colchester Campus Square 4.

Visit Colchester Campus

Set within 200 acres of award-winning parkland - Wivenhoe Park and located two miles from the historic city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.


View from Square 2 outside the Rab Butler Building looking towards Square 3

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tours allows you to explore our University from the comfort of your home. Check out our Colchester virtual tour and Southend virtual tour to see accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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