Systems Engineering for Defence Capability MSc MSc/PgCert/PgDip


Systems Engineering for Defence Capability

All those involved in the wider defence enterprise, across government, military, industry, science and technology have changing needs and aspirations for defence. Agility, resilience, continuity of supply, skills and innovation now complement the continuing need to balance cost, time and performance in everything we do. 

The Centre for Systems Engineering has been at the forefront of developing systems engineering education for the past fifteen years, blending the breadth of systems thinking with the rigour of systems engineering and closely integrating this within acquisition management. 

You will develop knowledge and skills in understanding the wider context of defence capability and guiding the development of operational, support and enabling business solutions which both deliver cost effective outcomes and contribute to the attributes of defence as a whole.

Course overview

The course is modular and you will accumulate credits for each module you successfully complete:

  • Full modules are each worth 10 credits.
  • The Advanced Systems Engineering Workshop is worth 20 credits.

The course structure has been devised to give the maximum amount of flexibility for you to create your own learning pathway whilst ensuring that the fundamental principles of systems engineering are compulsory.

  • The PgCert comprises 60 credits of which 40 are for compulsory modules and 20 are for elective modules.
  • The PgDip comprises 120 credits of which 70 are for compulsory modules and 50 are for elective modules.
  • The MSc comprises 200 credits of which 70 are for compulsory modules, 50 credits are for elective modules and 80 are for the thesis associated with the Individual Project. 

Individual Project

The Individual Project provides you with an opportunity to undertake an in-depth study of an area of particular interest to you or your sponsor which is written up as a thesis or dissertation. The study might include, for example: 

  • Application of Systems Engineering tools and techniques to a real world problem.
  • Analysis of underpinning Systems Engineering theory and practice.
  • Development of new or tailored Systems Engineering processes.


The Compulsory and Elective Modules below are as for the MSc and PgDip. For PgCert students Capability Context and Advanced Systems Engineering Workshop are Elective.


  • Advanced Systems Engineering Workshop (ASEW)
    Module LeaderMr Jeremy Smith - Senior Lecturer

    The module uses learning from all core and some optional modules to allow the implementation, practice and use of learning together in an evolving, example case study

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Demonstrate a systematic and critical knowledge and appropriate use of advanced Systems Engineering techniques.


    • Analyse a real-world problem using Systems Engineering approaches and tools as part of a through-life acquisition approach
    • Evaluate the application of advanced Systems Engineering techniques to real-world systems problems
    • Demonstrate the ability to work as part of a team in tackling a realistic systems problem.
  • Applied Systems Thinking

    This module explores complex adaptive systems, such as organisations and large-scale engineered solutions, and provides concepts, methods and ways of thinking that can deal with such complexity.  In particular it will present different ways of looking at the Systems Engineering requirements of defence and will consider the characteristics of methodologies appropriate for modelling defence problems and capability needs.

    Systems Thinking

    • Why Systems Thinking
    • The philosophy behind Systems Thinking
    • Unravelling complexity
    • Map of methods
    • Systems challenges

    Systems Methods and Techniques 

    • Types of systems
    • Representing systems with models
    • Overview of a relevant set of Systems Methods and techniques
    • Use of multiple methods.

    Application of Systems Methods

    • Practical application of methods and techniques
    • Discussion on systems, methods and techniques.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Differentiate systems concepts
    • Assess the underlying principles of systems methods
    • Consider how Systems Engineering information may be elicited using soft and hard systems methods.


    • Demonstrate the ability to think systemically and conceptually
    • Apply a set of systems methods and techniques
    • Construct relevant models of systems problems and analyse them appropriately to propose viable solutions
    • Judge the practical application of systems methods and techniques.
  • Capability Context
    Module LeaderMr Rick Adcock - Senior Lecturer

    Enterprise and Capability 

    • Capability models
    • Constraints, trade-off and boundaries System of System Engineering
    • Characteristics
    • Acquisition models
    • Verification and validation (V&V), ITEA
    • Interoperability Capability solutions
    • Requirements, constraints and legacy
    • Functional to physical design Problem Solving
    • Applying Systems Engineering methods to analyse capability issues and select potential solutions to address the identified capability gap.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Interpret System Engineering Lifecycle in the context of capability
    • Assess the trade-off and legacy issues which affect capability requirements
    • Examine how capability requirements can be interpreted at the programme and project level
    • Consider the purpose of architectures and architecture frameworks in a capability context


