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BSc Computer Science and Mathematics / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Database Systems

Course unit fact file
Unit code COMP23111
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Databases are core, if largely invisible, components of modern computing architectures in both commercial and scientific contexts. The management of data has evolved from application-specific management of myriad files to organisation-wide approaches that see data as one of the most important assets of modern organisations and, as such, a key factor in their ability to compete and thrive. At this organisation-wide scale, database management systems (DBMSs) are the crucial piece of software infrastructure needed to achieve the desired results with consistent quality and robust efficiency. A modern DBMS is a thing of wonder and embodies in its internal construction and in its wide usability many advances in algorithms and data structures, programming language theory, conceptual modelling, concurrency theory, and distributed computing. This makes the study of databases a data-centric traversal of many of the most exciting topics in modern computing.


The unit aims to:
The aim of this course unit is to introduce the students to the fundamental concepts and techniques that underpin modern database management systems (DBMSs).
The course unit studies the motivation for managing data as an asset and introduces the basic architectural principles underlying modern DBMSs. Different architectures are considered and the application environments they give rise to.
The course unit then devotes time to describing and motivating the relational model of data, the relational database languages, and SQL, including views, triggers, embedded SQL and procedural approaches (e.g., PL/SQL).
The students learn how to derive a conceptual data model (using the Extended Entity Relationship paradigm), how to map such a model to target implementation model (for which the relational model is used), how to assess the quality of the latter using normalisation, and how to write SQL queries against the improved implementation model to validate the resulting design against the data requirements originally posed. For practical work, the Oracle DBMS is used.
The course unit also introduces the fundamentals of transaction management including concurrency (e.g., locking, 2-phase locking, serialisability) and recovery (rollback and commit, 2-phase commit) and of file organisation (e.g., clustering) and the use of indexes for performance.
Finally, the course unit addresses the topic of database security by a study of threats and countermeasures available. In the case of the former, these include potential theft and fraud as well as loss of confidentiality, privacy, integrity and availability. In the case of the latter these primarily include mechanisms for authorization and access control, including the use of views for that purpose. The course also introduces alternative database systems for handling large sets of data.

Learning outcomes

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:
  • Be able to discuss and explain the principles of database design.
  • Be able to discuss, explain and apply conceptual design methodologies, and, in particular, the Extended Entity Relationship Approach.
  • Be able to discuss, explain and apply the relational model, and, in particular the derivation of relational schemas from conceptual designs and the normalisation of those schemas.
  • Be able to discuss and explain the basic mechanisms to enforce database security, through an understanding of the threats and countermeasures available in classical database management systems.
  • Be able to discuss and explain the requirements and responsibilities arising from the use of classical database management systems in the light of legal frameworks to protect individuals, institutions and property rights.



Introducing Data Management

Data as an Asset, Records and Files, The Need for Models, The Need for Independence, Database Management as a Service [1 lecture plus background reading]

Understanding Database Architectures

Levels of Abstraction in Data Management, The ANSI/SPARC Approach, Schemas v. Instances, Describing v. Querying v. Changing,  DBMS Components and Architectures [1 lecture plus background reading]

Understanding the Relational Paradigm

The Relational Model, The Relational Languages [2 lectures plus background reading] [1 examples clinic, 1 lab exercise]

Designing Databases

Building a Conceptual Data Model, Mapping the Conceptual Data Model to a Target, Identifying Functional Dependencies, Normalizing the Schema [5 lectures plus background reading] [3 examples clinics, 2 lab exercises]

Interfacing with Applications

Defining Views, Using Embedded Queries, Procedural Access, and Triggers [1 lecture plus background reading] [1 examples clinic, 1 lab exercise]

Understanding System-Level Issues

Concurrency, Transactions and Recovery, File Organisations and Indexes [2 lectures plus background reading]

Considering Security and Privacy

Threats and Countermeasures, Legal Frameworks [background reading]

Teaching and learning methods


12 in total, 1 per week 


10 in total, weekly formative sheets for you to practice various elements of database design and manipulation.


A piece of coursework which will contribute to 50% of the unit mark

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Problem solving

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Practical skills assessment 50%

Feedback methods

Lectures, coursework, face to face mentoring by TAs. Use on online quizzes.

Recommended reading

COMP23111 reading list can be found on the Department of Computer Science website for current students.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 11
Practical classes & workshops 15
Independent study hours
Independent study 72

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gareth Henshall Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Course unit materials

Links to course unit teaching materials can be found on the School of Computer Science website for current students.

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