The Middle European interdisciplinary master programme in Cognitive Science (MEi:CogSci) is a joint master´s programme, which is offered jointly with the following institutions: Comenius University of Bratislava, Eötvös Loránd University Budapest, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, University of Ljubljana, University of Zagreb.
As this curriculum is conceptualized as a joint master´s programme, ultimately a joint academic degree will be awarded by the participating institutions. The concept of a joint degree includes a 30 ECTS of student mobility, additionally it is matter to current negotiations to open courses at all universities for all students within the network for the duration for their studies.
Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary project involving different scientific fields in science, technology, and the humanities, dealing with the phenomena of cognition - perception, reasoning, thinking, and behaviour - from an interdisciplinary perspective. Cognitive science grew out of the cybernetics movement in the 1950s and has seen a number of paradigm changes since. Anthropology, Artificial intelligence, Biology, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Psychology have emerged as core disciplines.
The question of human cognition is older than science. One could see the question who we are as one of the very traits that make us human. Cognitive science takes a fresh approach in looking at the phenomena involved from different angles, taking up a question which is deeply philosophical and looking at it in an interdisciplinary manner through the eyes of different disciplines and scientific methods, frequently testing models by computer simulation or by building robots, conducting experiments, and neuroimaging. This kind of approach gains fundamental importance as it deals with the fundamental substrate of our knowledge-based society.
Interdisciplinary study programmes are challenging: Coming from one field, each student will have to gain insight into other major disciplines involved. They will have to acquire the basics, gain insight into different experimental methods, and at the same time learn to engage in an interdisciplinary discourse and gain practical experience in interdisciplinary work, partly in an intercultural environment. The goal is to educate researchers. Thus, "knowing a little bit of everything" will not suffice; students will have to gain profound conceptual knowledge as well as solid methodological research skills.
Two years are a relatively short time to reach such sophisticated educational goals. Thus, a curricular architecture has been developed to help students meet these goals; this will mainly occur through the integrative kernel of the curriculum.
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1.) Structure of the Curriculum
The curriculum consists of 2 phases: the (A) introductory phase and the (B) phenomenon-oriented phase consisting of 2 semesters each. Furthermore, programme modules are organized in 3 columns that are mutually interconnected. The (I) disciplinary column and the (II) tools column provide students with conceptual, practical, and cultural experience of the disciplines in cognitive science. The (III) integrative kernel serves as a platform for collaboratively reflecting upon, relating and integrating these experiences, as well as providing training in cognitive science.
A) 1st Year - Introductory Phase
In the first year, students are introduced to 2-4 new disciplines and have the opportunity to attend advanced courses in up to 2 disciplines depending on their background and interests.(20 ECTS)
Students receive training in basic programming and maths as well as basic statistics or acquire other skills if already part of their background.
A.III) Integrative kernel
Students get to know the concepts and the culture of interdisciplinary cognitive science in lectures and exercises, as well as in interdisciplinary seminars and teamwork, which serve as a platform for communication and cooperation between students.
Furthermore, students become familiar with the current work of researchers from different disciplines by means of a lecture series and excursions (Into Research I) and gain first-hand experience with practical work at a particular lab / research group (Into research II) which can be supplemented by relevant additional methodological courses. Students present their work as a poster at the MEi:CogSci Conference organised by the consortium at the end of the first year.
B) 2nd Year - Phenomenon-oriented Phase
B.I + II) Disciplines and tools
Drawing on their respective interests, background, and experiences of the first year, students choose a research topic focusing on a cognitive phenomenon. As students will most likely choose the third semester for academic exchange (student mobility), they will select a partner university in line with their research project.
Students configure their special topic of interest to include practical research and advanced courses from multiple disciplines. To this end, students can dedicate 10 or 15 ECTS depending on whether they choose to fully concentrate on their primary topic or pursue a second one to take advantage of the opportunities offered by their host university. They are free to spend another five credits on enhancing their methodological skills, their topic of interest, foreign language courses, etc. to meet their individual needs.
Students then pursue their master´s thesis either staying at their host location or back at their home university. The master´s thesis builds on and extends the conceptual and practical research done in the third or second semester.
B.III) Integrative kernel
At their host university, students have the opportunity to interact with their peers from all over the MEi:CogSci network. Students collaboratively develop their interests by presenting and discussing their individual interdisciplinary projects taking advantage of their respective backgrounds and expertise.
Furthermore, students conduct a regular journal club and attend a seminar exploring the implications of current trends in cognitive science.
In the fourth semester, students present and critically discuss their projects in the master´s thesis seminar culminating in the defense of their finished master´s theses at at the MEi:CogSci Conference organised by the consortium.
Admitted are students holding a bachelor or equivalent degree in cognitive science or one of its core disciplines (anthropology, biology, computer science, linguistics, medicine, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology).
For applications of students from other fields, the local advisory board must decide (and can prescribe up to 30 additional ECTS to be accomplished in the course of the programme).
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