Computing graduates from the University of Kent will be able to enter the job market with an industry-recognised Java technology certificate, under an agreement between the university and Sun Microsystems.
Java was introduced by Sun in 1995 and is said to be the fastest growing programming language ever. Sun says that demand for Java skills has overtaken demand for C++, which was the growth language of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Kent's computing department, rated 4 for research and excellent for teaching, is a significant move for Sun in its effort to prevent Microsoft seizing control of Java. In a United States court, Sun has tried to stop Microsoft selling Windows 98 on the grounds that it contains a Java interpreter that does not conform to Sun's standards. Oracle, IBM and other leading software companies share Sun's view that Java should run on any computer. Microsoft's version contains features exclusive to Windows.
Les Johnson, professor of information management at Kent, explained his choice: "Sun's commitment to open standards makes it academically more respectable for us. We are not here as a mouthpiece for industry."
Professor Johnson distinguished between teaching the Java language and teaching Sun's Java products. Sun has its own Java curriculum and learning materials, but Kent undergraduates will not be using these. However, Professor Johnson said he would probably use the Sun materials for the short courses he intended to offer to industry. The agreement was brokered by Tony West, a Sun vice president and a Kent alumnus. Sun will give the university Pounds 100,000 worth of equipment and Pounds 50,000 cash to help it develop relationships with industry.
Kent is the first European university to participate in Sun's Authorised Academic Java Campus scheme, launched in August. Mike Searle, Sun's UK business development manager for education, said the company hopes to sign up three or four more UK campuses in the next few months.
Java will be the Kent computing laboratory's core teaching language, used for all student work unless another programming language is explicitly specified. "You won't find just one course on Java," said Professor Johnson. "It is embedded in the curriculum."
In the first year, students will be examined for their Java certificate by independent testers. "Subsequently we shall probably administer the test ourselves," Professor Johnson said.