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It was refreshing to see the Daily Mail taking a constructive stance on the game industry over the weekend, even if the issue at hand was not a positive one.
The article – in The Mail on Sunday – highlighted the fact there are now several dozen ‘video game’ degrees being offered by UK universities (over 80 I believe) but that only four of these are accredited by the industry sector skills council, SkillSet, resulting in a host of, as the Mail put it; “Mickey Mouse degrees with little job relevance.”
Having written about this subject previously and as some one who was involved in a small way in the SKillset initiative and as an external industry reviewer of one institution’s curriculum I find this depressing. The UK is poised to be churning out several thousand ‘game degree graduates’ each year for a UK industry that currently employs less than ten thousand people in all capacities. There are far too many universities which are mashing together existing computer science and creative modules together and marketing them as being relevant to the games industry. At the same time companies are crying out for talented, motivated and well-trained people and cannot fill key position…at least not without paying ridiculous salaries.
Employers need graduates with specialisms e.g in 3D modelling, mathematics, physics or script-writing. Universities are providing courses that cover practically every job function in the industry meaning that whilst graduates may have an appreciation of all the different roles, they are equipped for non of them and thus place a heavy responsibility on companies to provide a huge amount of training for new hires.
Whilst the remit of educational institutions is to ‘educate’ not to train (e.g. in specific software packages) – and we must not ignore this – it is painfully apparent that there is a gross mismatch in courses which are supposed to equip graduates with the skills they need to gain employment and the real world needs of employers in this sector.
Until this matter is resolved, thousands of motivated and talented young people face having their dreams dashed and many companies will struggle to be competitive. When you consider that the cost of undertaking a degree can be calculated at £100,000 through loss of income, fees and living costs and that employers will increasingly need to offshore work in order to deliver then clearly this situation is failing UK Plc and needs to be tackled urgently.
Jude Ower of Digital 2.0 ( www.digital2point0.com) sent me a link to a good article on the BBC site about the UK game industries skills needs. One issue it covers is around the apparent overabundance of game degree courses and the disparity between the course programmes (and focus areas) and the actual day to day needs of employers in the game industry.
I found this particularly interesting as we are involved with several universities in the UK, EU and US such as Coventry University, Warwick University, Huddersfield University and The University Of Michigan and, as CEO of PIXELearning, I am frequently asked to validate proposed courses, find placements for students or to partake in skills surveys.
There are very many games degrees courses in the UK but my perception is that most are simply nebulous amalgamations of existing course modules which are hastly thrown togther under the banner of ‘Computer Games Degree’ in a cynical attempt to attract students to the university in question.
Article link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7460870.stm