The influence of research and industry

The influence of research and industry

by Academy Admin

This section highlights examples of best practice relating to research activities and industrial links within institutions and how these influence the curriculum. 

Knowledge Transfer leave for staff which is internally funded – Brunel University 2016

The university operates a Knowledge Transfer scheme for in order to maximise the impact of our knowledge, expertise and resources for the wider benefit of society, the public and the economy. The University recognises the importance of Knowledge Transfer between the academic base and its user communities in helping it to achieve this aim. 

In Computer Science, it is particularly important for staff to have the opportunity to be embedded in external organisations to allow them to apply their research, and just as importantly to understand the current practices and challenges of commercial organisations, so they can develop their personal skills, bring these skills and experience to bear in the classroom, and orient their research and teaching according to contemporary needs. 

Knowledge Transfer activities eligible for university funding need to meet the following aims:

•               facilitate the two-way transfer and exchange of knowledge, expertise and skills between Brunel and its user community for mutual benefit;

•               strengthen long-term relationships with a view to developing and sustaining future collaborative opportunities.

Examples of successful KT placements have involved lecturers bringing back commercial data sets for students to analyse, have realised placement opportunities for students, and have led to funding relationships.

Three-tier industry engagement model – University of the West of England 2014 

The Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies at UWE has developed a Three tier industrial partner programme for involving industrial collaborators in the work of the department.  Within this programme the three tiers of partner are: 

Tier 1 Partner – Tier 1 partners are those who are involved at the Programme Level and who typically have an influence on the overall curriculum of that programme. 

Tier 2 Partner – Tier 2 partners are those that are actively involved at the module level and may be providing syllabus input as well as case studies, lectures and / or projects. This is typified by the organisations providing lectures on specialist subjects and student assessment is based on written reports that critique the material presented. 

Tier 3 Partner – Tier 3 partners are those who are involved at the module level or with other student related activities (such as through employability talks) but who are not directly engaged in syllabus development. Such partners typically provide guest lectures and / or case study materials. However, it should be noted that tier 3 partners will often provide informal feedback on a module syllabus or programme curriculum that is then captured in the Annual Programme Monitoring Review process. 

Process for involving new industrial partners. As part of the Three tier industrial partner programme, it is important to have a process by which new external organisations can be encouraged to join the programme. Therefore the following process has been identified for handling such interest. This process follows these steps: 

Step 1: Review appropriate programmes and subjects and identify areas of relevance involving the Associate Head of Department for partnerships and other relevant colleagues.

Step 2: Discuss with appropriate Programme Leaders suitability of the organization for involvement in their programme. Based on this identify any specific modules and discuss with Module Leaders. 

Step 3: Involve the organisation at the appropriate level by opening discussions and considering time scales, commitment and level of involvement desired.

The industrial contribution to the curriculum and its delivery – Queen's University Belfast 2013

The School has established a number of partnerships with local employers by way of ensuring our curriculum reflects contemporary software engineering practices. The forms of involvement include the following: 

  • Curriculum Design: Employer participation within the annual module and programme review processes; strategic steerage through an Industrial Advisory Board; co-design of module content with professional computing experts.
  • Curriculum Delivery: Guest lecturing; lab delivery; project supervision; hackatons; expert workshops.
  • Complementary Aspects: A yearlong industrial placement is compulsory on most computing programmes offered within the School.

The partnership model used within the School offers benefits to all participants. Academic staff are able to draw upon technical expertise, case studies, etc. by way of better linking theory to practice. Alongside this, employers are able to gain access to students and ultimately benefit from more capable graduates. Ultimately students benefit the most through the provision of a more relevant educational experience alongside expose to potential future employers.

Industrial Panel is not run as a committee but as a collaboration with industrialists volunteering time to engage through KTP, student projects, placements, assessments, delivery of curriculum, open days etc – Robert Gordon University 2013

At both undergraduate and postgraduate level we have designed our courses with a ‘backbone’ of modules to address LSEPI topics. These modules are designed to engage the students in thinking about their own professional practice (rather than learning laws, etc., in isolation as is often the case). These modules involve local practitioners, develop key skills and utilise a series of student centred activities, culminating in the final project. One example is students acting as consultants to give advice to simulated organisations on their LSEPI issue (based on a contemporary problem such as cloud services and bring your own device). Other specialist modules then pick up specific laws, regulations, etc., in context. (E.g. ethics of data mining, equality legislation in HCI, governance and ITIL methods in management).

Integration of students into research activities – Robert Gordon University 2013

Research-teaching links are synergistic. Research informs curriculum design and lecture content, but that is only the beginning. We believe in the students as researchers; developing skills and interest from the first term all the way to the final project. 

A key point the panel picked up on was the customary practice of offering internships in our Research Institute to undertake summer research projects. These often lead to final projects with the same research team. 

Students are encouraged to publish and to become part of the research community, (via seminars, events, etc.).

Year 3 Group Projects and the practice of obtaining feedback from industrial judges – University of Johannesburg 2013

The Academy requires students to complete a practical group project on level 3. At the beginning of the year 3 group project the teams have the option to decide on a project topic of their own choice. Therefore students are free to explore and solve different problems in various industries. The year 3 group projects aim to provide students with the opportunity to gain theoretical as well as practical knowledge in the field of Software Engineering. In order to accomplish this goal, students form teams of four and are asked to approach what the Academy deems to be a project sponsor. The role of the project sponsor is to provide the students with a real world problem to be solved. It is of great importance that the year projects developed are industry-oriented and solve a real world problem. The project mentors (lecturers, carefully chosen senior masters and PhD students of the Academy) are each assigned 3 to 4 project teams to supervise. The project mentors play a pivotal role in the development of the students. Students are expected to arrange regular meetings with project mentors. Regular feedback sessions and close monitoring by project mentors ensures that students are able to complete the project deliverables successfully and on schedule. All the teams are constantly monitored and supervised through-out the year by the project mentor and the third year project coordinator. The year project is divided into 2 sections, namely, first semester and second semester.  

