Information technology courses continue to struggle to attract students when compared with other study areas, according to a new report on Australia’s higher education sector from the Grattan Institute.
The report (pdf) shows that between 2001 and 2011, information technology lost much of its enrolment share, with health, and management and commerce courses gaining share.
The ongoing decline in IT course enrolment comes despite the Grattan report showing IT graduates had an earnings premium that was above the bachelor degree average.
The report also shows IT degrees helped deliver more than 70 percent of graduates into professional or managerial roles, outperforming degrees in science, management and commerce or agriculture/environment on this scale.
Overall, young graduates across all sectors were slightly less likely to be in professional or managerial jobs in 2011 than they were in 2006.
NICTA skills and industry transformation director Simon Kaplan said the Grattan Institute report highlighted a very real problem for the IT sector.
Kaplan said misperceptions about job security, working conditions and salaries offered to IT graduates were a major contributor to the decline.
“There’s a lot of crap in the ether about how every job in IT is being outsourced.
“There’s an order of magnitude more jobs available in IT than there is in engineering and mining… People who work in the industry tend to enjoy it, they have lots of opportunity to travel, its not always sitting in a cubicle,” Kaplan said.
He added that universities needed to improve their marketing and information campaigns to better target potential IT students.
“Nobody believes a word universities say about their own degrees anymore. Every university says they have the best degree, students translate that to ‘You just want our HECS money’.”
But Kaplan said it was possible for universities to turn the situation around with a new approach to attracting students.
This year NICTA is hoping to get national university and government funding to help expand a Queensland program called Group X that has had early success at boosting IT enrolments in the state.
“Twenty years ago you just had to stand on a street corner and say ‘We teach computing’ and everybody would come…Now we have to stand together or we will get closed down.”