This research considers the problem of constructing high school timetables using a
computer. In the majority of high schools, termly or yearly timetables are still
being produced manually. Constructing a timetable is a hard and time consuming
task which is carried out repeatedly thus a computer program for assisting with this
problem would be of great value. This study is in three parts. First. an overall
analysis of the problem is undertaken to provide background knowledge and to
identify basic principles in the construction of a school timetable. The
characteristics of timetabling problems are identified and the necessary data for the
construction of a timetable is identified. The first part ends with the production of
a heuristic model for generating an initial solution that satisfies all the hard
constraints embodied in the curriculum requirements.
The second stage of the research is devoted to designing a heuristic model for
solving a timetable problem with hard and medium constraints. These include
constraints like the various numbers of common periods, double periods and
reducing the repeated allocation of a subject within any day. The approaches taken
are based on two recently developed techniques, namely tabu search and simulated
annealing. Both of these are used and comparisons of their efficiency are
provided. The comparison is based on the percentage fulfilment of the hard and
The third part is devoted to one of the most difficult areas in timetable
construction, that is the softer requirements which are specific to particular schools
and whose satisfaction is not seen as essential. This section describes the
development of an expert system based on heuristic production rules to satisfy a
range of soft requirements. The soft requirements are studied and recorded as
rules and a heuristic solution is produced for each of the general requirements.
Different levels of rule are developed, from which the best possible solution to a
particular timetable problem is expertly produced.
Finally, possible extensions of the proposed method and its application to other
types of the timetabling problem are discussed.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.