Archive for the ‘Higher education’ Category
In the context of recent (and ongoing) curriculum and qualifications reform for computing education in UK schools, I am hosting a one-day Higher Education Academy workshop in Cardiff in May entitled: Rethinking The First Year Computing Curriculum.
HEA STEM (Computing): Rethinking the First Year Computing Curriculum
24th May 2013, 10am-4pm
Department of Computing & Information Systems, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Western Avenue, Cardiff, CF5 2YB
There have been profound changes to computing education in UK schools over the past two years, with significantly more to follow; soon we will see applicants to higher education courses with 4+ years of rigorous computing education at school. How will this affect the first year university computing curriculum?
This workshop will offer a forum to discuss this and related themes:
- What are the potential issues with the new focus on computing in schools?
- What changes do we envisage to the content and level of the first year computing curriculum?
- How will the new GCSEs in Computer Science affect the pipeline of students coming through to university?
- How can we change the perception of A-Level Computing, especially in light of proposed A-Level reform?
- Getting kids coding: can we expect a better understanding or aptitude in programming?
- How can universities encourage and support the teaching of computer science in UK schools (e.g. CAS/BCS Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence)?
- Are we doing enough outreach and public engagement activities for computer science, compared to other STEM disciplines?
|1.||↔||University of Cambridge||(1st)|
|2.||↑||Imperial College London||(3rd)|
|3.||↓||University of Oxford||(2nd)|
|4.||↑||University of Glasgow||(9th)|
|5.||↓||University of Bristol||(4th)|
|6.||↑||University of Exeter||(15th)|
|7.||↑||University of Birmingham||(16th)|
|8.||↓||University College London||(6th)|
|9.||↑||University of York||(10th)|
|10.||↓||University of Warwick||(8th)|
As always, the rankings for Wales institutions in Computer Science were of particular interest to me:
|76.||↓||University of Glamorgan||(63rd)|
|89.||↓||Cardiff Metropolitan University||(88th)|
N.B. no data was available for Swansea Metropolitan University or the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (who merged in 2012), or for the University of Wales, Newport (who recently merged with the University of Glamorgan to form the University of South Wales.
The Complete University Guide’s methodology for the subject league tables are based on four measures: Student Satisfaction, Research Assessment, Entry Standards and Graduate Prospects. To qualify for inclusion in a subject table, a university has to have data for at least two of the four measures; a blank in the Entry Standards and Graduate Prospects columns is not a zero score but rather denotes that no valid data were available.
With the impending start of the 2014 university guide season, here’s an aggregation of the four main UK university guides in 2013 for Computer Science:
The ICT sector in Wales is a driving force in both economic development and wider social change and it encourages productivity and competiveness across the economy. The sector in Wales is global and dynamic and includes a wide range of companies from blue-chip corporates through to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises across IT services, software, telecommunications and electronics.
In this context, I am determined to ensure that learners progressing through our education system have the skills required to work in and contribute to the sector.
There has been a significant decline in the number of learners taking the GCSE ICT course in Wales and I am aware that some employers have expressed concern over what is being taught in schools, that young people are being ‘switched off’ careers in the sector, and that they lack the necessary skills. There is a risk that the current curriculum is failing to provide young people with relevant skills.
On 1 October 2012, I announced a review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales. The review aims to streamline and simplify assessment arrangements and consider the National Curriculum core and other foundation subjects at each stage, to ensure that our expectations of content and skills developments are suitably robust.
As part of this wider review, the time is right to consider the future of computer science and ICT in schools in Wales. I will begin this process by chairing a seminar on 19 November, which will bring together some of the key players in Wales to discuss the future of ICT in schools.
I have invited representatives from the National Digital Learning Council, Further Education, Higher Education, and industry to contribute to what I hope will be a lively and informative debate on the best way forward and how to ensure that Wales is well placed to play a leading role in the global economy of the future.
I have been invited to this meeting on the 19th, so I hope to have more information in a couple of weeks.
I have today informed the Chair of the 1994 Group of universities, Professor Michael Farthing, of our decision to withdraw from membership of the group.
We have been an active member of the group of 15 research intensive universities since its formation in 1994, helping to promote our common interests in higher education and to share best methods and practice.
However, following a period of reflection and consultation with colleagues, we have concluded that continuing our membership of the 1994 Group does not reflect the type of University we are, nor sit well with the future direction of the University’s strategy.
Where appropriate, we will continue to be involved in existing collaboration initiatives with other leading universities (such as the SETSquared initiative) and are actively exploring future opportunities to work together with colleagues regionally, nationally and internationally in support of our mission to deliver world class research and teaching.
