How universities will produce the next generation of ICT stars

Ulrika Hedquist surveys top academic institutions

Lincoln University

At Lincoln University, the advanced end-user computing courses are among the most popular, says Keith Unsworth, senior lecturer and Head of the Department of Applied Computing.

“Many students doing qualifications in Commerce and Science recognise that in the workplace for most careers, the ability to be able to create effective solutions to problems using the advanced capabilities of end-user tools is extremely valuable,” he says.

In the Software and Information Technology degree, there is strong demand for courses on web technologies, analysis and design of information systems, he adds.

Graduates with strengths in software engineering are typically being employed as developers, testers or analysts, says Unsworth.

“Those with strengths in problem-solving with end-user tools and with good interpersonal skills, find employment in help desk and support.”

The courses at Lincoln University are under constant review and development as technology and industry needs change, says Unsworth.

“For example, we have recently increased the web development content in some of our courses and we are introducing some material on programming for multiprocessor environments into another course.”

To ensure the computing degrees meet industry needs and continue to be relevant, the university has a Computer Industry Liaison Group that meets with the departments twice a year.

University of Otago

The department of Information Science at the University of Otago offers a number of undergraduate majors – Telecommunications, Software Engineering and Information Science, says associate professor Michael Winikoff. The Computer Science department offers additional majors for a Bachelor’s degree.

When asked if the university provides courses that have a particular focus on a clear career path, Winikoff says:

“My sense is that employers don’t tend to look for graduates who have done particular courses, as much as strong graduates. However, in some cases particular expertise is valued. For example, in seeking employment with a telecommunications company, a telecommunications major is more appropriate for some roles than, say, a software engineering major.”

The department knows from surveys of its graduates that the vast majority are happy with their Information Science degree, and that they find what they have done in their degree to be relevant and useful, says Winikoff.

“We also continue to work and adjust our courses over time to ensure that they remain relevant in a changing IT world.”

For information about Auckland University, check out Q and A interview with Professor John Hosking in the links below:

Creating an IT hub around a great university

Competition for the brightest and best in IT

University of Canterbury

Graduates from the University of Canterbury’s computer science and software engineering degrees have a number of career paths, says associate professor Tim Bell.

The programmes have a strong software engineering component, which many students will focus on and go into software engineering and development roles.

Students can also choose to focus more on networking and security, or the more scientific side, including graphics, vision and algorithms, he says.

The university offers a computer engineering degree for students more involved in designing hardware and software combinations for building devices and gadgets, as well as electrical engineering; and information systems that look more at business needs, says Bell.

For the past two years, the University of Canterbury has also offered a course on security and forensics, which has been popular. “We are also developing a stronger software engineering option which is a four-year degree.”

While computer and electrical engineering have a work experience component built into them, most computer-science students take a group project course where they work with a real client and gain some on-the-job experience, he says.

Some students go overseas after graduation, but many are snapped up by local companies, says Bell. “There is a big demand locally. Companies will come in and aggressively hire large numbers of students.”

In a bid to address the local skills shortage, Bell is involved with working with high schools in an effort to attract more students into careers in ICT.

Massey University

Massey University offers both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Information Science degrees in Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Information Technology, says Stephen Marsland, associate professor in computer science at the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology (SEAT) at Massey University.

“The BSc in computer science is our most popular degree. Many of our students particularly enjoy the papers on web technology and software engineering,” he says.

“We ensure they are ready for these careers by providing future-focused skills – the ability to select appropriate programming languages, and the underlying knowledge of how to structure programming solutions, not just the ability to write Java code. Of course, they are also reasonably fluent in at least two different languages by the time they graduate.”

Massey is changing some of the papers within its degree to address areas that “we are currently a little short on, such as graphics”, he says.

Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University is seeing a growing interest in its computer science and software engineering degrees, says professor John Hine, dean of the Faculty of Engineering. This is only the fifth year of the Bachelor of software engineering degree, which includes software, network and electronic computer engineering, and enrolment numbers have increased every year, he says.

“When we introduced the Bachelor of Engineering, we really wanted to differentiate our programme,” says Hine. “It is definitely a professional degree, credited by IPENZ [Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand].”

Students are required to do work experience as part of completing the degree. They also take courses that deal with ethical issues and learn about interview skills and writing CVs, he adds.

The computer science degree has been redesigned so that no major can make up more than about half the degree.

“It has been designed to encourage interdisciplinary study,” explains Hine. “This enables students to do for example [a major in each] geology and computer science, or biology and computer science, or just about anything they want to.”

Despite introducing software engineering as a new distinct programme, enrolments into the computer science degree have kept increasing.

Graduates have no problem finding jobs after graduating, he says.

“We are not quite back to the late 90s when people were running startups in the corridors from their phones, but there is definitely a strong market for graduates.”

The university is seeing competition from employers to hire top students.

“We are at mid-year now and there are companies already asking how they can get early access to our top people,” he says.

“That is positive for us, but I’m not sure there are enough graduates in the country to go around,” he adds.

Lincoln University

At Lincoln University, the advanced end-user computing courses are among the most popular, says Keith Unsworth, senior lecturer and Head of the Department of Applied Computing.

“Many students doing qualifications in Commerce and Science recognise that in the workplace for most careers, the ability to be able to create effective solutions to problems using the advanced capabilities of end-user tools is extremely valuable,” he says.

In the Software and Information Technology degree, there is strong demand for courses on web technologies, analysis and design of information systems, he adds.

Graduates with strengths in software engineering are typically being employed as developers, testers or analysts, says Unsworth.

“Those with strengths in problem-solving with end-user tools and with good interpersonal skills, find employment in help desk and support.”

The courses at Lincoln University are under constant review and development as technology and industry needs change, says Unsworth.

“For example, we have recently increased the web development content in some of our courses and we are introducing some material on programming for multiprocessor environments into another course.”

To ensure the computing degrees meet industry needs and continue to be relevant, the university has a Computer Industry Liaison Group that meets with the departments twice a year.

University of Otago

The department of Information Science at the University of Otago offers a number of undergraduate majors – Telecommunications, Software Engineering and Information Science, says associate professor Michael Winikoff. The Computer Science department offers additional majors for a Bachelor’s degree.

When asked if the university provides courses that have a particular focus on a clear career path, Winikoff says:

“My sense is that employers don’t tend to look for graduates who have done particular courses, as much as strong graduates. However, in some cases particular expertise is valued. For example, in seeking employment with a telecommunications company, a telecommunications major is more appropriate for some roles than, say, a software engineering major.”

The department knows from surveys of its graduates that the vast majority are happy with their Information Science degree, and that they find what they have done in their degree to be relevant and useful, says Winikoff.

“We also continue to work and adjust our courses over time to ensure that they remain relevant in a changing IT world.”

For information about Auckland University, check out Q and A interview with Professor John Hosking in the links below:

Creating an IT hub around a great university

Competition for the brightest and best in IT

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