UK CS graduates are more unemployed than average 4 years out, and fewer go into education

September 7, 2011 at 11:17 am 7 comments

To start with, it’s terrific that someone is actually trying to measure this.  What happens to graduates four years after earning their first degrees?

The UK has just come out with their report on what has happened to students who graduated 2006/2007.  The results are surprisingly negative, summarized below.  CS graduates are more unemployed than the average.  They had a higher percentage of graduates in full-time employment, but a lower proportion of graduates who have returned for further studies.  An interesting finding not in the summary below: 53.9% of CS graduates who returned for graduate study chose a field other than CS.

I dug deeper into the stats.  Table 17 in the report lists where those students went that returned for graduate studies. 11.7% of CS grads who return to school go into Business.Only 7.9% of CS graduates went on for post-graduate work in education, compared to 9.9% of Bio graduates, 11.4% of Law grads, and 9.1% of Engineering grads. That’s an interesting finding for this blog — a smaller proportion of CS majors go back to become teachers. I’d love to know what the US stats are for this!

The UK’s Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) has just published its longditudinal survey into the destinations and expectations of graduates from 2006/07.

By the winter of 2010/11, of all graduates from full-time courses in that year, just 3.8% were unemployed. But for computer science graduates the figure was a much higher 5.1%. Interestingly, the survey also shows just 3.7% of computer scientists remained (or were back) in full-time further study – compared to an average of 8.2% for all graduates.

It’s not all bad news, 81.5% of computer science graduates were in full time employment four years on from their degree, compared to just 73.2% of all graduates. For maths graduates the figure is 73.1% and for physical science graduates it is  just 66.0% – though a whopping 19.8% of them are in full-time education.

via Do computer scientist graduates get jobs in the end? | cartesian product.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. iansommerville  |  September 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    These HESA stats are notoriously unreliable – they rely on grads self-reporting and most simply don’t respond.

    Having said this, I would not be surprised if more CS grads were unemployed. CS attracts a much wider ability range than physics (say) so comparisons across subjects are hard to make. I think the reality is that bright people with good social skills get jobs, whatever the discipline.

  • 2. alan  |  September 8, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I’ve worked in IT for over 30 yrs and recently I volunteered my time to the local university to give some guest talks about IT.

    I initially had a chat with the with tutors to understand the coursework. Mt first surprise (of many) was no none had talked to the students about what they wanted out of the course. I was taken aback by the subjects covered/not covered.

    The basic IT subjects were covered (Database, Networks, Programming etc). OK for far….

    About a yr of course work was devoted to gaming and 3d graphics (The tutor teaching blender openly admitted they had no knowledge of blender!). The course prospectus made no mention of gaming as a subject.

    No module covered even the basics of computer operations. I asked about Change Control, Problem Management, Source code management, production, development environments. Nothing but blank looks from the tutors.

    The only software development methodology taught was the “waterfall” method. No mention of any other methods.

    Java was the main language used by the students, except one (mandatory) module about assembler programming. I struggle to understand the value of assembler programming as its a very niche area. I could understand if it was a module on embedded programming (Pic, Atmel etc), but it wasn’t.

    A big shock for me was NO module was taught about the legal aspects of IT. No discussion of copyright (and copyleft), or patents, or privacy, or any IT related legislation. One module briefly discussed ethics.

    The only area of computer security covered was basic access controls (Unix User/Groups!). No talk of even the most basic of attack vectors, or intrusion detection, auditing etc.

    No topics included AI, not even GA’s (even in the gaming modules), when AI is a growth area in IT.

    I obtained a copy of one of the assessments for the students. Basically how to set up a simple SOHO solution. Except the answer expected was an over the top enterprise solution.

    I’ve no knowledge of other CS courses, but if this Uni was anything to go by then I’m not surprised about the low rate of CS hires.

    • 3. Andrew Martin (@apmapmapm)  |  September 9, 2011 at 5:09 am

      Yea, that sounds about right. CS has diverged from Software Engineering (or real practice, or whatever you want to call it) and is very often stuck in the past, or in niche irrelevancies.

      A couple of decades ago, there was a healthy interchange between industry and academe, with people blending careers having a spell in each. The ‘publish or perish’ doctrine has rather put an end to that – no academic can afford a few years without publishing research papers, and no mature practitioners from industry will get hired as academics because they don’t have the publication record.

      So CS gets more and more sterile and out of touch. Well done for volunteering to inject pragmatic reality into your local university – you have a real up-hill struggle.

      • 4. Bijan Parsia  |  September 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

        This is not, in my experience, entirely true. I don’t know all the histories of my colleague, but the guy who brought me to Manchester spent, I think, a decade running his own shop before coming back for a MSc, then PhD, lecturer to prof within a decade, then Royal Society fellow. While here, he spun out another company. My line manager was a professional dressmaker before going back for a PhD (now prof). Etc.

        We’re strongly encouraged to forge industrial links. We have an industrial placement program for people between the 2nd and 3rd year. We try to bring in industrial guest speakers, and have industrial projects (both 3rd year, and MSc; I’m supervising one now). Another MSc project run by an industrial adjunct was for a 6 person team developing a web based application using agile methodologies and Ruby on Rails for his company.

        I’d say, overall, industrial experience is a pretty good thing to have.

        Now, this is not to say that it’s all brilliant. I have to train my 3rd year project students (and MSc project students) in using source control. (Though, apparently, the 3rd years should have had some experience in their first year project.) I try to integrate case studies in all my classes, along with theory and empirical results.

        CS is not only IT, of course, or SE, so we need to balance different interests (e.g., I think it’s important that students understand complexity theory, the Chomksy hierarchy, Fitts’s law, etc.).

  • 5. GreenReaper  |  September 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    A lot of us get jobs; they’re just not all in the UK, and those of us who move don’t get the surveys mailed to us.

  • 6. josh g.  |  September 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Wouldn’t be surprised if the stat about few becoming teachers applies in the US and Canada as well. In my B.Ed year at Simon Fraser University (BC, Canada), there were in the hundreds of B.Ed graduates, many science / math teachers (probably about 60-70), and literally only two with a Computer Science background.

    Part of the problem here is that Computer Science isn’t considered a main academic subject like Math, Science, English, etc at the high school level. As such, to get into a teaching program here you can only use CS as a “teachable minor”, and you need either two minors or a major to enter.

    I got in based on my computer engineering courses counting as a math minor; a pure CS major might(?) have a harder time selling that, but I’m not sure. If nothing else it was confusing and a slight deterrent into figuring out how to get into the program with my background.

  • […] mentioned that a UK survey of CS graduates found that fewer of them went into teaching than did other kinds of gradua….  The below blog piece tries to explain why that’s a case, and generally suggests that […]


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