Postgraduate study2016


Systems Engineering

School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering

Year of entry: 2016

1 year full-time, 3 years part-time (typical)

This course has been designed with industry to meet the challenge of interdependence between sophisticated engineered systems of all kinds. It is often taken in its part-time format.


Systems Engineering

School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering

Year of entry: 2016

1 year full-time, 3 years part-time (typical)

This course has been designed with industry to meet the challenge of interdependence between sophisticated engineered systems of all kinds. It is often taken in its part-time format.

Programme information

It is aimed at engineers who have specialised in a traditional discipline but are now expected to understand, operate in, develop and integrate entire systems that are not only increasingly complex but rapidly changing.

The block taught format of the programme and the option to elect assessment by coursework rather than exam makes it a popular part time course and a CPD option.

Core study areas include systems thinking, systems architecture, systems design, verification and validation, and an individual project.

Optional study areas include enterprise systems management, holistic engineering (industry-led module), sensors and actuators for control, imagineering technologies, engineering and management of capability and understanding complexity.


We employ advanced modelling, simulation and interactive visualisation tools and techniques to enable you to gain greater understanding of the performance, behaviour and emergent properties of advanced technology and complex systems.

Many of these facilities are part of the Advanced VR Research Centre ( AVRRC).

Careers and further study

Graduates of this course gain capabilities that are in global demand across a range of sectors and which can be applied to the challenges and issues posed by any complex system design and operation.

Promotion within their company for sponsored students is common since the course enables them to match higher job expectations and demands. Employed students often bring a work-relevant topic to their individual project giving the opportunity to display newly acquired skills.

How you will learn

The curriculum stimulates thinking and extends the capabilities of technical managers and engineers to handle complexity, enabling them to remain effective in the workplace by providing:

  • an integrated systems engineering view of inter-related technologies, processes, tools, techniques and their effective use;
  • essential systems skills such as model-based systems architecture and design, against a background of the need for traceability in managing complex projects;
  • knowledge and technical expertise in a range of systems technologies;
  • experience of the importance to ultimate success of effective, integrated, multi-skilled project teams working in extended enterprises beyond the confines of any particular organisation;
  • increased depth of technical and management knowledge through elective modules; and
  • the ability to transfer systems skills and knowledge into the workplace through the individual master’s project.

Teaching staff comprise a varied skill set of international expertise to give the broadest perspectives and modules frequently feature master classes from industry practitioners.


There is the option to complete without written examinations as all compulsory modules are assessed by coursework. Where examinations are taken these are in January and May.

Entry qualification

Upper second class (2:1) honours degree in any STEM subject or an equivalent qualification

Programme modules

Compulsory Modules

• Systems Thinking
• Systems Architecture
• Systems Design
• Validation & Verification
• Individual Project

Optional Modules (choose four)

• Enterprise Systems Engineering
• Holistic Engineering (industry-led module)
• Sensors and Actuators for Control
• Imagineering Technologies
• Engineering and Management of Capability
• Understanding Complexity

Block taught, individual modules are also highly suitable as CPD for professional engineers working onsystems engineering projects and challenges.

The following descriptions of modules are intended as a guide to the curriculum. The content may be subject to change at the discretion of the University.



Systems Thinking

The aims of this module are to provide a comprehensive introduction to the systems discipline from which participants will acquire the principles and concepts of systems thinking and will become aware of its broad application base.

It includes the following topics:
• Framework of systems science
• History and principles of the systems approach, introduction to systems concepts and theory.
• Information modelling: diagrammatic models, classification and type.
• Interactive methods for eliciting ideas from users; ideawriting; nominal group technique; interpretive structural modelling.
• Systems behaviour: cybernetics and information feedback, open loop and closed loop decision models.
• Systems methodologies: hard systems methodology, soft systems methodology and management cybernetics.
• Modelling methods: purpose, formulation, identification and evaluation.
• Systems dynamics modelling: use of spreadsheets and/or purpose built simulation packages.
• Applications of systems in a number of different engineering domains.

Professor Ron Summers


ELP065 Individual Project
The aim of this module is to provide an in depth opportunity for independent study that is related to one or more elements of a systems-based intervention. The research methods to be employed will be governed by the complexity of the system under study and may be hardware or software based or neither; largely theoretical or strictly practical or a mixture of both. The project topic may be derived from a tutor list of research interests; from a specific interest of the student; or from an industrial need formulated by the student in collaboration with an industry partner and agreed with the Programme Director.

