Good computer science graduates 'still in demand'

A report suggesting that one in ten computer science students fails to find a job after university is not evidence of a skills surplus in the UK IT sector, experts have claimed.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency report on destinations of students who graduated from UK universities in the 2006/07 academic year tracked what happened to around 190,000 of a total cohort of over a quarter of a million.

Of these, 177,115 had either found jobs, continued their studies, or described themselves as "not available for employment" several months after graduation, suggesting that around 6 per cent of those who responded were out of work.

At one extreme, the safest courses were those in medicine and dentistry, where unemployment runs at less than 2 per cent. At the other was computer science, for which the figure was just under 10 per cent, behind creative arts and design (8.2 per cent) and ‘mass communications and documentation’ (7.7 per cent).

HESA reported that, of the 9,080 CS graduates who took part in its survey, 880 were unemployed. Including the 280 who declared themselves "unavailable for work" pushes the proportion without a job up to almost 13 per cent.

Steve Furber, ICL professor of computer engineering at the University of Manchester and chair of the UK Computing Research Committee, argued that the HESA figures are not evidence of a skills surplus. “No competent computer science graduate struggles to find work because demand already outstrips supply, and while demand continues to grow supply is falling due to the shortage of applicants,” he said. “The bottom line is that off-shoring of IT services is a result of the shortage of computing graduates, not vice versa.”

Martyn Thomas of the IET’s IT sector panel said the demand for good computing graduates from good universities remains very strong. “Two companies that I have spoken to have failed to attract all the recruits they need this year, and one university has told me that they had a second year undergraduate offered £50,000 by a firm in the city for her placement year,” he said.

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