    • Apply Systems Engineering methods to allocate capability functional views to physical systems views
    • Assess the implications for acquisition in using a system of systems approach to capability.
  • Lifecycle Processes Introduction
    Module LeaderMr Rick Adcock - Senior Lecturer

    This module provides and overview of how Systems Engineering is applied to the delivery of system products and services in a generic project lifecycle. The main focus is on the early life cycle stages exploring problems, proposing and evaluating solution options and planning for subsequent life cycle stages. Some of the broader issues of delivery, use, acquisition, people, etc are introduced and discussed.

    A defence case study is used across the module, but the module applied a standard Systems Engineering project life cycle approach, not directly mapping to any particular current defence acquisition approach. The relationships to defence acquisition practice are discussed, with reference to how they are covered in other course modules.

    Basic SE Lifecycle Processes 

    • History and evolution of Systems Engineering standards and guides, overview of SE Body of Knowledge (SEBoK)
    • Relationships between life cycle processes and principles of systems thinking e.g. Boundary, Contest, Purpose, Relationship, Scenarios etc.

    Architecture and Requirements

    • Architecture and Requirement definitions (views, viewpoints, frameworks, atomized requirements, levels of specification, measures of effectiveness and performance)
    • Logical Architecture (defining a system of interest); Physical Architecture (top down vs bottom up solutions synthesis); Analysis and Trade-off
    • Nature of Requirements (Stakeholder and System) and the role of Intelligent Customers
    • Anatomy of a Requirement, pitfalls of writing and assessing good requirements, Requirements Management


    Through Life Approaches (basic introductions and discussion)

    • Dependability definitions and topics
    • Integrations, Verifications, Acceptance and Validation
    • Through life planning and life cycle tailoring
    • Relationships to defence acquisition (including individual and team competencies)

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Discuss the relationship between lifecycle models and processes and key systems principles in the context of a generic project life cycle
    • Evaluate the evolution of Systems Engineering standards and how current standards apply to Defence Acquisition
    • Apply the principles of requirements, architecture and analysis in a project context
    • Explain the issues of integration, verification, acceptance and validation to a project context
    • Evaluate through-life management of Systems Engineering processes, including people and organizational issues, in a complex environment such as Defence Acquisition


    • Create system models to explore a complex problem, describe and bound a selected system-of-interest
    • Propose atomised stakeholder requirements which are consistent with the problem context and can form the basis of validation
    • Create logical and physical architecture views appropriate to different levels of solution detail
    • Propose atomised system requirements which are consistent with the system-of-interest context and can be verified
    • Judge the suitability of different integrations and verification methods in relation to requirements and the lifecycle
    • Criticise the broad range of trade-offs necessary in the analysis of solution options (including issues of dependability and resilience)
    • Evaluate the importance of individual and team competencies in the conduct of Systems Engineering activities
  • Lifecycle Processes Advanced

    This module provides further depth on lifecycle processes from the Lifecycle Processes Introductory (LPI) module and expands to look at dependability and the challenges of specialist domains from a lifecycle processes perspective.

    Consideration of Lifecycle Processes for Specialist Domains

    • Define the dependability topics and their interrelationships
    • Discuss when the dependability topics should be considered within a lifecycle
    • Explain the principles of requirements, architecture, integration, verification and validation and trade-offs in the context of the specialist domains
    • Discuss the principles and practices which underpin lifecycle tailoring for specialist domains.

    Problem Solving

    • Applying Lifecycle tailoring and requirement capture to defence example from a specialist domain perspective.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:


    • Define the dependability topics and their interrelationships
    • Discuss when the dependability topics should be considered within a lifecycle
    • Explain the principles of requirements, architecture, integration, verification and validation and trade-offs in the context of the specialist domains
    • Discuss the principles and practices which underpin Lifecycle tailoring for specialist domains.


