EDI in Computing.

EDI in Computing – supporting student success
CCCU Computing Team

Due to the large proportion of males in the technology sector, and our efforts to democratize and diversify areas such as ICT and Software Development, there seems to be a perception that men, or more specifically young boys, don’t need support. According to a report by the British Computer Society, the male to female imbalance in the Computer Science classroom has reached in excess of 5:1 (Calder, 2022), with an extreme example like this it’s difficult to conclude that boys are struggling. Overall, this is very likely to be true.

Within the particular male-cohort, though, there are subdivisions of those that come from a stable socio-economic background, and those that do not. Those that do not are, for example, disadvantaged when it comes to acquiring the appropriate resources Computing degrees require of their students. The pandemic has shown now that it cannot be assumed that Computing students own a laptop or a desktop PC. Before the pandemic and national lockdowns, this issue was masked due to the availability of equipment on campus. After the first national lockdown started, however, it became clear that not all Computing students would be able to cope with the shift in circumstances. Students were not able to access campus hardware resources. To our surprise, we found that a non-trivial amount of our Computing students were trying to do their university work on smartphones and, if available, tablet devices, rather than appropriately equipped laptops and desktop PCs.

According to the UCAS statistics for the 2021 application cycle (UCAS, 2021), 314604 males applied to university, compared with 434965 females. While subject areas such as computing are dominated by male students, this statistic shows that males must be missing out in other areas, particularly the humanities and social sciences. Whilst these areas are not typically considered to be as high paying as STEM subjects, the soft skills learned and cultivated in them are invaluable and necessary when leaving higher education to enter employment. Frequently these are the skills, in addition to a strong technical background that boys need to cultivate.

At Canterbury Christ Church University we have successfully begun to integrate soft skills, such as presenting to stakeholders and group collaboration alongside the technical skills that all students entering Computing and Engineering need so that we can ensure that we are educating the whole individual. By focusing on strengthening the opportunities of the individual we can make sure that each person gets the learning and the support that they need without preconceptions and stereotypes.

Calder, M. (2022) BCS landscape review: Computing qualifications in the UK | BCS. Available at: https://www.bcs.org/policy-and-influence/education/bcs-landscape-review-computing-qualifications-in-the-uk/ (Accessed: 19 October 2022).

UCAS (2021) UCAS Undergraduate sector-level end of cycle data resources 2021, UCAS. Available at: https://www.ucas.com/data-and-analysis/undergraduate-statistics-and-reports/ucas-undergraduate-sector-level-end-cycle-data-resources-2021 (Accessed: 19 October 2022).

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