At the University of Southampton's School of Electronics & Computer Science, we have just witnessed a major increase in computer science undergraduate numbers. In fact, our recent intake of 94 undergraduates, which is 20% higher than last year, is the biggest ever intake of computer science students since the dotcom crash, Paul Garratt is admissions tutor for computer science at the University of Southampton
Computer science has once again become a popular subject in the UK, with 10,000 new students starting degree courses in 2007. Due to the fact that the discipline dwindled in popularity over the past five years and applications dwindled due to the dotcom crash, it may take the industry time to recover, but all the signs indicate a resurgence.
Our experience at the School of Electronics & Computer Science mirrors market trends. There was a surge in applications from 1996 to 2000, in synchrony with the dotcom boom, then a decline to the previous steady rate of increase. The School of Electronics & Computer Science is attractive to applicants because we are the biggest department of its kind in the UK.
We can offer a range of specialisms from electronics-oriented courses through web technology to artificial intelligence, multimedia and formal software engineering. We have a high research profile and figure prominently in the league tables.
Overseas students have always comprised about 15% of our intake and now we welcome alongside the students from the Far East newcomers from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, who are keen to enjoy the opportunities in British higher education. We invest resources in publicity and marketing online and via traditional media. We engage with local schools and we stage three annual open days for interested young people and parents.
We also make students and potential students aware of the career opportunities available within the discipline. We host careers fairs to which we invite leading international players in this field we also organise work placements for students. They also become aware of the fact that it is not unusual for a graduate to start out on a salary of £35,000 in what is now an extremely healthy job market.
So, despite the adverse effects of the dotcom crash I think the future of computer science is expansion. Young people are technologically aware. Universities can help them realise that even when they are having fun with the inventions of computer science when they play on the internet on Facebook, Google, or YouTube, or watch Harry Potter on DVD players, they are viewing computer output.
The more we do to raise the profile of computer science and demonstrate how it enhances our lives the more levels of interest will grow. If companies and schools can explain how versatile and pervasive computing technology is then it will continue to attract bright and ambitious youngsters. They will see it more and more as an exciting and lucrative career as well as a fascinating subject.
This was first published in April 2008