Third Level Computing supports
discussion and co-operation between organisations interested in
computing education, including the third level colleges, industry
bodies, Government agencies, and companies. It was set up by the
National Software Directorate and is supported by the Department of
other parts of the Irish
economy suffer, the software sector continues to prosper. Demand for
graduates in computing and related disciplines has kept growing and
is greater than the supply. So far the shortfall has been made up by
computing graduates from other countries, with over 50% of new hires
in software companies coming from abroad. Longer term we will need
to provide our own, as world-wide demand increases for graduates
able to design the systems of tomorrow.
not just in computing graduates. If people generally are to have any
understanding of the systems they use, any appreciation of new
possibilities, they will need some grasp of computational thinking.
Without this, they will at best be superficial users, unable to
understand the associated costs and dangers, or appreciate the
possibilities. We need to add ‘computational thinking’ to
‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ as another pillar of a
practical education. By failing to do so we neglect the educational
implications of a world where almost every aspect of life will
involve computation based systems.
not just Ireland that faces these challenges. President Obama has
of the failure at second level to distinguish between ‘information
technology literacy’ and ‘computer science’, and urged to
computer science as one of the core courses students need to develop
critical 21st Century skills”.
third level in the UK, Prof. Muffy Calder has pointed out that
“Computational thinking, a way of solving problems,
designing systems and understanding human behaviour, drawing on
concepts of computer science, is having a wide impact across all
The growing appreciation of these issues abroad makes it all the
more important that we address them effectively here.
In doing so, one
strength is the co-operation that already exists between the third
level sector and industry and the significance attached to this by
the industry. “It’s vital that we support the connection between
the world of education and the world of business to ensure we
continue to bring new ideas, new computer science students and
expertise that can help drive innovation and entrepreneurship. Our
support for the Third Level Computing Forum and its activities is
recognition of the importance of that link.” (Mr. Liam
Cronin, Microsoft Ireland).
level computing education is available in 7 Universities, 14
Institutes of Technology, in Tipperary Institute, and in a number of
private colleges. Four year honours degree courses (National
Framework of Qualifications Level 8) are provided by most of these,
with two and three year courses at Level 6 and Level 7 available,
mostly in the Institutes of Technology. All the universities and
most of the institutes are involved in postgraduate studies and
research in computing.
studying computing have not recovered from the drop of over 70% in
applications for computing degrees in the 2001-2003 period,
following the ‘dot.com’ collapse, though there have been some
increases in recent years.
A similar situation exists in other countries.
slowness of the recovery in the
numbers reflects various underlying problems.
lost in the ‘dot-com collapse’ of 2001-2003 has not been
regained. “There are no jobs in computing”!
The strong employment opportunities are not understood.
does not have a clear identity in the community. There
is little understanding of what it involves, and a tendency to
confuse it with Electronics, Mathematics, or computer
professional career opportunities and general educational value of
computing qualifications are not appreciated. There is a fear that
such qualifications provide only limited career options.
image of the computing
graduate is of the ‘nerd’ rather than the ‘professional’.
is seen as a predominantly male area of interest.
is one of the few Western European countries in which there is
no study of computing, as distinct from use of computers, at second
resulting difficulties for the colleges include
places on virtually all full-time computing courses.
numbers of women on most computing courses.
decline in the Leaving Certificate grades of computing students.
and drop out rates, particularly in first year, where most students
encounter programming for the first time. Students are ill prepared
to study computing at third level.
in recruiting Irish graduates to do research.
a result, the
numbers graduating in Ireland fall well short of industry’s needs
and of those of research.
Expert Skills Group predicts a shortfall of 2000-3000 computing
graduates per annum in the coming years. (ICT Report 2008)
than 50% of graduate hires in software companies in the Dublin area
are from outside Ireland.
than 50% of postgraduate research positions in the colleges are
filled by graduates from outside Ireland.
countries also have computing graduate shortages
USA employment in Information Technology grew by 8.7% in 2007
Europe economies generally have a significant shortfall
and China have significant shortfalls
shortage of computing graduates has important economic consequences
of the ‘knowledge economy’
use of computing in improving competitiveness.
use of computing in new products and services
limits the development of the software sector, an industry ideal in
many respects for an economy such as Ireland.
makes Ireland reliant on an uncertain supply of graduates from
other countries, both for industry and for research.
attempts are being made to address the
the colleges have invested
in activities to promote computing, including
courses for second level students
materials, printed, DVD, and WWW based
of a marketing officer for computing
and interviews in the media.
all colleges have developed new courses aimed at capturing the
interest of students in areas such as computer games, forensic
computing, business computing, multimedia and business computing
the colleges have taken steps to address the problems
of failure and drop-out, in particular by providing additional
tutor support. Funding has been made available by the HEA to cover
the associated costs.
state agencies, in particular the Higher Education Authority and
Enterprise Ireland, and professional bodies and industry bodies,
including Engineers Ireland and ICT Ireland, have co-operated in
funding various initiatives and campaigns aimed at increasing take
up of places in computing courses.
there has been no shortage of effort, innovation and financial
recovery in the numbers remains slow, though there has been some
progress. However, without these efforts, it seems likely that the
situation would have deteriorated further.
is felt that the existing efforts should be continued.
addition, the following steps
are suggested to help address the underlying issues
the industry seek the co-operation of the media in clarifying the
job situation and the career prospects of computing graduates, and
in overcoming the ‘nerd’ image. The colleges can help, but
their views are at second hand and may be seen as tainted by vested
steps are taken to
provide a better understanding of what computing and computational
thinking are about, and to distinguish them clearly from hardware
technologies, mathematics, and computer manufacture. At present it
is as though the civil engineering involved in a hospital were
confused with the medical procedures carried out inside it.
the importance of computational thinking as a component in basic
education be recognised.
the broad educational value of the study of computing be
to help reduce fears of limited career options. A computing based
degree can be as broadly educational as a degree in business or
economics or a modern language. Few disciplines touch on such a
wide range of topics.
further efforts be made to attract women to study the subject. At
present they have surrendered it to the men. Many
seem to be unaware of the interest, flexibility, and prospects that
a career in computing can offer. They seem unaware of the potential
of computing to help people’s lives.
all Teacher Training, whether at Primary or Second level, involve
the study of Computing, to cover at least basic Computational
Thinking, Algorithms, Computer Programming, and Computer
Architecture. At present it is infeasible to introduce computing in
the second level curriculum due to unavailability of teachers, but
this should not be allowed continue indefinitely. Teachers should
be given the opportunity to become aware of the subject, and
perhaps interested in it.
the colleges identify
ways in which they might interact more closely with local schools
to help build up interest in computing among teachers and pupils.