Submission from the Council of Professors
and Heads of Computing
1. The Council of Professors and Heads of
Computing (CPHC) is the Computing academic subject body and represents
the Computing and IT Departments in UK Higher Education Institutions.
Our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching makes a strategic
contribution to the UK economy in three specific ways:
(a) we deliver technically qualified Computing
and IT graduates;
(b) we provide opportunities for up-skilling
IT professionals working in a sector characterised by a high rate
of change; and
(c) we provide extensive opportunities for
re-skilling graduates from other disciplines who take up IT jobs.
Many of our departments play a key role in R&D
and innovation across the ICT
sectors, keeping the UK at the forefront of technology driven
2. CPHC believes that the ELQ policy will
have a disproportionate impact on subjects with a high vocational
relevance that are making a significant contribution to the Government's
Life-long Learning and Widening Participation agendas.
3. The impact is particularly disproportionate
for Computing and IT, a sector of strategic importance, at the
heart of, i.a., the global UK Trade and Investment Marketing
Plan announced in November . CPHC believes that the impact
of ELQs on the IT sector, and on the UK's ability to close the
IT skills gap across all areas of the UK economy, will undermine
the UK's global competitive advantage.
4. Short term exemptions to the policy,
and large scale reliance on employer support are inappropriate
mechanism for delivering sustainable solutions to addressing the
IT skills gap on the required scale.
5. The ELQ policy was introduced at short
notice, without appropriate consultation either of HEI, or of
employer sectors that rely heavily on professional and vocational
subjects for recruitment, for re-skilling and for up-skilling.
IT SKILLS GAP
6. The UK's competitiveness rests on inventiveness
and the ability to add value to business through IT [1, 2, 6].
The UK IT sector is a key global player, attracting significant
inward investment [1, 2, 5], and an integral part of the ICT area,
which is subject to a business and government led strategic marketing
initiative announced by UK Trade & Investment Office in November
7. In the UK, e-skills estimates that 120,000
new IT related jobs are advertised each year. Technically qualified
graduates with Computing and IT qualifications make up just 17%
of the IT workforce . This large mismatch between supply and
demand, and the need to deliver a workforce with relevant, up
to date IT skills is known as the IT skills gap. The IT skills
gap affects all business areas, as well as the IT sector itself.
8. In the IT sector, the demand for a healthy
supply of technically skilled Computing and IT graduates remains
high. The relationship between CPHC departments and employers
is strong. CPHC data show that employers' demand for Computing
& IT students to fill placements outstrips the number of students
we have available for such schemes. HESA data show that the take-up
of sandwich programmes in Computer Science (18,660 students in
2005-6, or 19.4% of all Computer Science undergraduates) is second
in numbers only to that of Business and Administrative Studies
(36,250 students in 2005-06, or 18.8% of undergraduates), and
higher in percentage points. For comparison, the HE sector average
is 6.6% for 2005-06. 
9. Of all skills sectors, the IT sector
is by far the highest employer of graduates, the overwhelming
majority of which have no computing or IT related qualifications
. The pace of change is high, with an accelerated development
profile when compared to other sectors. New technology is produced
at a cycle of approximately 18 months . As a consequence, the
IT sector is disproportionately affected by the ELQ policy because
there is an endemic need both for up-skilling existing Computing
and IT graduates, and for re-skilling graduates from other disciplines.
10. The gap between employer demand and
the supply of technically skilled employees will grow for the
foreseeable future. The proportion of UK advertised jobs that
carry a skilled IT component rose from 60% in 2005, to 72% in
2006 . This trend is also noted in the Gartner  and Leitch
reports . In contrast, there was a 42% drop in students entering
Computing and IT degrees through UCAS between 2001 and 2006 [4,
7]. Since 76% of Computing and IT students take three years, and
24% take four years to graduate , the decline will affect the
supply of graduates at least until 2010. The supply of applicants
to Computing and IT degrees is unlikely to increase as long as
perceptions of ICT at secondary school continue to turn students
away from considering a career in Computing and IT .
IT SKILLS GAP
11. This combinationof increased
demand for IT skills in the workforce, coupled with a decline
in Computing graduates for the foreseeable futuremeans
that the need to address the IT skills gap by re-skilling of graduates
from other disciplines will inevitably increase . In sharp
contrast, the ELQ policy has a detrimental effect particularly
on those who engage with education on a part time basis, because
it removes funding for all students (not just those registered
for a second, full degree), including those studying a single
course module as part of professional development (such as working
towards chartered status or for CPD).
12. The effects of the ELQ policy cannot
be absorbed by offering re-skilling opportunities at post-graduate
level in Computing and IT, which are technical subjects, building
knowledge and skills progressively. Our provision needs to meet
professional accreditation frameworks established, for instance,
by the British Computing Society and the Institute for Engineering
and Technology. Benchmarks are cross-referenced internationally.