This is a bold statement. Bath see themselves as one of the “research-intensive” universities (with some justification, especially in light of recent league performance), but are not members of the “elite” Russell Group of 24 institutions. Furthermore, this is another snub for the 1994 Group, following four of its members joining the Russell Group in March.
Maybe being unaligned is the new ethos; but thinking more broadly for the UK HE sector, this calls into question the value of the other university groups (1994 Group, Million+ and University Alliance) if the only thing that counts (especially from the UK government’s perspective) is being a member of the Russell Group. Has the Russell Group now moved from being a lobby group to a “badge of honour” (or perhaps morphed back into the old CVCP)?
Finally, with increasing divergence in higher education policy in the devolved nations, will the Russell Group inherently become more Anglo-centric?
* my alma mater
Yesterday saw the publication of the Sunday Times University Guide 2013 (£), one of the many university ranking guides in the UK (in fact, we are very much in university ranking season, with the news that UK universities are slipping down the world rankings).
As with the 2012 Guide (£), as well as the Guardian University Guide 2013 published in May and The Times Good University Guide 2013 published in June, there were some familiar institutions in the top 10 for Computer Science:
|1.||↔||University of Oxford||(1st)|
|2.||↔||University of Cambridge||(2nd)|
|3.||↑||Imperial College London||(4th)|
|4.||↑||University of Birmingham||(12th)|
|5.||↓||University of Bristol||(3rd)|
|6.||↔||University of Bath||(6th)|
|7.||↑||University of Sheffield||(14th)|
|8.||↓||University of York||(7th)|
|9.||↔||University of Warwick||(9th)|
|10.||↑||University of Glasgow||(15th)|
As always, the rankings for Computer Science in Wales were of particular interest:
|63.||↓||Cardiff Metropolitan University||(50th)|
|74.||↑||University of Glamorgan||(81st)|
|94.||↓||University of Wales, Newport||(40th)|
|104.||↓||University of Wales Trinity Saint David||(88th)|
(N.B. no data was available for Swansea Metropolitan University)
The Sunday Times’ methodology differs somewhat from the Guardian’s methodology (and even The Times‘!), especially with respect to research, but with less focus on academic services and student facilities.
However, this clearly highlights the quirks of having three newspapers publishing university league tables (as well as The Complete University Guide, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings) with widely different metrics and weightings. It begs the question: does all of this information help prospective students make more informed choices about where to study Computer Science in the UK?
This week I had the pleasure of speaking at Cumberland Lodge, an educational charity and a unique conference centre in the heart of the Great Park, Windsor. Its patron is The Queen, who has granted sole occupancy of a beautiful seventeenth-century house for discussions aimed at the betterment of society.
I was an invited speaker for Life Beyond the PhD, a celebration of postgraduate research and an opportunity for PhD students to reflect on their future careers and develop the skills to get them there. The attendees are able to hear leading public figures recount the life decisions they made after their PhDs, as well as hearing from experts in higher education policy, communication, career development and impact. One of the aims of the conference is prepare students for an increasingly interdisciplinary academic life, as well as showing that PhDs have demonstrable value both inside and outside academia.
I was speaking in a session entitled Working Inside and Outside Academia: Views from the Recent Past, with Alice Bell and Paul Hurst, a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. We each gave a brief biographical history, our educational background and described our motivations for doing PhDs and why we stayed in academic or not. While each of our stories and career decisions are by definition unique (and hence it might not be possible to abstract anything explicitly transferable from them), it felt useful reflecting on what I had done and describing the processes and motivations. My one overriding message was along the lines of “be ballsy” i.e. go for it and take the opportunities that pop up, especially early on in your career. With the huge changes in academia and academic careers over the past ten years, I would say you have to be more adaptable and diversified: clearly research is of huge importance, but also teaching, policy and public engagement.
While I did not get the opportunity to listen to the attendee’s ten minute presentations on their research at the end of the week, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with a wide range of researchers from a diverse set of disciplines (not just scientists!). It was also a pleasure to listen to and chat with some of the other speakers, including the Rt Hon the Lord Smith of Finsbury (former Labour minister, Chairman of the Environment Agency), Professor Rosemary Deem (Vice Principal-Education, Royal Holloway) and Professor Julia Buckingham (Pro-Rector-Education and Academic Affairs, Imperial College London). It was also great to finally meet Sophie Duncan, Deputy Director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).