    • Choose lifecycle process tailoring appropriate to specialist domains
    • Evaluate trade-offs across the lines of development with awareness of dependability topics
    • Defend the selection of suitable verification and validation methods used throughout a lifecycle
    • Develop a test and evaluation plan for the dependability topic requirements.
  • Systems Approach to Engineering
    Module LeaderDr Steve Barker - Lecturer/Senior Lecturer
    • Admissions Programme – Systems Engineering  professionalism (including competency mapping)
    • Introduction to IT – online access, emails, VLE etc
    • Student Experience – maximising value from study; Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
    • The Philosophy of Thinking about Systems – rationale behind approaches to problem solving; types of problem; types of thinking and their application

    Management of Defence.

    • The Evolution of Systems Engineering.
    • Academic Study Skills – analysing the research question; understanding systematic research processes; approaches to research; reading and interpreting material; structured writing; applying research process to a given case study
    • Introduction to Systems and Systems Concepts – what is a System? systems concepts and their definitions; applying concepts to problem types
    • Library Study Skills – introduction to library facilities; research skills; critique case study example
    • Systems Methods and Techniques – modelling the systems context; problem structuring techniques
    • The Systems Lifecycle – introducing the Systems Lifecycle; Systems Engineering Technical Processes and their place within the lifecycle; systemic thinking applied to the acquisition lifecycle
    • Lifecycle Modelling Workshop – applying Systems Engineering across an example lifecycle
    • Academic Study Skills (2) - undertaking an assignment; preparing for an examination; revision styles; approaching the examination.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Explain personality types through Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
    • Outline the nature of Systems Philosophy
    • Interpret and apply a Systemic Research Process
    • Interpret alternative ways and approaches to considering a problem
    • Differentiate between Systems Concepts
    • Illustrate a suitable approach to assessment/examination
    • Express principles of systems, viewpoints, lifecycles and processes within the context of Systems Engineering.


    • Apply the theory of Systems Approach to an appropriate defence example
    • Demonstrate use of correctly referenced literature.


  • Availability, Reliability, Maintainability and Support Strategy (ARMSS)
    Module LeaderMiss Laura Lacey - Lecturer in Systems Engineering
    • The concepts of function, failure, fault and defect in the context of reliability, maintenance, maintainability and availability
    • The relationship between Availability, Reliability and Maintainability (A,R&M) and Systems Engineering
    • Investigate Availability and the constituent parts that management can influence
    • Contracting strategies for Availability including Contractor Logistic Support, Contracting for Availability and for Capability
    • Current and novel measures of reliability and maintainability
    • Combining reliability and maintainability to achieve availability
    • Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) and its contribution to system effectiveness during the design process and subsequently once equipment has entered service
    • Lifecycle reliability using e.g. the ‘bathtub’ curve
    • Estimating system reliability using tools such as Fault Tree Analysis
    • MOD’s methods and procedures for assured delivery of A,R&M
    • Analysing redundancy using tools such as reliability block diagrams
    • A brief introduction to design of maintenance and maintenance strategies – e.g. corrective and preventative maintenance and impacts on A,R&M
    • Maintenance Strategies to provide equipment repair and overhaul and Through-Life Support (TLS)
    • Logistic Support and the Support Chain, including strategies and initiatives to minimise delay
    • The Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) process
    • ILS tools: Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) and Level of Repair Analysis (LORA)
    • Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) and prognostics – the contribution to maintenance and TLS.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the knowledge associated with A,R&M concepts, measurement and strategies, and how these can be applied to real-world systems
    • Identify and appraise relevant A,R&M domain expertise and standards
    • Systematically comprehend the prime influences on Availability
    • Critically examine the maintenance and support strategies that can be applied to defence equipment and their delivery of operational availability at minimum life cycle cost (LCC)
    • Assess the contribution to availability and Through-Life Support (TLS) provided by Integrated Logistic Support, Reliability, Maintainability and Maintenance strategies including Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) and Prognostics.


    • Expose trade-offs between availability, reliability and maintainability and with other system issues such as safety
    • Critically analyse current, relevant published procedures and guidance for MOD processes and identify to what extent these procedures take a Systems Engineering approach
    • Compare contracting strategies for Availability
    • Critically examine Logistic Support and Through-Life Support (TLS) strategies and initiatives
    • Critically examine a range of Maintenance Strategies
    • Critically examine the Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) process
    • Evaluate Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) and its contribution to system effectiveness during design and in-service operation
    • Evaluate the processes of FMECA and LORA in the ILS process.
  • Decision Analysis, Modelling and Support (DAMS)
    Module LeaderDr Ken McNaught - Senior Lecturer

