Computer science defended

April 7, 1995

On top of Darrel Ince's proposal (MM, March 10) to disband computer science departments came news of the poor showing by those departments in HEFCE quality assessments. Readers leapt to the subject's defence.

In his article on why computer science is failing its students, Darrell Ince lists a number of factors that contribute towards successful software projects. But he does not mention the need for a well-integrated software team, containing project managers who can understand software, and programmers who can speak coherently to management.

The way to achieve this is not to close down computer science departments, but to open them up to a wider range of teaching, so that computing students can gain project management and communication skills. By offering a spectrum of degrees, from theoretical computer science to human-centred software design, it is possible to span the breadth of modern computing while allowing a student to study one area in depth.

It is not easy to build up such an interdisciplinary department from scratch, not least because of the competing claims on computer science from engineering, mathematics and business studies. But the result can be graduates trained as scientists and communicators, and also the kind of cross-disciplinary research that, as Darrell Ince has indicated, gets published in the main computing journals.

Mike Sharples

School of cognitive andcomputing sciences University of Sussex

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