Professor Ron Summers


ELP066 Systems Design
The aims of this module are to give students: (i) practical knowledge of design and requirements engineering from a systems and model based viewpoint; (ii) an understanding of the relation between system design, system architecture, and verification and validation (V&V); (iii) an introduction to and practice with software and systems modelling languages, methods, and commercially available tools; and (iv) an introduction to system modelling and analysis in support of design. Students will learn a system design process aligned to ISO/IEC 15288 and to how model a system and use models for system design and analysis.

It includes the following topics:
• Logical and scientific basis for systems engineering
• system design process and engineering for the life cycle
• structured analysis and design
• relation between system design, architecture, and V&V
• requirements engineering
• system concept definition and architecture specification
• system design specification
• system integration
• introduction to the Unified and Systems Modeling Languages (UML and SysML) for software and systems
• introduction to models and metamodels for system specification
• a model based approach to Quality Function Deployment and design trades
• behavioural modelling and analysis
• non-functional analysis
• research and advanced methods in the international community.

Professor Charles Dickerson


ELP067 Validation and Verification
The aims of this module are to give students: (i) practical knowledge of verification and validation (V&V) for testing and acceptance of systems from a systems and model based viewpoint; (ii) understanding of the relation between design and V&V with the objective of concurrent V&V and design of robust systems; (iii) an introduction to hardware and software in the loop testing; and (iv) an introduction to and practice with software and systems modelling languages and methods using commercially available tools. Students will learn V&V procedures and tests aligned to ISO/IEC 15288 and IEEE 1516 from a systems and model based viewpoint and how to use V&V to influence system design and analysis.

It includes the following topics:
• Logical and scientific basis for systems engineering
• V&V procedures and tests
• noise in test measurements
• reliability and other non-functional testing and evaluation
• hardware and software in the loop testing
• V&V design and analysis
• robustness metrics, design of experiments
• approaches to concurrent system design and V&V
• introduction to the Unified and Systems Modeling Languages (UML and SysML) for software and systems
• using models for system requirements, structure, and behaviour traceability
• realisation and capability assessment
• research and advanced methods in the international community.

Professor Charles Dickerson


ELP072 Systems Architecture
The aim of this module is to give students: (i) practical knowledge of systems from a model based and architectural viewpoint; (ii) an understanding of system and enterprise architecture frameworks; (iii) knowledge of and practice with software and systems modelling languages, methods, and commercially available tools; and (iv) an introduction to model driven architecture and analysis. The students will learn how to model the architecture of a system and use it to assess system functionality and performance. 

It includes the following topics:
• Logical and scientific basis for systems architecture, models, and transformations;
• relation between systems architecting and systems engineering, especially system design
• using the Unified and Systems Modeling Languages (UML and SysML) for software and system development
• metamodels, modelling system requirements, structure, and behaviour
• structured analysis and design
• model driven architecture and analysis
• system of system architecture, enterprise architecture and frameworks
• defence architectures and frameworks
• research and advanced methods in the international community.

Professor Charles Dickerson


Optional Modules

ELP060 Enterprise Systems Engineering
The aims of this module are: firstly to consolidate the students' understanding of an enterprise as a system (made up of human, process and technical sub-systems) and provide them with knowledge, methods and tools to aid in the design and evaluation of such systems; and secondly to provide the students with an overview of Enterprise System Architectures and Architectural Frameworks. 

It includes the following topics:
• application of systems thinking and methods to the design, modelling and evaluation of enterprise systems in a systems of systems context
• theory underpinning the study of enterprise systems
• rationale, relevance and limitations of alternative enterprise system modelling and enterprise system architecture approaches
• constraints and benefits of creating a 'big picture' enterprise systems model
• relevance of human factors/ergonomics theory and practice and socio-technical issues to the design, operation and use of enterprise system
• the relevance of the above to the design and use of the systems methods and approaches covered in the module
• application and integration of a range of systems tools and methods.

There will be a group case study running through the module culminating in a final day group presentation worth 60% of the module. An individual essay on Enterprise System Architectures completes the assessment for this module.

Professor Carys Siemieniuch


ELP068 Sensors and Actuators for Control
The aims of this module are for the students to understand the options available and the issues related to selection of sensors and actuators for control systems.
It includes the following topics:
• Sensors: Sensed quantities; Sensor types and principles; Uses of Sensors; Dynamics of Sensors; Sensor systems; smart sensors; Sensor fault detection and redundancy.
• Actuation: Basic principles; Hydraulic systems; Pneumatic systems; Electrical systems; Advanced materials; Choice of actuation system; Open and closed loop actuator; Actuator Fault Tolerance
   and redundancy.
• System design of sensor/actuator systems and control systems. 

