SWEN326 (2023) - Safety-Critical Systems


This course addresses the concepts, techniques and tools required for developing computer systems that are applicable where safety and reliability is paramount. Topics include: the concepts and principles underlying safety-critical systems & standards (e.g. DO178C and IEC61508); techniques for design validation (e.g. model checking); and implementation techniques for ensuring software correctness (e.g. coding guidelines, testing, static analysis, etc). Practical work will involve the design, implementation, and analysis of simple safety critical applications (e.g. for industrial, embedded and healthcare systems).

Course learning objectives

Students who pass this course should be able to:

  1. Describe the key principles of safety critical systems and the implications of these for software design and implementation.
  2. Select and apply appropriate standards and processes to develop safety critical systems, for example IEC 61508 and DO-178C.
  3. Analyse potential risks, hazards, threats, and failure modes in the designs of safety critical systems.
  4. Design and construct software following safety critical standards, processes, and design techniques.
  5. Evaluate system designs and software against safety critical standards.

Course content

This course is designed for in-person study, and students are strongly recommended to attend lectures, tutorials and labs on campus. In particular, some assessment items or practical hands-on labs will require in-person attendance, although exceptions can be made under special circumstances.
Queries about any such exceptions can be sent to remote-enrolments@ecs.vuw.ac.nz.

Withdrawal from Course

Withdrawal dates and process:


James Quilty (Coordinator)

Julian Mackay

Dr Marco Servetto

AProf Thomas Kuehne

Teaching Format

This course will be offered in-person. It will also be possible to take the course entirely online for those unable to attend campus, with components made available online.
There will be weekly lectures and individual assignments during whole course. The assignments will build on the material presented in lectures.

Dates (trimester, teaching & break dates)

  • Teaching: 27 February 2023 - 02 June 2023
  • Break: 10 April 2023 - 23 April 2023
  • Study period: 05 June 2023 - 08 June 2023
  • Exam period: 09 June 2023 - 24 June 2023

Class Times and Room Numbers

27 February 2023 - 09 April 2023

  • Monday 09:00 - 09:50 – LT323, Hunter, Kelburn
  • Wednesday 09:00 - 09:50 – LT122, Cotton, Kelburn
  • Thursday 09:00 - 09:50 – LT323, Hunter, Kelburn
24 April 2023 - 04 June 2023

  • Monday 09:00 - 09:50 – LT323, Hunter, Kelburn
  • Wednesday 09:00 - 09:50 – LT122, Cotton, Kelburn
  • Thursday 09:00 - 09:50 – LT323, Hunter, Kelburn


There are no required texts for this offering.

Mandatory Course Requirements

There are no mandatory course requirements for this course.

If you believe that exceptional circumstances may prevent you from meeting the mandatory course requirements, contact the Course Coordinator for advice as soon as possible.


Assessment ItemDue Date or Test DateCLO(s)Percentage
Assignment 127-03-2023CLO: 1,2,3,4,520%
Assignment 210-04-2023CLO: 4,510%
Assignment 308-05-2023CLO: 4,510%
Assignment 422-05-2023CLO: 4,510%
Final testAssessment PeriodCLO: 1,2,3,4,550%


Late submissions will incur an automatic penalty of 10% of the final mark per day. Submission between 0 and 24 hours late will be counted as one day late; those betwee 24 and 48 hours late will be counted as two dates late, etc. Any request for an extension must be made to the lecturer in charge prior to the due date.
LATE DAYS POLICY (for Assignments). Each student will have three "late days" which you may choose to use for any assignment or assignments during the course. There will be no penalty applied for these late days. You do not need to apply for these, instead any late days you have left will be automatically applied to assignments that you submit late.


Individual extensions will only be granted in exceptional personal circumstances, and should be negotiated with the course coordinator before the deadline whenever possible. Documentation (eg, medical certificate) may be requested.

Submission & Return

All work is submitted through the ECS submission system, accessible through the course web pages. Marks and comments will be returned through the ECS marking system, also available through the course web pages.
Student submitted work may be used during the formal Engineering NZ re-accreditation visit to VUW scheduled for 2024, as part of the evaluation process for the programme.


Although the workload will vary from week to week, you should expect to spend approximately 10 hours per week on the course to give a total of 150 hours study time for the course.

Teaching Plan

See https://ecs.wgtn.ac.nz/Courses/SWEN326_2023T1/LectureSchedule

Communication of Additional Information

All online material for this course can be accessed at https://ecs.wgtn.ac.nz/Courses/SWEN326_2023T1/

Offering CRN: 30042

Points: 15
Prerequisites: NWEN 241, SWEN 225 (or 222)
Duration: 27 February 2023 - 25 June 2023
Starts: Trimester 1
Campus: Kelburn