10 Jun 2011

Open University refocuses computing programmes to address IT skills gap

The Open University has launched two new undergraduate Computing and IT degrees to help the UK overcome a recruitment crisis which sees employers struggling to fill an estimated 110,000 new IT jobs created this year [1]. Developed alongside e-skills UK and representatives from industry, the degrees incorporate work-based learning and offer credit for prior work experience to ensure they are fully compatible with current industry needs.

The BSc (Honours) Computing and IT and the BSc (Honours) Computing & IT and a second subject are a response to employer concern over the competency of the recruitment pool that is forcing companies to look overseas for their IT services. The Open University’s engagement with industry has highlighted a perceived lack of business acumen amongst those coming out of education and an inability to put technical skills to use in a work setting.

The new undergraduate Computing and IT programmes will fill this gap in expertise, whilst offering employers an opportunity to up-skill their whole IT team without taking them out of the office.

Kevin Streater, Executive Director for IT and Telecoms at The Open University said: “These new degrees are the result of years of industry engagement and tackle two major issues raised by employers. The joint degree programme allows candidates to study IT alongside commercial subjects, improving the business acumen of graduates, whilst the single award provides students with clear paths to specific IT roles giving them more specialised skills, and increasing their value to employers.”

The new degrees have been designed to accommodate the individual needs of students at various stages in their working life, as well as those of employers. Using a variety of inventive learning and assessment techniques, these courses can help both existing professionals progress their career and computer enthusiasts take the first step on the IT career ladder.

These techniques include work-based learning, where students continue to earn a salary while they study for an internationally recognised qualification; credit for placements and previous work experience; and a vendor certification pathway which recognises their skills worldwide.

Mark Ratcliffe, Director of Higher Education Engagement at e-skills UK, who worked alongside The Open University in developing these degrees, said: “If we are to secure a healthy pipeline of talent coming into the industry then we need to engage people at all stages in their career in relevant industry learning. As a flexible and adaptable education provider, The Open University is perfectly placed to do this.”

Revisions have also been made to the Foundation Degree in Computing & IT Practice and the top-up BSc in Computing & IT Practice, which form an integral part of the qualification suite. A new course, My Digital Life, is the recommended starting point and looks at technology of the future, where students will design, build and programme small ubiquitous computers.

Notes to Editors

1. Technology Insights 2011’- by e-skills UK published in January reported that employment in the IT & Telecoms industry over the next decade is forecast to grow nearly five times faster than the UK average and will therefore require 110,000 new entrants to keep up with demand. The report can be downloaded here -

2. The Open University (OU) is the largest higher education institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.7 million students and has more than 264,000 current students, including 20,000 overseas, learning in their own time using course materials, online activities and content, web-based forums and tutorials and through tutor groups and residential schools.

The OU has been highly rated for teaching quality, and has been at the top of student satisfaction rankings in the National Student Survey since it was introduced in 2005. 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and three out of four FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

The UK's latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) recognises the dramatic rise of OU Computing research since 2001. Climbing over 40 places up the ranking of UK universities, OU Computing research is now placed joint 16th alongside universities such as Bath, Bristol and York.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 11 million unique visitors, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 31 million downloads. The OU has a 40 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Life, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas, Can Gerry Robinson Save Dementia Care Homes?, Saving Britain’s Past and The Money Programme.

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