Systems Engineering: Thinking and Practice (Edinburgh) PHYS5094

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

Systems Thinking is a way of thinking used to address complex and uncertain real world problems. It recognises that the world is a set of highly interconnected technical and social entities which are hierarchically organised, producing emergent behaviour. The idea of a system as 'a set of parts which, when combined, have qualities that are not present in any of the parts themselves' is a very productive way of looking at the world - which turns out to be full of systems. Large engineering endeavours are nearly always complex systems which include, for example, people, processes, information, organisations and services, as well as software, hardware and complex products. In order to understand and manage these activities it is essential that a systems approach is taken to ensure that all aspects are understood, and their interactions are optimised to ensure successful delivery.



Not applicable (taught by University of Edinburgh)

Requirements of Entry

Only available to students on the Sensor & Imaging Systems MSc.

Excluded Courses





Summative assessment for this course will be conducted through two types of coursework;

- Team: Students work in teams to analyse an existing case study and evaluate the options to apply systems engineering techniques.

- Individual: The students carry out systems partitioning exercise and carry out risk analysis for two systems management options.



Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, students will have:


- Developed understanding of systems thinking to enable them to take a systematic, evidence/data-led approach to management of complex systems;

- Understood the implications of emergent properties of systems, and developed a critical perspective on how this may have both beneficial and adverse consequences;

- Learnt lessons about how large and complex projects and programmes can go wrong and analyse what can be done through systems thinking to avoid cost and time over-runs and failure to meet objectives;

- Examined how the techniques of systems engineering can contribute to the successful delivery of large and complex projects and programmes;

 -Demonstrated how to make the appropriate choice of systems engineering tools tailored to the characteristics of the challenges at hand, working individually and as part of a team.


Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.