'IT degree courses: It's time for a radical rethink'

Universities just aren't delivering the skills businesses need...

More needs to be done to align degree-level IT teaching with business needs - and to stop schools turning kids off a career in tech, a conference heard yesterday.

Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, told the European e-skills conference in London that CEOs of UK tech companies have clear ideas about the skills they need from graduates but are "finding it hard to persuade universities to move in those directions".

"We need higher education to be more responsive," he said.

university students

University courses aren't delivering the skills businesses need
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

While the minister noted that IT Foundation Degrees and the IT Management for Business Degree are helping build IT skills at both apprenticeship and senior level respectively, he said more needs to be done.

"UK higher education produces world class graduates in the disciplines which underpin Digital Britain but we need more of them," Timms said. "There are problems getting graduates with the desired mix of skills."

One bright spot for digital sectors is that student demand for IT courses is on the rise, according to the minister - reversing the trend for falling demand seen in the first half of the decade.

"Entrants to computer science courses were actually up seven per cent last year," he noted.

"There's encouraging data from other science and maths courses as well, so I think we've turned things around but we need to go a good deal further," Timms added. "We need to continue promoting this sector as one with good opportunities for those with the right attitudes."

The conference also heard calls for increased flexibility in IT courses to help them meet the needs of businesses.

Phil Jones, MD of the not-for-profit Wired Sussex which provides support for digital start-ups, said the typical degree structure is ripe for a rethink.

"Some of the ways that...