IT's not sexy enough to fill uni courses

Completion of first-round offers for university placements across the country has revealed a serious decline in IT course enrolments.

The placements reflect a growing trend in higher education which shows IT course numbers slipping each year.

However, a Universities Admissions Centre NSW and ACT spokesperson said there has been a drop in cut-offs for most courses across the board, which could be attributed to an increase in the number of university places offered this year.

But most of the serious declines in NSW and ACT have occurred in IT courses.

For example, the University of Western Sydney's Bachelor of Information Technology first-round cut-off has dropped nearly 10 points since last year, as well as the University of Sydney's Bachelor of Computer Science and Technology, with the cut-off dropping from 85.05 to 80.

However, IT is just not sexy enough to appeal to undergrads, not because there are more courses to choose from, according to Australian Computer Society president Edward Mandla. "ICT professionals in Australia lack a sexy image."

He said ICT professionals are judged by stereotypes which stops talented school leavers from gravitating towards the industry.

"If young people are asked what they want to be when they get older and they answer an ICT professional then the decision gets a thumbs down because parents say it is an industry full of geeks and nerds, has a high unemployment rate, is not on the government's agenda and will be another dotcom failure - parents have even said your job will get offshored," Mandla said.

Concerned about such negative perceptions, which is creating a drop in first-preference demand for ICT courses, the Victorian ICT Minister Marsha Thompson has been calling on the federal government for years to develop a national response to the problem fearing it will have a serious impact on graduate numbers in three years time.

Natasha Edwards, head of IT at recruitment consultants Robert Walters, agrees there has been plenty of negativity.

"When people see good, experienced people out of work in the IT industry it puts them off," Edwards said.

As for whether the lack of people undertaking IT courses will mean a lack of local IT talent in the future, Edwards thinks this problem has already begun.

"I wouldn't say there's a complete lack of local IT talent at the moment, but there certainly is a shortage and fewer studying IT at university will make things worse."

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Siobhan McBride

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