A big thank you to Alastair, Owen, Faye and the rest of the Cumberland Lodge team for their warm welcome, hospitality and wide range of interesting discussions. If you are a PhD student in any discipline, I highly recommend applying for Life Beyond the PhD 2013 next August.
In April, I sent a Strategic Information Pack (zipped) to all state-maintained secondary schools and colleges in Wales (following on from a similar exercise in England) in order to explain the opportunities they would have from September 2012 to develop Computer Science as a rigorous academic component within a reformed ICT curriculum. The supporting materials in the information pack provided comprehensive information that would help head teachers, principals and school governors make the right decisions:
- Covering letter for schools (English, Cymraeg) and colleges (English, Cymraeg), explaining the current situation and key strategic choices for schools to teach Computer Science;
- A summary of the Royal Society report Computing in Schools: Shut down or restart?;
- Computer Science as a school subject, draws on the experience of CAS and explains what Computer Science is, and why it is strategically important;
- Computer Science: A curriculum for schools, is the CAS curriculum for Computer Science, written by a group of teachers, academics and industry researchers, and endorsed by BCS, Microsoft, Google and Intellect;
- As examples of the wealth of high-quality material that is available to support Computer Science teaching, copies of the latest CAS newsletter and cs4fn magazine.
Alongside the information pack was the announcement of the Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence, to create a network of schools and universities across Wales to advance teaching excellence in Computer Science. Schools that are members of the network would:
- be offered enhanced and heavily subsidised CPD for a teacher in their school;
- be part of a regional teaching hub (see CAS Hubs in Wales) for sharing good practice and offering grassroots organised CPD;
- have regular contact with university Computer Science departments across Wales to support and inspire teaching material;
- be expected to teach Computer Science at Key Stage 3 or 4 as a catalyst for a renewed Computing curriculum as recommended by the Royal Society, which is benchmarked against the CAS curriculum;
- have opportunities for showcasing their teaching practices and experiences at national conferences;
- be proactively consulted for their views and opinions for future campaigns related to education policy.
The centres of excellence in Wales would become part of a wider UK network for establishing best practice and spearheading innovative teaching in Computer Science, with ongoing support from CAS, the universities in the network and BCS; it has already generated a huge amount of interest, with over 500 schools across the UK applying.
It is not too late to join the Network of Excellence: we need leading schools from across the Wales to drive forward this initiative. Please contact me for further information.
(N.B. I would like to say a massive thanks to the Technocamps project for their financial and logistical support in getting the Strategic Information Pack sent out to school and colleges in the run up to our joint conference this week)
|1.||↔||University of Cambridge||(1st)|
|2.||↑||Imperial College London||(3rd)|
|3.||↓||University of Oxford||(2nd)|
|4.||↔||University of Bristol||(4th)|
|5.||↑||University of St Andrews||(6th)|
|6.||↑||University College London||(7th)|
|7.||↑||University of Glasgow||(10th)|
|8.||↓||University of Southampton||(5th)|
|9.||↓||University of York||(8th)|
|10.||↓||University of Edinburgh||(9th)|
Of particular interest to me were the rankings for Computer Science in Wales:
|69.||↓||University of Glamorgan||(61st)|
|72.||↑||Cardiff Metropolitan University||(103rd)|
|91.||↓||University of Wales, Newport||(89th)|
(N.B. no data was available for Swansea Metropolitan University or University of Wales Trinity Saint David)
The Times’ methodology differs somewhat from the Guardian’s methodology, especially regarding research. While four Welsh institutions in the top 50 highlights the strength of Computer Science in Wales, we should be aiming to break into the top 20 over the next two years.
While this might be facetious, I am not being naive nor pontificating from an “ivory tower” — I think there is an important point to be made about reconciling the traditional aims of education and the modern needs of industry. I understand that there is an imperative to equip our graduates (or school leavers) to be useful members of the nation’s workforce. However, higher education should not be conflated with training — the onus should be on industry to train their workforce, especially if they require specific skillsets. Clearly we have to be aware of the requirements of industry in a more general sense, but I would much prefer to develop a graduate who is capable of applying their existing knowledge and learning new skills (e.g. Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.“), rather than one who only has specific (and perhaps increasingly transient) skills and understanding. Furthermore, trying to meet the immediate needs of industry can be problematic without taking into account the latency of the graduate “pipeline”; this is especially relevant to the ongoing debate regarding computer science education and fulfilling the needs of the IT industry.
But overall, I would like to ensure that as a nation we promote education as being important in its own right — for enjoyment and self-betterment — rather than primarily as a means to an end to finding a job or career.