QMW offers e-business option

August 11, 2000

Queen Mary and Westfield College has launched an e-commerce engineering masters degree in a bid to accelerate the development of business-savvy technologists.

The global shortage of information technology graduates is reaching a critical level, according to researchers. The United States government and the European Union are among those who have been sounding increasingly shrill alarms over the lack of qualified personnel and the potentially disastrous effects on e-commerce development.

The new Msc/MEng degree in e-commerce should directly address the problem and act as a template for similar courses, according to Laurie Cuthbert, head of electronic engineering at QMW.

"There is a tremendous shortage of people with the right skills. Many companies in the knowledge-based economy are finding it impossible to recruit. The US is solving its skills shortage temporarily by sucking in graduates from other parts of the world, but this is also adding to the recruitment crisis in those countries," Professor Cuthbert said.

Convergence of traditional telecommunications industries and the internet, fuelling the development of e-commerce, demanded graduates with a wider set of skills, he said. The rapid rate of change in companies and commerce cultures meant that the "time-to-market" for communications technologies had narrowed from 20 years to six months over the past decade.

The new degree would educate graduates in the fundamentals of e-commerce technical infrastructure and applications. There are specialist courses in electronic commerce and law, security and authentication, and internet protocols.

"Companies need graduates who have a stronger grasp of e-business practices. The telecoms companies in particular are moving up the value chain from switching services to delivering applications, content, quality of service guarantees and other services. They need graduates who are aware of these issues but also technically proficient. The new degree is geared to providing these skills."

Professor Cuthbert's department is grade 5-rated for research and has strong relationships with knowledge-economy companies. The department has highly regarded internet computing and computer engineering MEng programmes.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has awarded new support of about Pounds 250,000 a year for the internet computing course.

Professor Cuthbert stressed, however, that other areas of electronics will not be neglected. "The subject lies at the heart of all modern technology. Without electronics, there would be no computer networks, global telecommunications, or robot manufacturing systems. There would be no medical scanners, air traffic control or electronic banking," he said.

Department website: www.elec.qmw.ac.uk The Times HigherJaugust 11J2000enterprise 13 stone Added dimension: 3-D images of the brain could help doctors correctly diagnose degenerative diseases Professor Cuthbert's department is strengthening its research partnership with industry in a new project, CRUMPET (Creation of user-friendly mobile services personalised for tourism). Partners include solutions providers Nortel Networks and Portugal Telecom. CRUMPET will develop the software applications and technical infrastructure to offer personalised and intelligent Internet applications for tourists over WAP and 3G mobile phones. The CRUMPET project research will maintain the European lead in mobile networks and software technology as well as bridging the gap in internet technology between the UK and the US. The department is also offering students with an accepted place on the Meng or MSc course to track the status of their place following A-level results over a WAP phone or via the net.

BROADBAND FUTURE

The number of European households with broadband internet access - a key to the success of the knowledge-based economy - will rise to million by 2005 a growth of nearly 18 per cent, according to Forrester Research. (see BTopenworld story, this issue). Competition will radically expand coverage as cable and telecoms companies battle for customers. Forrester expects access prices to sink below 30-euros per month in 10 of 17 European countries by year-end 2002."

Compelling content, including rich education media, will be the main driver for mass-market broadband penetration starting in 2003. But Forrester warns:"Broadband will force a Net-access shakeout because the investment requirements will be enormous. The new economics focused around scale, scope, and brand strength will change Europe's Internet access landscape."

UK broadband will draw 20% of households, while penetration in France will be limited to 11%. Forrester expects cable modems and copper technologies such as ADSL to share 80 per cent of the total European residential broadband market by 2005, with ADSL in the lead with just over half of all broadband connections.

Details: www.forrester.com

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