Study timeline

Your study year at Manchester roughly consists of six course units and an MSc project, supervised by a member of academic staff. You will spend half of your time in the taught course, and the other half in a project which gives you the opportunity to work closely with some of our internationally renowned academics, possibly in collaboration with our partners from industry.

For full details of course structures for the individual courses, see the MSc Handbook.


The MSc has four distinct phases:

Induction  | Taught Course Units  | Project  | Your typical week  | Assessment



The first week is "induction week" and introduces you to the course, the School, the Faculty, and the University. During this time, we provide introductory lectures for the taught course units, and you will also have a chance to meet your course directors and fellow postgraduate students in the School. Other activities are arranged by partner Schools, as well as the Library, the Careers Service and the Students' Union.

Taught Course Units

After the induction week, the taught course units begin. Course units are grouped by subject into themes, and each student choses two themes. Each theme contains around four course units, of which you chose normally three. For example, the Learning from Data theme starts with the Machine Learning and Data Mining course unit, which is then followed by the Modelling and visualization of high-dimensional data and Optimization for learning, planning and problem-solving course units.

A course unit typically consists of a combination of teaching, practical work, individual work and other actives. For many courses, you will take four course units before Christmas, and these will be examined in mid-January. You will then take two further course units in semester two, which are examined at the end of the semester.

For full details of each of the course units, see the Advanced Course Units section.

Research Skills and Professional Issues

Research Skills and Professional Issues is a course unit followed by all our Taught MSc students. It covers a wide range of topics, including ethical issues, how to set up and carry out experiments, academic malpractice, and general advice on technical writing. It also serves as a general introduction to your project work and your Project Progress Report.


The project is a substantial piece of research and development work which is presented in a dissertation and makes up half of the MSc courses and two thirds of the MRes course. You can select one of many topics proposed by members of staff, or suggest your own, or take a project in an industrial setting if this can be arranged. The project allows you to develop a significant piece of work independently, under supervision by a member of the academic staff. Many projects involve a considerable amount of system development, giving you the opportunity to practice and extend your programming skills. They also have a research element and are great opportunities to develop showcases for your future career. You will normally choose your project before the second semester, and work on it throughout the whole second semester. Its core phase begins after the second semester taught course units.

Your typical week

Your typical week differs from semester to semester: in the first semester, you normally follow two courses during two intensive days, and work on coursework for these for the remaining three days of the week. The coursework can be individual or teamwork, and can involve reading, coding, essay writing, solving a given task, carrying out some analysis, etc. It is up to you how you manage your time for this coursework, and how to organize yourself: for example, you may want to attend our free English language classes or join some of the many societies, clubs, or teams that the university and school offer around science, sport, politics, etc.

In the second semester, you only spend half your week on course units, and start working on your project in the other half - and this will become full-time project work after the final exams have been sat in May.


In order to be allowed to submit a dissertation, you must pass the assessment for the taught course units and the Research Skills and Professional Issues course unit. Most course units are assessed by both coursework and examination. Provisional results for the first semester are published in February. Formal examiners' meetings take place after the second semester and an official pass list is published.

The project should be completed, and a dissertation submitted, by the University deadline which is usually in the second week of September. Dissertations are assessed by internal examiners, and moderated by an external examiner. A second formal examiners' meeting is convened in November to consider the results. Recommendations for award or otherwise are made to the MSc panel of the Faculty, who make the final decision in time for December graduation.

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