The number of students studying computer science degrees at South African universities has remained relatively flat over the last four years and points to a growing gap in the country’s ICT sector.
Answering in a recent parliamentary Q&A session, minister of higher education, science and technology Blade Nzimande said that 2,843 undergraduate students completed a Computer and Information Science degree in 2017 (the latest year of record).
This is an increase of less than 200 students compared to 2014’s graduate data (2,670), and is substantially less than other STEM fields such as engineering which had 12,956 graduates in 2017.
The table below provides the number of students who graduated with an undergraduate degree in Computer and Information Science at public higher education institutions from 2014 to 2017:
|2 670||2 746||2 617||2 843|
According to Adrian Schofield of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), the country’s education system is not geared to deliver high-end ICT skills at the scale needed.
“Over 1.2 million young people go into the basic education system and if we’re lucky, around a quarter of them finish matric.
“How can they get a good start in the digital world if they can’t even get through basic education? There is not enough investment in basic education to create the pool of ICT skills South Africa needs,” he said.
He said while education investment is an important start, industry bodies, vendors and enterprises also have to invest in upskilling young professionals and giving them the experience they need to enter the job market and progress into key roles.
Schofield noted that South Africa is losing highly skilled ICT professionals and seeing an influx of foreign ICT skills at the same time, which confuses the issue, making it difficult to determine how many skills the country actually has.