Cross industry hi-tech campaign group Next Gen Skills today expressed concern at the severe misalignment of the UK education system with the needs of hi-tech industries after government figures showed that there are presently over 17,000 fewer entrants at university level for Computer Science courses today compared to 2002.
According to figures released by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (see Notes, 3), over the last decade there was a 23.3% drop in the number of students studying Computer Science at undergraduate level and a 33.8% drop in the number of students entering at graduate level.
Astonishingly, among the subjects needed for high-tech growth Computer Science is the only area of decline in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) related degrees despite the massive expansion in access to higher education during this time – while the UK started to undergo the ‘digital revolution’. In terms of post-graduate study Computer Science is the only area to decline in numbers apart from agriculture-related subjects.
The fall in students entering courses is also mirrored by the sharp decline in university courses, which now cannot be explained by ‘course consolidation’ alone. During the last five years the total number of university courses teaching computer science has declined by one-fifth according to recent course sampling by UCU.
Next Gen Skills, led by video games and interactive entertainment trade body UKIE, believes that the UK needs to improve its education system to equip the next generation of programmers with the computer skills needed to drive hi-tech growth. The introduction of an industry relevant Computer Science course within the framework of the ‘E-Bacc’ could remedy this.
Next Gen Skills campaign Chair and Life President of Eidos Ian Livingstone OBE said:
“High-tech, knowledge-based industries are major generators of digital intellectual property, and need skilled computer programmers to maintain their growth. These figures are another depressing example of the severe misalignment between the UK education system and the needs of high-tech industries.”
“The declining numbers of students taking Computer Science degrees is evidence of the long retreat from Computer Science being taught in our classrooms, a point made in our ‘Next Gen’ review. We need to ensure that the flow of high calibre talent from education to industry is enhanced and not allowed to decline any further. For this to happen we need real intervention in schools, and welcome the proposed changes to the ICT curriculum. There is a strong argument for Computer Science to be a fourth science on the English Baccalaureate.”
Notes to editors:
1. Next Gen Skills is a major new campaign formed from an alliance between the biggest names from the UK digital, creative and hi-tech industries and the UK’s leading skills and educational bodies to improve the computer programming skills needed for the future growth of the UK’s economy. The campaign is led by games and interactive entertainment trade body UKIE (including major international companies with UK interests such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision and SEGA, plus leading UK creative development studios such as Blitz Games Studios, PlayGen and The Creative Assembly). Other supporters include Google, TalkTalk, Facebook, the British Screen Advisory Council, Guardian Media Group, the Design Council, Intellect, IPA, British Computer Society, Abertay University, Skillset, GuildHE, E Skills, the Education Foundation, NESTA and UK Screen (representing some of the world’s leading visual effects businesses, including Oscar winners Double Negative and Framestore).
2. The recent Livingstone Hope ‘Next Gen’ review of creative industry skills produced by NESTA highlighted that computer programming and coding, the most important skill required to create the digital devices and software of the future, is not currently on the national curriculum. In his speech to BETT on 11 January, the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove responded to the call by industry by announcing a consultation – ending 11 April – on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from September this year to allow the development of innovative, exciting and rigorous new ICT and Computer Science courses in advance of the launch of the new National Curriculum in 2014.
3.On 1 March 2012 John Pugh MP asked Business and Innovation Secretary David Willets MP to give the percentage change in the number of students studying computer science or another technical subject at degree level between 2002 and 2012 (answer 6 March).
John Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what the percentage change in number of students taking (a) computer science degrees and (b) any kind of technical study at degree level was between 2002 and 2012. 
Mr Willetts: The latest available information on UK domicile enrolments to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) first degree and postgraduate courses is shown in the following table for the 2002/03 and 2010/11 academic years. Figures for the 2011/12 academic year will become available from January 2013.
UK domicile (1) enrolments (2) ,to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) first degree and postgraduate courses, UK higher education institutions: Academic years 2002/03 and 2010/11
|Level of study||Subject area||2002/03||2010/11||Percentage change 2002/03 to 2010/11|
|First degree||Medicine and dentistry||30,265||41,030||+35.6|
|Subjects allied to medicine||87,485||118,310||+35.2|
|Agriculture and related subjects||6,775||7,960||+17.5|
|Engineering and technology||63,950||73,545||+15.0|
|Architecture, building and planning||22,870||32,780||+43.3|
|Postgraduate||Medicine and dentistry||10,480||14,760||+40.9|
|Subjects allied to medicine||27,695||44,950||+62.3|
|Agriculture and related subjects||2,020||1,735||-14.2|
|Engineering and technology||15,745||18,155||+15.3|
|Architecture, building and planning||8,720||10,665||+22.3|
4. Research into the decline in STEM and Computer Science courses taught at university was demonstrated in ‘Choice Cuts’ research by UCU (February 2012) http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/c/h/Choice_cuts_report_Feb12.pdf
5. Ian Livingstone is one of the UK’s founding fathers of interactive entertainment. In 1975 he co-founded Games Workshop and launched Dungeons & Dragons in Europe. In 1982 he co-designed Fighting Fantasy, and co-wrote The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first in the series that sold in excess of 16 million copies in 25 languages. Following a full listing on the London Stock Exchange in 1995, he served as Executive Chairman of Eidos plc until 2002, and is now Life President. At Eidos he helped to secure many of the company’s major franchises including Lara Croft:Tomb Raider. In 2011, he co-authored ‘Next Gen’, transforming the UK into the world’s leading talent hub for video games and visual effects.
6. Next Gen Skills www.nextgenskills.com is campaigning for:
- The introduction of an industry relevant Computer Science course within the framework of the National Curriculum
- A review of ICT in its current form and to embed essential ICT skills across the wider curriculum
- The promotion of the vital role that teaching maths, physics, art and computer science will play in ensuring the growth of UK’s digital, creative and hi-tech industries