Department of Computer Science

Faculty of Science and Engineering

General Information

The Department of Computer Science within the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Manchester was founded in 1965 growing from the computer and computing research within the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics (1946 - 1965). The Department's original research reputation was formed by a series of machine-oriented projects each leading to world-wide commercial exploitation of many of the developed concepts. In more recent times, the Department has broadened its interests with internationally recognised research groups in the areas of CAD for computer systems, Artificial Intelligence and Formal Methods as well as maintaining leading edge research in the original areas of digital technology, hardware systems engineering, computer architecture and systems software. The Department's teaching and research activities have thus significantly expanded in breadth and depth, and yield, today, a most comprehensive world-class computer science centre of excellence. The Department has achieved grade 5 in all four UFC (now HEFCE) research assessment exercises (1985, 1989, 1992 and 1996), and reflects the sustained international standing of its research activities.

The Department currently has an academic establishment of fifty including ten professors; Professor Ian Watson (Computer Science - Computer Architecture), Professor Brian C. Warboys (Software Engineering) currently Head of Department, Professor Frank H. Sumner (Computer Science - Computer Architecture), Professor John R. Gurd (Computer Science - Computer Architecture), Professor Stephen B. Furber (Computer Engineering), Professor Hilary J. Kahn (Computer Science --- CAD), Professor David S. Bree (Artificial Intelligence), Professor Howard Barringer (Computer Science - Formal Methods), Professor Peter H.G. Aczel (Mathematical Logic and Computing Science), Professor Alan L. Rector (Medical Informatics). The Department is further supported by 46 HEFCE-funded ancillary staff and a complement of around 50 contract research staff.

Research Profile

The research activities of the Department are organised under four major headings, each briefly described below. A fuller account, however, can be accessed through the World Wide Web pages for the Department:

Computer Systems Architecture

Within Computer Systems Architecture, the major activities are centered around the CNC (Centre for Novel Computing), the UFO (United Functions and Objects) and the DELTA (Decoupled Latency Tolerant Architectures) groups.

The principal focus of the CNC is to study the application of novel parallel computer architectures to the solution of real user problems and thereby gain insight into the needs of future parallel computers. The work, well funded through EPSRC, EC and Industrial sources, is currently centered around the 64-processor KSR1 virtual shared memory machine mentioned above.

The UFO project aims to unite the benefits of declarative functional programming and parallel Object Oriented programming in a framework which provides the simplicity of implicit parallelism combined with the ability to describe state and procedural aspects of practical computation using the encapsulation provided by the OO approach to isolate any detrimental effects of the latter. The UFO language is currently being implemented on the KSR machine and there are plans to extend this to a highly parallel experimental machine that is under development in Japan.

The DELTA project is studying the use of decoupling techniques to perform pre-fetching in distributed memory parallel machine structures and hence overcome the problems of the significant latencies which occur across the networks of highly extensible parallel architectures.

There are also a number of activities in the areas of lightweight process operating systems, compiler technology and language implementation which are complementary to the other projects. New interests are emerging in areas such as hardware support for Neural Networks and the architecture of very wide area distributed information systems. The architecture activites are closely linked to those of the Computer Engineering area and one major aspect of the work at Manchester, in line with our historical traditions, is to see architectural work, both hardware and software, carried through to practical implementation.

Computer Engineering

The Department's current research activity in the Computer Engineering area is based around two major research groups. The AMULET group, led by Professor Furber, has funding from UK and European sources for research into asynchronous and low-power VLSI technologies, and in particular has pioneered the design and implementation of asynchronous versions of the ARM RISC microprocessors. The CAD group, led by Professor Kahn, has funding from international sources for research into design automation and runs the Technical Centre for EDIF, an international design interchange standard. There are also research activities in the areas of signal processing and optical computing, and increasing collaboration with the Computing Science side of the Department in hardware specification, synthesis and verification.

Future plans include establishing activities in analogue VLSI for neural networks, with the potential for developing collaboration with the AI group, and in hardware for the 'information superhighway', such as real-time video compression/decompression and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) networking.

Computing Science

This research area relates to the theoretical underpinnings of computing. Large computer systems, whether embodied in hardware or software, require meticulous and methodological specification and design. The dangers of errors in software are all too obvious from reports in the press and for safety critical systems are becoming a cause of wide-spread concern. A number of Computing Science projects are working on the application of mathematical concepts to design methods.

