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This is an archived syllabus from 2013-2014

COMP23111 Fundamentals of Databases syllabus 2013-2014

COMP23111 Fundamentals of Databases

Level 2
Credits: 10
Enrolled students: 164

Course leader: Alvaro A. A. Fernandes

Additional staff: view all staff


  • Pre-Requisite (Optional): COMP18112
  • Pre-Requisite (Compulsory): COMP16121
  • Pre-Requisite (Compulsory): COMP16212
  • Co-Requisite (Optional): COMP23420

Assessment methods

  • 70% Written exam
  • 30% Practical skills assessment
Sem 1 Lecture 1.1 Tue 12:00 - 12:00 -
Sem 1 w1 Lecture 1.1 Thu 12:00 - 12:00 -
Sem 1 B Examples IT407 Wed 10:00 - 10:00 L
Sem 1 B Examples IT407 Fri 11:00 - 11:00 K
Sem 1 B Examples LF15 Thu 11:00 - 11:00 J
Sem 1 A w3+ Lab G23 Wed 09:00 - 09:00 H
Sem 1 A w3+ Lab G23 Thu 11:00 - 11:00 I
Sem 1 A w3+ Lab G23 Fri 11:00 - 11:00 F
Themes to which this unit belongs
  • Web and Distributed Systems


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 aim of this course unit is to introduce the students to the fundamental concepts and techniques that underlie 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 unit also addresses the topic of legal frameworks that give rise to obligations on the part of database professionals by introducing exemplars such as the 1995 EU Directive on Data Protection and the 1998 UK Data Protection Act.


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 methods


13 in total, 1 per week + an additional lecture in Week 2.

Examples classes

5 in total, each one hour long, run as clinics in support of the taught material, mandatory readings and lab exercises.


5 in total, assessed and supported, each, by one two-hour assisted session. None are optional, all are assessed.

Feedback methods

Example classes, lab sessions, virtual learning environments.

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam (2 hours)
  • Lectures (11 hours)
  • Practical classes & workshops (15 hours)

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Problem solving

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, a student will be able to:

Learning outcomes are detailed on the COMP23111 course unit syllabus page on the School of Computer Science's website for current students.

Reading list

Database Systems.Connolly, Thomas.9781292061832Pearson Education UK2015
Beginning Oracle SQL Haan, Lex de. author.9781430271963Apress2010
Fundamentals of database systemsElmasri, Ramez, author.1292097620Pearson2017
Database systems : the complete book Garcia-Molina, Hector, author.9781292024479Pearson2014
Database systems : an application-oriented approach Kifer, M. (Michael), 1954-0321228383Pearson/Addison Wesleyc2005.
Pro Oracle SQL Morton, Karen. author.9781430262213Apress2013
Database management systems Ramakrishnan, Raghu.0071151109McGraw-Hillc2003.
Database system concepts Silberschatz, Abraham.9780071289597McGraw-Hill2011.

Additional notes

Course unit materials

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