Notes from the Chair
Welcome to the second Webletter from the CPHC Committee, based on the comments on the CPHC mailing list you either think this is so obviously useful that it doesn’t require comment, or you’re not interested? As I said in the first webletter, this has been created in response to requests from Members for more information on the activities of the Committee during the year, rather than just the updates that are provided annually at Conference, so we would value your feedback on whether or not you find it useful. I do look forward to hearing from you on this.
Royal Society Report into Computing at Schools
Since the last webletter we have had some momentous activities affecting our community. We were expecting the release of the Royal Society report, and had already discussed a number of the likely conclusions of that report and our responses, at national and local level. However, we had not anticipated the impact the combined lobbying by CPHC, BCS, BCS Academy, Computing At Schools, Google, Microsoft Research, and various other groups and individuals, combined with the Royal Society report, would have on the politicians in government, particularly at BIS.
As a result, we were taken by surprise by Michael Gove, Minister for Schools, pre-empting the findings of the Royal Society report, by announcing at BETT his support for the teaching of Computing at GCSE and A level, while restructuring the ICT curriculum to provide a compulsory digital literacy stream at KS3 and KS4 and removing the qualification route. This was even more surprising in that we had not received positive support from Mr. Gove until this point, and had in fact been led to believe that he was not supportive of this position. We had been supported by David Willets, Minister for Universities, but whilst he has been quite happy to actively promote the need to encourage HE teaching and research in Computing, and has been receptive to our arguments that Computing should be considered as, and funded as, a STEM subject, he would not or could not intervene with Mr. Gove.
Requests for Information and Support
The following requests remain open and we would request members to respond to:
- BCS Academy of Computing
- Philip Virgo of EURIM
- Computing at Schools
As reported in the first webletter, CPHC have commissioned and carried out a range of relevant research each year, ranging from simple analyses of recruitment, graduation and employment statistics, through to more detailed studies on students, and on the decline in Computing numbers, all reported on the website and at Conference. This year is no different, Carsten will be producing the usual statistical information for Conference on behalf of Information Group, Sally Fincher has several research strands under way, which you will see in the Learning Development Group report, and we have commissioned a study on graduate unemployment amongst Computing graduates.
CPHC Conference and Committee Elections
This year, conference will be held at York alongside the BCS Academy of Computing Symposium, on Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th April. Details on the conference are on the CPHC website (www.cphc.ac.uk), and I would encourage as many as possible of you to attend, especially since this is such a significant year in HE. We will, as always, have reports from the major funding bodies and government agencies, and we will be discussing strategy to address some of the potential threats to our subject as a result of the new funding models and governance arrangements. Obviously, the impact of the revised school curriculum will be discussed, as will the revised funding arrangements for HE teaching, and the revised role for HEFCE, and the funding model being developed by EPSRC.
The Welsh section of the CPHC known as the CPCC (Cyngor Penaethiaid Cyfrifiadura Cymru / Council of Heads of Computing in Wales) held its second meeting on November 25th at the University of Glamorgan. The main items of discussion revolved around the impending mergers of several Universities in Wales and the implications that this would have for computing courses in the region. The Welsh Government has divided Wales into several regions (North, West and East) and they expect that mergers will take place within these regions. The Northern region encompasses Bangor, Glyndwr and Aberystwyth Universities, the West region covers Trinity St David, Swansea Metropolitan and Swansea University and the East region consists of Cardiff, Glamorgan, Newport and UWIC. An early effect of this policy has already led Newport University to close down most of its Computing courses.
Information Group is driving forward with an initiative to provide members with new subject-specific research to help them develop strategies for implementation at a local level. It is expected that the information will also assist CPHC in lobbying activities. A working group has been established to organise research into areas that will help members in devising strategy to ensure strength of departments in the turbulent times ahead. After soliciting areas for research from the membership, proposed areas were discussed at a committee meeting.
The LDG held a one-day workshop on 13th January to examine issues around the NSS. For this event, we created a mailing list of “those with strategic responsibility for teaching within the department”. This is roughly 50% named “head of teaching” or the like, 50% head of department. The day attracted 27 participants, with all mission groups represented.
The day was well-liked, participants liked the freedom of working under the Chatham House Rule. There was considerable interest in CPHC LDG facilitating a version of the American NSSE questionnaire. I have subsequently been in contact with Dr Creighton of Reading University who ran the NSSE (for the whole institution) in 2008.