Formal methods attempt to provide mathematical underpinning for the design of computer systems (hardware or software). A formal method should provide a specification language which has a firm mathematical semantics and a development notion which has a clear concept of what needs to be proved for a design (ultimately implementation) to satisfy its specification.

Activities in this area include specification languages and development methods for concurrent systems (earlier work in the department contributed to VDM which is a specification language and development method for sequential systems), temporal logic and its use in specification and design and specification languages specifically aimed at hardware. The METATEM project is constructing an extensible programming environment for temporal logic programming. Hardware Verification projects are developing application specific theories and verification tools to provide embedded formal support for, in particular, asynchronous digital systems design covering aspects from architecture to gate level.

Other projects are working on specifying formal methods and tools for the development of real time systems; on investigating the process of program development using mathematics drawn from symbolic logic and category theory; and on proving and justifying tractable development methods for such parallel systems.

Information Systems and AI

There are three large research groups in the Information Systems (IS) area: the Advanced Informatics Group (AIG), the Informatics Process Group (IPG), and the Medical Informatics Group (MIG).

The AIG group, led by Dr. Hubbold, conducts research into the use of advanced human-computer interfaces such as Virtual Reality and stereo displays, for the solution of real-world problems. Recently the Department has invested heavily in setting up an Advanced Interfaces Laboratory equipped with stereoscopic and 3-D projection facilities as well as virtual reality gloves, head displays,etc.

The IPG, led by Professor Warboys, and well funded through EPSRC, EC and Industry, researches the engineering of organisational processes and their effective support through process-knowledgable technologies. It has installed a number of state of the art process definition and enactment tools which support the work on both process-theory and its application to the real-world problems of people and software tool co-ordination.

The MIG group, led by Prof. Rector, with principal funding through UK and European sources, is concerned with the application of IT to Medical problems. It is well known for its development of the Pen&Pad Expert System and seeks to exploit and integrate technologies in the areas of AI, HCI and Multi-Media Databases.

The Artificial Intelligence area, led by Professor Bree, is interdisciplinary, with strong links to other departments in the University, e.g. Medicine, Psychology, Linguistics and Modern Languages, and with groups in the Department, e.g. Informatics Process, Advanced Interfaces and Computing Science.

The thrust of the Medical Informatics projects, which are carried out together with staff in the Information Systems area, is to combine AI methods with Data Base techniques for the development of an information system for entering and maintaining medical records. The main AI results of this project will be the development of a new form of knowledge representation suitable for domains in which the basic concepts refer to objects with complex relationships, e.g. where parts can be broken without the whole being broken, or where data need to be time and author stamped. How such concepts should be represented in a lexicon suitable for a natural language interface to such a system is also being undertaken. Research in Categorial Grammar has also been an active area and current research on the acquisition of such grammars from children's story books is underway.

The semantics of natural language, in particular temporal and spatial terms, is also the concern of the AI group and a prototype system for translating from English to a representation into an appropriate temporal logic (being developed for the purpose --- with help from staff in the Computing Science area), is currently being built. Empirical research into these terms in other languages is being studied in collaboration with the Department of German.

Research in Neural Networks has EPSRC funding: one project is concerned with the development of new algorithms for unsupervised learning in neural nets, another for the modelling of aspects of the mind, in particular short-term verbal memory. Neural nets are also used for experiments into mobile robots, in particular a large (64 Kilo) Nomad robot. Research is aimed at developing an architecture within which robots can learn to navigate in any environment and learn to perform simple tasks requiring locomotion. The Department is investing in this area as a potential growth domain.

The Manchester School of Informatics

The department has been prominent in developing within the University The Manchester School of Informatics. The school will be the focus of interdisciplinary research in Informatics, bringing together research and teaching in the informatics area from many departments within the University, e.g. Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Psychology, Mathematics, Linguistics, Philosophy, to name a few. The school aims to be an international centre of excellence in research and teaching in informatics, fostering new intra- and interdisciplinary collaboration among its constituent disciplines, developing a comprehensive portfolio of applicable fundamental research second to none, and developing a broad-based imaginative modular portfolio of course to attract and maintain high quality national and international undergraduate and postgraduate students.

