Applications for computer science degrees up 13%

Applications to study computer science at the degree level have increased by 13% this year, according to BCS analysis of UCAS data.

BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, said it was the biggest increase in applications across any university subject in the UK.

Julia Adamson, Director of Education at BCS, said: “The demand for computing follows the rising profile of artificial intelligence, global cybersecurity, social media safety and the role of technology in understanding the climate change and pandemic modeling.

“The impact of Covid-19 and lockdowns has also made us aware of the importance of digital technologies in our personal and professional lives. The long-term challenge of closing the gender gap in computing remains clear and begins at the school level.

The UK is currently experiencing a digital skills gap, with many companies complaining that there are not enough skilled workers to fill vacancies in IT, leaving employers looking for talent in the same small pool.

Many managers say this lack of skilled workers is delaying projects, and about three-quarters of IT decision makers globally said they suffer from skills shortages.

According to BCS, applications to study computer science in the 2022/2023 academic year rose from 140,420 last year to 158,340 this year, the third year in a row that interest in the subject has increased.

The number of 18-year-olds wishing to take the subject notably increased, by 21% year-on-year, while applications in England increased by 18% compared to last year, and applications from Wales increased by 10%.

Women are an underrepresented group in the tech industry, with many young women choosing not to pursue a role in tech.

Although some young women claim to regret not having studied science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects later, the reasons given for their decision not to do so include a lack of visible and accessible role models, the misconception that technology is ‘too hard’ or exclusively for men, and a lack of an inclusive culture.

Almost 20% of those who applied to study IT in the 2022/2023 academic year were women, which although slightly higher than the average number of women who make up IT specialists in the Kingdom United, indicates that there is still a long way to go.

This is the third consecutive year that the number of women applying to study computer science has increased – from 10,650 in 2019 to 30,730 in January this year – although the number of applications is not always representative of the number of people who end up enrolling in computer science degrees.

The last decade has seen a steady increase in the number of people accepted into IT courses, with an increase of around 50%, from 20,420 in 2011 to 30,090 in 2020.

But culture still plays a role in retaining students and employees in the tech sector – 2019 figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that 9.8% of undergraduates in IT dropped out before they graduated, and more than half of young people in tech are leaving or considering leaving the industry because of a poor culture.

Data from 2015 showed that a large number of IT graduates were still unemployed six months after graduation, despite high demand for technology skills.

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