    Dealing with Uncertainty and Risk

    • Pay-off Matrices: Structuring decision problems using a pay-off matrix to represent the value or utility of each option for each possible state of nature.  Analysing the pay-off matrix under conditions of uncertainty and risk; sensitivity/robustness of decisions to the inputs.
    • Decision Trees: Structuring and analysing decision problems using a decision tree to represent sequential decision making under conditions of risk and uncertainty; the application of Bayes' Theorem to update probabilities in the light of new information.  The calculation of the value of perfect and imperfect information.
    • Bayesian Networks and Influence Diagram Decision Networks: These modern tools are examples of probabilistic graphical models which offer a powerful framework for reasoning and decision-making under risk and uncertainty.  Structuring and analysing decision problems using Bayesian networks and decision networks.
    • Game Theory: Application of classical zero-sum game theory and some of its extensions to decision-making under conditions of competition or conflict.
    • Judgement Methods: Elicitation and analysis of individual judgments as part of the decision-making process.  Cognitive biases which affect human judgment, problems of group decision-making.

    Dealing with Conflicting Objectives and Trade-Offs

    • Approaches used in multiple criteria decision analysis (MCDA) where several, often conflicting, criteria are important to a decision-maker: structuring and analysing MCDA problems using the Simple Multi-Attribute Rating Technique (SMART), the Analytic Hierarchy Process and the portfolio optimization approach.  The use of scenario planning approaches.

    Practical Exercises 

    • Model building and analysis using decision tree software
    • Model building and analysis using Bayesian network and decision network software
    • Questionnaire-based judgement elicitation exercise
    • Model building and analysis using MCDA software
    • Game theory exercise.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Explain the need for different types of decisions across the system lifecycle
    • Demonstrate how decisions are made under conditions of risk and uncertainty and where conflicting objectives must be dealt with
    • Describe cognitive biases which are relevant to decision making and their effects.


    • Construct a range of models to represent decision situations and support decision making
    • Analyse a range of models to represent decision situations and support decision making
    • Organise preferences and trade-offs to arrive at an objective decision.
  • Human Centric Systems Engineering (HCSE)

    The module is structured around a core of group activities, supported by introductory lectures, resources and facilitation. 

    The main themes are: 

    (a) What & Why: Definitions and perspectives on human aspects of systems (including people as systems, as users of systems and as components in systems alongside process and technology in the context of simple to super systems; systems as human enablers and disablers; scope of human factors; performance; safety I & II/resilience; the value drivers for HCSE).

    (b) How: Review of current key approaches, methodologies and best practice to addressing human-system requirements and of the challenges across lifecycles, processes and sectors (including Human Factors Integration (HFI), Human Systems Integration (HSI), Human Centred Design (HCD), Through-life Engineering Services (TES), 'system worthiness' )

    (c) Specifics:

    • The science and application of Human Factors
    • Human Factors Engineering
    • Human Factors and MBSE: Architecting Human Views
    • Human Factors Integration in Defence
    • HFI and the Defence Lines of Development
    • Human Centric analysis (including aspects of soft & hard systems, organisational issues, leadership, accident investigation, learning from experience)
    • Systems Engineering Capability (socio-technical systems)

    The curriculum will include individual and group exercises e.g.:

    a) Developing Human Centric Context Diagrams
    b) Early Human Factors Analysis
    c) HFI Planning
    d) Human Centric Evaluation of a Case Study (assessed)
    e) Debate to explore the cases for and against an aspect of HCSE
    f) An on-line quiz

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:


    • Explain the relationship between humans and systems
    • Propose the value of taking a Human Centric Systems Engineering approach
    • Differentiate the range of human issues that are important in a systems context
    • Assess the risks associated with ignoring the human factor
    • Evaluate the difference between Human Factors, Human Factors
    • Engineering, Human Factors Integration, Integrated Logistics
    • Support and Human Centric Systems Engineering


    • Propose appropriate methods and tools for managing Human Factors concerns within Systems Engineering and judge their effectiveness
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of Human Factors Integration and its compatibility with Systems Engineering
    • Judge appropriate methods and tools for managing Human Factors concerns across the Systems Engineering lifecycle
    • Assess and solve a case study from a Human Centric Systems Engineering perspective
  • Introduction to Defence Capability

