Journal of Heuristics

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1–23 | Cite as

A hybrid metaheuristic approach to the university course timetabling problem

  • Salwani Abdullah
  • Hamza Turabieh
  • Barry McCollum
  • Paul McMullan
Open Access


This paper describes the development of a novel metaheuristic that combines an electromagnetic-like mechanism (EM) and the great deluge algorithm (GD) for the University course timetabling problem. This well-known timetabling problem assigns lectures to specific numbers of timeslots and rooms maximizing the overall quality of the timetable while taking various constraints into account. EM is a population-based stochastic global optimization algorithm that is based on the theory of physics, simulating attraction and repulsion of sample points in moving toward optimality. GD is a local search procedure that allows worse solutions to be accepted based on some given upper boundary or ‘level’. In this paper, the dynamic force calculated from the attraction-repulsion mechanism is used as a decreasing rate to update the ‘level’ within the search process. The proposed method has been applied to a range of benchmark university course timetabling test problems from the literature. Moreover, the viability of the method has been tested by comparing its results with other reported results from the literature, demonstrating that the method is able to produce improved solutions to those currently published. We believe this is due to the combination of both approaches and the ability of the resultant algorithm to converge all solutions at every search process.


Dynamic force decay rate Great deluge algorithm Electromagnetism-like mechanism Course timetabling 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salwani Abdullah
    • 1
  • Hamza Turabieh
    • 1
  • Barry McCollum
    • 2
  • Paul McMullan
    • 2
  1. 1.Data Mining and Optimisation Research Group, Center for Artificial Intelligence TechnologyUniversity Kebangsaan MalaysiaBangiMalaysia
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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