Tertiary institutions are willing to provide more relevant IT degree courses to meet the insatiable need for IT-qualified people, but they are faced with the conundrum of how to attract suitably qualified teaching staff. In a seller's market the lure of the commercial dollar often wins. We look at how universities are addressing the academic brain drain, and still providing qualifications to meet the demands of the IT market.
Doug Grant, associate professor for the school of IT at the Swinburne University of Technology, said, "There is a deficit right now of 100 IT academics to take up vacant positions around this country."
The situation has reached the stage where some Australian universities cannot advertise new courses because they are not sure they will have the resources to teach them. To resolve the staff shortages, many institutions have started to work with the IT industry to deliver up-to-date courses. Some recent successful partnerships include Monash and Sun Microsystems, North Sydney TAFE and Nortel Networks, Deakin University and ComTech/Microsoft, University of Western Sydney and SAP, and the University of South Australia and Computer Sciences Corporation.
Charles Sturt University (CSU), with its main campus in Bathurst, NSW, offers both on-campus and distance learning degree options for its long-standing IT degrees.
Terry Bossomairy, professor of Information Technology, CSU, is excited about a new degree course commencing next year, a Bachelor of Computer Science with a focus on games technology. The University has talked to many computer games vendors and designed the course to incorporate the feedback.
With a strong focus on multimedia and graphics, and a year of industrial experience, graduates will obtain a good grasp of Web development, virtual reality and how to build computer games. Entry to the course is competitive and potential applicants need to be highly motivated and have a good academic record.
The University of Queensland (UQ) introduced a three-year Bachelor of Electronic Commerce degree in 1999. UQ offers post-graduate studies in e-commerce: its Masters program focuses on information systems and e-commerce, and offers a choice of electives. One of the unusual factors of the UQ e-commerce courses is that they are run from the business school.
Associate Professor Colin Ferguson of the Faculty of Business is responsible for planning the curriculum and recruiting the necessary resources to run the program. "In a sellers market it was hard to outbid the commercial organisations. Resources came from both academia and industry. Altruistic rather than financial matters, in most cases, motivated these people to teach at UQ," said Ferguson.
UQ also runs a Master of Information Systems degree, which includes flexible thesis research options so students can study a variety of different areas in the industry.
UQ has introduced a new study delivery mode, which integrates Web-based education management software into the University's existing delivery options. "The WebCT package lets students work through the material through a browser plus they can participate in chat rooms, bulletin boards, interactive quizzes on what they have just learned, and it integrates hotlinks to interesting e-commerce sites. It also gives the Faculty the ability to see what students are most interested in and generally manage the course," said Ferguson.
The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) Information Technology faculty has four schools - Computer Systems, Information Systems, Software Engineering, and Mathematical and Computer Science. The four schools can accommodate 1400 students a year.
Computer security skills are in high demand by corporations. This is a highly specialised area, so UTS get people from the industry to teach security. "It's very hard to have all the resources on staff necessary to teach specialised areas of IT," said Tom Hintz, head of the School of Computer Systems.
Courses on offer
Charles Sturt University
Bachelor of IT
University of Queensland
Bachelor of Electronic Commerce
University of Technology, Sydney
Post-graduate degree in Networking
Bachelor of Science and Computer Scienceplus moreUniversity of Western Sydney (Nepean)www.nepean.uws.edu.auMaster of Business (ERP)Graduate diploma in ERPplus moreAustralian Catholic Universitywww.acu.edu.au/fas/sbiMaster of Information SystemsGraduate Diploma in Information Systemsplus moreSwinburne University of Technologywww.it.swin.edu.auGraduate diploma in ITMaster of ITMaster of Information SystemsMonash Universitywww.infotech.monash.edu.auToo many courses to list.
Too many courses to list.
TAFE NSW-Northern Sydney Institute
E-Commerce Graduate Certificate
Many other certificate and diploma coursesUniversity of South Australiahttp://business.unisa.edu.au/infosys/School of Accounting & Information SystemsMaster of BusinessEdith Cowan Universitywww.cowan.edu.auBroad range of undergraduate and graduate IT coursesUniversity of Ballaratwww.ballarat.edu.auMaster of ComputingMaster of Information Technology (MIT)Graduate Certificate of ITUniversity of Newcastlewww.newcastle.edu.auMaster of Information TechnologyInformation systems, software engineering