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Computer science education in universities

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Abstract: Computer science is a relative young science that also straddles technology and engineering, but is now taught in the vast majority of universities. The talk will explore overall trends in …

Abstract: Computer science is a relative young science that also straddles technology and engineering, but is now taught in the vast majority of universities. The talk will explore overall trends in student numbers and profiles, curriculum content, etc., in the UK and elsewhere. The relationship with school-level education and industry will be covered and some possible solutions to key issues will be proposed.

A talk on Computer Science Education in Universities, delivered at the House of Lords in London on 20 March 2013.

Published in: Education

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  • Geoff, thank you for your comment. Computing at Schools is more that just programming, it is more abstract education, including algorithms, etc. Please note that this was one of four short talks, also including school and industrial perspectives.
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  • Jonathan, good summary of the current situation. Everyone is glad to see the early success of the Computing at School project, but I have an uneasy feeling that we are still just teaching young people to program. From my experience of teaching at undergraduate and graduate level, I would say we still have a deficient CS curriculum. I can't even find what I would consider an adequate introductory text book on CS!
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  • 1. Computer ScienceEducation in Universities Prof. Jonathan Bowen Emeritus ProfessorLondon South Bank University / Museophile Limited www.jpbowen.com
  • 2. Alan Turing (1912–1954)• Centenary in 2012• “The Father of Computer Science” – The Scientists, Thames & Hudson, 2012• Annual Turing Award – CS equivalent of Nobel Prize“I was flabbergasted to learn that todaycomputer science is not even taught asstandard in UK schools. This risks throwingaway your great computing heritage.” – Eric Schmitt Google CEO, 2011
  • 3. Computer science• Young discipline (first department in 1962)• Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths• Taught in most universities• Student numbers• Curriculum content• School-level preparation• Industrial relevance• Possible solutions to key issues
  • 4. Computer science courses on offer in UK fall 18% • As fees go up to £9,000 a year, course choices narrow • By Anh Nguyen | Computerworld UK | 24 February 2012 • The number of full-time undergraduate computer science courses offered by UK universities has fallen by nearly a fifth since 2006... • ...169 computer science courses were available in 2012, down 18% from 2006, when 207 courses were on offer. • ... The number of courses available at UK universities has fallen by 27% since 2006, with those in England cutting 31%, compared to just 3% in Scotland. University and College Union (UCU) report, based on data from universities admission service UCAS.
  • 5. UCAS applications for Computer Sciences in 2012 Maths A-level preferred to CS in general 2012 applications (total 89,673) 3% 1% I1 - Computer Science 7% I2 - Information Systems 9% I3 - Software Engineering 13% II - Combinations in CS 67% I6 - Games I4 - Artificial Intelligence Group I Computer Sciences, UCAS, 2012
  • 6. UCAS acceptances for Computer Sciences in 2012 CS acceptance ratio 4.6:1, 22% (cf. 5.7:1, 18% overall) 2012 acceptances (total 19,353) 1% 0% I1 - Computer Science 7% 10% I2 - Information Systems I3 - Software Engineering 15% II - Combinations in CS 67% I6 - Games I4 - Artificial Intelligence Group I Computer Sciences, UCAS, 2012
  • 7. Computer science undergraduate students in the UK Full-time increasing, part-time decreasing900008000070000 18220 16155 15455 19935 1834560000500004000030000 55700 56030 58680 60385 611352000010000 0 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 Full-time Part-time Data from Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited, 2013
  • 8. Computer science vs. overall science full-timeundergraduate student percentage in the UK4.6 Science4.5 overall level, cf. CS4.4 decreasing4.3 CS % Science %/104.24.1 4 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 Data from Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited, 2013
  • 9. Computer science postgraduate students in the UK18000 17135 16335 157201600014000 13425 134601200010000 8000 6520 6750 6180 6145 5615 6000 4000 2000 0 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 Full-time Part-time Decreasing recently Data from Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited, 2013
  • 10. Computer science and overall science full-time postgraduate student percentages in the UK7 Science6 overall level,5 cf. CS decreasing4 CS %3 Science %/102 Many CS1 postgraduate students are0 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 from abroad Data from Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited, 2013
  • 11. Average CS majors per US CS Department1999-2011  Dot-com crash
  • 12. US CS degrees Dot-com boom  Dot-com crash + 4 years1995-2011
  • 13. Total female/male CS students in the UK30000250002000015000 Female CS Male CS10000 5000 0 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 Marked disparity
  • 14. Total female CS students in the UK 2007–1265006000 6045 5860 57505500 5445 5270 Female CS500045004000 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12
  • 15. Female CS, science and overall student percentages in the UK605040 CS%30 Science % Overall %20100 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 Female CS % numbers low and continuing to decline
  • 16. ♂ Gender balance ♀• CS not very attractive to female students...• ... despite using IT (mobile, games, etc.)• Curriculum not female-oriented• US image different (e.g., The Social Network) but still 37%♀ in 1985, 18%♀ in 2010, down 51%• Image problem at school level• Incentivise better gender balance?
  • 17. Curriculum• BCS accreditation – driver for CS content• Highly desirable for UK degree programmes• Degrees for Chartered IT Professional (CITP), also CEng and CSci• 98 mostly UK universities accredited• Signatory to Washington and Seoul Accords (international accreditation)• BCS currently concentrating on CS at schools• Review CS at universities?
  • 18. Curriculum• In US and elsewhere, ACM is influential• Also IEEE – e.g., SWEBOK• Software Engineering Body of Knowledge• What a software engineer should know• Body of Knowledge for CS, etc.?
  • 19. Computer science in China• China’s University and College Admission System (CUCAS)• Computer Science and Technology• 2007: 598 universities with CS departments running 847 computing-related programmes (up 75% from 484 in 2002), with over 430,000 undergraduates• Degree programmes usually split into: 1. computer system structures 2. computer software and theory 3. applied computer science
  • 20. Computer science graduate teachers • Little incentive for CS graduates to become teachers (cf. maths and physics) • Very few CS graduates in schools • IT often taught by teachers with little CS experience • Incentivise CS graduates to teach CS • In the meantime, Computer Science Teaching Network of Excellence ...
  • 21. 70 universities, 600 schools,18/24 Russell Group 120 lead schools
  • 22. University Master Teacher CPD Schools (max 40)First three months: 250 teachers on CPD courses Thank you to Bill Mitchell, BCS Academy
  • 23. Visas• General problem• Discourages collaboration• Bureaucratic procrustean process• Working afterwards an issue for students• Safeguards needed ...• ... but make proportionate• More trust in reliable institutions?
  • 24. Industry• Liaison needed• Education vs. training• CS is a very fast-changing field (fastest?)• Foundations more stable, applications change constantly (e.g., mobile) First Google• Need to ensure relevance web server (1999), already (short and long term) in a museum• Enabling through BCS or ...? for many years!
  • 25. Solutions• Better foundations at school (underway!) – especially mathematical underpinning• Scheme for CS graduate teachers• Improve curriculum (BCS accreditation)• Incentivise gender balance (how?)• Visa bureaucracy (reduce)• Dialogue with industry for needs (national forum?)
  • 26. Alan Turing (1912–1954)• 60th anniversary of his death in 2014• The Turing Guide, Oxford University Press, 2014Slate sculpture of AlanTuring at Bletchley Parkby Stephen Kettle(www.stephenkettle.co.uk)
  • 27. The EndProf. Jonathan Bowen www.jpbowen.comjpbowen@gmail.com