The National Qualifications Frameworks limit the amount of undergraduate
material that can be taught in a post-graduate qualification.
Like other professionally oriented subjects, Computing and IT
departments have limited scope to avoid the impact of ELQs without
endangering academic and professional standards.
13. CPHC concludes that the impact of the
ELQ policy has a disproportionately severe effect on the IT sector
and the UK's ability to address the IT skills gap. It curtails
the role that universities and Computing and IT departments can
play in supporting the economy and the workforce through up-skilling
IT workers in a professional context, and in re-skilling graduates
from other disciplines to allow them to take up IT related employment.
14. Sustainable access to skilled people
and high quality R&D are essential for the UK to remain attractive
to inward investment for the ICT sector [1, 2]. Yet, employers
are unlikely to be in a position to bridge the IT skills gap by
funding the loss of support created by the ELQ policy, for a number
(a) Employers are likely to address any increased
skills shortages through off-shoring and immigration . Between
2001 and 2004, 20% of the total work permits issued (110,000)
were for IT occupations, though these represent only 3.5% of the
(b) The IT industry is structured so that
it will not be able to meet the funding gap created by the withdrawal
of support for ELQs on the required scale and in a sustainable
way. NCC data  show that the sector is populated by a relatively
small number of large corporates capable of investing in education,
a shrinking number of medium sized companies, and a rising proportion
of SMEs, whose capability to fund education and training is very
(c) Finally, the extent to which employers
in all sectors invest in IT and IT training is known to be particularly
sensitive to economic fluctuations. Even if willing to engage
with education by direct funding of places, employers' ability
to do so depends primarily on other (possibly very short term)
factors affecting the business, its profitability and the management's
15. In Computing and IT also, the ELQ policy
affects mainly part time students, whose ability to pay is very
16. CPHC concludes that it is unlikely that
either employers or students will be able to find additional resource
to absorb loss of ELQ funding with respect to bridging the IT
17. Employers will be unable to address
the IT skills gap by immigrating skilled workers from the European
Union, which faces a significant IT skills gap in its own right
18. The ELQ policy makes provision for exemptions.
Most of these are temporary and will be phased out over three
years, hence exemptions are not suited to delivering long term
sustainable solutions to problems specifically created by the
withdrawal of ELQ funding. Within these limitations, CPHC has
19. Computing and IT are fast changing subjects
(paragraph 9): students taking Computing and IT courses should
be exempt, certainly where their degree was obtained more than
five years ago.
20. The policy exempts Initial Teacher Training
courses, but does not cover up-skilling of teachers. A recent
Microsoft report  noted the lack of coordination between school
and University curriculum, and industry needs. There is a lack
of suitably qualified Computing and IT teachers in secondary education,
and at Key Stage 4 in particular, which undermines our ability
to attract high quality applicants . There are insufficient
Computing and IT graduates to address this problem by attracting
such graduates to teaching careers. The problem can be addressed
by developing high quality CPD courses for existing teachers,
and for teachers who wish to move to ICT teaching on the basis
of non-Computing/IT qualifications.
21. The HEFCE consultation document states
that STEM subjects (including Technology) are exempt from the
ELQ policy. Although Computing is nominally a STEM subject, it
is not included in any funding initiatives directed at STEM subjects,
because it is considered as a strategic, but not a vulnerable
subject. Under the current proposal, Strategically Important and
Vulnerable Subjects (SIVS) are exempt, but this does not include
Computing and IT departments, who will bear full impact of the
funding shift in spite of the extensive need for re-skilling and
up-skilling of graduates.
22. The HEFCE ELQ consultation states that
STEM subjects are exempt, and SIVS status is appropriate if "level
of provision falls short of demand from employers". This
definition of a SIVS would be in line with recommendations of
the Sainsbury report . However, to date the substantial gap
between supply of graduates and employer demand has not been taken
into account when determining SIVS status in the case of Computing
and IT. The implication for the ELQ policy would appear to be
that in the UK economy, there is a gap between supply and demand
to warrant support for students pursuing entire second degrees
in veterinary sciences or languages (which are exempt), but not
for adjusting the skills basis of the workforce to address the
IT skills gap even for students taking a single CPD course.
23. CPHC believes the policy will widen
the IT skills gap, and will affect the UK's ability to innovate
and hence to compete globally. For these reasons, CPHC argues
that a permanent exemption for Computing and IT is justified and
in line with the intended effects of exemptions in addressing
skills gaps in the UK workforce.
24. Again within the limitations of a temporary
exemption based policy, CPHC welcomes the proposal to continue
public funding for foundation degrees to ELQ students, because
they are important qualifications that address employer needs.
However, the same reasons as stated in the consultation document
apply to other qualifications that are equally important in meeting
employers needs, such as HNDs, HNCs and other vocationally oriented
computing and IT qualifications and diplomas, and honours degrees
with placements and work-related components, which CPHC argues
should equally be exempt.
