UKIE laments computer science drop-off

Next Gen Skills, the cross-industry coalition formed by UK trade association UKIE which seeks to promote the study of computer programming skills, says there are 17,000 fewer students of computer science in UK universities than there were a decade ago.

Figures released by the department for business, innovation and skills reveal a 23.3 per cent drop in the number of computer science students at undergraduate level. At graduate level, the drop-off is 33.8 per cent.

An even greater cause for concern is that, at undergradute level, computer science is the only STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subject to decline in student numbers since 2002, despite the surge in university applications.

Ian Livingstone, chair of the campaign and life president of Eidos, 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."

Livingstone was a co-author of Next Gen, a report published in February 2011 which called on government to restore computer science to the national curriculum to ensure students are better prepared for careers in the digital and creative industries.

While the government responded positively, announcing plans to let schools design their own classes with an optional computer science component, these latest figures further highlight the need for a mandatory programme of study that better reflects the needs of British industry.

"The declining numbers of students taking computer science degrees is evidence of the long retreat from computer science being taught in our classrooms," Livingstone continued. "We need to ensure that the flow of high-calibre talent from education to industry is enhanced and not allowed to decline any further."