Professor Roger Dixon


ELP069 Imagineering Technologies
The aim of this module is for the students to understand the relationship between creative management, innovation and enterprise. By preparing a business plan the students will gain a competency that can make a direct contribution to UK plc.

It includes the following topics:
• Creative management: ideawriting, nominal group technique and interpretive structural modelling.
• Business and Financial Planning: risk management, reasons for success and failure of companies.
• Intellectual Property: an awareness of the breadth of methods available together with an appreciation of the issue of whether to protect or to license business ideas.
• Innovation: concepts, methods and models of idea generation and capture. 

Professor Ron Summers

ELP071 Holistic Engineering
The aim of this module is for students to understand the range of challenges thrown up by complex engineering projects and the techniques that can be applied to overcome them. Whilst the nature of the role of engineering has evolved markedly over recent decades, it is the ability to take that role's holistic perspective that the module aims to develop in the student. A range of case studies from the military aircraft domain provides the focus of the module, but the content, the systems approaches taken and the learning achieved are sufficiently transferable to other engineering domains and industrial sectors for any student to benefit from taking this module. The module will push the boundaries of multi-disciplinary engineering through a mixture of practical experiences on hugely demanding programmes, and an exploration of the current state of theory as it applies to such programmes. The case studies from real programmes will be used to illuminate a range of critical topics including requirements definition, problem analysis, system architecture, the product lifecycle, engineering organisation design etc, which will then be subject to rigorous exploration in the theory and practical sessions.

It includes the following:

  • Experience from five multi-national military aircraft programme case studies will be used to explore typical challenges posed by complexity in the problem domain, the solution domain, the commercial and business environment and the extended engineering enterprise within it. 
  • The systems perspective, holistic in its approach to solution lifecycle, the role of products, their missions and functions, the role of services, the contextual impact of solutions, their environmental impact and stakeholder interest management, will provide a framework for understanding the means to achieve multi-disciplinary engineering solutions to physical engineering problems.
  • The learning from the five case studies will motivate, evidence and support the systems perspective and the engineering techniques within it. The students will practise the skill of eveloping an Engineering Management Plan to tackle a hypothetical case study outwith the military aircraft domain. 

Professor Andrew Bradley


ELP460 Engineering and Management of Capability

The aims of this module are 1) To give students an understanding of capability provision and the Systems of Systems concepts that underpin it. 2) To give students an understanding of the challenges of capability management and the business transformation they imply and 3) Through case studies and group project work, to give students insight into the Systems of Systems Engineering through which suppliers and users provide and support capability.

It includes the following topics:
• The concept of Capability, provision of the systems that support it and the business and engineering challenges involved.
• Agility & Agile systems
• Interoperability within complex environments.
• Through Life Systems management, Life Cycles, Service Support, and Logistics
• Obsolescence Management and Through Life Costs.
• Risk and risk ownership.
• Network enabled capabilities.
• Knowledge management as a key component of organisational capability.

This module explores the complicated nature of sophisticated technology within the social, political, and commercial environment to consider the practical aspects of managing large-scale, complex systems. There will be a capability scenario running through the module and a group case study project culminating in an assessed final day project presentation.

Professor Mike Henshaw

ELP462 Understanding Complexity

The aims of this module are to introduce students to the problems of complexity as the size of systems grow and the methods used in addressing such problems.

It includes the following topics:
• Reminder of Taylor's theorem and its uses.
• Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations, Linear System theory.
• Non-linear dynamics and Chaos.
• Numerical Methods.
• Algorithmic Complexity.
• System Optimization: Design Space, Cost function, Search methods (Steepest Descent, Exhaustive Search, Evolutionary Computing e.g. GAs and NNs).
• Probability Theory: failure rate, pdf, CDF, MTTF, Reliability. Subsystem logic.
• Reliability theory, Structure function, FMECA, criticality analysis.
• Optimization under constraints and Lagrange Multipliers.

Dr Vince Dwyer


Programme Director

Professor Ron Summers :


For further information about The Wolfson School: Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, please see our website at

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Fees and funding

Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. The standard tuition fees for this course are:

Taught ProgrammesUK/EUInternational
PGT Band 3 (Laboratory-based) £6,600 £18,950

University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Special arrangements are made for payments by part-time students.


A number of scholarships and bursaries are available (dependent on eligibility):

  • Student loans for master's degrees
  • Department-specific bursaries
  • Scholarships
  • Professional and Career Development Loans
  • External charities and trusts
  • Studentships
  • Research Council funding

Find out more about the support available for UK/EU students and international students.