Review of BCS degree course accreditation

Review of BCS degree course accreditation

by Bill Mitchell

BCS is currently conducting a fundamental review of its degree course accreditation. Recommendations from the review will be provided to the Shadbolt review of computer science degree course accreditation commissioned by BIS. 

In March 2015 an accreditation review workshop was held at BCS London office where major stakeholders helped identify the key issues that need to be considered as part of our review. A 

 is now publicly available. 

The working group set up after the March workshop is currently developing a set of options for reforming the accreditation process, and intends to report back to stakeholders in late summer. 

Background

In November 2013 BIS held a roundtable discussion on why so many computer science graduates are apparently unemployed, which was followed up more recently in the summer of 2014 with a HEFCE and BIS roundtable with CPHC to look at the same issue. Another meeting was held by the government in Downing St on December 4th to again look at this issue. During this time BCS has been repeatedly asked in what way professional body accreditation of degree courses provides evidence of employability in the IT profession. Subsequently in February 2015 the government set up the Shadbolt review to look at professional body accreditation of computer science. BCS very much welcomed this review, which complements our own review that started in December 2014. 

Whilst all of this had been going on, some universities had approached BCS because they believe the current accreditation process is overly burdensome compared to the perceived benefit. This led BCS in the autumn of 2014 to agree to a review of the accreditation process to see how we could reduce the workload while still satisfying the requirements of the Engineering Council and QAA. Given the requests from government agencies to explain the purpose of accreditation and its relevance to students and society we decided to expand the review to consider whether there is a need for a fundamental change to accreditation.

According to its Royal Charter, BCS accreditation should help to advance computing education for the benefit of society as a whole. Certainly accreditation should take appropriate account of employers’ needs, but that has to be balanced against the wider needs of society.  How that balance is achieved is one of the points we have been discussing with all the relevant stakeholders, including universities, employers and government. The review is still considering ways to reduce the accreditation workload on departments.