General Departmental Organisation

For administrative purposes, the Department is divided into three major Divisions, each run by a Director, who reports directly to the Head of Department, as follows: The three Directors, the Chair of the Departmental Board and the Head of Department (together with appropriate administrative assistance) form the basis of the Departmental Management Committee.


The Department offers a number of three-year single honours programmes leading to the degree of BSc, e.g. Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Computing and Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence (all of these courses are also available as a four-year course with a year spent in industry); a four-year single honours sponsored programme in Computer Science leading to BSc, MEng is also available.

A three year joint honours programme is offered with the Department of Mathematics: Computer Science and Mathematics. Programmes in Computer Science with a foreign language, and Compurter Science with Business and Management were possible from October 1994.

Currently, the Department admits around 220 (single and joint honours) undergraduate students per year.

The Department was rated excellent in the HEFCE's recent Teaching Quality Assessment exercise.

Research and Graduate

Considerable support for the Department's research arises through projects funded by SERC, the DTI, the European Community (ESPRIT) and industry. However, the Department is fortunate enough to be able to pump-prime research initiatives, sometimes to a considerable extent. For example, a KSR1-32 virtual shared memory parallel supercomputer was funded in a major way by the Department to support the activities of the Centre for Novel Computing and of other research projects (internal and joint interdisciplinary). Industrial collaboration has always been a strong feature of the Department's activity; in recent times there have been major involvements in a number of Alvey, IED and DTI funded projects including the two largest (Flagship and IPSE 2.5). Many of these collaborations have continued under the EC's Third Framework programme. The department is active in the EC's Fourth Framework programme.

The Department has sought to extend its collaboration with industry in other directions. One significant activity has been the establishment of a Post Experience Vocational Education (PEVE) unit with five full-time staff who, together with expertise from the Department's full-time academics, mount courses for industry over a wide range of topics and technical levels.

Teaching within the graduate division covers five MSc programmes, each with a six month taught and six month research element (MSc by Method I), as well as MSc (MSc by Method II/MPhil) and PhD programmes by research alone. Of the taught programmes, an MSc in Advanced Computer Science is offered covering topics related to hardware and software system design. The programme covers computer architecture, communications, VLSI, parallelism in software, programming language concepts, graphics and image processing, human-computer interfaces and AI. A conversion course (MSc in Computer Science) is available for students with science but non computing backgrounds. There are also joint MSc's in Cognitive Science and Numerical Analysis with other departments. In October 1994, a joint masters' programme with the Business School was started which leads to the degree of MBI. Currently, the Department admits about 65 taught MSc students (FTEs) per year and there are around 51 students (FTEs) pursuing research leading to the degree of MSc or PhD.


Most of the computing requirements of the staff are fulfilled internally: the Department operates around 400 Sun workstations with associated fileservers for most teaching and research work; smaller groups of many different machines, including Macintoshes, PC's, and Ataris; a dual processor ICL Estriel mainframe, a 14-node ICL EDS (ICL Goldrush prototype), an ICL Flagship prototype and the KSR1-64 parallel supercomputer. A new 100Mb plus FDDI local network is currently being installed, which together with additional ATM capability will provide excellent networking infrastructure for the next five year period. The Department's internal computer network is used very heavily to support teaching, research and administrative facilities, and has excellent connections to the rest of the campus, to other UK organisations, both academic and industrial, and to world-wide networks.

The Department also houses excellent engineering laboratories and facilities to support computer engineering research and teaching, including a large in-house PCB fabrication unit, CAD and VLSI design laboratories, and mechanical workshop facilities.

Personnel Management

The Department operates a line-management system, under which each academic and academic related member of staff reports (directly or indirectly) through a Professor to the Head of Department. Staff are managed by senior members of the academic staff. It is departmental policy to promote the best use of its staff by allowing them to realise their full potential through the provision of appropriate training and development activities. The departmental line-management scheme requires annual Appraisal and Development interviews for staff.


Application forms for university jobs are available from: Applications, including the names of two referees and a curriculum vitae, should be returned to the Director of Personnel by the closing date specified in the post, quoting the relevant job reference number. Interviews for shortlisted candidates will take place shortly thereafter.