In the first semester the emphasis is on the analysis, design and planning of the software being developed. In this semester the teams will produce two design deliverables/milestones. The third year project coordinator then moderates a selected number of marked deliverables for each project mentor to ensure that all the deliverables were assessed consistently and/or fairly by all the different project mentors i.e. to ensure that all the teams were marked on the same level. The report template used for moderation can be found here

In the second semester each team project gets evaluated individually, and each team member must take part in the evaluation process. The evaluations take place three times during the semester namely at the alpha, beta and final stages of development. A presentation on the aims of the project and a live demonstration of the system must be performed at each evaluation. During each of the project evaluations an external examiner from an industry IT company and/or academic institution joins the project mentors and gives valued input on the allocation of marks and suggests improvements that could be made before the completion of the project. The mark sheets used to assess the project deliverables can be found here  

It should be noted that as a mark is given to the team and a number of students are included in each team, provision has to be made to allocate marks to each student in a fair way. To facilitate this process the students must perform a peer review after each deliverable that is due. Also, at the end of the year/project the third year project coordinator sets up a project and project mentor evaluation where each student is expected to provide feedback regarding their project mentor and the third year project. The evaluations are used as a way to identify any problem areas with the projects and/or project mentors.

At the end of the year the Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering has its annual projects day, where the undergraduate level 3 group projects and postgraduate projects are exhibited. The projects day is also attended by a wide range of representatives from the IT industry, and feedback is received which is acted on, if necessary. The projects exhibited on the day are also judged by a panel of judges from industry who provide thorough feedback on the projects. The judging takes place in 3 rounds. In the first round all the teams are seen by a minimum of four judges and a score is allocated according to the following criteria in A judge allocates a score to each criteria which is multiplied by a predetermined weight (which is not known by the judges). The weights are determined as follows:  Each project mentor assigns a weight, based on what he/she thinks is most important, to each criteria such that the total of all the weights add up to a 100. The project coordinator then takes the average, per criteria, of all the weights. The 14 teams with the highest scores go through to the second round. In the second round all the teams are again seen by a minimum of 8 judges and the top 7 go through to the final round. In the final round the same procedure is followed and each team is seen by a minimum of 12 judges. However, there is an hour allocated at the end of the final round to allow the judges to discuss the final round results. This allows judges to voice their opinion and/or disagreement with regards to the top 3 chosen projects. Another round of judging may take place in cases where several judges do not agree with the placing of the top 3 projects. The judges are asked to submit a report on the quality of the projects exhibited on the day and the projects day itself. Lastly, in 2013 members of the IT industry will be invited to provide feedback on the projects at an earlier stage. This will allow industry members to have input into the software systems being developed earlier in the project. In conclusion the process discussed above allows for a panel of 40 to 50 judges, from various IT companies in South Africa, to provide feedback on the quality of the projects as well as on the curricula of the Academy on a regular basis.

The links with industry and the multiple ways in which this informs the curriculum – University of Dundee 2012

The School of Computing’s industrial linkages are long-standing yet contemporary and influential. Formal industrial input to the degree programmes principally comes via the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) that advises the School on occupational requirements, academic policy and curriculum development. Current IAB membership includes representatives from Amazon, Bright Solid, Cisco, GFI and NCR. Informally, industry collaborations permeate the School’s research and teaching. Examples include:

  • our credit-bearing summer Work Placement Scheme
  • our intensive 3-week Industrial Team Project
  • innovative modules such as Technology Innovation Management (“the fact that the School of Computing have taken the almost unique step of incorporating product management and marketing into the course is nothing short of visionary.” Eddie Sinnott, Wolfson Microelectronics) and Internet Authoring, which regularly features a Yahoo! Hack Day challenge data and IBM 
  • regular guest lectures from industry specialists such as Ter
  • spinout company staff contributing to the final year Research Frontiers module that covers research and leading-edge industrial development issues
  • hosting regular extra-curricular events such as monthly meetings of the Dundee tech community.

Further information is available at

The way in which School research feeds into community-based support for the elderly and disadvantaged – University of Dundee 2012

The research of the School is focused in areas that have a strong social impact. For example, within the School is a three-times weekly meeting of older people in a specialised lab area of the Queen Mother Building, run by older people with the help of staff and students in the School of Computing. A number of activities there include: open sessions for members to come in and use the facilities, short, informal sessions on various computer activities and interested members are invited to participate in the School’s research.

The School’s record of transferring our research into wider impact is strong. With an emphasis on Applied Computing, our work directly relates to the needs of people and our efforts have resulted in government advising on e-inclusion. Our work on healthcare has transformed aspects of patient care. Our SIDE group advises the Scottish Government on their strategy for an ageing population and the British Government on e-inclusion strategy. A current project is to help to close the digital divide between older and younger people. Our contributions to research have included innovative ways to alleviate the effects of dyslexia, interactive cognitive aids for memory loss that enable three-way communication between user, carer, and system via mobile technology, devising simpler and configurable user interfaces for browsers and email, exploring the use of interactive television by older people, developing text processing aids for dyslexia, and building methods for accessible design. Our leading UK accessibility research consultancy, the Digital Media Access Group, has pioneered a methodology which forms the basis of most recognised online accessibility audit methodologies today.  

Further information is available at