Fuzzy Methodologies for Automated University Timetabling Solution Construction and Evaluation


This thesis presents an investigation into the use of fuzzy methodologies for University timetabling problems. The first area of investigation is the use of fuzzy techniques to combine multiple heuristic orderings within the construction of timetables. Different combinations of multiple heuristic ordering were examined, considering five graph-based heuristic orderings - Largest Degree, Saturation Degree, Largest Enrolment, Largest Coloured Degree and Weighted Largest Degree. The initial development utilised only two heuristic orderings simultaneously and subsequent development went on to incorporate three heuristic orderings simultaneously. A central hypothesis of this thesis is that this approach provides a more realistic scheme for measuring the difficulty of assigning events to time slots than the use of a single heuristic alone. Experimental results demonstrated that the fuzzy multiple heuristic orderings (with parameter tuning) outperformed all of the single heuristic orderings and non-fuzzy linear weighting factors. Comprehensive analysis has provided some key insights regarding the implementation of multiple heuristic orderings. Producing examination timetables automatically has been the subject of much research. It is generally the case that a number of alternative solutions that satisfy all the hard criteria are possible. Indeed, there are usually a very large number of such feasible solutions. Some method is required to permit the overall quality of different solutions to be quantified, in order to allow them to be compared, so that the ‘best’ may be selected. In response to that demand, the second area of investigation of this thesis is concerned with a new evaluation function for examination timetabling problems. A novel approach, in which fuzzy methods are used to evaluate the end solution quality, separate from the objective functions used in solution generation, represents a significant addition to the literature. The proposed fuzzy evaluation function provides a mechanism to allow an overall decision in evaluating the quality of a timetable solution to be made based on common sense rules that encapsulate the notion that the timetable solution quality increases as both the average penalty and the highest penalty decrease. New algorithms to calculate what is loosely termed the ‘lower limits’ and ‘upper limits’ of the proximity cost function for any problem instance are also presented. These limits may be used to provide a good indication of how good any timetable solution is. Furthermore, there may be an association between the proposed ‘lower limit’ and the formal lower bound. This is the first time that lower limits (other than zero) have been established for proximity cost evaluation of timetable solutions.