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Computers and Safety (CASA)

Course details

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This course aims:

  • to introduce you to the issues to consider when computers are used in safety-critical or safety-related applications;
  • to give you an quick overview of how computer systems work, from basic hardware components up to application software;
  • to highlight areas of potential concern to safety engineers, including an in-depth examination of the software development process, considering especially aspects of requirements specification, design and analysis that are critical to deployment of computers in safety-critical applications;
  • to consider the structuring and collection of evidence for the software safety case.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • explain the issues presented by the use of software in safety-critical systems;
  • evaluate software development lifecycle models for safety;
  • describe the basic elements of a computer;
  • discuss the relationship between system and software requirements;
  • differentiate between “bottom-up” and “top-down” views of software assurance;
  • discuss the issues in communicating requirements from one discipline to another;
  • select and participate in the application of appropriate software safety analysis techniques;
  • describe the role and principles of software architecture in the design process;
  • identify the decisions relevant for safety in a software development process;
  • compare the approaches taken by software standards;
  • assess the appropriateness of software verification and analysis in a system safety argument;
  • describe the issues and potential approaches to incorporating software COTS into a safety-critical system;
  • discuss the state of the art and future directions in software safety.

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for:

  • practitioners across all domains including aerospace, military, railway, automotive, civil nuclear, civil maritime, medical devices, healthcare, and so on;
  • developers of equipment safety cases during design for software, hardware, procedures, systems and/or platforms;
  • developers of safety cases for operational safety and disposal;
  • reviewers of safety cases within an organisation or as an independent activity;
  • developers and reviewers of changes to existing safety-critical / safety-related equipment and operations;
  • project managers where development of a safety case is a significant element of projects they manage;
  • regulators of safety critical domains.


It is useful if you have taken our Foundations of System Safety Engineering course but we will accept equivalent industrial experience or prior learning. If you have not taken this course, please email us with your details, so we can assess your suitability for this course.

How is the course taught?

We are hoping to be back on campus for some element of face-to-face teaching in the 2021/22 academic year but the University will only be able to make a final decision on this based on official advice closer to the time.

As a general guide we would advise you to bear in mind that some preparatory work or reading will need to be completed before the start of the teaching week. 
During the teaching week there will be a combination of lecture materials and case studies to explore. The case studies give you the chance to work through an example to reinforce your learning from the lectures. We expect you to put in around 30 hours of study.
Students will have full access to the benefits of the York approach: experienced, knowledgeable lecturing staff present in the groups and accessible for comment, as well as the opportunity to gain insights from the experience of industry peers attending as delegates.
The course ends with an assessed exercise, which you have the option of completing. It takes approximately 35 hours in addition to the scheduled teaching time and can be completed on or off site. All assessed exercises are open (so you won't take an exam in supervised conditions), and comprise a report, case study, or documented piece of software.
If you choose to take and pass your assessment, your results can count towards the completion of the MSc in Safety Critical Systems Engineering. Our MSc in Safety Critical Systems Engineering is an accredited course, recognised by both the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for the purposes of partial fulfilment of the educational requirement for CEng registration.

Recommended reading

J. Knight Fundamentals of Dependable Computing for Software Engineers Chapman and Hall/CRC 2012
N. G. Leveson Safeware Addison-Wesley 1995
J. Barnes High Integrity Software: SPARK approach Addison-Wesley 2006
A. Burns & A. Wellings Real-time systems and programming languages 4th Ed Addison-Wesley 2009

Key dates & Book your place

Key Dates

The next instance of CASA will take place in the 2021/22 academic year, the teaching week for this module is planned for the w/c 07/02/2022.

Book your place

Before booking, please read our Booking Conditions (PDF , 104kb).

To book your place, please complete the booking form and payment form below and return to our Admissions Team at Payment can be made online via credit/debit card.

CPD Booking Form (MS Word , 62kb)

CPD Payment Form 2020-21 (MS Word , 65kb)

If you have any queries, please contact our Admissions Team at

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Overall for me this course has been excellent. I’m on this course to gain further knowledge and it has certainly met my expectations.