In early April, Dr Raina Mason attended and presented at the ALTA Forum – the learning and teaching forum for the Australian Council of Deans of ICT. This is an annual gathering where ICT Learning and Teaching Deans and Course Coordinators get together to talk about trends in university courses across Australia, as well as challenges and directions for the next year.
The three themes identified by ACDICT as priorities for the next year (and onwards) are:
- The skills gap of graduates / employability;
- Gender equity / Equity groups;
- Collaboration between universities (benchmarking, research, education)
The main sessions on the first day surrounded themes of ‘The Student Voice’, ‘Benchmarking of Assessments’, ‘Cybersecurity Education and Collaboration’, and ‘Equity and Diversity’.
Owen Pierce from AustCyber talked about the anticipated shortfall of 18300 graduates in Cybersecurity in the next decade. The average salary for cybersecurity professionals is well above the ICT average, and half of the ICT degrees in Australia offer cybersecurity majors, with another quarter offering some cybersecurity units, yet there will still be a shortfall. Questions raised were ‘what does industry want us to teach?’ (what are the practical skills required by graduates). Collaboration between industry and universities is needed in developing the curriculum – because currently it’s not very exciting for students and may be turning some of them off. The lack of staff to teach cybersecurity is also a concern – PhD students tend to leave as soon as they finish studying as they can earn more in industry.
Statistics were also presented about the general state of Australian ICT university education in terms of enrolments and completions. The number of ICT students has markedly declined as a percentage of university enrolments between 2010 and now, and the percentage of women has declined even more. A multi-pronged approach is required to change this situation, and universities generally do not have the funding to run comprehensive programs.
Day Two examined the Secondary School Digital Technologies curriculum and teacher training, as well as strategies to help work placements and experience for international and regional students. For the average ICT student, it takes 2.7 years to get career placement, but with an internship this time is cut in half. Only 15% of ICT jobs are advertised. The hidden job market is accessed in other ways, and it is a challenge to get international students there. There is a perception that international students will leave after their 2 year temporary visa, but most millennials will only stay in one position for 2 years anyway.
It was an interesting and informative two days. If you would like any more information, please contact Dr Raina Mason, Course Coordinator, Southern Cross University at firstname.lastname@example.org