COMPSCI 750 : Computational Complexity


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Definitions of computational models and complexity classes: time complexity (e.g., P and NP), space complexity (e.g., L and PSPACE), circuit and parallel complexity (NC), polynomial-time hierarchy (PH), interactive complexity (IP), probabilistic complexity (BPP), and fixed-parameter complexity. Recommended preparation: COMPSCI 320 or 350.

Course Overview

This is a survey paper on computational complexity, descriptive complexity, and their applications.

Weeks 1-6 cover the complexity classes P and NP, the concept of NP-completeness, space complexity, intractability, BPP and randomised algorithms, and some special topics such as Boolean circuits.

Weeks 7-12 usually introduce descriptive string complexity, algorithmic randomness and a form of quantum randomness, followed by a brief theoretical and practical introduction to quantum computing which includes the quantum gates and the adiabatic models. Some applications will be included.

In 2021 Prof. Khoussainov is expected to be teaching the second half. Given his research interests,  the topics would instead be centred on automata.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: Approval of the Academic Head or nominee

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Name and relate the key complexity classes and their underlying models of computation. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Apply the concept of reductions to independently order the problems by their relative difficulty. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Formalise and abstract from a given computational task, relevant computational problems; argue that they belong to appropriate complexity classes. (Capability 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Creatively modify intractable computational problems so that they have feasible solutions. (Capability 1, 2 and 5)
  5. Present the basic models of quantum computing and illustrate them with the D-Wave machine. (Capability 3, 4 and 5)
  6. Write and present complexity-theoretic arguments with mathematical stringency orally and in writing. (Capability 2, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 30% Individual Coursework
Test 20% Individual Test
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Final Exam



Key Topics

Computational resources, difficulty of problems, classical and quantum computing, finite automata

Special Requirements


Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend at least 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 3 hours of lectures,   3 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 4 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation. These are merely guidelines. Depending on your background you may have to work significantly more. 

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

The course will take place as Campus Experience.

Remote attendance will not be possible until the country goes to Level 2 or higher. Past experience has shown the advanced material is hard to learn remotely.

Attendance is required at scheduled activities to complete/receive credit for components of the course.

Lectures will be available as recordings if the lecture room has the necessary equipment.  

 Attendance on campus is required for the test. 

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Michael Sipser, Introduction to the theory of computation, 2d or 3d edition.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Other Information

This course requires  you to have some  mathematical background. The content is often formulated in terms of definitions, theorems  and proofs. A brief review is given at the beginning. If you don't have experience with maths such as gained in CS 350 of Maths 315, you shouldn't take the course.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Level 1: Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode.
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person. All teaching and assessment will have a remote option. The following activities will   have an on campus / in person option: Lectures, tutorials, office hours.
 Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 07/06/2021 11:24 p.m.