Auckland unis plan major IT course expansions

Auckland's universities are planning a major expansion of their IT offerings to ease New Zealand's IT skills shortage.

Auckland’s universities are planning a major expansion of their IT offerings to ease New Zealand’s IT skills shortage.

In addition to expanding computer science student numbers by almost 30%, the University of Auckland has launched a four-year degree course in software engineering and plans the same for bioinformatics. A new $13.6 million computer science building is scheduled for completion in 2003.

The rival Auckland University of Technology is launching a three-year Bachelor of Information Technology next year, which will be focused on the development of software and programming analysis. It also plans a graduate diploma and graduate certificate in IT, aimed at IT professionals wanting short courses relevant to their work.

The number of computer science students at the University of Auckland will rise from 985 in 2000 to 1084 this year and to 1232 in 2004. Graduate numbers will rise from 337 in 2000 to 415 in 2001 and 440 in 2004. Computer science recently added courses such as internet programming, artificial intelligence, computer graphics and user interfaces.

The university’s new Bachelor of Engineering (Software) degree has 35 students this year, a figure that will rise to 202 in 2004. It will encompass the theory, technology, practice and application of software in computer-based systems. The degree will be accredited by the Institute of Professional Engineers and endorsed by Kiwi computing industry leaders, says professor of computer science Clark Thomborson.

The university also hopes to start in 2002 a science honours programme in bioinformatics, the science of developing databases and algorithms to aid biological research. If approved, the programme will start with 15 students, rising to 88 by 2007. Students take the standard computer science, statistics and biology courses in their early years and three specialised courses in the third and fourth year, says Thomborson.

He says New Zealand biotechnology firms already report difficulties in recruiting trained staff and demand for trained bioinformatics staff is set to rocket in coming decades. He also estimates there is a nationwide shortfall of 2000 IT professionals.

AUT business faculty associate dean Jenny Bygrave says the graduate certificate in IT takes a year part-time, the diploma two years part-time. AUT also offers a two-year masters degree in IT.

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