Last week saw the publication of the Shadbolt Review – an independent review commissioned by the UK Government, and led by Sir Nigel Shadbolt, to look at how computer science degrees are accredited and how the system can better support the skills requirements of employers.
The full report is available at the UK Gov website. Here are the key recommendations:
Recommendation 1 – Improving the data
Data on the supply of and demand for Computer Sciences graduates should be timely/up to date, accessible and comprehensive. The Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC), Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), and Tech Partnership should devise a programme of work to improve the quality, richness and granularity, availability and accessibility of data. This should start by working with HESA to inform their Data Futures review and with Government on the future publication of linked educational and employment record datasets. This will help HE providers, employers, students, graduates and policy makers to better understand the graduate employment landscape and how this meets both the requirements of industry and an increasingly technology driven economy now and in the future.
Recommendation 2 – Extending and promoting work experience
All Computer Sciences students should have opportunities to benefit from the skills and experience that are gained through formal sandwich year placements. This might be through increased provision of different types of work placement or finding ways to transfer the benefits of work placements directly to degree programmes. HE providers and employers should be creative and ambitious in developing mechanisms and routes for students to gain work experience, including summer internships and shorter placements. University Industry Advisory Boards should facilitate genuine engagement between HE and industry to ensure that these opportunities are relevant and provide real-world examples. The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), CPHC and National Union of Students (NUS) should work together to investigate the barriers (perceived or actual) that different groups of Computer Sciences students face in accessing and undertaking work experience that is unpaid or voluntary.
Recommendation 3 – Ensuring graduates’ foundational knowledge and their ability to adapt
Computer Sciences course provision should recognise the fast pace of change in technology and seek to equip students with the ability to learn and upskill both throughout their programme, but also during their professional careers. However, HE providers, whether accredited or not, must also ensure that degree programmes continue to provide students with the core foundational knowledge and principles of computer science. This core should reference the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) curricula documents for the required body of knowledge.
Recommendation 4 – Improving graduates’ softer and work readiness skills
HE providers and employers should consider how new models of provision, such as degree apprenticeships, may provide opportunities for students to develop work readiness skills alongside their academic studies. Employers should work with HE providers to support them in incorporating these opportunities into degree programmes. Employers should also recognise their role in providing training to graduates to enable them to develop professionally and to adapt their skills to the specific needs of a particular employer or industry. Tech Partnership, the British Computer Society (BCS) and Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) should work with employers and HE providers to accredit modules that provide students with both technical and soft skills and to ensure they are valued by students.
Recommendation 5 – Careers advice and visibility of graduate opportunities
The AGR and AGCAS should work with CPHC and Tech Partnership to develop a targeted campaign to provide Computer Sciences students with more specific detail on the types of roles and industries that require their skillsets. This should seek to identify role models from alumni and local industry contacts. This should be disseminated and led locally by careers services who should provide support to students in articulating their skills to potential employers. BCS and IET should work with AGR and AGCAS to develop a model for accrediting careers advice provision within Computer Sciences programmes.
Recommendation 6 – Developing a clearer view of the requirements of start-up technology companies
Start-up companies should be recognised as a distinct element of the employer landscape. The skills needs of start-ups should be specifically identified, and the role that start-up can play in providing work experience opportunities for students and inputting to Computer Sciences degree courses should be fully explored. Tech City UK, the Open Data Institute, the Tech Partnership and NESTA should work together to act as a voice for start-up companies to enable them to interact effectively with HE providers, their students and graduates. This should reflect activity at the local, cluster level and input to enhanced data collection and analysis, outlined in Recommendation 1, to better understand the demands of start-ups.
Recommendation 7 – Developing a better understanding of, and supporting, SME requirements
Working through Tech Partnership and with Tech City UK, SMEs should be supported to ensure that their requirements for Computer Sciences graduate skills are captured and adequately reflected. In particular, further work is needed to support SMEs in providing work placements to Computer Sciences graduates.
Recommendation 8 – Horizon scanning for future demand for skills
HE providers, employers, accrediting and professional bodies should work together to horizon-scan for future skills requirements of Computer Sciences graduates. The CPHC, HEFCE, Tech Partnership, NESTA, BCS and the IET should work with, and build on, existing fora to identify future skills needs. The Group should use enhanced data outlined in Recommendation 1 and work together to develop a collaborative model with a clear remit and reporting line. The Group should deliver an annual report on the skills needs of Computer Sciences graduates, delivered through an annual summit/conference on Future Skills and with wider dissemination through local careers services.
Recommendation 9 – Academic accreditation of degree courses
BCS, IET and Tech Partnership should ensure that existing systems of degree course accreditation are flexible, agile, and enable HE providers to respond to changing demand and emerging technological trends and developments. Accreditation of courses should be focussed on outputs. Accrediting bodies should work to increase awareness and value of accreditation so that it is valued by HE providers, students and employers, and consider how their role can provide a forum for engagement between HE and employers.
Recommendation 10 – Engaging industry in accreditation
Employers, through employer groups, such as Tech Partnership, should engage more consistently with HE providers and BCS & IET to ensure accreditation is effective and reflects current industry demand.
See the full report for more background, evidence and findings.