Annals of Operations Research

, Volume 194, Issue 1, pp 291-315

First online:

A new model for automated examination timetabling

  • Barry McCollumAffiliated withSchool of Computer Science, Queen’s University Belfast
  • , Paul McMullanAffiliated withSchool of Computer Science, Queen’s University Belfast
  • , Andrew J. ParkesAffiliated withSchool of Computer Science, University of Nottingham Email author 
  • , Edmund K. BurkeAffiliated withSchool of Computer Science, University of Nottingham
  • , Rong QuAffiliated withSchool of Computer Science, University of Nottingham

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Automated examination timetabling has been addressed by a wide variety of methodologies and techniques over the last ten years or so. Many of the methods in this broad range of approaches have been evaluated on a collection of benchmark instances provided at the University of Toronto in 1996. Whilst the existence of these datasets has provided an invaluable resource for research into examination timetabling, the instances have significant limitations in terms of their relevance to real-world examination timetabling in modern universities. This paper presents a detailed model which draws upon experiences of implementing examination timetabling systems in universities in Europe, Australasia and America.

This model represents the problem that was presented in the 2nd International Timetabling Competition (ITC2007). In presenting this detailed new model, this paper describes the examination timetabling track introduced as part of the competition. In addition to the model, the datasets used in the competition are also based on current real-world instances introduced by EventMAP Limited. It is hoped that the interest generated as part of the competition will lead to the development, investigation and application of a host of novel and exciting techniques to address this important real-world search domain. Moreover, the motivating goal of this paper is to close the currently existing gap between theory and practice in examination timetabling by presenting the research community with a rigorous model which represents the complexity of the real-world situation. In this paper we describe the model and its motivations, followed by a full formal definition.