Postgrad IT 'consultants' focus on business wins

Private and public sector employers in the South East could benefit from a decision by City University in London to make work placements compulsory for computer sciences postgraduate students.

Private and public sector employers in the South East could benefit from a decision by City University in London to make work placements compulsory for computer sciences postgraduate students.

Undergraduate students at the university's School of Informatics already have to complete a one-year work placement as part of their computer sciences qualifications. However, the academic year starting next month will be the first in which more highly skilled postgraduate students will be offered to employers.

This September's 130-strong group of postgraduate students will work on projects designed to produce tangible benefits for the businesses they join.

Some 15 postgraduates took part in pilot placements earlier this year.One student wrote the strategic plan for the integration of two companies' systems. Another created servers and databases on a virtual machine.

Students also identified the criteria for success and the risks that could lead to project failure for the implementation of new health information systems.

Another student created a website of installation procedures for Blackberry applications by bringing together different sources of documentation.

Virginia Williams, professional liaison director at City University, said, "The students in the pilot often took pieces of work where they acted rather like consultants."

Postgraduate students starting this September can expect to find placements with both the organisations that took part in the pilot and those that City University already uses for its undergraduate placements.

These organisations include public sector bodies such as the London Borough of Islington, as well as large private sector employers such as Bank of America, Carphone Warehouse, Debenhams and Lloyds TSB.

Williams said, "One of the advantages of this scheme is that the employers get students who have current knowledge of IT methods, techniques and tools that they are keen to apply."

Although the employers in the pilot scheme paid the postgraduate students between £1,000 and £2,000 per month, individual employers can vary the amount they pay for each placement.

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