An increase in applications to university computing courses could be down to the rising use and exposure of artificial intelligence (AI), according to BCS.
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, claimed the number of students applying to study computing at university this year has risen by 9.6%, making it the fastest-growing degree subject.
These figures are most likely down to increased awareness of AI, cyber security and data science, and how they play a part in real-world issues, the BCS suggested.
Julia Adamson, managing director for education and public benefit at BCS, said: “Young people – and an increasing proportion of young women – see that a computing degree is a passport to change the world. AI and machine learning are transforming how kids complete homework and how job applicants write their covering letters.
“It’s no wonder so many people see their futures in technology. The more diverse range of people we have working in computing, the fairer and more inclusive the results will be for all of us.”
Tech is a huge part of everyone’s day-to-day lives, especially since the pandemic forced people to adopt digital methods of working and shopping during lockdowns, meaning many now have a greater awareness of tech as a potential career path.
Julia Adamson, BCS
Clare Marchant, chief executive of UCAS, which provided the figures, claimed the subjects seeing the most interest this year were also those perceived to have good career prospects, such as computing and law.
Along the tech pipeline, there has been a growing interest in computer science and other tech-related qualifications in recent years. The number of students choosing to sit computing exams at A-level rose for the fourth year in a row in 2022, and there was also an increase in the number of students taking the subject at GCSE level, from 79,964 in 2021 to 81,120 in 2022.
But the tech sector in the UK is not without its problems, with both a skills gap and a diversity gap standing in the way of completing tech-based projects.
Looking at the figures from UCAS, BCS found there were almost 93,000 applications for computing degrees in the UK this year, with an 18% increase in the number of women wanting to study computing at university.
This will close the gender gap in the subject to some extent, but while 2023’s figures are better than the previous year’s, there are still more male than female students applying for computing.
In 2022, male students outnumbered female students by 4.2 to 1; this year, there are 3.8 male students for every female student applying for computing degrees.
There has also been an increase in the number of girls taking computing subjects at both A-level and GCSE in the UK, but across Europe, there is still a large drop-off of women from tech-based subjects, with McKinsey research suggesting 31% of girls who study tech-based subjects at school across Europe don’t continue to study them at university.
Some are also losing faith in the university pathway to feed into the tech talent pipeline due to a disparity in the skills needed by firms and the skills students leave university with.