Adaptive automated construction of hybrid heuristics for exam timetabling and graph colouring problems

Rong Qu, Edmund K. Burke, Barry McCollum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we present a random iterative graph based hyper-heuristic to produce a collection of heuristic sequences to construct solutions of different quality. These heuristic sequences can be seen as dynamic hybridisations of different graph colouring heuristics that construct solutions step by step. Based on these sequences, we statistically analyse the way in which graph colouring heuristics are automatically hybridised. This, to our knowledge, represents a new direction in hyper-heuristic research. It is observed that spending the search effort on hybridising Largest Weighted Degree with Saturation Degree at the early stage of solution construction tends to generate high quality solutions. Based on these observations, an iterative hybrid approach is developed to adaptively hybridise these two graph colouring heuristics at different stages of solution construction. The overall aim here is to automate the heuristic design process, which draws upon an emerging research theme on developing computer methods to design and adapt heuristics automatically. Experimental results on benchmark exam timetabling and graph colouring problems demonstrate the effectiveness and generality of this adaptive hybrid approach compared with previous methods on automatically generating and adapting heuristics. Indeed, we also show that the approach is competitive with the state of the art human produced methods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-404
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Modelling and Simulation


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