• Class Number 5721
  • Term Code 3260
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Stephen Gould
    • Prof Stephen Gould
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 25/07/2022
  • Class End Date 28/10/2022
  • Census Date 31/08/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 01/08/2022
SELT Survey Results

This course explores a selected area relevant to statistical machine learning in depth, and will be taught by an SML staff member of internationally recognised standing and research interest in that area. Based on current SML staffing, this will be one of:

•    kernel methods
•    graphical models
•    reinforcement learning
•    convex analysis
•    optimisation
•    bioinformatics
•    minimal description length principle
•    topics in information theory
•    decision theory

Over the past several years the content has alternated between “convex analysis and optimisation” and “structured probabilistic models”. Students should contact the course convenor to find out what topic is planned for the coming semester.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

The learning outcomes change based on the area taught. For the convex analysis and optimisation topic, at the end of the course students should be able to:
  •  Distinguish definitions of key concepts in convex analysis, including convexity of sets and functions, subgradients, and the convex dual
  •  derive basic results about convex functions such as Jensen’s inequality
  •  Deduce how Bregman divergences are constructed from convex functions and derive some of their properties
  •  Produce a formal optimization problem from a high-level description and determine whether the problem is convex
  •  Recognize standard convex optimization problems such as linear programs and quadratic programs
  •  Derive the standard (dual) quadratic program for support vector machines and understand the extension to max-margin methods for structured prediction
  •  Implement and analyse gradient descent algorithms such as stochastic gradient descent and mirror descent
For the structured probabilistic models topic, at the end of the course the student should be able to:
  • Distinguish definitions of key concepts in probabilistic graphical models, including Bayesian networks, Markov networks, probabilistic queries, and conditional independence
  • Derive independence assumptions from graphical representations of a probabilistic model
  • Contrast and implement various exact and approximate inference algorithms, including belief propagation of trees, sampling, and variational schemes
  • Derive maximum likelihood learning for probabilistic graphical models
  • Demonstrate advanced understanding of approximations of the likelihood function

Required Resources


Reference books:

  • Rockafellar, "Convex Analysis", Princeton Press.
  • Bertsekas, "Non-linear Programming", Athena Scientific.
  • Bertsekas, Nedic and Ozdaglar, "Convex Analysis and Optimization", Athena Scientific.
  • Hiriart-Urruty and Lemarechal, "Fundamentals of Convex Analysis", Springer.

Linear Algebra background books:

  • Strang, "Introduction to Linear Algebra", Cambridge Press.
  • Magus and Neudecker, "Matrix Differential Calculus with Applications in Statistics and Econometrics", Wiley & Sons.

General maths refresher books:

  • Garrity, "All the Mathematics You Missed: But Need to Know for Graduate School", Cambridge University Press.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction
2 Convex Sets
3 Convex Functions
4 Convex Optimisation Problems
5 Duality
6 Applications
7 Machine Learning
8 Unconstrained Minimisation
9 Equality Constrained Minimisation
10 Interior Point Methods
11 Deep Learning
12 Differentiable Optimisation and Review

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Open Book Exam 8 % 28/10/2022 7
Hurdle Assessment 10 % 19/08/2022 1,2,3
50 % * 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 8 %
Due Date: 28/10/2022
Learning Outcomes: 7

Open Book Exam

50% Open Book Exam (COMP8650 will have additional questions to answer)

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 19/08/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Hurdle Assessment

10% Hurdle Assessment in Week 3 in the form of a take-home assignment. You must pass this assessment to pass the course.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 50 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Prof Stephen Gould

Research Interests

Prof Stephen Gould

Prof Stephen Gould

Research Interests

Prof Stephen Gould


Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions