25 January 2018 13:10

New models for teaching Computer Science will be pioneered at Lancaster University as part of a Government investment into a national ‘Institute of Coding’.

Announced today (Thursday, January 25) by Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Institute of Coding consortium includes a £2 million investment at Lancaster University that will see a new generation of Computer Scientists benefit from cutting-edge teaching practices and new models of learning environment that foster entrepreneurship and close working with industry.

Building on existing expertise and innovative teaching methods, Lancaster’s undergraduate and postgraduate Computer Science curriculum will have a renewed emphasis on problem-based collaborative learning activities. The new approaches will also include greater emphasis on design thinking, and new forms of teaching interaction including technology-enabled distance learning.

Professor Sharon Huttly, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Lancaster University, said: “This investment will ensure Lancaster University is excellently positioned to continue to support the nationally-critical digital skills agenda. We will build on our outstanding Computer Science expertise and achievements to develop new curricula and cutting-edge teaching methods supported by excellent learning environments, with a strong focus on the economy, employability and entrepreneurship.”

Professor Peter Atkinson, Dean of Lancaster’s Faculty of Science and Technology said: “I am delighted that Lancaster has been selected as part of this key investment for the UK. The Institute of Coding is aimed at upskilling students from a wide range of backgrounds, giving them the IT skills that are needed to succeed in the modern world. Lancaster will use its excellent track record of SME engagement to ensure that the skills provided are industry and employer relevant.”

Professor Adrian Friday, Head of Lancaster's School of Computing and Communications, said: "It's clear to us that Digital Skills and Computer Science are critical for the UK's future. We're incredibly excited to be part of this initiative to promote essential digital skills at and beyond the University.

"We look forward to building on our strong track record of engagement with teachers and schools, and further creating world-class educational opportunities around problem-based and industry engagement in our curriculum."

98% of Lancaster Computer Science graduates find employment within six months of graduating. Lancaster’s involvement in the Institute of Coding will enable the University to strengthen its SME engagement, working with partners to establish an SME network to help foster greater collaborations between academia and business.

Entrepreneurial students will be supported to help grow their business ideas through the creation of a new programme. This will include elements such as multi-disciplinary team activities and close engagement with Lancaster University Management School, so entrepreneurial students gain a greater understanding of the elements needed to create a successful enterprise.

The investment will see the creation of new facilities at Lancaster University, including a new lab for problem-based teaching, which will also facilitate distance learning, and additional new interactive business collaboration space. These new facilities will be created through the refurbishment of existing buildings at Lancaster’s campus. Future phases of development will include developing new innovative teaching environments to support student-business collaboration, and problem-led learning in the realm of digital health, cyber security and data science.

The £40 million Institute of Coding, which is led by the University of Bath and is funded with £20 million via the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and a further £20 million of matched funding, is a new national institute aiming to create and implement solutions that develop and grow digital skills to meet the current and future needs of industry.

Demand for computer scientists in the UK is strong, and is set to increase drastically. More than 500,000 people will be needed to fill the highest skilled roles in the digital arena by 2022. However, the UK faces a digital skills gap. By working across industry and academia, the Institute of Coding will unlock a bigger and more diverse workforce.

The Institute of Coding consortium brings together more than 60 universities, national and international corporations, SMEs, industry groups, experts in non-traditional learning and professional bodies.

The Institute of Coding investment at Lancaster University will consist of £1 million from the HEFCE and a further £1 million from Lancaster University. This builds on other Lancaster University work to help improve the digital skills agenda including its role as the ‘Computing at School (CAS)’ Regional Centre for the North West, alongside the University of Manchester. Lancaster’s School of Computing and Communications supports and inspires teachers, schoolchildren and the wider community.

Researchers at Lancaster University also developed the operating software for the BBC micro:bit, which are small programmable devices that have been distributed to more than a million UK schoolchildren to help them learn digital skills.