The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

UoM part of new government ‘Institute of Coding’

The £20 million consortium of universities and industry leads aims to fill the UK digital skills gap

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The University of Manchester is amongst the 25 universities that are part of the new Institute of Coding, which also includes leading technology businesses.

These include IBM, Cisco and Microsoft, professional bodies such as the British Computer Society, Crest, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

“A world-class pipeline of digital skills are essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future,” says Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah.

The demand for digital skills in the industry seems to be on the rise. In January 2017, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) released the results of a survey of more than 1,400 businesses in the UK.

It revealed that 84% of businesses are saying that digital skills are more important to their organisation now than two years ago. But as many as three in four businesses experience a shortage of digital skills in their workforce.

The Institute of Coding, announced by the Prime Minister at World Economic Forum 2018 in Davos, aims to address this gap and is part of Government’s Industrial Strategy.

“By working together, universities, employers and industry leaders can help graduates build the right skills, in fields from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to industrial design,” says Gyimah.

“The Institute of Coding will play a central role in this. Employers will have a tangible input to the curriculum, working hand-in-hand with universities to develop specialist skills in areas where they are needed most.

“As we have outlined in the Industrial Strategy, this is part of our ambition to embrace technological change and give us a more competitive edge in the future.”

As part of this initiative, the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science will develop industry-level software to improve the marking of student’s assessments and the feedback they receive.

Manchester’s lead researcher on the project, Dr Suzanne Embury, explains that the common process of students having to wait until after their submitted work has been marked to get feedback is an inefficient way for students to know where they went wrong and how to improve.

“Our systems will provide formative feedback and guidance to students as they complete the work. This will allow misunderstandings to be corrected early and frees up staff and Teaching Assistants to focus on teaching the more subtle, subjective aspects of software quality.”

Dr Caroline Jay, Co-Investigator and lead on the ‘Learning Analytics’ strand of the Manchester project, adds: “The Institute of Coding will enable us to pioneer a new approach to learning at The University of Manchester, through materials developed collaboratively by research software engineers and academic researchers.”

In other areas of the project, pilot programmes will test how best to reach and support people with regard to the cost of retraining. £30 million of funding has also been given by the Government to test the use of artificial intelligence and other educational technology in online digital skills courses.