Probably the single biggest change to affect Computer Science has been the widespread acceptance of computers in industry. Thirty or so years ago; before computers really hit the mainstream, Computer Science was considered a subject for experts (the kind that went through coffee plantations and forests at a copious rate trying to get a merge sort to work :) ). Most businesses really didn't think of it as "for them", and as such only the big corporations were interested. At this time, there weren't many Computer Science courses around, during the 1950's only a few universities that had been heavily involved in the development of the computer actually offered the course (Manchester and Cambridge being uppermost in my mind). Then by the 1960's other universities began to catch on; Nottingham for example, started running computing courses in 1962 from within the department of mathematics. Many courses at this time were 'pure' Computer Science - i.e. they followed the definition we saw earlier, with quite a lot of emphasis on theory. This was a stance that clearly had to change if the subject was to be more relevant to the business world.

Whilst the technology was expensive and awkward, this was not likely to change. However, in 1968 the first microprocessor was developed; this of course was the change that industry had been waiting for. After this, the technology would become accessible and considerably cheaper, to such an extent where business would be interested in using the technology. Of course industry had differing requirements to academia, i.e. it didn't just require knowledge.

Many people that had got involved with computers in those days did not necessarily have any formal qualifications with respect to Computer Science. This posed a problem for industry since they wanted to know not only that their employees were technically competent, but also that they were professional and could be trusted. At the time, Computer Science courses did not cater for all of industry's requirements (professionalism is one example of a fairly recent addition). Of course even if they did, that was of no use to employers that had applications from a large number of people without *formal* qualifications. In other words there was no real standard to go by.

Thankfully this problem was not to last long. The British Computer Society had examined this problem in detail and in 1969 established a professional qualification - the MBCS. This was a qualification that everybody could obtain whether they had a formal grounding in Computer Science or not - provided of course they met the requirements. The standards set by the MBCS qualification have become widely accepted and well respected the world over.

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The BCS

The BCS is a society for chartered Information Systems professionals formed in 1957.
They gained a Royal Charter in 1984.
There are several grades of membership from Student to Fellow (FBCS).

Below is a definition of the aims of the BCS which, as one can see, satisfies the requirements of industry stated above:

"To fulfil the essential requirement for professional competence, coupled with the appropriate professional standards."

The BCS fulfills these aims not just with the MBCS qualification, but in many other ways. The BCS provides information and advice for many organisations including the government, for example. However, there is little doubt that the MBCS plays a very important part in the BCS fulfilling it's aims. Here is a quick breakdown of the MBCS:

MBCS - Member of the British Computer Society.
Members with this qualification have professional status.
It is gained by completing the following:
Part I examination equivalent to a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Computing.
Part II examination equivalent to an honours degree in Computing.
A project at HND or honours level as appropriate.
Indicates to the employer that the holder is technically competent and committed to the codes of practice and conduct.
Allows individuals to distinguish themselves from those that might lack the necessary experience or integrity.

The normal way of obtaining an MBCS is through several years of part time study coupled with a specified level of industrial experience. However, another route to the MBCS is possible - via accreditation. Basically, the BCS inspects over 300 university computing courses and depending upon their content exempts them from all or part of the Society examination procedure. Therefore certain courses, such as the single honours degree in Computer Science at Nottingham (G500) are accredited; this allows graduates to seek professional membership of the society exempting them from the society examination procedure and reducing the period of on-the-job experience that is required.

What does all this add up to?

Well as you've probably guessed, the accreditation criteria is something that universities strive for given the popularity of the MBCS in the industry. Therefore it is these criteria that are effectively industry's contribution to Computer Science curricula. We shall look at the accreditation criteria more closely in the next section.

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