Abreast of industry

November 8, 2002

The claim that 80 per cent of computing graduates are lost to UK industry comes from a comparison of incompatible and incomplete statistics that does not stand up to serious scrutiny ("Industry attacks IT tuition", THES , October 18).

The UK information technology industry has a dismal record of project failure and is sorely in need of a more professional image. It is unlikely to achieve this while it continues to project itself through people who claim that technological knowhow is bottom of a ten-point list of attributes that IT employers seek and that "a building project manager could easily make a good IT project manager".

IT system design is highly complex and requires in-depth knowledge that can be gained only from a proper technical education. Lack of funding makes it hard for universities to recruit computing staff and provide the latest equipment. But there is no evidence of a failure to keep up to date with technology. On the contrary, we are alarmed by the frequency with which graduates and placement students complain about the outdated techniques and equipment they find in the workplace.

Universities are well aware of the need to ensure that their curricula are appropriate to work. They do this through research contacts and student placements, by having industrial advisers on curriculum development committees and by subjecting themselves to regular accreditation by professional societies.

Universities are willing to interact with employers and will be happy to work with e-skills UK and professional societies to improve the accessibility, impact and value of higher education. But this will not be helped by attempts to rubbish computing degrees by the use of inaccurate statistics.

Ian Watson
The Conference of Professors and Heads of Computing

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