    The module will review the latest initiatives in relation to:

    • Defence Policy, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) structure and purpose, Defence Acquisition and Defence Reform
    • The drivers lying behind current and future needs for Defence Capability, exploring the Maritime, Land, Air and Space, and Joint Components
    • Key technologies and the approach by which Defence Capability is enabled
    • Defence Case Studies, including: International Collaborative programmes, and evidence gained from sources such as the National Audit Office (NAO) will be used to offer an insight into common recurring challenges within the Defence environment
    • The Department's use of Systems Engineering will be initially reviewed in the taught phase and further critical analysis of this aspect will be conducted as part of the assignment.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Explain how Defence Capability contributes to UK Defence and Security Policy
    • Describe the organisation of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and its enterprise practices, in relation to systems development and acquisition
    • Explain how technology contributes to acquiring of Defence Capability and how it is managed
    • Explain the Department’s approach to Systems Engineering in Defence.


    • Analyse critically the effectiveness of the Department's organisation and enterprise practices with respect to systems development and the acquisition of Defence Capability
    • Judge the effectiveness of how Defence Acquisition is being executed, in terms of both Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering, and compare with industrial best practice.

  • Model Based Systems Engineering
    SyllabusMBSE Theory
    •     Value of MBSE
    •     Advanced MBSE concepts
    •     MBSE Ontology
    •     Links to Architectural Frameworks
    •     Competencies
    •     Processes, Practices & Methods.

    Analysis of Tools & Technology
    •     Tool evaluation and selection
    •     How to build support for using a tool
    •     Tools for system design & simulation.

    Applied MBSE
    •     Scenario-based application of MBSE and model building techniques
    •     Systems of Systems MBSE
    •     Model Based Requirements.

    Intended learning outcomesOn successful completion the module you will be able to:

    •     Explain the principles of MBSE and modelling concepts
    •     Explain the MBSE ontology, competencies and processes
    •     Asses how MBSE could be appropriately applied to aid system design and integration
    •     Explain MBSE application to Systems of Systems problems
    •     Describe MBSE from different stakeholders value systems
    •     Describe the role MBSE has in through-life system design and development.

    •     Critically evaluate a number of modelling tools and select the most appropriate for a given application
    •     Defend tool selection for MBSE application
    •     Construct a coherent systems model using multiple interacting and composite views, using a representative case study.

  • Simulation and Synthetic Environments
    Module LeaderMr John Hoggard - Lecturer in Defence Simulation

    Modelling and Simulation

    • Principles of modelling and simulation
    • Simulation methods and tools
    • Simulation technology
    • Distributed Simulation and Synthetic Environments
    • Validation and Verification of simulations
    • Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) Simulations.

    Modelling and Simulation in Defence Systems Engineering

    • Applications for modelling and simulation from analysis to training
    • Application of modelling and simulation through a system lifecycle.

    Defence Synthetic Environments and Systems Engineering based Acquisition

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion the module you will be able to:


    Demonstrate a systematic knowledge of the utility of modelling and simulation on defence systems acquisition.  Including:

    • The verification and validation of defence models and simulations
    • The acquisition, operation and evolution of defence models and simulations
    • Hard and soft approaches to modelling
    • Deterministic and stochastic models
    • Monte Carlo simulation
    • The role of modelling and simulation in supporting defence decision-making.


    • Critically evaluate the current research and applications for defence modelling and simulation throughout a system lifecycle
    • Critically evaluate the advantages and limitation of simulations and synthetic environments in a Systems Engineering approach and in support of Defence Acquisition
    • Explain and apply the general principles of modelling and simulation and to explain the importance of modelling and simulation in supporting defence decision-making
    • Apply the ideas of verification and validation to defence models and explain the issues involved
    • Design simple simulation models using different approaches
    • Explain the technologies of live, constructive and virtual simulation and their defence applications.
  • System of Systems Engineering
    Module LeaderDr Steve Barker - Lecturer/Senior Lecturer

    Introduction to SOSE

    • Systems vs System of Systems (SoS)
    • SoS Approach
    • SoS Architecture
    • Historical perspective on SOSE.

    Principles of SOSA

    • Generic principles
    • Adapting principles for the Defence Environment
    • International perspectives on SOSA.

