On the Master Programme "Algorithms, Languages and Logic" at Chalmers University Gothenburg

27 December 2019

For the last two years, I was enrolled in the programme “Computer Science - Algorithms, Languages and Logic”, the main computer science master at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden. Since my time in Göteborg has now come to a close, I thought it might be useful to write up my thoughts about the programme.

Some important background: I went to Göteborg specifically to study type theory. Chalmers has some very active functional programming and type theory groups, spearheaded by the likes of Thierry Coquand, Andreas Abel and John Hughes, making it one of the European centres of this field. In particular, the dependently typed language/proof assistant Agda is mainly developed in Göteborg. So, if you wanted to know whether the machine learning courses are any good: sorry, I didn’t take any. With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s a little infodump.

  • Despite the research focus on type theory, the programme offers hardly any courses in that area. There are two functional programming courses (which I didn’t take) and one intro to Agda and type systems. The latter is fine if you’re new to Agda, but if you aren’t, it won’t help much. There also aren’t any logic courses beyond the basic (and mandatory) intro to propositional and first-order logic, though admittedly I didn’t look into what the mathematics department offers. Neither is there an official category theory course, but we managed to get a self-study course organised and credited. So check the available courses before you apply (search for “Program: MPALG”) – you can choose two per half-semester (“study period”).
  • Andreas Abel and colleagues organise a weekly seminar on type theory and related topics, the Initial Types Club. It offers a mixture of lectures, talks about classic papers, master thesis presentations and random stuff people find interesting – it always depends on who wants to give a talk. This means that the club isn’t a good substitute for a structured lecture series on type theory (and it’s also currently not an official course, so you can’t get credit for it). Still, it is certainly interesting most weeks and you get to talk to the researchers and fellow interested students.
  • You can do a one-year master thesis. To my great annoyance, I missed this since it isn’t advertised much. (Naturally, I then dragged out my half-year thesis so that it became almost a one-year thing.) You can also do a research project for one study period and have it credited as a course.
  • The courses are generally quite easy (compared to my bachelor in Freiburg, Germany). A big part of this is the grading system, which only has 3 passing grades. This means that you can usually get an exam 20% wrong and still receive a perfect grade. Most courses also aren’t big on math.
  • The study environment is pretty great. All the lecturers are amazingly accessible and the university bureaucracy is actually helpful. (Coming from Germany, this blew my mind.) People also have a relaxed attitude towards deadlines, so if, just as an example, your master thesis needed five more months than scheduled, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
  • EU students pay only negligible tuition fees. Non-EU students unfortunately pay quite a lot.
  • Göteborg is one of these cities where the housing market is pretty busted. It’s not quite on the level of Amsterdam or Paris, but you should budget at least 500 Euros (5000 Swedish crowns) for a decent room. Student housing is cheapish and good, but there are long queues. For fee-paying students, student housing is included.
  • English is sufficient almost everywhere. Still, Swedish makes it easier to get into student groups and such. Landlords may also be reluctant to deal with English-speaking people when they already have 20 Swedes to choose from.

So much for my stream of consciousness. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write an email (address in the footer).