Thought for the day:Computer science and the Class of 2002

Research wizard Peet Morris gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Yippee! I've got my Software Engineering Master...

Research wizard Peet Morris gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Yippee! I've got my Software Engineering Master of Science badge, as my five-year-old son calls it. It's been a long time since I went to university and, as I didn't have an MSc., I thought it was about time I plugged the gap.

It was an interesting day - especially when, after one-and-a-half hour's worth of Latin, the chancellor hit me on the head with a bible. Not to knock some sense into me - that's Oxford University's way of awarding you your degree.

While mixing with all the young graduates after the ceremony, I was reminded of my first time at university. In those days I studied computer science, not software engineering.

Back then, software engineering wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye. Of course, as systems starting falling over around our ears, we all started taking note and so software engineering was born.

Some definitions might help here - these are mine, by the way.

Computer Science is usually offered as an undergraduate course. It is the basic theory, or foundation of computation, and it is mainly academic in nature.

Software engineering, on the other hand, tends to be taught (or researched) at postgraduate level. It concerns the real world and how to build and design real systems.

As each year passes universities worldwide are inserting more software engineering into their computer science courses. Why teach someone the theory of compiler or operating systems when, in the real world , they're unlikely ever to write either of those things? Isn't it better to teach them something more relevant?

Universities are now teaching more practical computing courses, such as "The World Wide Web and its applications", "Networking technologies", "Graphics, multimedia and HTML", and "Software safety".

I think that it is a good thing. A brickie, after all, doesn't benefit from knowing how to make bricks.

So, if you're an employer, what sort of graduate should you be looking for? Ones who can hit the ground running, or those who might take a bit more training, but know how it all works under the covers?

What's your view?
So, who would you employ? Let us know with an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Peet Morris
has been a software developer since the 1970s. He is a D.Phil (PhD) student at Oxford University, where he's researching Software Engineering, Computational Linguistics and Computer Science.

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