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More students are choosing to study Computer Science at university

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New analysis has shown that computer science courses are increasingly popular choices for university applicants.

UCAS data published today shows that acceptances to computer science courses in 2020 are almost 50% higher than a decade earlier (up from 20,420 in 2011 to 30,090 in 2020). However more work is needed to encourage applications from girls to computer science courses.

A rich experience of computer science in school plays a vital role in encouraging young people to pursue the subject at higher education, says Julia Adamson, Director of Education at BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

“The National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) is giving more young people a positive experience of computing at school and helping to create demand for the subject at degree level and beyond,” she said. “A growing and diverse pipeline of talent in Computer Science and AI is essential for the UK’s economic recovery and its global competitiveness.”

The newer Artificial Intelligence (AI) courses have seen an even faster increase in uptake, with a 65% increase on 2019 and a 400% rise in the past decade (from just 65 in 2011 to 355 in 2020).

“AI degrees will attract a wider range of students than ever as AI becomes essential to solving ethical challenges in every sector of the economy and society. We have seen that clearly in efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic,” said Julia. “We welcome new entrants to the profession, particularly to develop an ethical focus to future careers in AI which is vital if we want to build public confidence in ethical applications of AI and algorithms that make decisions about our lives.

UCAS data also reveals a continued need for work to improve the gender balance in computing, with  women accounting for 16.2% of all computer science students in 2020, up 1% on last year, according to analysis by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

It’s an area the NCCE is focusing on with its Gender Balance in Computing (GBIC) research programme to look at ways of encouraging girls’ interest in computing and increasing the number of young women who choose to study Computer Science at GCSE and A level.

Data released earlier this year shows the popularity of A level computer science has increased by 12%, with the share of female students increasing slightly to 15% of the total.

“Closing the persistent gap between men and women choosing to specialise in IT is vital, although the divide has narrowed slightly this year,” said Julia. “The visible and inspirational influence of organisations like Coding Black Females is helping to strengthen and diversify the range of new talent coming into the industry.”