Lincoln University degree to become more relevant

"Absolutely essential" that the degree is responsive to the industry, says professor

The IT skills shortage and the plummeting numbers of ICT students are the main drivers behind Lincoln University’s decision to revise its computer science degree.

From next year, the Bachelor of Applied Computing will be changed to Bachelor of Software and Information Technology (BS&IT). The course will focus more on software engineering and web technologies, says Alan McKinnon, professor of applied computing at Lincoln University in Christchurch.

When the university reviewed the content of the Bachelor of Applied Computing degree, and compared it with the Association for Computing Machinery’s curricula, it decided it was time for a change.

“We identified that the IT part of the [degree] was mapping very well [with the ACM’s curricula] and that it had some strong components in software engineering, although we couldn’t claim that it was a software engineering degree,” says McKinnon.

Another reason for the name change is that although applied computing is a good descriptor of the programme, it wasn’t clear to people what it really meant, he adds.

The decision to change the degree is supported by the university’s Computing Industry Liaison Group, an informal industry sounding board that meets a couple of times a year.

“Because of the industry input into the review we have added specific papers in software engineering and web development,” he says.

McKinnon says that it is “absolutely essential” that the degree is responsive to the industry.

“The industry is crying out for people. That message is pretty clear,” he says. “If we are not responsive to [the demands of the industry] we are not serving the industry well, and not serving our students well.”

ICT enrolments at Lincoln University are following the negative national and international trend. Enrolments to senior IT classes at Lincoln have declined 30-40% in the last few years, says McKinnon.

“It’s very significant,” he says. “Although the revisions [of the degree] are important they won’t fundamentally solve that problem. [But] they will make our people very relevant to the industry … which students hopefully will find attractive, but a lot more has to be done to encourage students into the sector.”

Other topics included in the new degree are end user computing; information systems; computer networks and operating systems. The new degree also enables students to combine software and IT with other areas of study, such as commerce, environmental management, science, maths, conservation, ecology and tourism, says the university.

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