MSc Data Communication Networks

Provides students with a thorough grounding in the principles underlying the inside of modern computers and data networks

Duration of programme:
Full Time:
1 year full-time: six months taught modules on campus and a six month individual project (which may be carried out in industry or on campus).  Available on 2 - 3 years part-time on campus, as well as part-time by distance learning (only available to UK-based students).

Start date:
Intake: Up to 25 per year

Entry Requirements:

  • A first or good second class Honours Degree from a UK academic organisation in a relevant engineering field, science or closely related discipline.
  • Qualifications from outside the UK or a combination of qualifications and/or experience will also be considered. The course administration office can provide advice on whether these qualifications are the equivalent of the level of Honours Degree required.

    We will consider that completion of 2 years (full time equivalent) of relevant postgraduate work experience will enhance a first degree by one step (five years experience by two steps, etc). Employment is considered relevant either to the first degree or to the proposed course of postgraduate study. For example, a graduate in computer studies who has been employed as a computer programmer will have relevant employment experience. (Employment undertaken before the commencement of undergraduate study will not normally count for the purposes
    of enhancement.)
  • Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of an English language qualification. Find out more about our English language requirements 

Fees (Full Time):
UK/EU students - £5,600 (2016/17 fee)
International students - £15, 300 (2016/17 fee)

Fees (Part Time):
UK/EU students - From £1,833 per year for 3 years.

Distance Learning is available for UK-based students only - for further information please contact the School.

Application details: 

Apply for this course online

Information on visas for international students

This programme aims to provide the students, who will already have a technical background, with a thorough grounding in the principles underlying the inside of modern computer and data networks. 

It is designed to provide students with the requisite specialist knowledge and skills to develop and manage current systems and to adapt with the changing face of data network technology. To ensure its continuing relevance the programme is monitored by a steering committee which includes representatives from major employers.

Taught modules and examinations/assessments are completed during the six months October to March. After successful completion students may then progress to the six month individual research project during April to October. We endeavour to place students with industrial sponsors for the duration of their projects, with all other projects being undertaken at the University.

The taught section of the programme is assessed by formal examinations, coursework and case studies. The project is assessed through a dissertation, an oral presentation (viva) and an assessment by the project supervisor. Further details are available on the individual module specifications (above).

Our programmes provide a means where graduates from non-telecommunications technical degrees can move into this high demand area. The programme is an “Advanced Vocational Course” postgraduate degree in Telecommunications Technology; its theory, practice and applications.

Some of the subjects make full recourse to a range of mathematical topics that should be familiar to the honours graduate of an accredited Undergraduate Degree in Electronic Engineering. Any student who may not possess this familiarity, will be expected to achieve it by private study.

In addition to the usual wide range of facilities expected in a University we have the following local facilities available for to our Masters programmes.

Telecommunications Computing Laboratory:
This has 32 specialist GNU/Linux workstations (Debian distribution) specifically for use by undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. It is the main computing teaching laboratory used in the programmes and supports flexible dynamic networking as may be required for some projects.

Telecommunications laboratory:
The laboratory also supports practical classes in Optoelectronics and investigations intoWireless LAN networks and digital transmission systems.

Photonics Research laboratories:
The word “photonics” describes the engineering and science underlying the manipulation of photons of light rather in the way that the word “electronics” applies to electrons. It embraces the modern application of optical techniques to communications, signal processing, sensors, and data storage. The broad aims of the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies are to research new phenomena and devices, and their applications in future fibre optic systems.

The Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies has a well-established international track record of innovation in grating devices for applications in telecommunications, signal processing, optical sensing, and many other grating applications including many first demonstrations. The main areas of research are: ultrafast non-linear phenomena in fibres and fibre devices; high-speed communication concentrating on solitons and soliton transmission, processing, generation and control; all-optical switching and processing; ultrafast all-optical networks; fibre gratings fabrication, design and fundamental studies; fibre grating devices and their application in
communication and sensors; and microwave photonics.

The extensive facilities of the group are available for use on Masters projects.

Adaptive Communications Research Laboratories:
This research group focuses on a range of networking architectures from mobile systems to ad-hoc sensor networks. Techniques involve the design of advanced digital systems for application-specific embedded systems and advanced algorithms for improving network efficiency. The group uses state of the art dynamic field programmable gate array hardware to examine physical implementations of these principles.

The future impact of pervasive computing is an area of very active research. We are interested in the applications of dynamic hardware in this area to improve system performance. We are also looking at the applications of advanced coding techniques in the area of mobile third generation networks. The group has links with both the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies and the Neural Computing Research Group. A range of theoretical, experimental and CAD design techniques are used to investigate novel architectures and protocols.

Research interests: Ad-hoc networks, Sensor networks, Mobile networks, Adaptive algorithms, Applications of FPGAs, Dynamic hardware in Internet routers, Concurrent systems design, Coding theory, Cellular architectures for flexible processing, and Architectures for handling high-speed serial data.

The facilities are available for use on Masters projects.
You can find out more about our Postgraduate scholarships for international students here.  If you are a UK or EU student, please email seaspgtaught@aston.ac.uk for information on funding.
Programme Director: Dr. Xiaohong Peng

Dr. Peng teaches mobile data networks in this MSc programme. His research areas range from wireless and multimedia communications and networks to sensor networks for healthcare and wellbeing. He has led research projects in both theoretical developments and practical system realisation through collaborations with industry in telecommunications, data storage and mobile communication networks. Dr Peng is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (SMIEEE).

Prof. Keith Blow

I studied at Cambridge University and then joined the Theory of Condensed Matter Group of the Cavendish Laboratory and received a Ph.D. for studies on Deep Impurities in Semiconductors.

I joined the optics division of BT Labs in 1981 and worked on the theory of non-linear optical propagation effects in fibres, principally solitons . This work developed into optical switching and the first demonstration of soliton switching in non-linear optical loop mirrors. In 1990 I set up a group working on quantum optical properties and non-linear spatial optics as well as continuing work on all-optical processing which is currently concerned with ways of using and manipulating the information that can be sent over the enormous bandwidth of optical fibres.

In 1999 I moved here to the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies to continue working on optical networks and optical computation. My areas of research interest are: optical communication systems and networks; optical solitons; all-optical signal processing and switching.

Dr. Marc Eberhard

I'm working in the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies on simulations of optical communication systems. The main focus is on long haul optical transmission systems with particular interest in polarisation mode dispersion (PMD) in single and coarse or dense wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM or DWDM) transmission mode; stability of solitons under PMD.

Prof. Sergei Turitsyn

My experience and research interests are: Nonlinear science; Fibre optic communications; Fibre lasers.

Dr. Elena Turitsyna

My areas of research interests are: Numerical modelling of fibre Bragg gratings for telecom applications; design of advanced FBG for WDM systems; numerical modelling of signal transmission in optical fiber systems; modelling of advanced signal formats and optical data processing.

Dr. Jianhua He

Dr John Williams

John Williams received his B.Sc in Physics in 1986 and PhD on the development, characterisation and optimisation of various new modelocked laser sources in 1990 from Imperial College of Science and Technology, London.                 

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