    Application of SOSE

    • Mapping SOSA principles to a Situation of Interest
    • Issues workshop
    • Enterprise vs Organisation.

    The Philosophy of Thinking about Systems

    • Rationale behind Approaches to problem solving
    • Types of Problem
    • Types of thinking and their application.

    System-of-Systems Through-Life

    • Managing and Engineering S-o-S across the lifecycle
    • Through-life considerations and issues
    • Applying SOSE process to a worked example.

    SOSE Case Study Workshop

    • Student-led application of SOSE to a real-world case study
    • Evaluation of issues, constraints, threats and opportunities.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module you will be able to:


    • Summarise the key principles of SoSA
    • Differentiate key benefits and disadvantages to the implementation of SOSE
    • Consider different approaches to SOSE
    • Critique suitable approaches for SOSE implementation within context.


    • Analyse complexities posed by the adoption of SOSE
    • Evaluate impact of SOSE upon Defence Acquisition
    • Develop SoSA principles for application to a representative example.
  • Thesis Selection Workshop

    The Module runs over a period of one week and comprises a number of lectures, workshops, preparation time and a final presentation that will focus the student towards:

    1. the submission of their Thesis Proposal form 
    2. an end-of-week presentation.

    Introduction to Your Thesis
    The intent of this material is to:

    • introduce the administration required to complete a Thesis Proposal form
    • introduce the what, why and how of completing a Thesis.

    Formatting your Thesis
    This session, which is run by staff from the Academic Information Systems Group, will introduce the handling of complex documents in Microsoft Word to enable the write up of the thesis with as few IT problems as possible. This session is highly recommended.

    Study Skills

    The study skills material consists of lectures on how to use the library for research. The intent of the material is to enable the students to:

    • understand the need to reference and carry out sound research
    • analyse and store the large amount of data collected during the research process.

    Thesis Pitfalls
    During this discussion session the student will be introduced to the possible pitfalls and issues that could be encountered during the thesis period. These will include: 

    • general errors when writing the thesis
    • ethics awareness
    • common mistakes when presenting your thesis to the examiners
    • common mistakes with communication skills. 
    Intended learning outcomes

    On completion of this un-assessed module the student will be able to:

    • explain the purpose of a Thesis
    • discuss the desirable characteristics of self-directed research
    • state the University regulations and procedures which are applicable to their Thesis
    • write a thesis proposal
    • identify the risks associated with undertaking a Thesis
    • locate information relevant to the creation of a Thesis
    • judge the value of information gathered in the course of research.
  • Systems Engineering and Software
    Module LeaderMr John Hoggard - Lecturer in Defence Simulation

    • Software Engineering Principles
    • Software development methodologies and their Systems  Engineering counterpart.
    • Types of Software Systems
    • Relationship between Systems Engineering and Software Engineering

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion the module you will be able to:


    Demonstrate a systematic knowledge of the utility of modelling and simulation on defence systems acquisition.  Including:

    • Summarize the relationship between Systems Engineering and Software Engineering in terms of processes, levels of abstraction and the role of people
    • Explain central software engineering principles used in the development life-cycle.
    • List different types of software systems and describe the differences between them.
    • Describe key software development methodologies and compare these to the methodologies of systems engineering.
    • Identify the root causes for delays in software intensive projects.
    • Summarize system architectures and project development plan for a software-intensive system


    • Analyse the role of Software Engineering in Systems Engineering and identify where they correlate, conflict, and complement each other. 
    • Critically evaluate how design decisions in Software Engineering and Systems Engineering processes affect each other.
    • Design a system architecture and project development plan for a software-intensive system with respect to the type of software system, use of software engineering principles and software development methodologies.

  • Systems Engineering Workshop
    • Application of the system engineering principles and methods on a representative problem in a group working scenario
    • This week will comprise aspects across the lifecycle, such as problem scoping, requirements and V&V, system logical and physical design
    • Students will be expected to construct a real system and evaluate the impacts of their analysis and decisions
    • Through-life trade-offs and dependency considerations will drive system design
    • The workshop will culminate in a final demonstration
    • Practice in planning individual contributions and dividing effort amongst the members of a team working on a systems problem.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you will be able to:


    • Interpret a systems problem and context
    • Explain the relationship between systems models and constructed system
    • Consider the external impacts upon a system performance and recognise constraints on systems design
    • Defend the selection of methods used to solve problems associated with complex systems.


