June 2012 issue

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A cutting edge industry that underpins virtually all business activity, Computer Science is a booming subject of study, discovers Matthew Knott.

Given the reliance of business on IT systems, Computer Science is considered one of the most important vocational fields of study. “The global economy runs on it,” enthuses Danny Silver at Acadia University, Canada. “Computer Science is a mix of maths and scientific training as well as professional/management development,” he explains.

Naturally, courses need to keep pace with technology and industry requirements. “Our Computer Science degree provides students with skills to design and implement software systems to the high professional standards demanded by industry,” enthuses Mick Rash at Robert Gordon University (RGU), Scotland. “There is a strong emphasis on programming modern computing platforms, ranging from embedded systems through industry-standard PCs to highly distributed systems,” he adds. “RGU has an international reputation for research and teaching excellence, coupled with strong ties to the energy sector, oil and gas industries,” Rash continues, adding that the course has a year-long paid work experience placement.

At Deakin University, Australia, academics combine extensive industry experience with cutting-edge research in areas such as IT security, networked computing and eLearning, informs Frey Krebs. “Whether they are technologically minded, passionate about multimedia and games development, or fascinated by information systems as the foundation of modern business, Deakin University’s students gain the on-the-ground skills needed to meet the demands of the global workplace,” she adds.

The Jodrey School of Computer Science at Acadia University has, advises Silver, “a reputation for developing some of the finest young minds in computer science and IT”. He explains that the school offers a Canadian Information Processing Society accredited Bachelor of Computer Science degree and a Bachelor of Computer Science with Honours degree, as well as specialisations in Game Development, Mobile Computing and Software Development. “All professors are active in research and often work with students as part of this research,” Silver attests.

The University of Bremen, Germany, provides “an excellent project-based and research-oriented education” in computer science or “informatics”, advises Professor Andreas Breiter. The university offers Bachelor and Master degrees in Informatics, Digital Media and Systems Engineering, and numerous research foci include robotics, cognitive systems and computer architecture. Additionally, Breiter informs, “As the German job market is very open for internationals, the transition for international students to the job market is very easy.”

In Japan, the University of Aizu offers “a leading educational curriculum in computer science and engineering developed through discussions with IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] and ACM [Association for Computing Machinery]”, informs Akira Yamada. The department has five subject areas, including computer network systems and applied information technologies. International applicants are increasing, he adds, and in terms of subject material he notes a move towards cloud computing and super computers.

With courses also based on the ACM curriculum, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) Computing Sciences “is the only department in South Africa where all the degree programmes offer modules from the disciplines of Computer Science and Information Systems”, explains Professor Jean Greyling. The courses balance an understanding of business and computing, she attests, something that is very well received by employers. This quality is allied to South Africa’s relatively low tuition costs compared to other countries, Greyling adds.

“Understanding informatics will be a generic skill for the 21st century,” opines Breiter. Naturally, employment opportunities will be abundant. “Graduates will seek employment in a global economy that spans cultures, continents and national boundaries,” says Krebs, adding that graduates have been employed by multinationals, including IBM and KPMG. “Many Deakin graduates were recruited while they were still studying in their final year, which is a reflection of the high industry demand for these skills and knowledge,” she adds.

Silver explains that demand for software engineers is booming in Canada and the US. He reflects, “You can choose to start a small company of five-to-50 people and become a jack of all trades, or focus on an area of specialisation in a larger firm, such as Apple, IBM or Google. You can become a technical specialist and travel the world solving some of the most challenging of tasks. Or you may develop into more of a business information systems analyst – one who discovers the true problems, solicits systems requirements and does creative design of web-centric systems.”

Key markets and recruitment

“Generally computer science is popular with Indian and West African international students,” observes Mick Rash at Robert Gordon University in Scotland. For Acadia University in Canada, “We have traditionally had a lot of students from China and Taiwan and a few from Japan” says Danny Silver, also noting Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Middle East.

In terms of recruitment, Rash reports a blend of online marketing, international offices, recruitment visits by staff and local agents as recruitment techniques. At Deakin University in Australia, “Hundreds of our students and staff travel overseas to participate in research collaborations, exchanges and internships, in-country development, and agent support,” reports Frey Krebs. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa is looking to increase international students, advises Professor Jean Greyling. “We have relied on our website, but we want to expand our marketing endeavours to other platforms.”

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