‘Game on’ as university gears up to supply computer skills for jobs boom

Published: 5 December 2006 at 11:05

At a time when Alan Johnson, the education secretary, has said the UK’s higher education sector needs to deliver ‘the skills that the labour market needs and that students want’, Anglia Ruskin University has, not only, welcomed his words (from a report by Universities UK) but confirmed that it is committed to providing a wide range of degree course to help encourage diversity and economic success in the East of England.

The Department of Computing, within the University’s Faculty of Science and Technology, has just launched a new BSc (Hons) in Computer Gaming and Animation Technology programme which puts it in line with a handful of other universities across the UK that are putting their faith in what have been derided by some as ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees.

The Universities UK report backs this confidence predicting that graduate-level jobs in the computer industry, already worth £65.5bn a year to the economy, are expected to jump 20% to 530,000 by 2014. Admissions Tutor Martin Roots, from Anglia Ruskin University, is anticipating that a resurgence of interest in computing courses is on its way.

“The last boom we saw was associated with the emergence of the Internet and the creation of dot com companies; and there are some exciting new and technologies that could make this happen again.”

“Gaming is more than entertainment and is increasingly used in training, teaching and learning, marketing and e-commerce, modelling and simulations.”

“As an integral part of the new degree course our gaming and animation students are looking at the incredible potential of the online virtual world Second Life. Second Life is a 3D interactive online world where the content is built and owned by its users. It is getting mentioned in news items at around the same rate as the World Wide Web was being mentioned in the early 1990s. This may very well be the very next big thing in computing and if it is our students will be learning about it first.”

Second Life or SL, as it is also known, provides tools and guidance for manipulating the environment, allowing action scripting, object construction and an economy that can support your own ‘local’ business. You explore the world by controlling your ‘avatar’ (manifestation of your chosen character) which you can customise to suit your view of how you should look.  Once in-world you meet people from around the world building, creating, teaching, chatting and ‘shopping’. 

The activities of in-world are significant enough to be covered by Business Week and are measured in hundreds of thousands of US dollars with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar.  It is attracting the attention of both the media (BBC, Channel 4, Reuters) and big businesses (Nike, Amazon, IBM, Sun and Nissan).

Senior Lecturer in the new BSc (Hons) in Computer Gaming and Animation Technology, Marie Gordon added:

“This new course has been developed to meet the needs of the fast-developing games, simulations, entertainment and interactive media sector. The UK is a hot-bed of gaming and animation talent and we are only too pleased to be one of the first universities to offer this officially accredited degree for those with a passion for gaming, creativity and fun.”

“This is a rich and engaging course for students who want to offer their skills and expertise to the software houses, specialist animation companies and big corporations, and get something back – a seriously good salary and worldwide career prospects.”

The BSc (Hons) degree is a module-based programme.  Students during year 1 get an introduction to programming, computer gaming and multimedia tools and technologies and then in year 2 and 3 move onto object oriented programming, games design and development and 3D modelling and 2D animation. They can add to this a variety of options.

Other courses offered by the Department of Computing are centred on Computer Science, Business Information Systems and Multimedia Computing.