25. The proposed implementation makes provision
for universities to bid for additional student numbers building
on employer investment. However, the profile of the IT industry
(paragraphs 9 and 14) shows there is limited scope for the direct
funding of places. Furthermore, CPHC departments already have
a strong relationship with employers, building on in-kind contributions
and exchanges, as well as through direct funding. There is a regional
dimension to employer contributions, for instance due to specialised
clusters (such as games companies in Scotland, and media related
applications in the South-East). It is therefore important that
Universities have flexibility in articulating how the co-funded
aspect of the employer contributions is constituted.
26. The ELQ policy has detrimental effects
on students holding professional qualifications and on women wishing
to take up IT careers.
27. Those holding professional qualifications
through non-publicly funded study routes should not be included
in this policy. Those studying for such qualifications without
having a degree first are often those who have left school early,
and have later funded their own up-skilling or received employer
support. If they choose to take a degree after such study, they
will not be supported by the state, unlike those who follow a
traditional route and study for an HE qualification first.
28. The ELQ policy will have a discriminatory
effect on women wishing to qualify for employment in Computing
and IT. Currently only 20% of IT sector workers are women .
The proportion of female UK students pursuing Computing/IT as
their first degree on a full-time basis is the second lowest across
all subjects (17.11% in 2006only slightly better than Engineering
and Technology ) and so for women, the proportion who take
up a career in Computing/IT as graduates of another discipline
will be higher than for men. This is reflected in the higher proportion
of women who take up Computing and IT qualifications on a part-time
basis (36.94%) . Also, more women than men move to Computing/IT
after a career break. Employers invest far less in women, whilst
women are less able than men to fund their own training and professional
development , which makes them more vulnerable than men to
the ELQ policy. The proposed policy and exemptions would direct
women to re-skilling into the health area (which is exempt), further
undermining the supply of women into Computing and IT careers,
and aggravating the gender imbalance in the IT sector. Effects
on women returners in particular would be lessened if the ELQ
policy was applied only to those with qualifications obtained
less than five years ago.
29. A sustainable supply of skilled workers
and access to high quality R&D are important to attract inward
investment and support innovation . The drop in undergraduate
student numbers, and the high demand for Computing and IT graduates
are affecting the supply of a healthy cohort of home postgraduate
students. Currently, home students are not taking up postgraduate
places  and at most half the postgraduate ICT student population
are home students. This means the UK are training our competitors
in the high level skills which are believed to represent the future
market for UK industry [1, 2, 10]. This knowledge export positions
overseas competitors favourably when attracting business through
off-shoring, as they build up a substantial volume of expert knowledge,
putting pressure on the UK's ability to add value. For instance,
Indian companies are likely to be responsible for around 20% of
the UK IT services market by revenues in 2020. Up to 40% of the
UK IT services sector by revenue, and maybe as much as 60% by
staff numbers, could be delivered offshore by 2020 .
30. CPHC concludes on the basis of the evidence
available to it in the public domain, that the ELQ policy will
widen the IT skills gap, and undermine the UK's capability for
innovation through IT added value, and hence the UK's global competitiveness.
The policy and its implementation plan are in direct contradiction
to other government initiatives and policies, including the UK
TI Marketing Strategy for ICT.
31. CPHC recommends that the policy should
be abandoned, or that Computing and IT should be granted permanent
exemption. At the very least, the policy should not apply to those
who graduated more than five years ago.
 Towards a Marketing Strategy for the UK ICT
Sector. Gartner for UK Trade and Invesment. November 2007.
 Developing the Future. Microsoft. June 2007.
 HESA Statistics 2006.
 UCAS Statistics 2001-06.
 OffshoringA challenge or opportunity
for British IT professionals? BCS. November 2004.
 Building a Globally Competitive IT Sevices
Industry. CBI 2006.
 Investigation into the decline in BSc Computing/IT
Applications to British Universities. CPHC. July 2006.
 Leitch Review of Skills. December 2006.
 Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration.
 "IT InsightsTrends and UK Skills
Implications". November 2004.
 First Destinations of UK Computing Graduates.
CPHC. June 2005.
 On part-time students and life-long learning.
Richard Lambert, CBI. 11 December 2007.
 e-Skills UK ICT Inquiry issue 9Q4
 A UK IT Skills Gap? Westminster eForum Keynote
Seminar. October 2007.
 Wither Computer Science? NCC at CPHC Conference.
 E-skills Foresight. CEPIS. December 2007.
 Sainsbury Review of Science and Innovation.
 Half Our Future: women, skill development
and training. Policy Studies Institute. December 1997.
 Outsourcing for Corporate Value. June 2005.
54 The boundaries and differences between ICT, Computing
and IT are subtle. For this document, an agreement that ICT includes
Computing and IT as inseparable enabling technologies will suffice. Back