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Quicklinks: BAppSc Programme | Women in Software Engineering

Software & Knowledge Engineering

Why study Software & Knowledge Engineering?

Computer systems control our clocks, washing machines, motor vehicles, traffic lights, the electric power to our homes, and the essential processes of our production economy. They are to be seen not as standalone processors but as component parts of much larger, very complex systems involving hardware, software, people, and all the unpredictable events in the natural world. Most people, even most computer science graduates, are not aware of both the difficulty involved in building such complex interactive systems and the essential need for those building them to be equipped with advanced techniques not taught in ordinary computer programming courses. Software and Knowledge Engineering is dedicated to the principles and techniques required for the sound construction of the computer systems of today and tomorrow.

A software engineer must be equipped with techniques to (a) model and understand complex interactive systems, (b) manage the construction of the system components, and (c) ensure that procedures are in place for the continual testing and maintenance of operational systems.

Our economic prosperity depends on the ability to construct and maintain complex information and control systems that underpin today's knowledge-based society. These systems must interoperate with other, even offshore, systems and yet be efficient, reliable, and secure in the presence of an unpredictable, sometimes even hostile, world environment. The people who will be the leaders in this arena will be those who are aware of the latest techniques in computational intelligence and are armed with the skills required to construct new dynamically interacting components.

It is the essence of our scientific culture to build models of the world and then to test those models to check their validity. Software engineering lies at the heart of this culture, since a software system is essentially a model of part of the world, and that model must be immediately tested under operational conditions to see if it works.

The Software and Knowledge Engineering faculty at the University of Otago has an international reputation for excellence in advanced research, including computational intelligence, distributed information systems, agent-based software engineering, and software process modelling.

Career Opportunities

Software engineers are among the highest-paid professionals in most countries of the world. Countries like Japan and the United States are rapidly relaxing their immigration laws in order to address their critical shortages in this area. Software engineers are in demand in not only at software development companies but also in all other organisations that are involved in the development of significant information systems – including governments, telecommunications companies, the chemical industry, the bio-medical industry, financial institutions, the agribusinesses, pharmaceuticals, healthcare sector corporations, engineering and manufacturing firms, etc. With the growing use of e-commerce, particularly business-to-business e-commerce, the need for skilled software engineers is increasing at a rate that far outstrips the supply. In fact in the words of noted software engineer, David Parnas, "career opportunities for software engineers are essentially unlimited."

Degree Options

The programme has two pathways leading to the MAppSc degree:
(a) a thesis-only option that focuses on leading-edge research in an important area of software engineering, and
(b) a taught-papers-plus-research-project option that enables both recent college graduates and experienced professionals to gain experience with the full range of advanced software engineering technology.

For option (b) a student completes a research report (SENG 580) and additional papers worth at least 30 points. The additional papers are drawn from INFO 401, 405, 411, COSC 454, COSC 462, SENG 301, 404, 405, 407, 408, or a paper specially approved by the Course Director.