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Placements are crucial to improve employability for computer science students

Computer Science students studying in the UK have the highest rate of unemployment amongst all discipline areas standing at 13% six months after graduating (against an average of 8% across all disciplines).

Our report shows that whilst there are relatively low levels of student demand for placements, business remains keen to offer placement opportunities and universities are working hard to diversify the range and volume of placement openings.

The research review was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and included a survey of forty higher education institutions seeking information on the quality and quantity of current computing placements and sought to understand the factors that underpin student take up. Major technology employers were also engaged in the research to understand their venues on the graduate talent emerging from the system.

Key findings from the research includes:

On average 26% of third year computing undergraduates undertook a recorded work placement.

• Universities vary in the size and type of company they work with, but most agree that they want to grow the market in Small and Medium Sized (SME) sector placements, whilst recognising that this has significant resource implications.

• The majority of placements were in the third year, one-year long and accredited.

• HEIs are aware that students also undertake short-term and vacation placements, and these are in increasing demand from students and employers, but they are seldom formally recorded.

• Lack of student demand for the traditional sandwich course results in low take-up rates.

• Students drop out of placement years because they do not recognise their benefits, or they want to reach paid graduate employment as soon as possible.

• Complex recruitment practices are also a barrier to take-up.

• All HEIs are trying to grow take-up, but few are systematically measuring the relative effectiveness of their multiple strategies.

• The employer to placement ratio is 1.3 students per company, which also puts a high burden on university administration.

• There is a significant tension between growing the quantity and diversity of placements, whilst retaining quality.

Dr David Docherty, chief executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) added, “This is timely research which seeks to get under the skin of the high levels of unemployment faced by computer science graduates, and the role that placements play to help address this. NCUB is committed to build on this research to ensure that placements for computer science students are actively advertised on our website, and to work with universities and businesses to extend their provision to a greater number of students.”



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