    • Plan a logical systems engineering approach to a given problem and be able to evaluate the selection of methods, tools and processes
    • Apply systems engineering methods and techniques to given problem in order to design and build a real system
    • Demonstrate the ability to work effectively as part of a systems engineering team
    • Critically evaluate the impacts of decisions on the performance and through-life management of a real system.
  • Networked and Distributed Simulation Exercise
    Module LeaderMr Jonathan Searle - Senior Lecturer
    • A group project to design, setup and conduct a basic distributed battlespace exercise using both Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) and High Level Architecture (HLA) systems
    • An individual written report on the project including a detailed description of the Synthetic Environment (SE) and the experiments that were conducted, an explanation and analysis of the results obtained and a critical technical appraisal of the project.
    Intended learning outcomesOn successful completion of the module the student will be able to:
    • Apply the principles of modelling and simulation and the technologies of networked and distributed simulation in the context of a specific project.
    • Design, setup and conduct a basic battlespace exercise using a DIS/HLA based synthetic environment.
    • Communicate and discuss the results of their experimentation orally and in writing.


Coursework, written examinations, oral examinations, portfolio and, for the MSc only, an individual thesis.

Start date, duration and location

Start date: Full-time September. Part-time September and January

Duration: Full-time MSc - one year, Part-time MSc - up to three years, Full-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgCert - two years, Full-time PgDip - one year, Part-time PgDip - two years

(For MOD status students the duration may vary, subject to annual review.)

Teaching location: Shrivenham


We have a diverse student body drawn from numerous industries and institutions in the UK as well as overseas providing a rich educational experience. Our class size is normally between 10-20 comprising a combination of full and part time students. 

Accreditation and partnerships

This programme is accredited as a programme of further learning for CEng registration.  When presented together with a CEng accredited Bachelors programme the educational requirements for CEng registration will be met in full. Students who do not have a first degree should contact the relevant institute directly for further details on whether they meet the requirements

Informed by industry

The course's Industrial Advisory Board meets once a year to discuss the course structure and content. Members include Cranfield University and Defence Academy staff with industrial representatives from, for example: 

  • AWE
  • MoD's Defence Equipment and Support
  • MBDA UK Limited
  • Thales
  • QinetiQ
  • MOD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

Your teaching team

Facilities and resources

Defence Capability Centre (DCC)

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

Entry Requirements

Normally a 1st or 2nd class Honours degree or equivalent in science, engineering or mathematics. Alternatively, a lesser qualification together with appropriate work experience may be acceptable.

English Language

Note that this course requires a higher level of English proficiency than the University's minimum requirement.

Students whose native language is not English must have attained any of the following as evidence of English language ability:

In addition to these minimum overall test scores, you are expected to achieve a balanced score across the reading, writing, listening and speaking elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low. Please note that we will only accept tests taken within two years of the start date of your course (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

Further information on entry requirements.


Home EU Student Fees

MSc Full-time - £16,250

MSc Part-time - £16,250 *

PgDip Full-time - £13,900

PgDip Part-time - £13,900 *

PgCert Full-time - £6,950

PgCert Part-time - £6,950 *

Overseas Fees

MSc Full-time - £16,250

MSc Part-time - £16,250 *

PgDip Full-time - £13,900

PgDip Part-time - £13,900 *

PgCert Full-time - £6,950

PgCert Part-time - £6,950 *


Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at six month intervals (i.e. the full fee to be paid over the first two years of their registration). 

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.


Funding is available to MoD students. For more information contact MoD Enquiries by calling 01793 314485 (Option 4) or Mil: 96161 4485.

For more information on funding for non-MoD students please contact

Application Process

UK Military and MOD Civil Service applicants

Please complete a Postgraduate Application Form.

All other applicants

Please complete and send to us your:

Career opportunities

Takes you on to impressive career prospects across a range of roles commensurate with your experience. This includes membership of multidisciplinary teams in acquisition, supply or research organisations. This could be in both general systems engineering roles or as a focal point for specific skills such as availability, reliability and maintenance (ARM), human factors, requirements, architecture test and evaluation, etc. It is also applicable to key roles in MoD acquisition such as Project Team leader, capability manager and requirements manager.