Report on "High Assurance Software" 2011



The application sent in this year was a redevelopment of the 2010 application. Various people from ELTE had been to seminars about how to apply for Erasmus Mundus Masters Programs (EMMP). They had carefully examined last year's application and reviews and had many suggestions on improvements. In the previous application, there were a lot of administrative details missing or not explained well enough. More importantly, it was not made clear what would be the "added value" of the joint program -- i.e:

  • Is this program needed?
  • Is this program unique in Europe?
  • Why do we need a joint program rather than just separate programs at each site?
  • Why this particular consortium?
  • Etc.

Also, the description of the program was not very coherent across the four partners.

We attempted to address all of these points in this year's application. I (Emil) took care of finding Chalmers-specific information, with some help from Ing-Britt Carlsson at Studentcentrum. I gathered all information on the ELTE wiki (the wiki is password-protected; access can be granted on demand).

There were two main issues I had to deal with: (1) designing a common core module, and (2) resolving the issue of tuition fees for third-country students. These issues are expanded below.

The application was rejected this year too, but we went from category III to category II, which means it was indeed an improvement over last year.

I have spent a total of 120 hours on this work.

Common core module

The proposed HAS program has a core module of 28 ECTS to be taught at each partner university at the first semester of the program. In 2010, the core module was 30 ECTS, with the subjects divided into six units of 5 ECTS each:

  • Compiler Construction
  • Type, Type Systems
  • Formal Semantics
  • Correctness
  • Advanced Functional Programming
  • Project Design and Implementation

Because of the incoherency of last year's core module, we wanted to improve the description of the core module, which involved making sure that each partner was actually able to implement it as described. This turned out to be a problem from the Chalmers side. The main problems were:

  • Chalmers has only 7.5 ECTS courses
  • Chalmers does not have a proper Formal Semantics course. The intension was for this course to be about denotational semantics; compare to Semantics and Domain Theory at Radboud University.
  • The Chalmers course Compiler Construction was considered to be quite "basic", while this program should focus on advanced topics.

To make matters worse, it was decided this year to lower the core module to 28 ECTS. The remaining 2 ECTS would be used at a warm-up summer school common for the whole program (this was important in order to improve the application). So that ruined the possibility of mapping 30 ECTS to four Chalmers courses. According to the academic coordinator, it was very important that we give the same amount of credits everywhere. All in the name of coherency.

The other universities did not seem to have the same problems. At ELTE and Babes-Bolyai, it seemed to be quite easy to adapt the contents of courses according to the circumstances. At Radboud, they seemed to have a lot of suitable courses with varying credits so that it was quite easy to adapt to the core module.

Since Chalmers was the "problem", I got the task of coming up with an alternative core module that could be implemented at all universities. I spent a lot of time on this, and the result is described here (again, access on demand). The result was quite unsatisfactory for all partners, and it did not manage to solve all the problems above.

In the end, we decided that Chalmers would not offer the core module, so my core module proposal was not used. Part of the reason for excluding the core module from Chalmers was the problem of coming up with a coherent plan. However, the main reason had to do with financing of third-country students; see below.

Tuition fees

The scholarship awarded by EU to students enrolled in the program are:

  • €4000/year for EU students
  • €8000/year for third-country students.

Chalmers has the following rules:

  • Tuition fees for all programs, except architecture: 140 000 SEK/year (source)
  • Only third-country students need to pay tuition fees (source)

This means that someone has to cover a difference of approx. €6000 for third-country students enrolled at Chalmers. I don't remember with whom I talked about this (probably Christer Carlsson), but I'm sure our department does not want to pay this difference.

Shortly after the application was submitted, the Swedish government made a decision regarding third-country tuition fees. I have no idea what this means in practice. Here are the comments I got from Gustavo Perrusquia regarding the decision:

"Tolkningen av regeringsbeslutet beträffande studieavgifter för Erasmus Mundus-studenter blev svårare än vad vi hade förväntat oss.

  • Å ena sidan säger Departementet att studieavgiften inte får överstiga det stipendiebelopp som EU beviljar dessa studenter.
  • Chalmers årliga studieavgift ligger på 140,000 SEK och EU-stipendiet ligger på ca 80,000 SEK, vilket innebär en mellanskillnad på ca 60,000 SEK.
  • Detta innebär att Chalmers inte kan kräva Erasmus Mundus-studenter på mellanskillnaden.
  • Å andra sidan säger Departementet att studieavgiften av tredjelandsstudenter inte får räknas mot anslaget för grundutbildning (det s.k. takbeloppet).
  • Frågan är: var ska dessa 60,000 SEK komma ifrån?

Det verkar som att läget inte förändrats speciellt mycket jämfört med tidigare. Jag ska konsultera med våra jurister för att få deras råd om vad regeringsbeslutet verkligen innebär."

It seems the only way around this problem is for Chalmers to only accept second-year students. Students who come to Chalmers after a first year at a European university are counted as exchange students, and these are apparently not required to pay fees. This solution has been taken by the existing EMM NANO in which Chalmers is a partner. It was also considered as a solution in another Chalmers EMMP application (EUMARCONI, Communication Engineering).

So in the end, we decided to go for this solution (Chalmers only accepting second-year students) in our application too.